I arrived in a torrent of rain, so drenched that when I sat down the pressure from my body against the fabric of my dress pooled up and ran down my leg in rivulets. I secured prime under cover real estate on the water taxi over and so was in a better state than many of the rest of the passengers who were uncovered. They had desperately fought the rain, wind, spray and more rain with whatever they had in their day packs – plastic ponchos, scarves. They shivered as we pulled up at our tropical paradise.
Alighting from the boat, I was greeted by a windswept island averaging 250m wide and maybe a mile or so long. Chalky water pooled turquoise in potholes and golf carts sped out splashing up more chalky murk.
I had struck up a conversation with a woman who was travelling with her friend and each of their daughters. She kindly offered to let me hitch a ride on their golf cart taxi. Not having any accommodation booked and having no real understanding of the geography of the island, it seemed as good an option as any so I hopped on. Perched precariously on her knee as we sped about the island, certain I was about to fall a metre to my chalky wet doom.
We arrived at their accommodations, I hopped out, said my farewells as they scuttled into the dryness of their luxury accommodation and then I began my wet trudge about the island looking for suitable budget accommodations. Half an hour later, I sat down on my bed of the next few days and peered out the window to torrents of rain at my tropical paradise.
After two days of intermittent and intense rainstorms, we woke to a calm and clear day. It was fortunate that this was the day I had selected to go on a day-long snorkelling tour on a sailboat known as the Sea Hawk.
I was on board with a bunch of good people I had met the previous night and it was an incredible day.
We had three separate snorkelling stops. At each we were greeted with warm Caribbean water, sandy shallow water and beautiful coral. At the first stop I saw manatees – big, placid creatures, they are known as sea cows and they patrolled the sea floor slowly but thoroughly. I also saw a small sea turtle and many brightly coloured fish.
Our second stop was Shark and Ray Alley. If you had asked me the probability of me ever getting in the water to swim with a bunch of sharks and rays, I would have stared at you and laughed. I was therefore astonished to find myself getting into the water that was thrashing with nurse sharks and eagle rays and snorkelling around as if I had not a care in the world. Something about Harry, our guide, who was like some kind of shark and ray whisperer (they went placid and calm in his arms) made me feel very safe. When I talked to him later, he explained that the animals trust him because he is not afraid of them and because he respects them.
At this stop, we also snorkelled with big snapper, grouper, and tiny fish with pointy noses that looked like mini sword fish.
By now, it was time for lunch. We got out and had a sandwich and a banana, neither of which have ever tasted so good to me. I reapplied my sunblock and lay in the sun, looking out over the beautiful sea with its warm breeze blowing over me and realised I was probably in paradise.
Our final stop was Hol Chan Reserve, a channel that had deeper water than the rest of our stops. Here we saw big sea turtles chewing away on sea grass, a scary looking moray eel, and more beautiful fish.
Back on the boat, the reggae was cranking and we started our slow return to Caye Caulker, stopping off for one final swim just off the shore.
I got back, discovered I was sunburnt in more places than I knew existed. I had planned to go out dining with my people. I got to dinner, managed a meal and then accompanied Karin, who had a sun-induced fainting spell, back to our lodgings. I slept a full twelve hours – not even the much awaited George R R Martin book could keep my eyes awake for more than a few minutes.
I am going to stay on this beautiful island a few more days.