Saturday, December 28, 2013

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker is a famous island off Belize for diving and snorkeling. It is only 8km long and 1.5km wide, yet there is an airport on it. The island is basically a sand bar over a limestone shelf popular with backpackers and budget travelers for its (relatively) cheap prices, laid-back vibe, and abundance of restaurants and bars.  I was looking forward for some good diving here since I missed diving in Cozumel, Mexico. It is also the place to dive The famous Blue Hole! 

Photo of Wikipedia
The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 kilometres from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 300 metres across and 124 metres deep. Blue holes formed during past ice ages, when sea level is 100–120 metres lower than at present. At those times, these formations were subjected to the same erosion from rain and chemical weathering common in all limestone-rich terrains; this ended once they were submerged at the end of the ice age.

There is also the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, it sound like some chinese dude name but Hol Chan in Mayan means "little channel". It covers approximately 18 km² (4,448 acres) of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. There were plenty of nurse sharks and stingray and the famous dugong which I didn't see. This place is the common site where all the snorkelling package will go.

I made a 5 days stop here during my round the world trip. Belize is known to be an expensive country to travel in Central America. It is damn true! 2 dives with equipment at the nearby Hol Chan marine park cost US$100 and 1 dive in Blue Hole plus 2 dives around Half Moon island cost US$125. I got a 10% discount as a DM. As I was desperate to go diving, I paid for it! I did 2 dives in Hol Chan marine park, a 30 mins boat ride away from the DC. It has beautiful reef and gradual slope down to the outer reef. I was excited to be diving in the water again after 8 months. I had my new camera and I was under weight for the first dive and that kept me occupied. Filling up my BCD with rocks didn’t really help. :-p There were lots of groupers and sweet lips. 2 eagle rays swim side by side with me on the second dives. I think this was my first time getting so close to an eagle ray.

Frenchie & Diving DC
The next day, I dove the famous Blue Hole. This site was made famous by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. So of course I must check it out! The weather was bad and the sea was very choppy. We had a bumpy 60mins ride out. We were brief about the dive plan and strict rules as it was a dive that exceed PADI safe diving. I was glad I have my dive computer with me, as we descent over the inner wall, it get darker and darker due to the cloudy sky. There was nothing on the wall apart from limestone and sand, visibility was bad due to the bad weather. Occasionally we saw some passing fish. The target is to get to the stalactites at 40m, which indicated the previous land formation above sea level. We were at 43m and we felt the NARC! The huge stalactites hanging off the cave seems much bigger. My camera housing was squeaking at this depth, I took a few shots and slowly did my ascent and safety stops, to my surprise, the DC took OPEN WATER students to this side with 6 dives in their belt!! :-) To dive the Blue Hole was all diver's dream, I won't do it again.

The next 2 dives at Half Moon Island reef were awesome, beautiful soft coral reef and lots of fishes. If not for the cloudy weather, this place will look remarkable.

Travel date :  3 - 7 Aug 2011
Travel route : Travel with Taxi Boat from Mexico border town of Chetumal to San Pedro for custom clearance and then to Caye Caulker, Taxi Boat from Caye Caulker to Belize City.
Accommodation and diving : Bella Hostel, Frenchie & Diving
Type of diving : Reef, wall
Water temperature : 26-29°C
Best time to dive : Diveable year round but avoid hurricane season from June to November.

 -F-> Flight -B-> Boat -C-> Car
Spotted Eagle Ray
Arrow Crab
The Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole

Angel Fish
Rabbit Fish
Red spotted cod
Red spotted cod
Lion Fish
Moray eel

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