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Trip Report: Ras Creek's Eagle Ray Tour
Caye Caulker, Belize

by Robert Barbutti

"Soon come the Rasta ray," says your captain, a lanky Rastafarian named Ras Creek. He's talking about the Spotted Eagle ray that he first made friends with and hand fed on Bob Marley's birthday more than eight years ago. Now he is called the "Shark and Ray Dundee of the Caribbean" since he guides you on an aqua safari around the picturesque island of Caye Caulker, Belize.
Eleven thirty rolls around and everyone has gathered for this casual nature tour of the island. The boat is loaded with passengers and ready to go. A last minute delivery of fresh fish for our lunch shows up in the nick of time. The boat glides over the calm clear blue water heading out to Caye Caulkers portion of the Belizean Barrier Reef and home of much of the areas diverse marine life.
Snorkeling 101: Everyone gets a quick lesson in how to be safe and reef conscience in the water. Breath slowly and smoothly, Don't kick up the sand, and don't stand on the coral or harass the wildlife.
The southern rays are there as if they knew what time to meet their guests. Ras Creek jumps in and comes up with a small one of only about 3ft across. "This is short tail, his tail was bitten by a shark" He shows us how to support the ray in your out stretched arms. They are soft and smooth to the touch. They flap their wings like flying carpets of the sea gliding effortlessly through the water.
Southern stingray
From here we are shown the secret lair of a huge green moray eel. This guy was at least five feet long and he looked kind of spooky with his sharp fangs exposed. He came out to investigate. This is the largest species of eel in Belizean waters and is generally easy going. But don't go prodding into his home or try to pet one or else you may get to see what those fangs can do as they give you a bite to remember.
Back to the boat and now the show is moving on to the next act. Nurse sharks are checking us out from below as we watch from the surface. These sharks are shades of copper and brown in color with beady eyes. They are friendly with humans and will swim right up to you unless you turn to chase. Ras Creek pulls one to the surface and has us feel its rough belly.
Nurse shark encounter
Ras creek has designed a flotation system to suspend a group of snorkelers in one place by holding their feet on a bar. This is great for watching the water show without stirring up a bunch of sand.
Spotted Eagle Ray and Snorklers
The Rasta Ray approaches. Majestic, she flies by, her long whip like tail trailing behind. The spotted eagle ray is covered in the most amazing interlocking pattern of x's and o's. They are larger than the southern rays and have a more pronounced face. Creek says, "this is a smart fish. It only likes lobster and conch, I tried to feed it fish and it just spits it out."
Spotted Eagle Ray
"You have to understand that sometimes the Eagle ray does not come around because there is no cage. This is not the zoo. And the animals must go on honeymoon sometime."
Our journey continues as lunch is served up. A great paper plate full of curried fish with rice and potatoes. Local fruits and rum punch are passed around for all to enjoy.
Ras Creek points out that Caye Caulker is home to many migratory birds and local birds as well. Frigate birds soar above, pelicans and osprey dive for fish below, cormorants, egrets, and herons are to be found at the waters edge.
Rounding the island we are shown natural landmarks such as the entrance to an underwater cave system and the mangroves which are the breeding grounds and home of many small fish. One resident is the worldwide-endangered sea horse. We pull in close to the mangroves and Creek jumps into the water and almost instantly returned with two of the little fellows, which he brings to the surface in a jar. These are adult pregnant males, one is yellow, and the other is dark brown. The male carries the babies in a pouch just like the kangaroo. They have prehensile tails, which are used to hold on to twigs and branches underwater. "Right now in Belize city they are paying $60 a pound for dried sea horses. That makes for a lot of sea horses." The Chinese want them for use as an aphrodisiac but now that Viagra is popular maybe they will get left alone.

The mangroves give way to swampy areas that are home of American crocodiles. These do well in the salty environment since they have the ability to filter excess salts from their system. They don't like to dine on people, but watch out for dogs, and other small animals and fish. But like anything don't tempt one if you have the chance to see one.
One big lizard you may end up seeing however is Ras creek's latest attraction. A giant iguana he calls "sunbathe" is usually found relaxing on the low hanging branches in the sun. This one likes bananas but they eat insects, larvae and plant life as well. Oh by the way, if you see Bamboo Chicken on a menu somewhere, it's Iguana.
wishwilly - Travel Photographer
As the sun starts heading for the horizon, our boat passes through the split, which was formed by hurricane Hattie in 1961. This now separates the island into two parts. We sail along relaxed from the day's journey and are back in time for happy hour at the Sandbox which is one of the Caye's favorite hangouts right at the dock where we land. We have shared stories with new friends and seen a diverse amount of wildlife on a leisurely cruise around the island.

When you visit San Ignacio, Belize, be sure to stay at the Parrot Nest Jungle Lodge. I have seen more wildlife while relaxing in their hammocks than looking for it in the jungles. If it's adventure you want, they can arrange many great expeditions for you - from Mayan ruins to cave trips into the underworld.


Some other travel selections include Belize, Bay Islands of Honduras - Utila & Roatan, Peru, Mexico, Baja California, Bermuda, Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nothern California, California Central Coast, Lake Tahoe, Bodie, Santa Cruz, U. S. National Parks and Monuments - Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Montezuma's Castle, and Joshua Tree.

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