| Robert Barbutti
Report: Ras Creek's Eagle Ray Tour
Caye Caulker, Belize
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,
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
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 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.
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.
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
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
"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.
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.
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.