This photo taken March 2009 shows a Rainbow Parrot fish, front, passing by a group of yellow tail snapper off Caye Caulker Island near the second largest barrier reef that runs along the coast of Belize.(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
This photo taken March 2009 shows a Hawksbill turtle surfacing for air off Caye Caulker Island near the second largest barrier reef that runs along the coast of Belize in March 2009.(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
This photo taken March 2009 shows porpoise swimming by a boat off Caye Caulker Island near the second largest barrier reef that runs along the coast of Belize.(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
CAYE CAULKER, Belize — It was a dark, rainy, gray day. We don't go for monochrome excursions during our tropical adventures, so this kind of day was not acceptable.
Nonetheless, my two teenage children and I were going to make the best of our snorkeling trip along the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest unbroken reef in the Western Hemisphere. We were near the island of Caye Caulker, which is situated just off the coast of Belize. The search for a diverse palette was our mission with our boat captain guide, Harry Woods of E-Z Boys Tours.
So, onward down into the water we dove. Looking up, we found a ceiling of rain droplets falling from the sky, patterned on the ocean surface. But our aqua world below offered a rainbow of hues.
Our meet-and-greeter was an independent, curious, jowly fish with wings like scalloped shells, a Nassau black grouper. Its face came right up to the camera, as if to say, "Welcome to my universe of color."
We saw creatures of all shapes and sizes, traveling mostly in groups, though a few, like the moray eel, cautiously ventured out alone from their homes in the coral. And back they'd retreat as soon as they had satiated their curiosity about us.
We gingerly tiptoed by stingrays and swam lightly through the many schools of fish, never once feeling like an intruder. Some schools tucked themselves behind strands of coral while others boldly glided about.
Our temporary visit almost appeared humorous to the fish whose mouths were permanently fixed in a grin.
A shark took a look while cruising by us while porpoises playfully swam alongside the boat as they frolicked about, almost inviting us to join them.
As we made our way back to the boat, the merging of sea and sky seemed dreamlike, and the gray gave way to sun.
If You Go...
CAYE CAULKER, BELIZE: You can reach Caye Caulker, just off the coast of Belize, by water taxi from Belize City or San Pedro, or by a 10-minute flight from either Belize International Airport or Belize City Municipal Airstrip. Details at http://www.cayecaulker.net. A number of outfitters on Caye Caulker, including Harry Woods of E-Z Boys Tours, take tourists out to snorkel, dive, fish and sightsee.
Palm Beach Post