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So I’m scuba diving in Belize and there’s this fish who won’t leave me alone. He’s an aquatic stalker, coming in close to me and returning every time I swat him away.
At first, it’s only annoying but then my mind starts to wander. What if he charges at me? What if he has sharp teeth? What if I pissed him off by entering his territory?
Slow, deep breaths, I remind myself. I float toward the surface because my lung capacity is unheard of, according to my instructor. There are two inflated balloons inside my body pushing me to the surface. All that time I spent at the gym is now working against me.
I do my best to adjust my buoyancy, slow my movements, and regulate my breathing so I can stay at a safe, consistent depth. As I’m distracted by the mechanics of scuba diving, my stalker takes the opportunity to barrel toward me again. I just can’t win.
I kick forward, somehow thinking I can outswim a fish. Instead, I dive deeper along the wall, an underwater cliff face I’m fascinated by.
The reef edge drops steeply with marine life everywhere. Spiny lobsters are my favorite, so I distract myself by searching their favorite hiding spots, hoping to catch a glimpse of one.
All around me, there are angel fish and trumpet fish and lion fish and even a five foot sea turtle. I kid you not: this one was bigger than my Guatemalan-Belizean guide.
I almost start to relax, losing that scary, silver fish in the distance. That’s when Julio pantomimes a Hail Mary.
Shark, dead ahead, and getting closer by the second. A whole string of four-letter words escapes my mouth, muffled by my oxygen regulator.
In reality, it’s only a nurse shark. They almost never attack people and they swim all over the reef. In three days of diving in Belize, I’ve seen dozens. It’s just that usually they don’t pop out of nowhere and then graze up against me.
My heart rate jumps so once again I focus on my breathing. The cycle repeats: I start floating and I have to adjust back down. At least this time the fish don’t invade my personal space.
At the end of my forty minutes underwater, I surface all too quickly, thanks to my super-human lungs. Julio chides me, as if I’m not already freaked out by the accidental risk of decompression sickness.
“That remora was really something,” he said. My brain recognizes the word, but can’t place it.
I must have had a puzzled look because he went ahead and explained.
“A remora, you know, the sucker fish? They attach themselves to whale sharks and other fish, keeping them clean and eating parasites and scraps of food they drop. This one followed you around like a puppy.”
I blushed. I was afraid of an underwater puppy dog, possibly the most ridiculous thing ever. My pride was wounded and suddenly I saw the whole experience in a different light. I wanted to try again, now that there was nothing to fear. I’d trade in my aquatic stalker for an aquatic pet. Maybe even call him Sparky, if I saw him again.
Scuba diving seemed scary, but turns out it was all in my head.
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Scuba Diving in Placencia Belize
As long as you don’t play any mind games, Placencia is a great place to scuba dive. It’s known for plentiful marine life, excellent visibility, and a variety of sites to suit all levels. My second and third day underwater were a very different story 🙂
I earned my certification through Seahorse Dive Shop, a tightly-run operation with a friendly crew. I also recommend Go Sea Diving, who I went out with one day when Seahorse wasn’t operating.
If you only have time for one dive site, Silk Cayes is the most popular since it includes a snorkel stop to see rays, sharks, and turtles. Other spots include Laughing Bird Caye, South Water Caye, Glover’s Reef, and even the Blue Hole. Whale shark season is mid-to-late March through June.
How long should you stay in Placencia?
I recommend a minimum of three days — one for diving (or snorkeling), one for a hands-on chocolate tour with Ixcacao/Taste Belize, and one for a night tour of Cockscomb Basin. I spent a total of 9 days, so don’t be afraid to extend your trip!
Where to Eat in Placencia
The best breakfast in town is at Friends Near the Pier. They’re open early, have drip coffee, and delicious food. If you want beans and fry jacks — and you should — Wendy’s Creole Restaurant is your best bet.
For a casual lunch, you can’t do better than Mr. Q’s. Try the fish with a side of beans and tortillas, or the barbecue chicken if you’re sick of seafood. Wash it down with homemade bitters.
My favorite place for a drink was the pool bar at SailFish Resort. Walk toward Sunset Pointe and ring the bell at their dock for a ride over. The $5 cover is worth it for a relaxing afternoon (and guests staying there said the accommodations were spot-on).
Dinner one night should be at Rumfish y Vino. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a night with a lionfish special, don’t hesitate to try it. Regardless, you’re in for a treat based on their extraordinary food and great service. It was better than Maya Beach Bistro, in my opinion.
And everyone should stop by Tutti Frutti Gelato at least once…or once a day, if you’re so inclined 🙂
Where to Stay in Placencia
You should know in advance that the resorts are all located outside of town, so you’ll need a rental car or taxis to get to and from the village. If you like to walk everywhere, like I do, look for a place in the village itself.
The basic rooms at Sea View Suites are more than made up for by the location right on the village sidewalk and steps from the beach.
If you’re looking for a luxury resort, Naia Resort and Spa is the one you want. It’s brand new, it’s beautiful, and it’s perfectly interwoven with the natural environment.
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Tell me: when have you let your imagination run wild while traveling?
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This post contains affiliate links. If you’re planning a trip to Placencia, I’d appreciate if you make your travel arrangements through my website. Let me know where you end up staying!
16 thoughts on “I Was Stalked in Belize!”
I really love this post, how you told us a story and then gave us practical advice about Belize with specific hotel and restaurant recommendations, why you like them and even what to order at each restaurant. Thank you and hope to read more soon! Have you been to Roatan?
@Kadence, you’re too sweet! I went to Roatan once on a cruise, but never spent a “real” visit so I’m pretty low on tips. My friends say it’s great! Thanks for stopping by.
Nice post 🙂
Scuba Diving in Belize sure is an awesome experience, and the folks there try very hard to mentain a healthy reef 🙂
We went to Caye Caulker and had some great dives around the Caye Chapels. The Blue Hole was also on the bucketlist, but unfortunately, the group we were supposed to dive with canceled and going out this far just for 2 people wouldn’t have been profitable for the divebase. But it won’t be the last time I visit Belize 🙂
I had to grin about the sucker fish incident. We were actually snorkeling when one of those fellas approached my gf swimming all between her legs – and yeah, I promised not to show the video of her squeaking to anyone. Things may get nasty for people having unshaved legs or shortie wetsuits though, since these fish often think that hair may be some sort of parasite and will try to pull it out.
@Mario, I was personally quite pleased with the efforts of local Belizeans to keep their reef healthy. I’d love to go back and try a few spots around Caye Caulker in the future.
Becky – How did you decide on Belize for your certification? Was the choice of Placencia made after deciding on Belize, or was that always the target?
As for Roatan, it’s also a diver’s paradise, but there’s little else to do besides dive (unless you want to go clubbing in the west end, which isn’t my style). I’m doing a week long stay at a dive resort and will probably get in 15-20 dives, but Roatan has some 120 dive sites!
@Scott, My decision was more a crime of opportunity. A friend who has dove all over the world wanted to head to Placencia to dive there and invited me along. I wasn’t actually sure at the time if I’d have time for my certification (I had lots of work to do remotely), but I’m glad it worked out.
Love your writing style here – really put me in the moment! Always wanted to try scuba diving, the closest I’ve gotten has been snorkeling, which was tons of fun. Maybe I’ll get my scuba on some day!
What an exciting story! I like your style. It is very engaging and interesting to read. Good luck with all your adventures. Awesome pictuers too.
Love the underwater shots! Your friend reminds me of the Jimmy Buffett song “Fins” ;P
@Laura, If I was humming “Fins”, I would’ve been a lot happier!
Love the underwater shots. Though I have never tried it anytime. This surely gets interesting with all the recommendations you have provided. Great !
Wow, what an experience. Not sure how I’d feel if I was followed around by a fish when diving – the picture you got of him is quite adorable, he looks smitten! 🙂
@Wendy, Yes, in retrospect…he’s more cute than scary!
The underwater pictures are so stunning! Excellent post and very motivational, Becky!
Interesting blog post, but if you are really certified to scuba dive, how is it possible that you referred to your regulator as an “oxygen” regulator? Kind of makes me question your whole blog.
@Jo, Thanks for stopping by. This article is written for an audience of non-scuba divers, which means a lot of times things have to be described in ways that make sense to the average reader. I definitely see your point of view, though!