Reef fish swimming around a colony of pillar coral.

Reef fish swimming around a colony of pillar coral. Image source:

Belize: My favorite creatures I found there

by Michele Olson

The ocean is full of life from the shallows to the deep. This I have always known, but it is something quite different to experience it. I have never seen so much beautiful life packed in one area like I did when I went to Belize. The water was perfect and so was everything that lived inside it. By day, my group snorkeled at countless colorful and lively reefs and reserves, and by night, we snorkeled in the dark under the pier at the bar and at the reefs just off shore. I had never seen anything like it.


Some of the animals we encountered acted as if we weren’t there at all, some would disappear if we made one ripple in the water, and others would swim right up to us seeming more curious than we were. From Christmas tree worms to sea turtles, this trip had already been nothing short of amazing. I saw things I never thought I would be lucky enough to ever see, especially in the wild.


The Spotted Eagle Ray was my favorite. The way they would just soar through the water delicately flapping their wings like the most beautiful bird, but more graceful. Everything about them seemed so peaceful. They let me swim with them and I felt graceful too. I felt weightless, not a worry in the world except that I might never see one again. To my delight, an eagle ray would glide by about every twenty minutes and I would watch them and swim with them as long as possible. They never seemed too concerned with my being there, they weren’t too curious, scared, nor were they aggressive at all. They just continuously went about themselves paying me no mind, and I loved it.


Though not every animal we met ignored us. Horse-Eyed jacks followed us everywhere we went. If I turned my head for a second, by the time I came back around there was the fish staring into my goggles. No fear at all. Brave little fish took nibbles at my legs and had no problem swimming right into me. They followed us the whole time at one reef. Even when I swam through an arch in the coral some 25 feet down, they followed me the whole way. They became odd little companions for the day and the whole thing was an interesting experience.


Some animals we encountered were strange creatures that I had never seen anything even remotely similar outside of a documentary. We didn’t even have to be in the water to be amazed. Sitting on the edge of the outer deck of the bar we could see everything under the water illuminated by the floodlights and undisturbed by splashing humans. Leaning over the edge of the deck we could see 5 foot tarpon every night, which one of the men in our group tried to catch by hand jumping of the deck (he failed). Southern rays also glided in and out from under the deck and a moray and a squid lingered around the posts. I avoided the moray, but the squid was something completely new to me.


When I think of squid, I think of the deep abyss, a place that hides all the most fascinating creatures that I was sure I would never see alive. This squid would just float next to the post for hours. Eventually, I thought it was dead. I imagine a squid moving swiftly, propelling itself through water, not just bobbing along. This squid, practically motionless, was maroon and clear in color, with big curious eyes on either side of its body. Someone else delivered a gentle poke of curiosity to the squid while hanging off the ladder, and the maroon stripes disappeared but the squid remained still bobbing along. I don’t know enough about squids so I still don’t know if that was normal or not. I like to pretend it was putting on a special show for us. I’ve avoided searching for any further information on squids to preserve that moment as long as I can.


Most of the encounters my group had while in Belize were normal encounters that every group has, but I prefer to think that we were special. I like to think that we had a special connection with the animals and with the people we met. We had our very own unique adventure everyday that no one else ever had or ever will have. Until someone tells me different, that is what I am going to continue to believe.