Reef Crawling Belize
[An Expedition service]
The Fishing Sloop: "Tzabcan"
Maya for Rattle Snake
one reef crawling charter
Single or two passenger Charters.
$175 US per day for two or one passengers - all included (And that means everything)
Minimum Charter: 6 days
Now - On with the show
It is time this old WWW site gets an update - so here it is.
First point - defining "Reef-Crawling"
Some people have got upset with this name - believing it designates actually crawling on reefs and maybe destroying parts of them. Well, let all rest easy in real time - no one touches a reef! That is not a pleasant experience!
Reef Crawling refers to the speed of our sailing sloop when compared with the modern skiffs presently in operation here. Those 40 footers with up to 1000 HP of outboard machines - traveling at well over 30 knots - carrying 20 to 40 passengers to a designated water park area in the morning for a diving or snorkeling "experience". Returning full throttle in the afternoon to the resorts.
We travel "wide-open" at best 5 knots! We do not carry more than two passengers at a time. (Though we have been known to make exceptions and carry three)
We start snorkeling and swimming right at the reefs, as soon as the sun stands bright enough - before the heat drives all the interesting sea critters into shaded areas - where you no longer can see them.
We do not take you to a resort to sleep for the night - you sleep right in the reefs. You can dive until the sun stands down. We "Crawl" to a different section of reef each and every day. And never near where all the rest go.
Further, traveling at 30 plus knots on these choppy waters here is not a pleasurable experience if one does not enjoy "pounding". But slicing though them at 5 knots and less is never a bone jarring experience.
Motion sickness can be a problem. If we are taking first time sailors out - tell us! We keep to the smooth channels behind the reefs rather than cross the "blue" to say - Turneffe Islands - until we see what your sea legs are made of. In any event, you are not part of a group of 20 or more - but a private "couple" on a charter. We listen to what you want and behave accordingly. Communication is not a problem - silence of sailing is golden. But try that on a speeding skiff pounding through choppy seas at 30 knots plus her hour! Tell us what you want to see and we'll take you there.
How to present what our Reef Crawling experience is all about? Very difficult. So I am trying a new method. Following is a dialogue of what Reef Crawling is about.
Enjoy the read. "Reef Crawling" is not for everyone. But If you like what you see - contact me by Email to make arrangements.
At 12:31 AM 8/26/00 -0700, you wrote:
howdy- my hubby and i are looking into a snorkeling vacation in belize in
summer 2001- probably late july or august. could you tell me more about
your boat and trips? we're not into fishing, just snorkeling. website
looks like we're in the water a heck of a lot, which suits us fine (we've
done a bunch of snorkeling in bali, lombok, and maui). where do we sleep?
on the boat deck, or are there rooms (here i'm showing basic boat
stupidity). how well do you know the great and various snorkel sites? are
we on land at all (we must be!)... do you have another interested couple
who just want to snorkel? is the bathroom gross? i'm sure you can imagine
what any other obvious questions are... let us know how "non-luxury"
we're talking! hope to see you next summer- mary
Sounds like you are the ideal couple to go out.
I no longer take more that two people out at a time. More is to much of a crowd. Have to update that WWW site with fresh pictures and new literature.
Hey -- I think I'll just write you out a big description right now and mount it!
The boat has two very good berths in the "hold". 6ft by 2 ft each, 4 inch foams. I would like to show pictures of the passenger quarters - but have none at hand. Will up-date this site later to include some.
And yes -- what we do mostly is snorkel. We snorkel for our food - the main menu is fresh seafood. Every kind!
The Captain is a 55-year-old fisherman of Mayan extraction that has been working these sailing sloops on the reefs here for over 40 years and knows all the best places to snorkel. We sail reef-to-reef -- and island-to-island -- snorkeling as we go along.
Each night is spent anchored in the lee of the great reefs. Very nice. I have long given up trying to put it into words -- sorry -- I'm just not poet enough to handle such a project.
We do not actually line fish -- the Captain uses a local spear fishing device that looks like a big slingshot that shoots a spear, to get seafood. Only spear fishing device legally allowed here -- very traditional -- and takes long practice to use properly. But you may try if you want.
You'll enjoy snorkeling around over Rosa when he is at work. Basically you feel like an eagle watching a hunter. The water is very clear.
Diet is lobster, conchs, fish fillet - fried jacks, plantain, rice - etc.
We carry 100 lbs of ice and purified water. So cold drinks at all times. We never put "ice" in the water. But rather pack the drinks, in their containers, in the ice chest.
The price is presently $150 US per day - two people (Or One). Minimum is 6 days. We pick you up at Caye Caulker Island and take you all around. Either South down the reefs -- or across the ocean to Turneffe Islands. Your first dive starts 2 hours after putting out.
The bathroom is quite civilized. A five-gallon plastic lard bucket with regular toilet seat adapted to it -- yes, a cushy seat and a cover. It sits the right height and fits perfectly between the two bunks. No falling over. Lots of head room (excuse that pun). This is flushed out after every use and always has some good smelling disinfectant liquid put in it after. It sits right at the end of the two berths. The berths double as benches - and you'll be surprised how roomy it all is -- compared to a tent.
This "cabin" is just like a "convertible" car. Slide back the hatch and no more "roof".
The stern of the boat is the Captain's quarters and contains a rather complete galley -- the most important part being a two-ring butane burner -- cause we cook big time. The ice box separates the stern/galley from your berths. The forecastle is the crew quarters and storage area. There it is cramped indeed -- but that is what we are used to.
Bring one of those solar heated shower bags. We carry plenty of fresh water for bathing. But you have to bring your own solar shower bag. You simply hang that on the mast and shower on the front deck.
We locals just stay "salty".
We supply commercial, bottled, potable water in one-gallon plastic jugs -- sealed -- as sold by the Coca-Cola Company here -- so not to worry about our passengers getting any "nasties". The food is all cooked while still moving (gross to think about -- true -- but delicious all the same) so don't worry about catching cholera or anything.
And it just has to be the most bug free experience you could ever have in the tropics. Unless you are on any island when the sun is not out full force and a good wind blowing. So we stay to sea mostly - behind the 100's of miles of reef. Everyone wants to beach comb a desert island at least once. And we have some real fine ones for you to explore. But we avoid anchoring near them at night.
You will not find any bigger boats doing this -- or of other designs. Those reef systems are far to hard on floating objects that try an approach.
Ridges of reef and Coral heads abound that rise up from depths of ten feet or greater to within a foot from the surface. There is no way to go fast in these places -- this boat travels well -- and steady -- at a mile per hour, if need be -- as when we approach the reefs to anchor in a tidal pool - or "canyon" right at their "back". You stand on deck, looking over the side -- and gaze upon the real water world.
As always sleep behind the reefs -- in pools that are natural canyons. Paths to the deep channel much further behind the reef, where normal boats can navigate safely. We are never disturbed by other boats.
The steady pounding of the surf is white noise to sleep to. As is a gentle rocking of the boat when the slight swell of some huge breaker trickles through the reef.
As weather permits -- but usually every night -- you sleep with the hatch cover slid off. We turn off the lights and you are staring right into a tropical sky.
We have a simple 12-volt system that gives all the light you need for good reading.
We have a cheap transistor that pulls in the local FM stations. This is our storm-warning device. Otherwise we are totally cut off from the world.
And actually, after the first day out, we will be so far off the regular traffic "lanes" that you will rarely sea another boat. This makes some of our passengers nervous. They can never believe such fine places can be so empty of human presence. "Where are all the people?" The normal snorkeling routine here in Belize is at special reef preserves set up near the major resorts - with hundred of people all trying to pet a shark - or something. And Lord help anyone that should kill a fish!
Everyone falls into the same "routine". We get up a little before the sun rises. Serious Toilet time. The crew have their own means of voiding -- yours is in the privacy of the "cabin".
By the time you are finishing this wake up routine -- hot coffee is ready in the Galley. If you do not have an appetite for food when you wake up at home -- you most certainly will have here. A good breakfast is soon in
front of you. This you can eat sitting on the deck, while watching the sun come up over the reefs.
We like to start that first snorkeling when the sun just stands up. For July and August, no later than 6:30 AM. The sun is not baking the fish in open water at these early hours -- so lots more action to see. Many denizens of this reef system live in "caves" (the coral is of very "porous" architecture) -- so from ten in the morning to 4 in evening -- every one is sleeping in their cave.
Nothing much to see and real sunburn times for the poor snorkeler trying to get some eye candy.
Compare this with the regular snorkeling "charters" where they load 20 or more people in a skiff to travel to a water "park" and reach there by 10 AM if they are lucky - and head back at 3 PM. We will pass by some of these - (from a good distance) -- looks like a boat parking lot at a water world shopping center.
We may not have bugs or bad water to worry about. But some of the citizens of this "wild" underwater world can be very hazardous to ones health. It is not the nature of these denizens to attack humans. But if you should stick an arm out to pick up something off the bottom, and there is a eight foot moray eel doing his thing in a cave a couple of feet away -- you will lose that hand.
They strike any bright, moving object, on reflex action alone.
There are many hazards such as this -- and that is why the Captain or the crew is always snorkeling with you. Then it is no more dangerous than walking through a zoo with lions -- as long as you do not step in the cage
with them everything is OK.
You can snorkel comfortably from 6:30 to 10:30 AM and then from 3 to 5:30 PM. But you probably will not the first couple of days. It is quite an exercise. Takes at least one day to get in the groove. What ever -- the Captain has the morning's catch cooked by 11:00 -- or earlier (depends on when people get hungry) and a good meal is eaten.
The tarpaulin is thrown over the boom after 8:00 AM to keep that hot sun at bay. After dinner it feels so good to lay back on your birth, in the "deep" shade while a stiff sea breeze off the reefs blows continuously and have a little nap. Sometimes there is no tarpaulin; rather the boat is under full sail to another location. It all depends.
There are many different types of reef formations. You have fantastic formations where the water averages 3 to 4 feet in depth. You snorkel over the sand behind the coral -- along a formidable wall that is full of "caves" of every size. Sometimes there are channels going into this wall -- there are some that are quite wide and safe to snorkel in. These can lead you right up to the backside of where the big waves hit. Every time a wave strikes you get a complete bubble bath from the water rushing through the reefs in front. One can spend hours looking over these areas and never see the same formation twice.
The Nurse shark likes to take their shade in these areas. So as you snorkel into one of these canyons it is always a thrill to run into a sleeping shark - about 3 feet from you face mask. But they are harmless.
One other kind of reef formation is coral heads that run from the white sand bottoms 10 to 16 feet deep. Like towering apartment
houses as you dive down along the sides -- circling around then. Though not so porous as the shallow reef walls - still more than enough caves. Keep your eyes out for the gently swaying head of a big Moray Eel.
In the best areas there are many of these coral head - close by each other and you snorkel over canyons that are just like city streets perceived from a low flying plane.
Then there are the "blue-veins". These are deep channels that pass through the reef. Rosa can dive to 40 ft. You can watch him disappear into the so perfectly blue water -- and if he had good luck -- come up with a large grouper. While there is little reef at the bottom of these - there are very interesting formations along the sides. Kind of like walking along the bank of a deep, very clear, river - -except you are not walking - but snorkeling. It is along these blue veins that you will see the big Rays, Barracuda, Shark, and other larger denizens.
By 3 or 4 PM (that sun is to hot till then!) it is time for another session. Back into the water. You'll be surprised at how hungry you will be when you get back out. Again -- a big supper is waiting. Shower down - if you are inclined. We are not -- I find that simply swimming in salt water so much stops any salt build up on the skin or hair. And it does wonders for the complexion -- any wounds you may have -- fungal infections -- etc. (Maybe herpes?) are cured by this process. Should almost be FDA approved.
Anyway the last chow time event of the day -- then a hot chocolate -- then socialize over the days events - maybe read a little as we listen to the local news (any storms brewing?) and believe it or not -- by 8:00 PM everyone is soundly sleeping. (Should be FDA approved for a sleep disturbance medication)
By the third day -- you need no watch. You just live according to a schedule of diving, eating, sleeping. You feel you could go on doing this for a very long time and yet never remember for how long you have been doing this when it comes to an end. One day blurs into another -- no boredom -- just simply, basic, instinctual, human tranquility. The primitive instincts of the human hunter/gather wake up. Fill the belly, sleep. You become just like any other life form on that reef! Mankind at his most natural levels.
When we land you after this charter -- it will be like some one has snapped their fingers and you come out of a trance.
Later, when your friends ask: "So -- How was it?" you'll be totally lost for words to describe it - this experience of living in primitive style on the reefs of Belize -- with a Mayan fisherman in a sailing fishing sloop, just like they have been doing for thousands upon thousands of years.
How can one describe color to the blind??
You travel light. Two changes of clothes -- your towel and the toothbrush. We supply the toothpaste and toilet paper.
You can bring alcoholic beverages aboard if you want. And juice concentrates/soft-drinks as well. There is an excellent store right by the harbor where we pick you up -- on the backside of Caye Caulker. You can tend to any last minute shopping right there. We supply all the basics -- the rest you can bring aboard if you're so inclined and buy them.
And one last point. You are doing the right thing by discussing this early. I do this as a part time operation only. Most of the year this same boat is commercial fishing. We supplement costs by taking a few charters out per year. This is not a slick tourist operation that has a fleet of sailing sloops. There is no last minute bookings. It is done by "appointment" only.
I receive many inquiries -- but for many -- this is not what they really want. I simply refer them to one of the "luxury" charters available here in Belize.
Our charter is only for serious "water-people". Just like skydiving is not for everyone. This is not a Disney ride.
But it is absolutely the most comfortable "camping" trip you will ever take.
I'll sign off here now -- you can find a reference appended.
Belize, Central America
Email: [email protected]
(Mrs. A*********; 54 year old Dean of a University. She chartered the boat
for $150 per day and went out alone with Rosa and I. We respect the
privacy of our past clients -- they tend to return. I'm sorry I can't give
direct contact details. You'll understand once you have gone through this
From: "A********, ****" <A********@*******.coedu.***.edu>
Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 10:26:56 -0400
Greetings from Tampa!
I wanted to send you a brief note of appreciation for a wonderful
reef-hopping experience and gourmet extravaganza. For the past
two days I've been craving fresh fish for breakfast. I guess I'll
have to wait for my next trip to your world for that. I am amazed
that I have carried back into this world a new perspective and I've
had some difficulty articulating all of my feelings and perceptions
beyond " It was wonderful" which doesn't do my experience justice.
I so much appreciated the care you and Rosa gave me. It was
refreshing to be with two men who obviously have a great deal of
respect for one another.
If you give me a mailing address, I'll send you a couple of great can
Thanks for everything.
one reef crawling charter
Come Crawl with us!
Peter Singfield mailto:[email protected]