Shark Ray Alley: The #OMGBelize Adventures

It's all fun and games until a local on a nearby boat throws a ton of chum right next to you and you find yourself smack dab in the middle of a legit sharknado.

Technically I think it'd be a cyclone, aren't those the ones IN the water? A sharkclone. Or a jackclone really, since it was 50% jacks, in addition to the sharks, plus a few sting rays.  A rayjacksharkclone. And that's my final answer.

(In retrospect, looking at that sharks eyes makes me second guess everything they said about this being totally safe)

Rewind. Way back when we first booked our flights, Whit started a Pinterest board for all of us to throw trip ideas into. That's when I stumbled upon Shark Ray Alley and it immediately became a MUST on my list.

Chelsea's MUST list: 
Swim with sharks. 
The end.

I don't believe in bucket lists, but if I did that would have been on it. None of the other girls were quite as keen on the idea of willing hopping into the open ocean with Jaws, but my power of persuasion is truly immeasurable.

Not long after leaving Caye Caulker, our water taxi docked on Ambergris and we made our way to our hostel. I brought up swimming with sting rays approximately 32 times during the trek, and swimming with sharks approximately 45. Give or take a few.

There's actually a very high chance everyone else just agreed in sheer hope of shutting me up.

Either way, on a sunny Tuesday morning the four of us set out on a boat to become live bait. Whit was the complete opposite of excited. Meanwhile, I rivaled a kid headed to Disneyland.

It was a pretty short ride out to the reef, and the water was so clear you knew EXACTLY what you were about to get into!

Throwing on our flippers and masks, it didn't take long before all 4 of us were overboard. We saw countless rays, jacks, sharks, clown fish, parrot fish, red fish, blue fish, one fish, two fish. Oh and an eel. Who wasn't too enthusiastic about seeing us, and made that very clear (chalk that up as another near death experience)

I befriended this dude, who let me swim next to him for quite a while. I was sure we would end up in Sydney, but it was actually only about 20 feet from where I found him and then he got tired of our Asian peace signs and paparazzi ways.

It was so wild being in the middle of the open ocean swimming amongst these beauts. Call me crazy, but they are just so graceful gliding through the water. Although I'm a little nervous that next time I'm in the water and spot a fin sticking out I may be a little TOO eager to approach the fella.

The morning flew by, and the camera roll filled up. As we headed back to shore, I think we were all in agreement that it was definitely worth every penny we spent!

Belize is home to the second largest reef in the world... I wont lie, it's kind of fantastic having the bragging rights that I've snorkeled the two biggest reefs on the planet!

Things to note:
-All underwater photos were taken with my good ol iPhone 5s, in a LifeProof case. Expensive, but worth every penny.

-We went with Greg from Ecologic Divers, and I cannot speak highly enough of them! They were amazing, and definitely went above and beyond.


Caye Caulker: The #OMGBelize Adventures

I'm not saying you shouldn't plan ANYTHING on your next trip... buuuut... ok, I am saying you should probably not plan out your next trip. Not to a T atleast. Wing it.

Do it, you'll like it.

We showed up at the Belize International Airport with nothing but a couple tickets on the puddle jumper to the islands, and a guaranteed place to sleep at night.

And guess what? Not only were we NOT BORED. We stumbled upon a whole lot of awesome that we probably wouldn't have stumbled upon had we showed up with a detailed itinerary of ToDo's.

(Side note: even if the guy working at the counter for your tiny island airline says go to the bar and drink until its time to leave on your flight, don't go to the bar and drink until it's time to leave. Because then they'll tell you you missed your flight and you'll have to wait another hour for the next one, and you'll probably be grumpy.)

We touched down to a drizzly Caye Caulker airstrip roughly nine and a half minutes after taking off from Belize City, and immediately started laughing.

What had we just gotten ourselves into?

That cheery fella was the entire operations of the "airport", and that building back there... yea that was the airport. He insisted on taking our luggage on that cart the 30 yards back and having us pick it up under the porch And when we asked for a taxi since it was raining, a jolly ol barefoot chap pulled up on a 6-seater golf cart and scooped us up and dropped us right in front of our new home for the next few days.

The benefit of staying in a hostel is that you make roughly 32 new friends within like 20 minutes of arriving... couple that with the benefit of staying on the worlds tiniest (may be a slight exaggeration) island is that you actually know every bartender, shopkeeper, chef and dog* within a day.

*Never in my life have I seen so many stray dogs in one area. Let alone stray dogs that are the nicest, most laid back, chillest dogs ever.

So, let's summarize shall we? Caye Caulker: Tiny.. full of pooches, backpackers and expats. Oh, and Go Slow. The islands motto, it's posted up EVERYWHERE in case you forget. (Supposedly it's for the golf carts... I personally think it's a reminder to just sit back and chill the eff out. Who knows)

And me?

I fell in love. The island didn't even have streets. You walked everywhere. Barefoot if you were really embracing it. You got the best meals sitting in lawn chairs on the sand. Afternoons were spent laying in a hammock at your hostel or on a dock at the far end of the island with 50 other people.

I had carry out Chinese food, while laying out, and drinking rum punch. How could you NOT fall in love?!

Our favorite hangout became the sports bar, owned by an expat from Pittsburgh, and the sweetest pooch Sir Finnegan. I wish I could count how many beers we had sitting in those old wood chairs. What started as a table of 4 gals quickly grew with every visit. We acquired accomplices from New York to California to England to South Africa and everywhere in between.

The island was so, so quiet being slow season. And BOY do they take slow season seriously... our last morning in Caulker we tried 3 different breakfast spots, to find all of them had closed down for the month until business picked back up. Have no fear, we made our own fun... if that wasn't already evident. Ooh the shenanigans that begin with a bottle of local cheap rum and a can of Arizona Kiwi-Strawberry...

After spending three nights at Yuma's House (safe to say it was definitely one of my favorite hostels I've stayed in) we headed to the water taxi dock Monday afternoon, and I was pretty pouty about leaving our little island behind. After being reminded we still had a weeks worth of Belize left ahead of us though, so let's be honest... I turned the frown upside down.

Ambergris Caye, here we come!

Other babblings:
We flew TropicAir from BZE to Caye Caulker, and used the Caye Caulker water taxi. Great service from both! 
Some favorite eats: Paradiso, Happy Lobster, Bambooze and the little Chinese food joint across from Frans


And then there was #OMGBelize

I guess I should have been more nervous about the fact that I had only spent a cumulative 18 hours total with one girl I was traveling with, not to mention I had never even met other gal.

Even as I was nearly sprinting through the Atlanta airport after a slightly late flight into the great Peach state, trying to get to the international terminal to meet them, the only thing that was on my mind was if I had actually thrown in enough swimsuits or was 3 was going to be disappointingly too few.

Does that mean I've hit that level of weirdness that traveling to Central America with two strangers doesnt even phase me? #bloggerprobs

Maybe I should back up and explain how this entire trip even came about. Sometime in the middle of the summer, I stumbled upon a ridiculously cheap roundtrip flight to Belize from Atlanta. After half-jokingly sending the link to Whit, she replied "let's book it". Mind you, I send her random flights at least once a day and usually she just tells me to get back to work. Naturally, my reply was SERIOUSLY? and we both decided 'why the hell not'.

She got a hold of her sister, as they had been tossing around the idea of a fall trip, and I tried to wake up Jenn in Vegas, as we had been throwing around the idea of Thailand in 2014. After a little convincing, we had 4 airline tickets purchased and a slight smirk on our faces. About 4 hours later, prices went up about $400. Yahtzee.

 The next few days were filled with a lot of "Holy shit what did we just book?" and  "Where is Belize anyways?" Those quickly evolved into "Oh my god we're going to Belize!", a countdown was started, and the token #OMGBelize phrase was born.

Funny how quickly those hundred or so days had flown by. Once settled into row 13, Whit & I looked at each other and just giggled... 'watch out Belize, here we come!'

Little did we know the adventures we were about to stumble upon.



Another set of passport stamps. A fresh batch of scuffs and scars on the suitcase. A whole new series of stories to laugh about. Another country checked off the list. Another sleepy Monday morning spent readjusting.