I was in my mid-twenties (just a few short years ago) when I received my open water scuba diving certification in Cozumel, Mexico. I was nick-named the "barracuda lady" on that trip because of the barracuda that was circling above me during the certification. I wasn't much interested in those big fish with big teeth. I wanted to see a Manatee.
The Manatee is sometimes referred to as the "Sea Cow". They are massive creatures and marine mammals that breathe air as they rise to the surface of the water. They are large, graceful, slow moving animals that are gentle and now a protected endangered species. They are so much like me!
I escaped to my favorite island of Caye Caulker a couple of weeks ago. It is a small island just south of Ambergris Caye that is famous for its laid back lifestyle. I was seeking a snorkeling tour guide by the name of Carlos whom I snorkeled with two years ago when I was visiting Belize. He and his assistant, Romeo, run a first class operation with in-depth knowledge of the barrier reef and have the utmost respect for the environment. The icing on the cake is that they take underwater pictures for you of the trip. Sweet.
This particular day we made several stops including the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark/Ray Alley, and the Coral Gardens. I was ecstatic, to say the least, when we spotted some Manatee's as we approached the Coral Gardens. It was thrilling earlier in the day that I was able to "pet" a Ray, but having the chance to swim with a Manatee topped everything. We observed the manatee and its companion lying on the ocean floor as we snorkeled above. No free diving allowed at this stop, so the Manatees would not be disturbed. They had migrated to this area from Mexico and it is their mating season. Low and behold, one of them surfaced and swam right along with us. It is beyond words to try to explain the excitement of seeing this marine mammal. I'm so glad I escaped to Caye Caulker that day. It was a dream of a lifetime fulfilled.