I didn’t really know what to expect from Belize, a country that gained its independence from Great Britain in 1981 and whose official language is English. Bordering Guatemala to the west and Mexico to the north, this country of less than 400,000 seems to be one that is still struggling to find its own cultural identity. Mexican culture, Caribbean reggae and Mayan ancestry all combine to form the cultural melting pot that is Belize. The music and food both reflect that cultural melting pot.
A short two hour flight from Miami, the fact that English is ubiquitous and that the coral reefs off of its Caribbean coast are among the best in the world conspire to make this a popular destination for SCUBA enthusiasts from all over the Western Hemisphere.
After having done my book work and basic SCUBA skills in New York City I was ready to take on the open water portion of my certification in Belize and get the diving license. After a quick look at Trip Advisor it was clear that the most highly rated place was a dive operation called Chuck & Robbies, located on the norther end of San Pedro Island. Trip Advisor was right.
My dive buddy and travel partner was already SCUBA-certified, so I went out with my instructor, Gilbert, and went through all of the final skills necessary to complete the license. Among the most spectacular of the dives was a 50 foot [15 meter] dive in Esmerelda Canyon. Here we were surrounded by huge Tiger Manta Rays, sea turtles, large and small fish of all colors, and dozens of Nurse sharks. In fact these sharks were docile, so we were able to hold them and touch them. They were mostly around four to five feet long. Resembling huge catfish, the sandpaper feel of their skin added a tactile realism to the entire experience. Truly incredible.
After a few more dives, the deepest of which was 80 feet [25 meters], I had completed all necessary components to obtain the license. My last dive for the certification was with many very experienced divers [some completing their 99th dives], and after the dive was done and we were boating to shore they sang me a traditional song for dive certification virgins, full of expletives not suitable for the family-friendly flying north blog. :).
I was happy to be recognized in this diver’s paradise, even with expletives.