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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Belize 2008

We traveled to Turneffe Atoll, Belize for a week and had a lovely Thanksgiving! We stayed at Turneffe Island Lodge for a week of diving, relaxing and fun.

The Trip to Belize
For financial reasons, we departed on Friday the 21st from National Airport rather than BWI. Todd was thirsty and I was trying to stay hydrated for the flight, so we stopped at Wendy's in Owings Mills for a big soda to drink. Everything was fine with traffic. I had mapped out three different routes to get to the airport, and we ended up taking New York Avenue into the city.

When we got off of New York Avenue and on to 395, it was a different story. The road became a parking lot, and the large soda that I drank wasn't helping. It took us about an hour to get from New York Avenue across to Arlington. It was too long, I was dying. Thankfully, I'd allowed plenty of time, but I was afraid to get off the road to find a restroom, not knowing how easy one would be to find and how easy it would be to get back onto 395. I knew that even if my bladder made it to the airport, I wasn't familiar with National and how easy it would be to find a restroom there.

So... I went in a cup. We make fun of Todd for doing a similar thing back in 2005, but at least he has the proper equipment. All I can say is that I'm grateful that he has all-season floor mats in his car (although, I'm proud of the fact that there was no spillage!), and that Wendy's soda cups are so wide!!! I was much better after that and we headed off to Houston without further incident (Hooray for Continental Airlines, again!).

We spent Friday night in Houston at the Marriott at Bush International Airport. It was uneventful and we took a plane out to Belize City first thing Saturday morning.

The manager of the lodge, Paul, met us at the airport and took our bags. As we headed to the dock, he let us know that there would be only one other couple staying on the island. That is right, only four people in a resort built for forty. We were sort of flabbergasted. There would be another couple arriving on Wednesday, but for now it would just be the four of us.

The two of us at sunset:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Eva and Tom, the only other guests at the resort until Wednesday:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Turneffe Island Lodge
We spent a little time at the dock bar/restaurant in Belize City until the boat was ready to leave. We met the other couple (Eva and Tom) who would be at the resort during the stay, and also met Paul's wife, Kelly. Most importantly, we met Jorge, who gave us rum punches as we headed out on the boat for the hour and a half boat ride out to Turneffe Atoll.

Our Cabana:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

The pool bar at the resort:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

As we pulled up to the resort dock, we were greeted by what must have been 20 staff members. All for us!! We also met the co-managers of the resort, Jason and Karen.

The lodge itself is located on Turneffe Atoll, which is about 30 miles offshore from Belize City. It's on a 14-acre island and has a capacity for 40 guests. We were in a private cabana, and there were lots of places to relax - by the pool, in a hammock, on our screened in porch, or in a chaise on the beach. I preferred to get my sleep on in the hanging bed (I think it is queen size?) under a palapa at the end of the dock.

The hanging bed under a Palapa:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

A view from the main lodge:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Meals were served family style and very tasty. I ended up finding it very necessary to buy the cookbook.

The ladies in the kitchen preparing dinner:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

The Diving
We did 2-3 dives per day. At our request, we did a third dive on Monday, when we were originally scheduled to only do two dives. Sadly, visibility was not what we would have liked, so we didn't see the "big things" (sharks, rays, schools of fish, etc) that we expected. Still, we had some excellent dives. We got to see a lot of small things, from shrimp to nudibranch to flamingo tongues, etc. Todd was specializing in macro and super macro photography, and the dive master (Marcel) and I were up to the task of finding tiny things in coral heads for him to photograph.

Todd is ready to dive:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

Black Spotted Nudibranch:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

Flamingo Tongue:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

Sharp Nosed Puffer... They had just spawned and were EVERYWHERE.
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

Something very interesting was the White Spotted Toadfish (photo). They are unique to Belize and stay mostly in holes. They look to me like a combination of a spotted eel and a scorpion fish. They make a noise underwater that sounds like a chainsaw, which is very strange.

We did a total of 16 dives, Todd took some wonderful photos, and I got to do a back roll off of the boat, which is unusual for me. :)

The Great Blue Hole
The big diving spectacle in Belize is the Great Blue Hole. We were about an hour and a half from the Blue Hole and took a day trip out there on Tuesday. This was by far the worst weather of the week, being cloudy and rainy most of the day. However, since we were underwater it really didn't matter all that much. Well, except on the boat ride out there, which was a little bit rough.

Kim in the Blue Hole:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

Since the Blue Hole is a former cave, when we went deep enough, we could see the stalactites that had formed before it was filled with water. These were fairly deep, so for this dive we went to about 130 feet, which is the limit that we can do as recreational divers. I got to experience some nitrogen narcosis, which was weird and kind of cool. Inside the hole were some sharks and large groupers, but not the bull sharks that we were expecting (just reef sharks).

After diving the Blue Hole, we went to Half Moon Caye, where we did two more dives, had some lunch (it was raining, so lunch was on the boat), and walked around the island. There was a bird sanctuary there, so we were able to see some boobies.

Todd at Half Moon Caye:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was my first time being out of the Maryland/Virginia area, and only the second time I've been away from my family for Thanksgiving (the first being a Thanksgiving spent with Dave's family). The Lodge went above and beyond anything that I would have expected! The table was beautiful, the ladies in the kitchen did a fantastic job with the food, and everything really was perfect.

The Thanksgiving Table:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Paul shows the Thanksgiving Turkey:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Of course, Todd suggested over and over again that we start out the night with loco chicken shots - half Wild Turkey and half Tequila. As disgusting as it sounds, they all did one (I did not, since I was drinking my family's favorite drink for Thanksgiving, a cosmo... my mom says they are Thanksgiving like because they contain cranberry juice).

Jorge preparing the Loco Chickens:
From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Everything Else
There's really not a whole lot of other things to report. We had a wonderful time, a great Thanksgiving, and a fairly uneventful trip home.

Blue Tangs:
From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

From Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Photos below:

Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

Belize 2008 Topside - Todd's Photos (sized)

Belize 2008 Topside - Kim's Photos


Sandra said...

great photos! I caryy a container in car esp. for pee emergencies, although I haven't used it yet. Did have to pee in a cup once in the car... ugh!

Kim said...

The big thing was that I removed everything waist down - jeans, socks, shoes, undies.... in case of a spill. But, no spillage. I rock!

I also managed to not pee in my wet suit even once the entire trip - but I admit I was running for the bathroom once we reached land each time!!!!

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