Diving in Placencia

12 07 2010

This week’s epic escape from Belize City saw me travel about 100 miles south, to the idyllic Placencia Peninsula, a skinny 16 mile long finger of palm fringed beach pointing southward from the mainland into the Caribbean Sea. Placencia village, at the southern tip of the peninsula, is traditionally home to Creole fishing families, but now hosts an ever-encroaching tourist industry as well. Placencia has to be one of the most chill places ever – a real barefoot mindset. I flew down because I was diving early the next morning and logistically it was easier than dealing with the unreliable bus system, which may or may not get me there. Plus, after all the aerial surveys I did last summer, I was looking forward to the incredible photo opps that only a bird’s eye view provides.

Some local cayes from the air

My friend, yes FRIEND (I know, so exciting, right?), Armeid organized the diving with a friend of hers who owns a local dive shop. Armeid works for Healthy Reefs and, while an anthropologist by training, she has also morphed into an incredible fish and coral ID-er and is one of Belize’s top conservation crusaders. She is also a dive freak, so we’re pretty much, like, BFFs (unless, of course, she reads this blog…). We were supposed to do a whale shark dive, as these gentle giants grace the waters around Placencia each spring/early summer to feed on the spawn of Mutton, Dog & Cubera snappers. But, alas, the stars were not aligned and no whale sharks were spotted this moon. Instead, whale sharks were substituted with a three tank dive in Belize’s largest marine reserve, Southwater Caye. After several failed attempts to dive the Hol Chan marine reserve from Caye Caulker, due to inclement weather, I was FINALLY getting underwater! Took a little over an hour getting to the dive site, slicing through turquoise waters and navigating submerged patches of reef. The dives were fantastic – I had forgotten what a gorgonian garden the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is, with brightly coloured sea fans and sea whips covering the reef wall, gently swaying in the current. Saw tons as well: spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, HUGE spiny lobsters, spotted morays, barracuda, Nassau groupers and tons of vibrantly coloured parrotfish and wrasses. AMAZING. I feel there is a very close relationship between number of dives and my happiness. Some people feel claustrophobic when underwater but to me, it is so liberating, it represents my ultimate freedom.

Diving paradise

To celebrate our day of diving, that night Armeid and I bought a bottle of rum (obvi) and headed over to the dive shop to drink with Anne-Marie (entrepreneur extraordinaire, owner of the Avadon Diveshop) and her staff. As the night wore on, the mixers seemingly changed with the music -from coke to sprite to grapefruit juice to coconut water. And the discussion became more and more intense, particularly surrounding the parceling out of Belize’s offshore waters to oil companies for exploration. We couldn’t have been a more different bunch – Anne-Marie, a blue eyed Jamaican; Armeid, a braided Belizean raised in the States; Lisa, a Californian with a Creole identity crisis – but you know, sitting around that table, looking around at the like-minded, passionate misfits around me, everything seemed to fit. For the first time in Belize, I felt I belonged. And I liked that feeling.




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