Life is sweet in the former British colony bordering Mexico and Guatemala, from its Barrier Reef and the tangle of inland rainforest to the heartwarming laid-back lifestyle. And the rum. Lots of rum
By Helen Warwick. Published on 16th July 2015
“Shark, there’s a shark! Get out of the water!”
Ellis’s deep voice booms above the stillness of the afternoon. A seabird launches from the water, as if it understands the warning. Despite an almost perfect blue sky, several clouds turn to black and pass in front of the sun, casting dark shadows across the sea’s surface. Panicking, I glance around, pulling off my mask. I’m the only swimmer left in the water. Where. Is. That. Fin?
The first rule when being approached by a shark? Do not panic. Rule number two? Leave the water in a swift but smooth manner. In a split second, both impossible-to-follow rules have gone out the window, and I manically splash and swim my way towards the speedboat.
Desperately, I grab the side of the boat and hurriedly hoist my legs up, my bottom suspended in the swelling tide. Gritting my teeth, I try to heave myself up and into the boat, gasping in salty sea air. Where is Ellis? Why isn’t he helping me? Why didn’t I swim to the ladder? My knuckles whiten with the strength of my grip. Eyes glazed from memories of bloodthirsty scenes from Jaws, I kick my legs up and fling myself up and over, collapsing in a heap on the deck.
As I look up, I know the joke’s on me. Lying back with a beer and a beaming smile, Ellis lets out a gruff chuckle. “Cheers, Hels,” he nods his bottle towards me. “Only kiddin’, man!”
Utter ‘Belize’ to anyone who’s travelled here and watch as a Cheshire Cat grin spreads across their face. It’s not just the bewildering Belize Barrier Reef — one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, running for 190 miles along the coast — and its gin-clear seas, where, on my first day, I snorkel alongside shivers of nurse sharks, giant stingrays, an aged duo of turtles and swarms of parrotfish.