We visited four ports: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Isla Roatan, and Belize. They were all spectacular. But I will save Cozumel and Roatan for my next post. Because today I want to talk about high adventure. And it was in Grand Cayman and Belize that I took some real risks. At least for me.
I always book our shore excursions through the cruise line. I know, I know: you can save a few bucks if you book independently. But if you book through the cruise line, your ship isn't going to leave port without you, no matter what happens on your shore excursion. And anything can happen. For example, once when I was in the Bahamas, I took a shore excursion to a private beach, and our return ferry experienced mechanical problems. The tour operator had to send for another vessel, and we were actually late returning to the ship. We almost missed dinner - and it was formal night, lobster tail and baked Alaska. It would have been terrible to miss that dinner. But it would have been even worse to miss the ship.
But I digress. In Grand Cayman, our first port, I booked us on the "Discover Cayman - Stingrays, Hell & Turtle Farm" tour.
First, we rode a bus down Seven Mile Beach and went to "Hell."
Nathan holding a young sea turtle
Finally, we rode a ferry out to Stingray City Sandbar.
We were told we would anchor in waist-deep water and be able to wade out for an encounter with stingrays. But for some reason I never understood, our captain was unable to get the ferry up as close to the sandbar as he was supposed to. So the only way I was going to be able to have this adventure was to swim for it.
Unfortunately, I DON'T SWIM - although, theoretically, I know HOW to swim. I took swimming lessons as a child, but I am hydrophobic. So I took a water phobia class as an adult. My instructor taught me how to tread water, and I did just fine as long as I knew I could put my feet on the ground when I was finished. But when I get in water over my head, I panic. Then I sink. This is not logical. I have always had the notion that if I had regular access to a pool or a lake, I would be able to overcome this fear. But I have never had that luxury.
So there I was, on a ferry in Grand Cayman, terribly sad that I was going to miss this opportunity. But Nathan saved the day. He encouraged me to put on a life vest and go for it. He assured me that the safety apparel would keep me afloat. He promised he would help me if I needed it. Another gentleman, who had no intention of getting in the water himself, encouraged me. He even offered to push me off the boat. (I told him I would prosecute him if he did.)
In the end, I chose to trust Nathan. I climbed down the ladder into the water; Nathan grabbed my hand and helped me "swim" all the way out to the sandbar. I was exhausted by the time we got there, but I had the time of my life. I actually got to pet a stingray; I saw several up close and personal, and almost stepped on a couple. Nathan even wore a stingray like a blanket. I was wishing I owned an underwater camera, so I could take a picture of that. But the images are forever engraved in my memory.
* * *
Our final port was Belize. We rode a tender from the ship to Belize City, where we met our tour bus into the rain forest. Our tour guide was named Elvis Usher (really!) and he talked us through the one and a half hour bus ride, filling us in on Belize facts, history and culture. I have never met anyone so proud of his country as Elvis was of Belize.
We made one brief stop for water, and nine miles off the main highway, at the end of a very bumpy road, we arrived at our destination, the "Lost World Canopy Tour."
Not only am I afraid of water; I am afraid of heights. But I was determined to have this experience. So Nathan and I were outfitted with harnesses and helmets, given some brief instructions, and led up a steep pathway. Then the fun began.
There were five traverses and two rappels. The traverses were absolutely thrilling.
I thought I would scream but I didn't. I was filled with wonder.
On the other hand, the rappels were terrifying.
I had to close my eyes.
But when it was all over, I was so glad I had done it.
Yes, I was proud of myself! And our tour guide was proud of me, too!
* * *
I tackled some serious fears on that cruise ship. Now that I have swum with stingrays and swung through the canopy of a rainforest (and knocked item #61 off my Amazing Life List), I am hungering for further adventure. I think I will tackle item #59 next. I am looking at Skydive Monroe and Skydive Georgia.