I am a new fan of Stacy Holbert, a woman who apparently lives on Ambergris Caye in Belize, and posts great Belize scuba diving videos to You Tube. One of her videos is a fabulous minute-and-a-half clip of the beautiful Moon jellyfish. We don’t see these that often, but it’s always a thrill when we do.
Everyone is afraid of jellyfish, because their sting delivers a whopper of a hurt, but really, they can’t even come and get you if they wanted to, you have to bump into them. They don’t have a thing against you. I think if you keep that in mind, you can learn to appreciate their beauty (while keeping a safe distance.)
Moon jellies are 10-16 inches in diameter, and can best be identified by the clover-shaped markings on the top of their body. They inhabit much of the world’s oceans, from the tropics to the far north and south. I looked them up on Wikipedia, and was astonished to read that they can live in ocean temperatures between 43 and 88 degrees! Now that is adaptability!
To my knowledge, no one on our trips has ever been stung by a Moon jellyfish. Our biggest enemy is the Portuguese Man-O-War, and luckily we don’t see them that often either. Our most common jellyfish encounters are with the Pica Pica, which are the larvae of the Sea Thimble jellyfish, and their sting causes an annoying, itchy rash. Just wearing a dive skin insures you won’t be stung (except possibly on your neck, which isn’t covered by a dive skin.) You can find a great deal on a dive skin here: http://www.leisurepro.com/p-blrlm/neosport-unisex-lycra-spandex-skin-suit?=,, I bought one of these myself, and can attest to it’s good quality. This is the best insurance against a jellyfish sting of any variety.
I recently came across a great new video of Belize scuba diving. This dive was filmed near Southern Long Caye, which is not the same Long Caye that we own (there are about 8 Long Cayes in Belize.) However, the underwater ecosystem is the same, and the woman who created this video, Stacy Holbert, did a fantastic job splicing together wonderful clips from this one dive.
The coral is exactly the type we see off of our Long Caye at Glover’s Reef, including a shot of a gigantic pillar coral, which is somewhat rare in Belize. She also has great footage of nurse sharks, a spotted eagle ray, lobster, lionfish, and grey angelfish.
If you wish to get an idea of what you you will see while diving in Belize, this video gives a perfect overview.
Because the invasive lionfish species has been having such a huge impact throughout Caribbean reef ecosystems, including on Glover’s Reef, we try to keep abreast any new developments that might give us reason to hope that someday they at least will be held in check, if not generally eradicated from the Caribbean reefs they invaded. This video, posted last week to YouTube by someone using the handle “michaelmillet,” shows a barracuda munching down on one unlucky lionfish after it had first been speared by a diver. Perhaps this is a sign that the native species (barracuda) is gaining a taste for the invader (lionfish). This would be a welcome trend, adding a valuable new predator. Go barricuda!
The short answer is yes, you should take a scuba course from a local dive shop if you can before you get to Belize for your island vacation. If you don’t have a local dive shop or enough time before your trip, you can always do it when you get there as long as you have enough time on the island. Scuba courses have three components, but two can be done at home.
The first part is the written part of the course. There are lectures covering the material in your textbook, which these days means watching DVDs with an instructor to answer your questions. After watching the DVDs, you have written tests you need to pass.
The second part is a series of shallow water skills you have to complete. In water no more than 6 feet deep they teach you how to deal with possible accidents, like your mask coming off, or using up all of your oxygen in your tank. After learning the steps of recovery, your instructor then has you simulate the accident (take your mask off underwater, for example), and then demonstrate that you know what to do in such an emergency. All of this is done in shallow water.
The final part is the good part: diving at Glover’s Reef! Each different level of certification has a different number of required dives to complete that level. On course dives you do a few skills at depth (40 feet for beginning divers) and then you just go for a dive like any certified diver would, except you are diving with a dive instructor rather than a dive master.
The reason I recommend you take your course before you arrive if you can, is to avoid using your valuable vacation time on a private island taking tests and watching DVDs. But you don’t have to complete the 3rd part of the certification at home. You can instead get what’s called a ‘referral’ course where you complete the first 2 parts at home, bringing proof that you completed them with you, and finish the fun part on the island. Every Belize scuba shop offers this option. So for example, you can take the Open Water Diver course which takes 4 days and 4 dives to finish. Or you can take the Open Water Referral course which takes 2 days and 4 dives to finish.
One month ago tomorrow I turned 55. Somehow, the double number made a bigger impression on my psyche than even the big five-o did. That, combined with the fact that in the past year I’ve developed a few chronic aches and pains, got me thinking that maybe this was it – life was beginning to leave me behind, whatever new and exciting experiences I’d had in my life were now becoming things of the past.
Then I stumbled across this article in the Poughkeepsie Journal about this guy, James Curran, who discovered the sport of scuba diving as he turned 60 and in the three years since has made 167 dives. The article featured a picture of him diving off the coast of Belize.
James Curran dives off the coast of Belize, Central America on a recent trip. / Courtesy photo
That brought back memories of my last dive. It was eight years ago off Long Caye in Belize during a week’s stay at Adventure Island. We took a five minute boat ride from the rustic, island resort, out to a site they call “The Wall,” one of the top-rated Belize dive sites. We flipped over the side of the boat and suddenly, 40 feet below loomed one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen — an underwater cliff dropping 2600 feet into the depths. We cruised along the rim of the cliff exploring the extravagant corral formations and gazing out into the abyss as huge sea turtles swam into view. It was the dive of a lifetime.
Recalling that adventure reminds me that despite my age, new experiences still await if only I remain open to them. It’s never too late.