Dark muddy waves were churning up debris and crashing onto the shore when we arrived at Pelican Beach Resort in the coastal town of Dangriga, Belize. Gray clouds hung in the air, threatening rain and I started to think twice about South Water Caye, an "island paradise" somewhere out there in the choppy water. A pod of pelicans sat at the end of the long dock, next to the small inconspicuous looking boat we were going to take, drying their wings in the wind. Well at least they got the name right, I thought to myself, there are tons of pelicans here.
Waiting for our boat to board, I thought back to when we had finalized our travel plans and paid deposits, "it's going to be the trip of a lifetime!" my partner, Collins, declared, incredulous that the trip was actually happening. Growing up in Texas, he'd played in the warm gulf water and ever since, he'd dreamed of someday swimming and snorkeling in tropical water, but now with this weather I was beginning to doubt it would happen. This was his first real vacation out of the country and I wanted it to be perfect.
Despite the dark clouds and wind, the hotel staff politely led us out to the dock, wishing us well and the boat captain greeted us cheerfully and helped us on board. We pulled away from the dock and were immediately jolted up and down violently as we bounced over waves headed straight into the wind. As the coast became a distant sliver of green, the clouds and wind started to disperse and we began to pass tiny islands dotted in palm trees and colorful cottages on stilts. The wind was gone by the time we pulled up to the dock at South Water Caye and so were my doubts about it not being a tropical paradise.
Leonard, our host, warmly welcomed us, greeting us by name as we stepped onto the dock. As our bags were whisked away, he began a tour of the property and orientation. "I can't believe this is real," Collins kept whispering to me with a silly grin on his face. I felt the same way but I held it together a little better. The sun had come out and the colorful hammocks and palm trees swayed in the wind and the turquoise water, white sand and blue sky greeted us. "This is like the beaches you see in the movies, I can't believe it's actually real," Collins exclaimed in a joyful state of glee.
Within minutes of settling into our beach cottage, Collins donned his snorkel gear and we ran for the beach. We frolicked into the water with delight, letting the warm saltwater wash the cold Seattle weather from our memories. For the rest of the afternoon I watched him bob up and down, chasing marine life and searching the coral beds right off the beach. I found a comfortable hammock and pulled out my kindle as the palm leaves swayed overhead in the breeze. We were in paradise. (Quite the opposite from our adventure in the Mayan underworld the day before)
Our entire stay there seemed unreal. Guided snorkeling trips to other parts of the reef revealed sharks, sting rays, manta ray eels and swarms of tropical fish. We dined on Caribbean influenced meals of fresh seafood, beans and rice, and glass after glass of fresh fruit juice. Dark clouds periodically rose in the east and we would run to our cozy cottage, listening to the intense, warm rain pound the roof, leaving as quickly as it came. We watched pelicans glide effortlessly over the water, dropping with clumsy splashes on unsuspecting swarms of fish. Diving boats full of guests from the mainland dropped anchor offshore to explore the reef and catamarans and sailboats glided by. The sinking sun painted the water purple and blue and the night sky revealed brilliant stars. We soaked it all in, forgetting about life on the mainland and all the responsibilities at home.
4 nights passed too quickly and we arrived home with a serious case of travel fever, excited about where we could go next, although Collins seemed unsure anything could live up to that trip. (Ha! he has no idea, we have so much yet to see!)
The wonderful thing about traveling is that even though it passes too quickly, it opens something inside of us. It changes us in some way, be it our consciousness or our heart, and our world becomes a little bigger. The boundaries that we didn't even know were there are pushed farther and the end of a vacation is the start of something new. We are different, ready for new and even bigger adventures.
"All of my life, I've wanted to go to a warm sandy beach with clear salt water. It finally happened, and it's is still hard for me to describe how wonderful it was." – Collins
Keeping it wild,