(This is part 5 of a 6-part description of a trip I took to Belize with friends just after Thanksgiving 2008. I put my pictures a flickr.)
Wednesday morning started with another speedboat pickup from Searious Tours. They took us and several other tourists back to the Searious pier where we piled onto a catamaran. There were ten of us on the tour with two crewmembers. We headed out toward a popular snorkling spot just inside the barrier reef. I'd never been snorkling before, so I didn't know what to expect, but this turned out to be my favorite part of the whole trip. The water was only twenty or thirty feet deep, and it was teeming with fish. We even saw a few stingrays and a couple of moray eels. The fish would swim almost right up to me: I guess they get lots of practice sharing the water with snorklers. We probably got to spend the better part of an hour in the water at this spot.
After another short run on the catamaran, we found ourselves at what the crew called "Shark Ray Alley." As the name suggests, it's an area frequented by predators. One of the crew (Daniel) jumped in and caught a nurse shark. Daniel said that the animals are used to him, and they just swim right up to him. The shark was about four feet long, and it just sat patiently in Daniel's arms while we touched it. Its skin was courser than I would have guessed. After we'd all checked out the shark, Daniel released it and grabbed a stingray, which had a much smoother skin. Anyway, the underwater petting zoo was pretty cool.
Back on the catamaran, we sailed south to the island of Caye Caulker, with plenty of Bob Marley, Belikin, and rum punch along the way. The crewmembers jokingly described Caye Caulker as a drinking village with a fishing problem. We had a delicious lunch of ceviche and fish burritos, followed by a little shopping.
The return trip was straight into the wind (and seemed to narrowly avoid some bad weather), so the crew had to rely on the two outboard motors. Back at Xanadu, we made sandwiches for dinner and again fell into bed pretty early, most of us nursing sunburns.