Five dives a day were offered, including a night-dive after dinner.
I have a confession to make: I don’t like “going” on night-dives. I lose ambition after a long day’s diving, particularly after a warm shower, dry clothes and an excellent dinner.
It’s difficult to resist a glass of wine in exchange for putting on a wet wetsuit and jumping into cold water in the black of night. And yet I never regret it once I’m under water.
So I held off on the Aggressor-branded Tidal Force wine (great name, great wine) and took the evening plunge. And… it was amazing.
I found nudibranchs on purple sponges and basketstars. There were crabs and shrimp all over the reef, including some very photogenic shrimp living inside tube sponges. Colourful parrotfish slept in the reef, and everywhere I looked there was something to photograph.
The captain had said to be back in 45 minutes and the first time I checked my dive-computer it was at 55 minutes.
I could see other divers (all the other divers) still under water, but I committed to heading back to the boat like a good diver. Turning my strobes off and stowing them, I swam towards the boat and noticed three divers crowding around something.
I slowly made my way behind them, and there was an octopus hunting. As it moved along the reef the divers moved in unison with it, drifting when it drifted, pausing when it paused. Strobes flashed.
The Aggressor had two spotlights shining directly down, making it almost impossible to get lost. As I got closer I saw at least six massive tarpon, silver scales reflecting in the spotlights.
I thought to myself: “Wow, I didn’t even need to leave the boat!”
About to ascend again, the dive-guide was shining his light furiously at me and pointing out two squid almost directly under me. Strobes back on, arms extended – just a few more shots.
OK, for real this time, I’m going up.
Above, clockwise from top left: Divers in the Blue Hole; shrimp; coral goby; going the same way – divers and trumpetfish.
Halfway through the week we moved to Lighthouse Reef, which had steeper wall-dives and just as much marine life. On one dive there was a massive patch of seagrass just under the boat with hogfish, parrotfish and even a shark swimming by, just under the boat!
I was having so much fun shooting in the seagrass that when I looked up I could only just make out bubbles in the distance heading towards the wall. Oh yeah, the wall – that was the point of this dive.
Finning madly to catch up, I made my way to the wall and the blue abyss opened below me.
I love that moment when you swim beyond the reef off the edge into the deep blue; it’s like you’re flying or should be falling. There’s a world above and a world below, but I love hovering in the middle.
I looked down. Two eagle rays swam past just at the edge of my sight. I was discovering that Belize eagle rays hate the paparazzi. I had seen so many, but none came close enough for a photo.
Following bubbles, I kept swimming to catch the group. Large purple seafans and barrel sponges created a bright seascape, with schools of creole wrasse passing over.
Still lagging behind the group, I was low on the reef shooting a barrel sponge when I heard a diver’s bell.
Instinctively looking up, I saw a huge grey reef shark headed straight towards me. I ducked lower and it kept coming right for me until it passed directly overhead.
Following the wall, there were more gorgeous reefs and lots of fish. Grouper seemed to be the main residents, watching us from their territory under gorgonians and seafans.
Halfway through, we turned and shallowed up, finishing the dive under the boat. There was a commotion, with chub everywhere, swarming like mad and making it almost hazardous to get out of the water.
Hungry chub were dive-bombing my buddy’s hair and surrounding me, darting back and forth. Seriously, the fish of Belize have no concept of personal space!