My past 20 Christmases have all broadly followed the pattern of getting up early, spending time with the family, eating a big roast dinner, and then remaining in the sofa until Boxing Day. My 21st still involved an early start, but the similarities end there.
By 7am, myself and a group of twelve others were jetting out into the Caribbean Sea to begin a day of scuba diving. Last time I’d taken the plunge was September 2011 in Egypt, but it all came back quite instinctively once I hit the water.
There were three dives in total. The first was to the “the Big Blue Hole” (I’d grown accustomed to much more mystifying names on my trip, so it was a change to visit something so blatant). This is a submarine sinkhole that collapsed inwards a few million years ago and goes down 125 metres. We descended to 40. There wasn’t that much wildlife down there, but the aerial shot is pretty impressive (see photo).
The second and third offered a much better opportunity to explore the coral walls, and all of the sealife that lived off it. Including a shark. I know there are lots of types, but this was fairly typical. A reef shark perhaps. If you were to ask a five-year old to draw a shark, it would look like this one.
Christmas Dinner 2012 was stew chicken, rice and beans. So I was actually pretty happy. We ate on an idyllic island, just after dive #2. It was also home to a Bird Sanctuary, primarily for the Red Footed Booby bird. The reader can interpret as they wish what their under-neck looks like.
Throughout the day managed to chat with most people on the boat, and they were on the whole an interesting bunch. Back on dry land got back to the hostel with the three other guys from my dorm who were also on the dive. Thomas, Andre and I then ventured out for some food, and with the Australian hostel owner’s twang still ringing in our ears, felt it only appropriate to have some sort of fish cooked “on the barbie”. Found a pla(i)ce, and it was one of the best meals of Belize. Flavour central.
Saw a few more of the guys from the dive on the walk home and stopped by for some drinks. This was on a hotel lobby as the bars weren’t open. Didn’t really clock that it was Christmas Day so they would be shut.
Morning came and undertook one of the most arduous day’s travel I’ve ever had to reach Tulum in Mexico by nightfall. Required to pay three separate exit duties, not enough seats on the boat, passport not getting stamped, taxi to wrong bus station, bus ticket not valid, hostel fully booked…
This meant my departure from Belize was a bit anticlimactic. Have really enjoyed seeing a lot of the country, and leave with many pockets of it yet to discover. If anyone reading fancies a really good holiday – nature/ culture/ ancient history/ excellent weather/ English-speaking – then I thoroughly recommend the place. I feel sure I will return some day too..