Sunday, August 1, 2010

Florida: Take me down to the Panama City (beach)

What comes to mind when you think of summer? White sandy beaches, crystal blue waters and too much sun? Well, that’s just what we got up to when we pulled into Florida.

Our first stop in the Panhandle state was Panama City Beach home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world (well, according to them anyway).

The main stretch of beach goes on for miles and is lined with hotels, hotels and more hotels, plus the occasional beach side shop.

I’m not sure why, but here the usually bright blue waters were full of snowflake like pieces of green algae/seaweed. But this didn’t put off the thousands of swimmers and sunbathers dotted along the water’s edge.

With only one full day in PCB we headed to St Andrew’s National Park where unspoilt beaches and walking tracks are a nice alternative to the high-rise covered main beach.

It cost us $8 for all day access to the park and once inside there are numerous beaches and wharves where you can set up for the day.

We settled on a small, enclosed patch of sand just left of a jam packed family zone.

Nick had bought snorkelling goggles from Wal-Mart the day before so headed off to try them out and soon discovered the little bay was full of schools of fish.

We really should have figured this out earlier as large seabirds hung around waiting for an easy meal. Out of nowhere the birds would fly straight up into the sky before dropping and diving below the surface for a feed of fish.

Nick made a quick run to one of the near by surf shops and came back with snorkels and goggles for all – and this is how I began my first snorkelling experience.

I was surprised how easy it was to get used to breathing through a small tube with your face in the sea. It was great simply being able to put my face under the water and see (contact lenses make this difficult most of the time) let alone having hundreds and thousands of mini fish swimming around you.

Floating through the more shallow areas mini-stingrays weaved through the sandy seafloor and brightly striped yellow and white fish came close to look at us. I wish I’d had an underwater camera.

After a full day in the water and sun, despite multiple sunscreen top-ups we’d still managed to get burnt – ouch.

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