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Mon Feb 25 2013: Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef

The barrier reef just off the coast of the Belize is the probably the main attraction for tourists. It provides a natural habitat for all sorts of coral and marine wildlife. Scuba and snorkeling are very popular, so on one of our vacation days, we rented a boat to take us underwater sightseeing.

As our boat anchored near the reef, it was cool watching the waves
from the ocean abruptly stop seemingly in the middle of nowhere

Neda looks like a superheroine! AquaGirl!

AquaGirl chases after a Nurse Shark. Um, is that really a good idea?

Chasing after a stingray. Is there no animal dangerous enough for AquaGirl not to chase after?!?

Stingrays and a Nurse Shark have a little conference at the bottom of the seafloor
regarding the AquaGirl problen...

Because I lack the superpowers to chase after sharks and stingrays, this is more my speed...

Our three-hour tour took us to three different locations around the reef, our favorite was Shark Ray Alley, where we saw all the sharks, stingrays and turtles. We also visited Hol Chan and the Coral Gardens, spending about an hour at each location. There was supposed to be another couple on our boat, but since they bailed, we had the whole tour to ourselves, so we stayed in the waters until we were (I was) tired.

Fish hanging out at a coral

Beautiful giant turtle!

Seeing these grand creatures up close made me a bit emotional, because it made me think back to a couple of months ago when we were at Todos Santos releasing newly-born baby turtles into the ocean. I imagined that these were the all-grown-up versions! It brought a tear to my goggles...

If it seems crowded down here, it's because...

... of this guy above us

Apparently this boat comes to the same place every morning to gather conches. This guy removes the meat and throws the shells back into the ocean. He has a deal with the snorkeling tours that every once in a while he'll throw some meat overboard and the marine wildlife go into a feeding frenzy for some yummy snail-snacks. They then get trained to come back to the same spot every single morning. This way the snorkel tours can guarantee that you'll see lots of fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, etc.

I'm not sure I agree with this practice, but as a tourist, we certainly got a lot of great pictures. Oh, and he fed us some fresh conch meat as well - it was delicious! On second-thought, I whole-heartedly agree with this practice!

Chasing after my grown-up baby turtle! "Come back, I want a family portrait!"
You can see the floor lined with conch shells from the fishing boat above.

Neda thinks this is some kind of pufferfish. Has a very human-like face!

Giant killer turtle spies lunch in the distance

Skimming the sea floor

Giant turtle convention

Suckerfish attached to the turtles belly, feeding off the scraps the turtle leaves behind

This guy wrote his name on a stingray. I'm not sure that was very nice, but it looked kinda cool...

Diving around the reefs

Neda says this fish reminds her of Dory from Finding Nemo. I'm getting kinda hungry at this point...

Diving around the reefs at the Coral Garden

A lot of these fish are not shy at all, swimming everywhere and brushing up against us

Some fish are shy and hide out in the coral. I suspect these are the ones that taste the best...

Diving down to see more coral, the water was so clear even at that depth!

Hooligans! The lot of them!

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