For breakfast, we decided to go to this place we'd seen while walking to and from that Italian restaurant so many times. It's called Meldy's, and it did not disappoint. They had these things called Fry Jacks which were to die for. I had huevos rancheros that day. Remember that. It will come up later. Come up. Get it? No, you won't get it. Yet.
Then we got ready for our guided snorkeling tour. I'm sooooooooooo glad we did this. It truly ended up being THE highlight of our trip for me. There is a coral reef about one mile east of Key Caulker, and our guide took us in a speedboat out there and attached it to a floating anchor ball thingey. I'm pretty sure that's its official term.
We made three different stops. I can't remember the name of the first stop, but it was really spectacular. It was so fun to see all the different coral. The water was clear out there - not silty like near the island. And there were gorgeous, colorful fish, like you see in aquariums.
Our tour guide was really knowledgeable about all of the different kinds of coral. He would dive down, point at something, and then come up and tell us what the name of that coral was, what it does, etc. I particularly remember the fire coral, which will really, really hurt you if you touch it, the brain coral, which literally looks like a brain, and the fan coral, which was purple and so gorgeous.
Our guide was so funny. He'd grab a few sardines, then tuck them in his shirt and hold them inside of it while he swam. Then, when the area was right, or he wanted us to see a particular kind of fish, he'd take them out of his shirt and pull them apart to chum the water, and the fish would swim all around us, snatching up bites of sardine.
At one point in this first area, he dove clear to the sea floor - about 30 feet - and brought up an empty conch shell. He stuffed it full of sardines, then held the conch shell under the water and knocked on it really hard a few times. We had no idea what he was doing, but we watched and waited. Up from his hiding place in the coral slithered this huge moray eel. He had been trained to come and eat out of this conch shell!! So he gobbled up the sardines, and then swam around all of us, trying to figure out if any of us had any food. We all held as still as we could, which was hard, because the current was crazy strong. The ocean was extremely rough that day. I think he was attracted to Ben's bright floral shorts, because he kept looking around at them. And then he looked all around Ben's camera. Ben caught it all on tape, and I'm so glad, because it was SO COOL:
I had taken a dramamine that morning, but apparently the power of the sea overwhelmed the power of the medicine, because I got extremely seasick out there in the water. Right after the moray eel slithered back down to his home, I barfed up my huevos rancheros. Now do you get the "come up" joke? Haha! I felt badly holding up the group, and Ben kept saying, "Barf while you're swimming backward!" And I just glared at him and kept upchucking. I'm sorry - I'm incapable of movement while I'm barfing. Or talking. I can't do much of that. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. The guide came swimming back to me and asked if I was okay, and I said, "Well, now I am. Sorry, I get motion sickness sometimes. But I feel better now."
A picture of Ben and I right after I barfed. My smile is absolutely forced:
So then we went to a second area, called Shark/Ray Alley. It was actually shallow enough here for us to stand and not have to wear our flippers at all, but we still kept our masks and breathing tube thingeys on. Again, I'm pretty sure that's the official term for those. I was still feeling pretty nasty, but I really didn't want to miss this.
Our guide threw in tons and tons of chum into the water, and here came swarming probably hundreds of stingrays and a few nurse sharks. We tried not to step on any of them - that's how many there were. It was tricky to stand still, because the water was so turbulent, but we did our best. It was so fascinating and beautiful.
I knew from all these years of watching Shark Week that nurse sharks are very docile. Our guide flipped one upside-down, which kind of makes them go to sleep (again, learned from Shark Week), and we got to pet him. His tummy felt like sandpaper, but the top of him was smooth, like when you feel the top of a stingray:
The third area was called the Coral Gardens. I was feeling dangerously close to upchucking again, so I chose to lie on my stomach on the bow of the boat while the others swam around. This is an old trick I learned from my family's boating days. Flat on your tummy. On the bough.
I'm so sensitive to motion that I often felt like I was still in a boat when we were on land. I had to lie on my stomach on our bed a lot to still that feeling inside.
Let's just say I won't ever be joining the Navy.
I'm kind of glad I didn't snorkel around Coral Gardens. The footage Ben took of it is spectacular - lots of beautiful fish - but the seas were getting rougher and rougher by the minute. In fact, a few others sat on the boat with me. You had to really fight the current out there, and they were tuckered out. Ben didn't stay out there for too long because he said the current was so crazy. Here's my favorite video he took of Coral Gardens:
We left the next morning and flew to Atlanta. We had an overnight layover, so we stayed in a little hotel by the airport. There was a waffle house next door to it - I wanted to try chicken and waffles (I just cannot understand that matching of foods), but I chickened out. Get it? Chickened out.
Ahhhh. I am my own best audience.
The next day was my birthday, and we flew from Atlanta to Salt Lake, and then Salt Lake to Idaho Falls. Because Ben has all these sky miles from his China Adventure last year (I call that time period The Time from Hell), he has some kind of high status with Delta - gold platinum or something. I don't know what each level is called. Anyways, he gets free upgrades if there aren't enough people in first class. So he got bumped up to first class, and since it was my birthday, he let me have the first class seat.
It happened to be an international jet that we were flying, so the first class was called Business First Class. So it was even better than first class. I have always had a dream of flying first class. And it truly was AMAZING. The seats lay ALL THE WAY BACK LIKE A BED. And they kept offering these delicious meals and desserts and drinks and stuff. They even came around with hot, wet washcloths that were rolled up all cute, handing them out with tongs and saying, "Would you like to freshen up your hands and face??" How luxurious. I enjoyed every second. I actually slept the whole time. It was amazing. A nice birthday present. Oh, yeah, and the whole trip to Belize thing. A very nice present. :)