Day Four – Aboard the Auriga II and beneath the Carribean.
Monday, November 22nd, 1999

Breakfast in the dining room was again a choice between several items.  Most of the time we both chose a standard bacon and egg option, although on various days waffles, pancakes, and fritters were also offered.  The servings were generous, if unremarkable, and the staff gracious.

Ah, tropical diving!  The schedules are always printed as if they were an Italian railway timetable.  However if you are there at exactly the scheduled time, you may have to wait awhile for the leisurely preparations to get underway to complete.  No worries.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  American dive operations, by contrast, may well leave you at the dock if you are 10 minutes late.  Compulsive types that we are, we showed up on time and had plenty of time to  fill out the legal forms (that have infected even the remotest locales) before climbing aboard.

The Auriga II is a 42 ft. twin engine open cabin dive boat that easily outpaced the competition.  We had about 6 divers on board and an equal number of snorkelers. The Auriga could have handled many more.

All the dive sites are 30-45 minutes off shore.  The drill is to drop anchor at a small caye (pronounced “key”), drop off the snorkelers, motor to a nearby dive site, make the dive, return to the caye, have lunch, motor out for a second dive, pick up the snorkelers, and head home.  We usually got back a little after noon which left a fair amount of time for exploring.

Laughingbird Caye was our first destination.  Laughingbird is, like most of the cayes in that area, a patch of sand a couple of hundred ft. long, if that, and 50 to 80 ft. wide.  It supports several palm trees, some scrub, and a remarkable profusion of fish life.

Each dive site, of course, has a name.  Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced the list I made during the trip!  Fortunately, conditions and profile were very similar for all the dives.  Dive one.  49 ft. 46 minutes, 78 degrees. 60 to 80 ft. visibility.  I’m getting better with the Ikelite Aquashot camera, but I’d really like to go with digital video someday, perhaps on the next long trip.

What can I say about the diving?  Lobster everywhere, barrel sponges and coral of all types.  30 dives worth of experience doesn’t leave us with enough knowledge to be able to classify everything that we see, so I’m content to sit back and watch the wonderful scenery roll by.  Belize diving is not drift diving, so you follow your divemaster in a big loop over the bottom, returning eventually to the boat.  If I had one complaint to make about the Rum Point dive operation, it would be about its underwater policy.  40 minutes is what they give you underwater and its 40 minutes you get.  At precisely 40 minutes the DM rounds everybody up and begins the ascent to the surface.  Both of us always surfaced with at least 1200 PSI in our tanks—more than enough for another 20 minutes at the depth we were at.  It makes no sense to fly to Central America and then drive to a remote resort to have an artificial limit placed on your time underwater.  I must remember to ask about that before we select our next destination.

Back at Laughingbird the crew prepared lunch.  Lunch was always hearty and satisfying, if not always identifiable.   I take that back.  Bread, fruit, cheese, and cookies were staples and good.  Another staple was an interesting ham-like substance which exuded water like a sponge if you squeezed it.  It wasn’t bad, and I ate it every day, but I’m still not sure what it was.

After lunch we left the snorkelers on the caye again and proceeded to dive site #2.  55 ft. 47 minutes, 78 degrees, 60 ft. visibility.  The highlight of this trip was a large ray hidden in the sand on the bottom.  It sped away in a cloud of sand before I could get a shot of it with the camera.  I’m beginning to yearn for an underwater video camera again.

Back to the boat (again with 1200 PSI), we picked up the snorkelers, and headed back to Rum Point.  After a refreshing Belikin (rhymes with pelican), the national beer of Belize, we took a short nap and proceeded to investigate our surroundings.

First was a quick run past the local airport to the end of the peninsula and greater metropolitan Placencia.  On this first run through, we just drove to the end of the road, admired the rustic marina, and headed back up to resort-hop in search of dining options.

We first dropped in at Kitty’s Place, a pleasant resort of more traditional architecture, run by Miss Kitty.  Kitty’s Place would be a quite acceptable place to stay should you find yourself in the area and not mind a brief walk (or drive) to a dive boat.  We had an early dinner at Kitty’s.  Judy had chicken with a Caribbean flavor – a bit spicy for her, and I had, well, lobster.

At Kitty’s we first learned of the Thanksgiving tradition among the resorts. Each and every one threw a lavish American Thanksgiving buffet with all the trimmings!  We didn’t yet know it was universal, but the menu looked so good we immediately made reservations at Kitty’s for Thanksgiving dinner.

After dinner it was dark and we were happy to get back to Rum Point, a nightcap of Caribbean Light Rum, some reading and a good night’s sleep.