The next morning after a breakfast of fry jacks, beans, eggs and fruit, Mike oriented us to the nautical chart and showed us the route for the day’s trip. We would paddle northeast to Middle Caye, where there was another good patch reef to snorkel around and a ranger station.
I studied the chart with future trips in mind. I didn't realize the cays of Glover's Atoll were so far away −− probably 15 miles −− from the other cays along the barrier reef. In contrast, the cays of the barrier reef were nicely spaced apart. One could easily paddle 8 miles from the Island Expeditions office in Dangriga to the barrier reef and travel from island to island, camping on beaches. It would also be easy enough to leave the tent and sleeping bag at home too and stay in lodges along the way. Imagine paddling in this beautiful water all day and into the sunset wearing nothing but board shorts (and plenty of sunscreen). A plan for next year’s trip was starting to form.
Two women I paddled with, Peggy and Tassy, had planned such an expedition exploring on their own after staying for a couple days with us at Glover's. They had flown in with their tents and camping gear, and a white gas stove. Island Expeditions acquired the stove fuel, purchased food for them from a grocery list which they submitted, and arranged to have the kayaks, paddles, and had everything dropped off at their first campsite on Coco Plum Caye. It was while helping Peggy calculate routes with her Garmin GPS that the idea of my own expedition came to me.
Mike forgot to tell Peggy and Tassy about crocodiles. He only mentioned it because I asked if there were any. He said the Belizian crocodiles are not particularly aggressive, but still potentially dangerous. They are found mostly around the rivers on the mainland, but many can be found on the cays. The largest population lives on Turneffe Atoll.
Our route to the Middle Caye followed the inside edge of the reef. Within the reef the water was like a swimming pool. Just outside of the reef to the east, the dark blue ocean crashed in small surf. Mike lead the small group of kayakers, while a few others including the Australian kids went ahead on the motorboat.
I chose the orange rotomolded Necky Eliza, which I had used the day before and had been guarding jealously the whole trip. So what if it's marketed as a women's kayak? (From the Necky website: "...Its balance of maneuverability and reduced drag will help you keep up with the guys. Or just plain leave them behind.") It turned and tracked well without the rudder deployed. Short and compact, it was definitely the sportiest kayak of the bunch. Generally, I prefer them petite and like a tight fit.
At dusk while lying in my tent I heard the Australian kids running around screaming something about a shark. Our guide Damasco had been cleaning fish out on the beach for dinner and I suppose that the offal he had been tossing in the water attracted two nurse sharks. Apparently, they are a nocturnal and sluggish species. They have small mouths, so they don't pose much of a threat to humans. The kids stood at the water's edge, and watched in the dying light as the dark silhouettes of the sharks passed slowly in the shallow water. They stepped back a little when Damasco warned them the sharks would bite their toes off.