Camping in paradise during a tropical storm - 11/25/12 03:21 PM
I confess: I’m not really much of a beach person.
Shocking, isn’t it? Seriously, who doesn’t like the beach?
I suppose I have nothing against the beach. It’s beautiful. It’s relaxing. But perhaps a little bit too relaxing. I mean, I can only lay in the sun for so long before I become bored and restless. It is because of this, my mild aversion to intensive relaxation, that we have typically opted to take more active trips together.
Sure, I knew Belize would be beautiful, but had I signed up for three weeks of total boredom with a great view?
Fortunately, our friends Mike and Anne, who are taking a year-long honeymoon (or, HoneyTrek!) around the world, proposed the perfect solution for my beach-going woes: a three day snorkeling, fishing, sailing, and camping adventure along the Belize Barrier Reef with Ragamuffin Tours, an outfitter based on the easy-going island of Caye Caulker. The trip would involve snorkeling the reef and camping on remote islands as we traveled by sailboat from the island of Caye Caulker in the north to the town of Placencia, along the southern coast of Belize.
Relaxation plus adventure? Perfect!
Our Raggamuffin adventure started at the Raggamuffin office on Caye Caulker. After our team briefing the night before, we arrived early the next morning to load up our belongings and prepare to set sail. We spent the morning getting acquainted with our crew members — Ish, Chris, and Captain Jerry — and our fellow adventure-seekers, who came from the U.S., Ireland, Spain, and the Netherlands.
As our boat, the Ragga Queen, pushed off from the dock, we were immediately greeted with sparkling turquoise water teeming with wildlife, including bottlenosed dolphins and loggerhead sea turtles, each of whom came to the surface to bid us safe travels. We couldn’t believe it — we were about to spend three days sailing and snorkeling the Caribbean!
We sailed along leisurely for nearly two hours, basking in the sun and indulging in the generous helping of fresh fruit making its way around the boat before finally arriving at our first snorkel stop of the day inside the Belize Barrier Reef. Our underwater exploration lasted around 45 minutes and included beautiful angel fish and majestic spotted eagle rays, as well as yellow brain coral and purple fan coral. This was my first time snorkeling a coral reef, so the experience was very moving for me.
The rest of the day involved much of the same — sleep, snack, snorkel, sleep, snack, snorkel.
And when we weren’t snorkeling, sleeping, or eating, we tried our hand at fishing. While we never caught anything, quite a few of our fellow passengers managed to snag barracudas, which the crew fried up for dinner that evening.
After an exhilarating day of adventure at sea, it was time to find land and set up camp on Rondevouz Caye, our home for the night. We pulled up to a tiny island covered with nothing but sand and palm trees.
No way! We were camping here?! It was like stepping into a postcard.
As we stepped onto the dock and gazed in amazement at our pristine island, one passenger remarked, “Wow, it really doesn’t get any better than this, does it? When you think of paradise, do you not picture this scene exactly?”
Not long after we docked, we began to notice ominous-looking clouds approaching in the distance. Although the crew had thoroughly checked the weather repots before we departed Caye Caulker, storms can arise at a moment’s notice in the Caribbean, so this one would have been difficult to predict. We hurriedly set up our tents, trying to beat the rain.
Fortunately, the rain held off for a few more hours, and we enjoyed a spectacular dinner spread prepared by our three crew members.
Not five seconds after Justin and I settled into our tent and zipped our door shut, we began to hear the gentle pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof of the tent.
“Is that rain?” I asked Justin.
Before he could answer, our tent was hit with a torrential downpour and some of the strongest cross-winds I have ever felt. Fortunately, our rain covers (which the crew insisted we use, regardless of whether or not rain was in the forecast) managed to keep a lot of the rain out. Nonetheless, we were beginning to get wet. Within minutes, the winds had become so strong that our tent was blown within inches of our faces.
“Quick, help me support the tent!” Justin called. The sound of the rain and wind thrashing against our tent was so loud, we could only hear each other if we screamed.
We scrambled to support our struggling tent, contorting our bodies in very uncomfortable positions. First, we tried holding it up at its four corners with our hands. When the wind ceased to subside and our arms grew tired, we devised a more long-term solution to maintain our shelter. After several failed attempts, we ended up on our backs with our heads together, feet up to support the four corners, and our arms supporting our legs to delay fatigue.
As we lay there in our awkward and uncomfortable position, Justin, whose glass is always annoyingly half full, remarked, “Well on the bright side, we have this same tent at home. It’s good to know our tent could withstand such harsh weather conditions! We made a good investment, babe!”
Seriously, dude? You’re thinking about value for money at a time like this?! There’s a tent on my face!
The rain and wind continued to batter us for at least a half an hour. We estimate the winds must have surpassed 40 mph. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to our exhausted arms and legs, the storm left as quickly as it appeared. Slowly, we unzipped our tent and crawled out to survey the damage to our campsite and to ensure our ship mates were safe. Although everyone was physically all right, some were a little emotionally shaken up and everyone was exhausted from struggling to keep their tents intact and their belongings dry.
We worked quickly to restore the damaged tents and restore our battered campsite for fear the storm would return. Sure enough, within forty minutes, a gentle rain quickly turned into another downpour. We assumed our positions inside our tent once again and prepared for what would turn out to be a very long night, as storms came on and off again throughout the night. Eventually, we grew so tired we just fell asleep with our legs still supporting the tent.
When we awoke the next morning, the rain had subsided, but more gray clouds loomed on the horizon. It was time to pack up, move out, and bid goodbye to our little piece of paradise.
I know to most, such an experience might make for a horrible memory and potentially even ruin a whole vacation. But not for us. Not only did we survive our night camping on paradise during a tropical storm, but we also enjoyed it. Although I’ll admit, after that ordeal, a day just sitting on the beach doing nothing didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore!
But our sailing adventure was only getting started. Stay tuned for Days Two and Three of our Belize Raggamuffin Tour!
What’s the scariest camping experience you’ve ever had?
Editor’s Note: Raggamuffin Tours provided us with a 2-for-1 deal for their Overnight Sailing Adventure, but all opinions expressed here are our own.