Now that I finally have my pictures back from the camera shop, I feel I can write a longer review of the snorkeling trip we took last month. We went to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley, which were both on my bucket list.

Since these particular snorkeling sites are off of San Pedro, we left the house at 5:30am and drove an hour from Belmopan to the municipal airport in Belize City. We managed to catch one of the rare cold and rainy mornings and sat in the air conditioned waiting room wrapped in our towels to ward off the chill.

The flight was short, and we didn’t get great views of the reef as it was overcast with low clouds, but the sun was peeking out here and there, so we were hoping that it would clear up. After we arrived in San Pedro, we literally walked across the street to the Sun Breeze hotel that hosts the satellite Hugh Parkey’s dive shop.

Even though we’d booked several weeks early, the trip was full of other divers and snorkelers, so they pimped us out to another snorkeling company. I’ve already forgotten the name, but they were friendly and relatively professional. After two snorkelers drowned last year when their boat left them on the reef, and they were swept into open water, I was a little nervous about how much attention we would actually receive. But it was a guided tour, so one swam in the front, and the other trailed along behind encouraging stragglers to keep up with the group.

The visibility was decent, but the sun still wasn’t out, so the colors weren’t as vibrant as they could’ve been. And they really moved us along at a fast pace, stopping only to show us a specific itinerary of points along the reef…sea turtle (check), Moray eel (check), brain coral (check).

Then we piled back in the boat (there were about eight of us), and sped the five minutes over to Shark Ray Alley. At both locations there were at least half a dozen boats tied up to each other with other snorkeling groups milling around in the water. Our guide began to throw chum over the side of the boat, and we were instantly swarmed with nurse sharks, stingrays and other small silver fish. So we launched ourselves over the side and into the water.

The sharks disappeared within a few minutes and went back to lying in the grass on the sea floor. But the stingrays hung around a little longer, and our guide was able to play with them and maneuver them around a bit so we could each get a turn petting their slippery skin. I’ve seen pictures of the guide named Alphonse who will actually grab a nurse shark and turn it over so you can pet it. But our guides didn’t do that.

So the whole thing was a little underwhelming, but it was great to get out of the house and show my visiting friend a bit of the country. And I’m definitely hoping to get back into the water a few more times before we leave.

I’d bought a ridiculously overpriced disposable underwater camera or $35 USD that had 28 exposures. It took almost three weeks for them to be developed, which really made me crazy. Not sure if it was from hanging on a rack in the heat of the dive shop or from whatever methods they use to develop film, but the printed photos had a very retro feel to them that I think is kind of fun.

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