A Travellerspoint blog

Belize

In an Octopus’ Garden

Snorkel, Snorkel

Believe it or not I am not one for adventure sports, and by adventure sports I mean most basic sports and outdoor activities. Those who know me will also know I have no affinity for animals whatsoever. I am scared of dogs and horses and just plain dislike most other animals except turtles and elephants, and I have nothing personal against giraffes.

This fear of animals also extends to the sea. I'm also scared of fish and I won't swim if I can them flippering about underneath me. Well to be fair, scared of marine life in general I’d rather not spend my time with rays, sharks, jellyfish, octopus, ugly big fish, eels and I wouldn’t fancy encountering a whale. I am scared a lobster or a crab could nip my toes. I don’t trust coral, the way it moves so slyly and has monsters hiding in its shadows. Same goes for seaweed. I don’t eat sea life and don't agree with crustacean consumption but while I don’t want the sea environment to be overfished, or whales to be harpooned or dolphins to be taught maths or any other animal rights slash environmental issue as with all animals, I don’t wish them harm, I just would prefer if sea critters kept their distance. Basically I prefer to be on the sand, or rather on a deckchair under a palm tree. A hammock is also possible.

So given all these irrational fears of living creatures and dislike for athleticism in most forms, when the opportunity to go snorkelling in the Caribbean came up, I for some reason, carpe diem, decided I would try my best not to be a big sooky baby and enrolled. I have briefly snorkelled in the shallows along the Great Barrier Reef as a 10-year old but not out at sea. During that brief expedition as I was swimming, or floating really, a ray swam under me and scared the bejesus out of me and from memory, that quickly ended my day snorkelling.

So when I signed up I figured I was in for an adventure. It was bound to be a riot. I was hoping for an unlucky day like a safari, sorry guys no fish, they must be hibernating. Luckily I wasn’t the only person scared of fish, it is quite a common thing it seems.

After I had agreed, short of throwing myself off a moving boat, I couldn’t go back. I found myself sitting on deck and heading to the reef off the coast of Caye Caulker in Belize. I was quietly nauseous with regret at my unwarranted, and frankly unnecessary bravery. The first snorkle stop was an area called Shark Ray Alley, which let’s face it, sounds horrifying to anyone.

I had already decided swimming with sharks and rays was well and truly out of my depth as rays scare the crap out of me and sharks, are, well sharks and I ain’t no fool. If Steve Irwin came off second best to a ray what hope do I have? My travel buddy went in because she is a fearless fool, it was decided beforehand if she was eaten I could have her iPad so I watched on with interest.

Hmmm, I could get the Farmville app and work on my agricultural skills daily…

The rays wobbled around like monsters and I was terrified at the idea of being anywhere near them. The instructor picked one up for people to touch, just casually flipped out its barb stinger to show everyone exactly what could pierce their aorta. I watched on from the boat. I had taken on the role of look out of the boat to make sure it wasn’t hijacked by pirates and had taken to just quoting Finding Nemo regularly to express my underwater knowledge. He then picked up one of the Nurse Sharks and held it up and I touched its belly which I thought was incredibly brave of me. By touched I mean quickly poked for fear if I didn’t participate he would heave in into the boat and let it attack me.

I was adjusting to the idea of being in the water with animals and I had committed to doing the next dive stop. I got my flippers on and my mask and with some trepidation jumped in. By jumped I mean inelegantly toppled overboard. I choked on the snorkel, my mask filled with water, salt water went up my nose and we spend forty minutes doing a big circuit of a reef channel. It was exhausting and claustrophobic. It was like looking at the sea on through a TV screen. I had sharp eyes looking for danger and keeping my distance from most objects, eels, groupers and the creepy non-colourful coral.

With twelve people floating around the surface looking down all you really do is bump in to each other and get flipper slapped in the kisser. I slowly got used to the snorkel and felt less and less like I was going to drown in my own water filled mask and have my remains picked at by Krill. The current was strong and it was an exhaustive flip back to the boat trying to outrun the inevitable foot cramp.
I enjoyed my complimentary fruit break even more this round as I had actually exerted some energy.

There I was snorkelling in the Caribbean. Sure, I was done and was happy to then dry off and flip through the Captain’s local fish book and laugh at fish names like Jewfish, and anal fin. But alas we had another free snorkel session around the reef so off I was again.
By then obviously I was a fusion of Jacques Cousteau and Arial, the Little Mermaid and snorkelled the crap out of the place keeping a safe distance from any underwater life.
So it turns out I didn’t get eaten by a fish. No one was so I also didn’t get an iPad but I do feel like I outdid myself. I went and got a cocktail to celebrate a possible new career move under the sea (as a sea princess). For my next snorkel adventure I would prefer less marine life, less wavey water, less saltiness and more flat bottom water free of vegetation (sea caves for eels and sea monsters). Basically I would prefer to snorkel in a pool.

The whole event spelled disaster for my hair, I looked like a sea wench with hair of sea urchins by the end and had to dedicate a good half an hour to conditioner upon return to land. And we all know how much having to brush my hair is an inconvenience.

It was a good experience. I felt brave like I could maybe face more animal fears, I think as I confidently strut down the shore line, wind in my hair urchins...
"Oh shit a dog, a dog, stay calm, it's probably got rabies, oh god, oh god *hides behind nearest tree/person/object*"

In a few days’ time I have the chance to ride a horse up to a volcano. Would it be too much too soon to conquer two fears in one holiday? I think I’d rather be snapped by a Snapper than go anywhere near an equine.

I do however wonder if anyone looks good in a snorkel? Surely even Angelina Jolie looks like a tool. Food for thought.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 18:57 Archived in Belize Tagged fish marine sharks belize underwater snorkel rays caye_caulker Comments (2)

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