9 Days in Belize and Tikal, Guatemala

A Travelogue by John Niebler

Pictures by John Niebler and John Zastrow

Getting to Belize Diving Trip Explore Caye Caulker Tikal - day 1 Tikal - day 2 Down to Punta Gorda - Kayak Trip Explore the cave Snorkeling and Fishing Going home
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Dive Trip
Caye Caulker
Tikal - Day 1
Tikal - Day 2
PG and Kayak
Cave Trip
Snorkeling and Fishing
Going Home

Sunday, March 30th

6:07am, windy, cloudy, 55 F. Trudged down the desolate main street of Caulker (pirates would stop there to cork, or caulk, their boats) to catch the dive boat. So far so good, our prayers were answered with a lone stand selling coffee and fresh biscuits. The “huge” (not) boat arrives on time, but seas were looking rough. We did three dives but the first one set the tone for the day: these were not going to be postcard dives. First was the 130-foot dive at Blue Hole. I couldn’t clear my ears. Neither of us could. So we spent the dive at about ten to fifteen feet. Bad. I was trying to clear my ears so hard that I stopped paying attention to where I was going. I almost ran into a six foot long barracuda that was hanging out underneath the dive boat. Stories came in from the rest of the divers that there were three kinds of sharks at depth: black tail, white tail, and nurse sharks. Some speculated the largest ones were 12 feet. The second dive, a drift dive along a vibrant reef, was better. I spent most of the dive at 15ft. but finally got down to 35. We were down about 45 minutes and found out that ‘drifting’ involves a lot of kicking and swimming. Skies were overcast and winds were strong, so sunlight is scarce. 1pm stopped at Half Moon Caye for lunch. The wind was between 45 and 60mph, almost enough to knock you over. The sand really stung when it hit the backs of our legs. The guide still wanted to dive the third dive and was beginning to resemble a drill sergeant instead of someone who was there for our pleasure. I think most of us would have been OK going back. We had come out on rough seas with the wind at our back and the wind was clearly building. Now we had to make our retreat and go against it. The third dive was another drift dive and I cleared better, but it was getting late and light was bad. We were down about 45 minutes again and the reef was incredible. Of course, it could have been terrible, but this being my first reef, how would I know.

The Ride Home:
“Everyone hold on. This is going to be rough!” You can say that again. Were those mountains of water? 10ft. waves in a 30-foot motorboat and you start to feel pretty small. We took a longer way back ducking inside the barrier reef at the nearest point. A return that normally takes 1:45 took over 4 hours. But despite the skills of the captain, the never-ending, jarring impacts of falling off the backsides of towering waves was torture for everyone. My back hurt so badly. Z threw up. A girl named Michelle freaked out and was crying. She was so scared she pulled her wet suit on over her pants. Emanuel was a very good captain and guided the boat along crests and troughs attempting to smooth the ride as much as possible. He spent over four hours in a tee shirt and shorts getting hit with waves that ripped the sunglasses from his face. Tony, the other crewman, was bailing at the stern with a bucket to keep the engines running. Great.

We made it back just as the sun was going completely down. We couldn't see inside the shell of the boat, as there were no lights. I needed to get off the boat. I searched around for my stuff. Jammed it in my bag and got out of there. I found out later I forgot my new flippers. Needless to say, we did not stay at Tina's Hostel that night. Bugs, a shared room, people tromping in and out of the house was not going to cut it. We found a room at the Tropic Hotel. Very nice room, clean with two big beds, and it was $10 US a night.

The "huge" boat. (43 feet to be exact.)
Our one underwater dive pic. Not exactly clear water.
My new friend. I'll call him George.
The Blue Hole
Half-Moon Caye
The ride home.
Our new location. The Tropic Hotel.