I’ve been back from Slickrock’s island in Belize about a week now. I really wish I had more of a chance to interact with all of the staff, but the week flies by and before you know it you’re back at your desk staring at your screensaver. ;) I can not possibly stress the incredible job the kitchen staff did each and every day, I’m in awe.
I did want to pass on kudos and recognize a few of the guys I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with. I can say that besides my great group of “strangers” I had just met, these men are the reason I extended my stay from half the week to the full time.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a gem this man is, he’d magically pop up out of seemingly nowhere ready to help with anything, not one negative comment ever came out of his mouth and he always, always had a smile on. I knew he had a million things to do but if he saw me sitting alone he never hesitated to come over and engage me in something even if that meant he’d be working longer on his “to do” list. We had a great time one day when he got me up from sitting & “thinking too much” (how’d he know I was sitting there worried about home stuff?!!) to grab the pole and go coconut hunting for rice that night. He taught me the ins & outs of the perfect coconut, snagging it then somehow even made lugging 8 coconuts around behind him seem like a great time. He’s a hidden treasure and made my island time even more special. You can visit my blog to read more about our coconut quest that day.
Luis has to be one of the most polite, funny and informative people I’ve ever met. We had a great time kidding around and “smack talking” about everything from his water skills to the rules of island dominoes. (These rules seem to change depending on who is winning…cough cough) The very first day I met him at the Biltmore he told me he would give me the best snorkels of my life, I laughed but he was right. I was constantly amazed at the immense knowledge he had for the sea and all of the life in it. I felt like I was constantly popping him up out of the water to ask some nerdy question about what I was seeing but he never showed an ounce of impatience. His love for the reef and the island has really inspired me to be more involved in conservation and education efforts. A constant laugh, a great attitude even when things didn’t go exactly as planned and a real concern for the safety of everyone with him really meant a lot not only to me but to the entire group. It was reassuring to have someone who was out having fun with us but would still enforce safety rules in a polite, firm manner.
I admit it, I met Carlos and thought crazy island guy! Five minutes into our conversation I realized this was a man with a deep love for the island, the sea, the people and pretty much everyone around him. He had the unfortunate luck of getting stuck with me on our practice snorkel the first day, while I had remembered to pack some obscure items I did not think to check my equipment prior to the trip. Half way out things started going wrong, fins wouldn’t stay on, mask was completely messed up, hair issues – you name it. Instead of just taking me back to shore or having me deal with it he spent a ton of time working through each issue and by the time we had made it back (from what turned out to be an excellent snorkel) I was wearing his head wrap to block my hair, his mask so I could see and his snorkel too! He used mine till we got back and was able to fix everything, in the meantime he loaned me his extras. I have to admit the fin problem was operator error but I would have never known that if he hadn’t taken the time to get in the lagoon to observe my “technique” and correct the way I was swimming. He also took a lot of time and patience to work with the younger guests on our trip that seemed to flock to him and he did a great job managing situations.
I showed up at the Biltmore as a solo traveler, I was worried about pretty much everything and I see a guy with a huge smile in a Slickrock shirt headed for me in the lobby. He introduced himself & said he was my guide, I said I was really sorry he was stuck with that job and he told me not to worry, he’d be my “buddy” to do activities with anytime I needed that week. He immediately took an anxious situation for me and turned it around. His orientation was great, he showed immense patience the entire trip and he’s so well educated with pretty much everything I was in awe. (and I probably asked waaay too many questions of him too) I think the best thing about Neri is that while he is fun, adventurous, smart and all that good stuff you want in a great time you ALWAYS knew safety was at the front of his mind. At no time during my stay was I worried about safety at all and that says a LOT for me. He faced a few situations during the week that questioned rules in order to have “more fun” and he handled them in such a way that everyone was kept happy and the rules were still followed. He is a true asset and was definitely the go-to guy when you needed anything, he really made this trip the best it could have been for me.
Maryann Izzarelli joined us in April of 2015 on our island in Belize. You can visit her personal blog to read more about her island adventures.