By Randall Grantham
Sorry about last week. Even though I was in a Central American country on vacation, I fully intended to get a dispatch off.
We were in Belize to celebrate my wife’s birthday and our 25th anniversary. With a totally different cell phone frequency in use, I knew I would be in “radio silence.” But, I was told there would be Internet access and I was fully prepared to cut into my time-off to get an article out. Until my laptop crashed. On the 3rd day. Bummer.
I’m back now, refreshed and reinvigorated and having scratched one more item off my “bucket list.”
You know Belize, even if you don’t know Belize. It’s at the bottom of the Yucatan Peninsula, below Mexico and next to Guatemala. It’s a country on the mainland with islands scattered through the Caribbean and protected by the second largest barrier reef in the world. It’s the country with “The Blue Hole,” for Pete’s sake! It also has mountains with extensive cave systems, rain forests and a unique history
We stayed on one of the “cayes,” or keys, off the coast. Ambergris Caye, named after a whale excretion, has come a long way in the past 20 years and there are upscale resorts all over it. No need to swelter in the heat, they have A/C and fancy drinks and golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation. The reef yields many scuba dive spots just minutes from the beach.
One of the spots is the scene of a regular shark feeding that can be witnessed “up close and personal” by divers. It was reputedly where fishermen of yesteryear would stop and clean their fish on the way in, and the sharks got used to it. Now the government allows it to continue by the dive boats for tourism. I checked it out.
Then there is the restaurant on the west side of the island. Named “The Sunset,” quite naturally, their hook is that the tarpon around the dock can be hand-fed. Years ago the fishermen cleaned their catches there (this is starting to sound familiar) and the tarpon came to feed. Now, the restaurant gives tourists fish scraps which you can dangle above the water’s surface until these five foot fish leap out of the water and snatch the bait from your hand. Breathtaking!
Of course there is “The Blue Hole.” a 480′ deep, 1/4 mile wide hole in the ocean. It’s visible from space and is the result of an ancient cave roof collapse. Stalagmites and stalactites taller than me can be seen at about 135 feet.
I dove it. At that depth, you can’t stay long without risking decompression sickness, but a quick dive is worth the trip. Sharks, turtles and whales are often spotted in the area and it’s an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
So, despite the crash of my computer, the hardships of clearing customs without any Cuban cigars and the 11-hour return trip via Dallas/Fort Worth, it was worth it. I got to cross another item off of my bucket list.
I fed the tarpon.
By the way, Billy Clyde wasn’t insane.