If you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2.
When I last left off, I not-so-subtley mentioned that our scuba diving plans were delayed by an EARTHQUAKE. We were supposed to go scuba diving the day after our most excellent snokeling trip, but plans changed at 2:30 a.m. when Jose and I were literally shaken awake.
I had felt an earthquake once before while in grad school at Stanford, but it was a tiny one that did no damage and felt more like a low level vibration than anything else. I remember wondering why someone was jumping up and down and shaking the whole building, and it was only after it stopped that I realized it must have been a quake.
The 7.3 quake we felt was NOT minor. The epicenter was between 100-150 miles from our location on the coast of Belize and the shaking was intense. Because it was in the middle of the night and I was groggy from being shaken awake, I didn’t realize at first what was happening. “What’s going on??” I remember half-shouting to Jose, who responded with an equally alarmed “I don’t know!” It felt like we were on the deck of a ship in very rough seas, a ship that was being shaken at high frequency in addition to the rolling waves.
Somehow Jose managed to jump out of bed and open the doors to our cabana to check outisde, as the quake died. I think we both half-expected to see a huge storm brewing, so it was strange to see that things outside were dead calm. Only the palm tree branches were moving, still swaying from the after effects of the quake. Finally, I was fully awake and was able to put a coherent thought together. “I think that was an earthquake!” I exclaimed. “Really?” said Jose, who was still thinking it was some kind of mini-hurricane. “What else could it have been,” I reasoned.
Here I am reenacting the earthquake the next morning
The power went out, and it was very, very dark. We sat on our porch for a while, debating what to do. A few guests walked by and confirmed that yes, that had in fact been an earthquake. After a while longer, the resort sent a guy around with lighters and candles, but the power actually came back on pretty quickly since everything was run on generators in the first place. It didn’t take long to get those running again.
With nothing else to do, we went back to bed despite slight worries of a tsunami. (If there had been one, there was no where to go except the roof — we were on a very thin peninsula and there was no higher ground.) The next morning, it was as if the earthquake had never happened. We got up and went to breakfast as usual. There was no damage at the resort, so we were sort of insulated from it. There was damage in Placencia itself, elsewhere in Belize, and of course in Honduras, where a handful of people were sadly killed.
Our scuba diving was cancelled for the day due to uncertainty about what the ocean currents might be like, but we were able to reschedule for the following day. Instead, we had a second day of relaxation at the resort. This involved a lot more sitting next to the pool, reading, swimming, drinking fruity drinks during happy hour, and eating more delicious food.
Finally, it was time to scuba dive! Neither one of us had ever done this before, so we signed up for a “Discover Scuba” course through the Turtle Inn’s excellent dive shop. We again went to Laughingbird Caye, where we’d been snokeling two days before. Most of our group went snorkeling, but we joined our guide, Arthur, for a short intro session in some shallow water by the shore. He had gone over all of our equipment on the boat ride out, and now it was time to practice. We went over how to clear your regulator, clear your mask, use the buoyancy vest, and how to keep popping your ears every 5-10 feet on the way down to equalize the pressure. We got him to snap this photo of us with our cheap underwater camera before we headed into deeper water.
Look ma, we’re breathing underwater!
I have to say, scuba diving was FREAKY at first. For about 20 minutes, it was very, very difficult for me to overcome the urge to pop my head above the water to both 1) take a breath and 2) check on my surroundings. At one point, Jose had to pop up to the surface because his first attempt to clear his mask was unsuccessful (he got it the second time around) and our guide went with him, leaving me underwater. I couldn’t help myself — I popped up to join them. I didn’t want to be alone under there! And I remember saying to them: “I have to be honest, I’m a little freaked out. I don’t know if I can do this!” But we went back under to practice the skills one more time, and I put on my big girl pants. By the time we headed out to deeper water, I was feeling much calmer and felt like I had the hang of things.
After I got past the intial freakiness, scuba diving was TOTALLY AWESOME. It was a little tough to stay exactly neutrally buoyant since we were so inexperienced, but we did a darn good job for first-timers, and even our guide complimented us on how well we did. (Pat on the back for us, hurrah.) We swam around for almost 45 minutes before surfacing, and saw all kinds of cool fish, sea creatures and underwater plants. Because of the way the island and reef sloped down into the sea, it felt like we were flying alongside a mountain range.
There was a whole school of fish in front of Jose in this picture, but they sadly didn’t show up on film
We joined the rest of the group for a lunch break before heading back out on the other side of the island for a second dive. We were down for another 40 minutes and went deeper this time — and deeper than we’d planned! On the first dive, we got down to around 25 feet. On the second dive, we got all the way to 55 feet! I’m not sure our guide had intended to take us that low, but we were both doing well and there was a gigantic grouper that was just sitting on the bottom that we all wanted to check out. This particular kind of grouper is endangered so you can’t fish for them, and by the way this dude just sat calmly on the bottom looking at us, he seemed to know that he was safe from harm. I don’t have any photos from the second dive because we’d used up all the film the first time out!
On the second dive, we also got to enter the water by doing the whole fall-off-the-boat-backwards thing. On the first dive, we’d jumped into the shallow water and put our gear on while standing, but this time the water was deeper. It was a little tough to climb onto the side of the boat with all the heavy gear on, but once I got up there and was ready to go, there was no stopping me. One small lean backwards was all it took to get me falling backwards into the water. I had the regulator clamped pretty hard in my mouth and it was definitely a strange but fun sensation.
Overall, scuba diving was totally awesome and we both came home interested in getting scuba certified. The only problem is that I don’t think I have much desire to scuba dive in any of the water in Houston. Only clear, turquoise water filled with pretty fish for me!
Fourth and final honeymoon recap post coming soon…