Belize

This isn’t Muck Diving!  True, but that doesn’t mean those in the Midwest cannot treat themselves to some of the more exotic diving experiences.  Because the traditional Muck Diver doesn’t dive in paradise everyday information on dive ops, hotels, what should I do and not do become essential when planning a trip to paradise.  Because of all these questions, we thought we would give everybody a one-stop place to go to learn about these places and hopefully help with planning your next trip.  Once again, the success of this relies upon those that have taken the journey.  So, please help out and tell us about your trips and what worked and what did not work.

6 Responses to “Belize”

  1. Snagel says:

    Ambergris Caye – March 2012 trip report
    Original Post by Rayaa3 on ScubaToys

    Belize trip report:
    We visited Ambergris Caye from 3/19-3/24/2012.
    Getting there:
    Just the normal airline stuff all the way down to Belize International airport, connected in Houston, blah blah. When you arrive there you’ll go through customs and immigration. Then at the end of customs a porter will offer to take your bag. It’s $5 USD. If you are up to carrying your own bag – you may consider it. From where customs and the porter is you have no idea how long you’ll be carrying your bags, however – I found out – if you are going for a taxi, it’s about 40 feet. If you are getting on the tropic or Mayan air puddle jumper it’s about 20 feet. So if you are a thrifty traveller – you may just want to haul your own bags.
    We caught tropic air. United landed us about 30 minute’s early – and tropic air put us on the first available flight (we didn’t have to wait an hour for the one we originally booked). They are apparently quite flexible with getting you on the plane in a first come first serve basis. However, this did present a little more of a challenge on the way home…more on that later.
    If you want to try to ride shotgun on the puddle jumper, try to be first in line to board. Our daughter managed it in both directions. The way they load the plane the first person in goes all the way to the front, and you just fill in behind there. The plane is VERY SMALL. Check every bag you possibly can. I had my bag with regs for the family and my camera hard sided case. Your carry on will be in your lap, this was not fun. However, it’s only about a 15 minute ride, so you’ll survive no matter what.

    Staying there:
    We stayed in a Condo – Paradise Villas, about ¼ mile north of central park – which is basically town square. The entire main town of San Pedro is about 4 blocks wide, and about a mile long. If you are staying in town everything is in walking distance. You don’t need to rent a golf cart (~$40 a day I think). However, if you want to go north or south of town and check out as much as you can – rent one for the day, or a bicycle. In general small simply places to stay are fairly inexpensive, and good deals can be found if you package diving, which we did. If you don’t package diving, most places advertise $75 for 2 tank trips, on the local barrier reef. I estimate that by packaging in the diving it lowered it to about $60 for 2 tanks. Since there were 3 divers in my family, that added up.
    There are 2 grocery stores on the island, and lots of small convenience stores. The grocery stores are about the size of a small walgreens. The convenience stores are about the size of a large closet. The grocery stores are located about 1/3 of a mile north and south of town square. There are lots of local fruit stands to be found. We stocked our kitchen and ate breakfast and most lunches at the condo, and ate dinner out. Groceries were expensive, particularly for US products which had to be imported, and then brought over on a small boat. US junk food was typically 2-3x what you pay at home. Wine was quite pricey. Locally made foods were reasonably priced. Fruits and veggies are best bought at the local food stands.
    Oh – the tap water – drank it all week – no problems.
    Eating out – to get a burger fries and a coke at a place on the beach would cost about $15+USD with tax/tip/etc. Seafood/Chicken, or anything else typically went up from there.
    If you moved away from the beach things got cheaper. The further back you got the cheaper they got. If you ate out of a local shack you could almost always get a good meal for less than $10USD. You pay for ambiance.
    My favorite meal of the week was on Saturday and Sunday – a local family would put up a tent near the grocery store about 50 yards from the condo. BBQ chicken leg quarter or other large piece, vinegar based cole slaw, beans, and fresh tortillas, $4.50USD/$9 BZE. Delicious lunch.

    The diving:
    OK – FYI – March is windy season. All the local diving off Ambergris is done on the windward side of the island either off the barrier reef (beautiful) or just inside the reef in the Hol Chan Marine park.

    The barrier reef: we did almost all of our dives here. The seas on the crossing over the barrier reef were anywhere from 6-8ft during our stay. On the outside of the barrier things could be a little calmer (not sure that make sense, you cross over the reef and it’s 6-8ft seas, then on the outside of the reef it actually comes down to 4-6ft). The boat ride was an adventure, as was donning gear and getting in the water. My daughter Makalyn (13yo) had only dove in fairly calm waters off Cozumel and Cancun. She dove in 6-8ft seas in Ambergris, and she’ll now appreciate Cozumel even more.
    How we entered the water:
    2 at a time we would go to the back of the boat don bcd and back roll in. When things are calm we wait at the surface for everyone. When things are bad, you don’t put any air in your bc, you roll in and then immediately go down. Everyone meets at 30 feet under the boat.
    The boat typically took 6-8 divers, so it only took a couple of minutes to get us all in the water.
    On the worst day of surface conditions I went in the water first and went down to the bottom. Wife goes to the end of the boat sits on the edge and dons bc, during this process nice wave hits and she gets thrown in. No reg in mouth, no mask on face. She recovered her wits, put herself together and met me at the bottom.
    The conditions on the bottom were very nice. On a good day vis was about 100ft vertically and 60ft horizontal. On a bad day on the barrier reef it was about 50ft vertically, and 30ft horizontally. Even on a bad vis day it was great diving. No current, just a little bit of surge. The reefs were invariably the following…drop into 40 foot of water, and follow a sand groove (think ‘ditch’) out to depth. As you go out towards the depth the groove deepens to a canyon, eventually the bottom of the canyon is 100ft+ and the top is about 60ft – as it opens to a wall. Beautiful to swim through the canyons, but watch your computers – easy to get to deco.
    The fish: a noted lack of colorful reef fish. Few angels, a couple of turtles, very few parrot fish. However, what they lacked in colorful reef fish they more than made up for in nurse sharks. Oh my god. OK – my typical nurse shark experience…you see the shark, and either it’s swimming, in which case it swims away, or it’s sleeping, in which case it eventually wakes up and swims away. NOT THESE GUYS. First of all, you would find them during the day, not uncommonly 2-3 at a time. They would patrol their patch of reef and circle you. They were extremely bold and seemed even curious. I got a little too close to the reef taking picture of an eel, and one scared the crap out of me because I didn’t know he was around and he slipped into my frame 2 feet in front of me.
    This guy was interesting, so after collecting my wits I dropped back down to within 2 feet of the reef and sure enough he turned back to come check me out. He was coming head on so I decided I would get a pick face to face as he turned to miss me. About 1 ft in front of me I realized he wasn’t turning, hit the shudder just before he bumped the camera. At that point, I did a no no – I couldn’t resist, as he made his way past me I reached out and stroked his dorsal fin (you always hear the only time nurse sharks bite people is when people try to pet them) – very neat…sandpaper feeling skin. I have a picture (links below) of a nose-nose shot of a nurse shark – that was the day I’m talking about…very cool.
    The Hol Chan Marine reserve:
    We went here one day when the wind and waves were too much for the shop to hit the barrier reef. It cost $10pp USD extra to dive this site. On our day – not worth it. Vis was as much as 20 and as little as 8 feet. You swim down one side of a channel then cross and swim back – half your trip is always against the current, which was ripping. No one could swim…you were digging your hands or knife into sand and crawling back. There were pretty coral and fish, but I couldn’t actually see them most of the time. I’ve heard on nice days it’s beautiful, and that may be true. Not on my day.

    Ok…3 pages of typing seems like enough. I could tell more stories…but I should get back to work.
    Overall it was a blast. However, given the expense it takes to get there (flights anywhere from $800-$1000 when you include the puddle jumper) I likely won’t go back for a while. The diving was great – but I can go to Cozumel 2-3 times for the price I went to Ambergris once. We still have other places we want to visit in the Caribbean so next year I think the big trip will be Bonaire. Eventually I may make it back to Belize, but have a lot to cross off the list first.

    Pictures:

    Top side photos:
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3134759720735.2129051.1017085395&type=3&l=d 8613de01e

    Underwater photos:

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3113051738049.2128606.1017085395&type=3&l=e 3825fc52d

  2. snagel says:

    July 2011
    Original Post by VVitola on Scubatoys

    I just came back from San Pedro, Belize. I used the Sport Diver offer with Sunbreeze Suites of 5 nights and 3 days of 2 tank dives for USD595.00, it was also included the flight from Belize City to San Pedro. The suites are nice and clean, I loved the fact that they had a living room and a kitchen, the diving is done with Belize dive connection, I just loved the service! Tina and Kevin are the best! As for Israel for dive master. The hotel is 7 minutes walking to the dive operation, but they will pick up the equipment and yourself with a golf cart and they will take care of your equipment during your stay so you don’t have to carry it around. The social area including swiming pool is sort of small, but I never use the pools at hotels.

    There is also another great deal with Sport Diver with the Sunbreeze Hotel for 7 nights. It is next door to the dive operation, has a bigger swiming pool and the onsite restaurant is good, for dinner, I highly recommend going to next door restaurant -Wild Mango’s-

  3. Snagel says:

    March 2011
    Original Post by Traci on ScubaToys

    Back from Belize !
    Just returned from my first trip San Pedro.

    So glad we spent the extra money to fly from BZE to San Pedro. We used Tropic Air, no problems at all. We took the water taxi from San Pedro to Caye Caulker one day, so I do not think I would have enjoyed it from Belize City to San Pedro. In my opinion, flying is the way to go if you can budget it in.

    Stayed at The Tides Resort, a little north of town. Love it! It was close to everything, maybe 10 min beach walk. We did rent a golf cart for the week, but I do not think one is really needed.

    The Tides is a small hotel , with everything you need. Large king size bed, nice frig, ceiling fans, cable TV, remote AC, daily maid service. Room was a good size, and every room had a oceanview. Had a great little bar on site, we spent evenings hanging out. The bartender, Butch is awesome. Anything you need to know, he is there to help. He made the trip very entertaining.

    Patajos dive op that was onsite is very well organized, and has a great staff. We enjoyed hanging out after the dives with the crew.

    Now the diving, only caught 3 dives for the entire week, due to sinus/cold problems. Seas were pretty rough, (or rougher than I am normally used to) Never made it to the Blue Hole, but there will be more trips, hopefully soon.

    Estels for breakfast. Ruby’s had some awesome banana bread. The Reef was good. Legends had great burgers. Elvi’s Kitchen for dinner was nice. Pirates Pizza really good too. I think my new fav food is pupusas, love them.

    Can’t wait to start planning my next trip to Ambergris

  4. jaxjags64109 says:

    I was on AC again this past November ’09 and dove w/ Belize Academy of Diving (BAD) and Aqua Dives. The dives were great, saw a huge Jew fish, a loggerhead that was estimated to be about 40-50 years old by the dive master (again huge), and a mother and baby dolphin encounter that I will remember for as long as I dive. I can’t say enough good things about diving in Belize of Ambergris Caye, affordable, convenient, great local people and places to visit. Highly recommend a stop on this island for any diver.

  5. snagel says:

    San Pedro Diving is AMAZING

    Original Post by Krissydt

    ——————————————————————————–
    My husband and I went to Belize in November (09) and we absoltely LOVED IT! We highly recommend Coco Beach Resort at Ambergris Caye. The diving was amazing and the snorkling was unbelievable. A short 5 – 10 minute kayak ride from the peer brought you to the reef where we saw a huge variety of marine life (sea horses, rays, angel fish, turtles, dolphins, etc…) . And the diving… we never had a disappointing dive. Lots of rays, turtles, different fish, and soooo many friendly sharks that even let you pet them. We didn’t visit any other parts of Belize but after going here, we didn’t want to

    Follow-up by PHD4JC.

    I believe CoCO beach is where I was going to stay when I was booking my Belize vacation myself.

    However, I instead decided to go with a tour agency (Belize Vacation Packages – Beach Reefs, Ruins & Rainforest Package – Belize Adventure Package) since I wanted to more than just dive while there since my 13 year old nondiver will be with me.

  6. jaxjags64109 says:

    I dove with Aqua Dives Belize in Sen Pedro on Ambergris Caye in September 2008 and the off season rate was $25 per tank for local diving. Free pick-ups from and dock on the island and truly spectacular diving. The spur and groove reef allows for those wishing to dive deeper and those wishing to stay shallower can all dive the same sites and the dive master(s) can keep a good eye on everyone very easily. Off Season rates on accomodations in San Pedro are also very reasonable and I will be returning in November ’09 and hope to include a Blue Hole trip this year.

Leave a Reply