Posted in Uncategorized on July 18, 2009|
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The Belizian Cayes, and in particular Caye Caulker, did everything that they could to cultivate and sustain the Caribbean stereotype. Life never raised above a saunter, everything was haphazardly contructed of misaligned wood and one of the girls in our party was duly informed by local pedestrians that she was “wahkin like a champion”.
Inadvertantly pursuing the textbook experience further, we booked onto a snorkelling trip towards the outer reef provided by Ragamuffin Tours. The twenty or so tourists that gathered at the alloted departure time, ranging in skin palette from light brown to pink were split into two groups, each of which were dispatched to a 40ft wooden sailing boat. Our bright red vessel for the day, the Ragga Queen, was helmed by Captain Raf who gave the sort of safety briefing that would start convusions in UK health and safety exectives and shortly afterwards we motored away from the jetty.
Within minutes the Captain turned on the stereo, surprisingly to reveal that the music of choice was…reggae. “Does anybody nut like de reggae?” he asked the assembled passengers. No response was elicited. “Well den,” he continued, “if nuhbody like it, tell meh and I turn it up.”
The whole experience turned out to be absolutely fantastic. Over the course of the day we were dropped into three different uncrowded spots, allowing us to glide among shoals of fish that seemed completely indifferent to our existence, nurse sharks that snaked over the shallow bottom hunting out unfortunate fish and scrapping unashamedly with one another for the remains some feet away from us, manta rays, a solitary manatee (much to the delight of our female contingent, and the disgust of Tim, who was looking the other way at the time) that mournfully flapped off into the distant underwater twilight, and a colourful and strange array of coral.
The abundence and variety of marine life was astounding, especially for a place where the through traffic of unskilled snorkellers must have been enormous, and the potential for destruction and exploitation of the natural resources huge. Without ever seeming uptight, the staff on the tour gently sheparded us between and around locations without relenting to the measures that seem to be repeatedly resorted to in order to sate tourist greed; there was no evidence of infrastructre around the reef, or of littering. It also never seemed that we were being herded along a well trodden route, recipients of a fairly sanitized and templated tour, the presence of our fellow boat passengers never being felt as overbearing and the quantities of dive boats at sites never exceeding a couple.
Somewhat sun fried and giggly from the strong rum punch that we’d been supplied with and steadily drowning in after the last dive, we arrived under sail to the jetty from whence we came. All drunken promises to exact a rampage upon the town in the evening rapidly disintegrated as the effects of a full day in tropical sun and the booze set in, sending us to our beds in our small, lopsided wooden shacks at a disgracefully early hour.
Caye Caulker, Belize
18th July 2009
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