Belize's Blue Hole was first explored by Jacques Cousteau. It's 400 feet deep. Essentially a limestone sinkhole, it formed when the ceiling of an ancient limestone cave system collapsed. From above the color of the water is enticing.
|Photo Credit: Belize.com|
From below, though, it's just water. You drop in like a rock and it's 0 to 135 feet down in 60 seconds. It's pretty dark at that depth. There are stalactites to swim through for about 7 minutes. The next 20 minutes are spent slowly ascending, to breathe out the nitrogen the water pressure has smushed into your bloodstream.
But a reward approaches in the shape of a little motorboat! It will take us to the Bird Sanctuary at nearby Half Moon Caye for the hours we must wait before diving again.
Red Footed Boobies use this caye as a major nesting area. Magnificent Frigate birds are also in abundance. The walk to the sanctuary was tropical - sweaty, sandy, and shadowed by stately palms. Shells scuttled in the debris on either side of the path. On closer inspection each one had a large hermit crab inside!
|My what big claws you have!|
|Lizards and iguanas were rustling amid the leaves and coconuts too.|
A helpful viewing platform provides a nest-level view of the Red Footed Boobies. I took photos under the relentless midday sun for as long as I could stand the heat. Watching the frigates swoop and soar, the chicks with their mothers, and the boobies on nests panting in the heat distracted me from the sweat soaking my shirt.
|Red Footed Booby chicks wait for their next meal to arrive.|
|Such handsome red feet!|
|This booby had built her nest just a few feet from the viewing platform! Can you see the chick under her tummy?|
The birds seemed oblivious to the tourists on the platform. Frigate birds bickered and courted with the red sacs on their throats. It was noisy but surprisingly not smelly.
According to the Belize Audubon Society, the frigates and boobies get along pretty well in the nesting area.
|Panting hard, the mother booby seems to endure the heat as wearily as we do.|
At sea, though, there are conflicts. The boobies dive for fish or squid which they immediately swallow. As they return to the nest they are attacked by the frigate birds, who hope to force them to regurgitate their meal so the frigates can eat it! So the relationship between the frigates and the red footed boobies is called kleptoparasitism.