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#429935 - 02/08/12 11:00 AM First-Timers Trip Report: Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2012
jigzmom Offline
Iíll post my trip report here in three sections as I complete them. Our first four days are below; soon come the last four days, then reviews and thoughts on the resort, restaurants and island.

About us: Married couple from Connecticut in our mid-50ís, fairly active with some limitations (me-bad knees & back, hubby-bad back), yearly travelers to the Caribbean; I snorkel, hubby scuba dives.

We arrived on Ambergris Caye via American Airlines flight from New York through Dallas/Ft. Worth and Tropic Air from Belize City. A driver from our resort greeted us, loaded our bags in the van and whisked us away to Pelican Reef Villas, our home for the next week. Carol and Ruth met us with smiles and a delicious rum punch, checking us in while our bags were taken to our condo. Arrangements were made for dinner at Hidden Treasures. We both ordered the banana-leaf wrapped snapper, which was delicious. Back at the condo, we unpacked and went to bed early.

After a breakfast of banana pancakes and fruit, included in our room rate, we spent the morning exploring the resort and immediate area, plus planning out what we hoped to do in the upcoming week. Our golf cart was unavailable until the next day; fortunately we met a wonderful couple at the resort that we had lunch with and they invited us to go into town with them on their golf cart. While in San Pedro we stopped at Ecologic to check them out; hubby likes to see the dive shop, check the equipment and meet the staff before deciding to put his life in their hands. He approved and scheduled a dive for the next day. Returning to Pelican Reef we enjoyed some sun on the beach, a nap, a couple of drinks at the resort bar then a short walk to Mr. Joes/Lone Star Cantina for bacon-wrapped BBQ shrimp dinner with and desserts of caye lime pie (me) and chocolate rum cake (hubby). Mmmm.

Ecologic arrived at the pier at 8am to pick up hubby for his two-tank dive at the Mosquito Coast; an hour later I was picked up by SEArious for a snorkel trip to Mexico Rocks and Tres Cocos, arranged by Pelican Reef concierge Terry. I didnít think either spot was overly populated with sea life, I didnít see anything I havenít seen before. Also, the guide never explored any of the coral formations, he sped from one to the other without stopping; I felt like all I did was try to keep up. Hubby and I arrived back at the resort pier around the same time and had lunch at the resort before relaxing on the beach. Our golf cart arrived in the afternoon so we headed off to Wild Mangos for a delicious dinner. As we were enjoying our desserts of chocolate stuffed banana burritos and coconut carrot cake, a burst of heavy rains came through so we waited until it passed before wiping down the golf cart seats and going back to the resort.

This morning hubby and I were both picked up at the pier by Ecologic for a combo dive/snorkel trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Because of the early-morning rain and winds, the rest of the scheduled group had cancelled, so we enjoyed a private tour with one-on-one guides: Marco with hubby to dive and me with Andy for snorkeling. Hol Chan was amazing!! Iíve snorkeled many places in the Caribbean and seen many things, but Hol Chan had all that and more in just one spot. Turtles, rays, eels, and so many fish! Andy was a fabulous guide, pointing out fish and telling me the names. I saw fish that Iíd never seen before, the most memorable a queen trigger fish and the triangular-shaped trunkfish. At Shark Ray Alley, Andy fed the rays and nurse sharks while they swam all around us. He fed the rays by hand so we could pet them, then he stuffed food into empty conch shells and dropped them to the sea floor for the nurse sharks. Personally, I prefer to observe creatures in their natural habitat, without human interference, so I didnít care much for the Alley. Back at the resort, we headed to town for lunch at Waraguma, planning to get a lobster burrito for hubby (I donít care for lobster). But when he saw the size of it, he decided to order lobster tacos instead; I had the shrimp tacos and both received a thumbs-up from us. A bit more exploring of San Pedro before we headed back to the resort. I was exhausted and needed a nap before we walked to Mr. Joes for another great dinner of BBQ pork ribs.

NEXT: Trip to the Blue Hole

#429951 - 02/08/12 02:50 PM Re: First-Timers Trip Report: Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2012 [Re: jigzmom]
Bear Offline
Originally Posted By: jigzmom
He fed the rays by hand so we could pet them... Personally, I prefer to observe creatures in their natural habitat, without human interference...

Good for you Dana! Very seldom does one hear that! On our routine post visit inquiry I have been asked by guests (who I assume are more experienced divers or snorkelers) "what's with the touching thing all the time...dont they get it?"

It's a feeling I share but I dont have an answer for them. I just imagine it's simply a part of the way its been done for quite awhile and awareness/change to the contrary (if at all)will be slow in coming.

I have a good friend and world class underwater photographer coming this spring who absolutely abhors feeding/touching. She asked in advance if there was a dive operator who shared similar values and as a matter of routine did not encourage or include feeding or touching sealife (and most especially turtles). I didnt know and suggested she bring this up with dive tour operators. Her response was pretty succinct, they either get it, or they don't. Okay, and perhaps the implication was she'd take her trade elsewhere. I somehow doubt it but I didn't pursue that aspect of our conversation. As I have little experience with the island's dive operators and their philosophies in such matters I'm hoping she hasn't immediately eliminated a large number of them!

I understand the desire to make people more comfortable with sealife of all types, including sharks and rays but I just have my own personal feelings about feeding and touching (as in "don't"). It's a sentiment and belief that seems to be increasingly shared by others as well. I'm in no way looking to rabidly crusade the issue, just hoping their are dive/snorkel operators on the island who hold the same value and are expressing it by example as they go.

Great report overview Dana, short and sweet. Looking for next edition!

#429987 - 02/08/12 10:36 PM Re: First-Timers Trip Report: Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2012 [Re: Bear]
lakerat Offline
Thanks for taking your time to give back here on the forum. It is much appreciated. Looking forward to the next edition,

#430012 - 02/09/12 09:25 AM Re: First-Timers Trip Report: Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2012 [Re: jigzmom]
jigzmom Offline
Glad you have enjoyed this so far. I agree with you, Bear, and hope that the dive shops will stop handling the rays entirely, although I know it's what the tourists want and it's why it is done. I don't mind that crews feed them with the conch shells so they come around for viewing, but there's no need to touch the rays or any other fish.

This was a eventful day so I'll post it separately, as it's longer than I expected.


The Blue Hole day. The resort's security guard tapped on our door at 5am to make sure we were up, and it was still dark at 5:30am when Marco from Ecologic arrived at our pier. He took us back to the dive shop, where our group of seven divers and two snorkelers were provided breakfast and loaded into a dive boat for the two-hour trip to Lighthouse Reef. High winds and rough seas made for a very long and bone-jarring ride. Fortunately no one got seasick but my back was in pain by the time we arrived at our first stop. But that was quickly forgotten as we prepared to jump into the deep blue water of the Hole.

We snorkelers watched as dive leaders Marco and Clive and the divers descended, then Andy took us on a mesmerizing trip around the coral reef rim, observing a vast array of beautiful coral and sea creatures. Firsts for me: a reef shark that swam lazily below us around the reef and spotting several midnight parrotfish. We snorkeled nearly the entire circumference of the reef before being picked up by the boatful of divers for the next spot, along the shore of Half Moon Caye. Snorkelers were dropped off about 200 yards offshore; we headed for the shore while the divers went to their spot.

Once on shore, we hiked toward the beach for lunch, stopping along the way to view the red-footed booby birdsí nesting spot. A delicious lunch was served by the dive crew, including a birthday cake for Clive. A little time for exploring, relaxing and digesting, and we were back on the boat for our final destination, the Aquarium.

This place was amazing, not for the sea life, which was pretty basic, but for the beauty of the water itself. As I swam out over the edge of the wall, the water turned from crystal blue to a deep, dark, bottomless purple. I floated over this with a sense of wonder as to what lay below. Climbing back on the boat, I had a rum punch (or three) to help with the rough boat ride home. Hubby and I were the first to be dropped off at our resort pier around 4pm. Overall, Iím very glad I took the trip -- hubby said the diving was a not-to-be-missed experience -- and the Ecologic crew was wonderful, but I would recommend others to find a larger boat when the seas are rough.

Back at Pelican Reef we relaxed for a while before leaving for Blue Water Grill for dinner. Unfortunately this place did not live up to expectations: my shrimp and pasta dish was tasteless, as if everything in it had been boiled for hours. Hubby said his lobster dish was OK, could have had more flavor. We did not bother with dessert. Once again, a rainstorm came through at the end of the meal, so we had to wait for it to pass before heading back to the resort and crashing early after a long and exciting day.

#430114 - 02/10/12 09:00 AM Re: First-Timers Trip Report: Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2012 [Re: jigzmom]
jigzmom Offline
Final post.


Hubby decided that after the Blue Hole dive he didnít think any other site would be better and he was done diving. We instead elected to explore the island a bit, so after another delicious breakfast at Pelican Reef we headed south in the golf cart. As I wasnít aware of other resorts that were south of ours, I was surprised to see one or two along the beach. We found Hol Chan Reef Resort, which looked fairly new and nice and right on the beach, but it also looked rather deserted. A few other buildings, both new and old, were scattered along the waterfront farther down.

Turning around we headed to San Pedro to do some shopping; I found a beautiful amber sun pendant at the little shop attached to Fidoís called, appropriately, Amber. Hubby scored a wood shark sculpture from the vendor in front of the post office, and we also picked up the obligatory souvenir Tshirts, postcards and coffee mugs in various shops around town. Packages tucked into backpacks, we drove over the bridge to check out The North. Carts Belize said we could go as far as Journeyís End with the golf cart, but no farther. No worries, though; we got as far as the Palapa Bar where we had lunch and drinks, then turned around for the bumpy ride back. One more stop in town to Ecologic to pass out gratuities to the crew, then back to Pelican Reef to relax on the beach under a cloudy sky.

We couldnít decide on where to go for dinner, but Terry recommended Red Ginger at The Phoenix hotel. Excellent suggestion! A beautiful place with top-notch service and food and drinks (I highly recommend their signature Red Ginger rum punch), although it was nearly empty of patrons. Once again, a rainstorm greeted us as we got ready to leave, so we waited for it to stop before going back to the resort.


Today was to be our relaxing day Ė kayaking and walking the beach and maybe taking out a sailboat. But Mother Nature had other plans, mainly in the form of wind and rain. It rained all day; not just off and on, but all day. Reports were that the Caye received 1.5 inches of rain that day. Thankfully we were able to get some decent movies on the TV, which we watched between taking a wet trip to town for lunch at Elviís Kitchen. On the way back we stopped at Mr. Joeís to pick up a piece of their fabulous chocolate rum cake for dessert that evening. Dinner reservations were at Victoria House, and included pick up and return to the resort, very nice. The restaurant, service and food were all excellent. Then back to the resort to enjoy the rum cake and sadly pack our bags for the trip home in the morning. Despite the weather, neither of us wished to leave.


Last delicious Pelican Reef breakfast and sad goodbyes to the staff before a taxi took us to Tropic Air for the first leg of our trip home. A minor change to our itinerary got us home a few hours later than scheduled, but at least this year we did not arrive home to two feet of snow.

Pelican Reef Resort Review

Here is what I posted on TripAdvisor:

ďA Piece of Paradise in South Ambergris Caye: What can I say that hasn't already been said? From the spotless condo to the beautiful beach to the service-with-a-smile staff, Pelican Reef Villas was the absolute perfect place for us to enjoy our first trip to Ambergris Caye, Belize. We did a lot of research before deciding on PRV and we could not have been happier. Terry, Ruth and Carol worked to meet our every want and need, from booking excursions, golf carts and dinner reservations to blending up fabulous drinks at the end of the day. On days where we had early morning pickups for diving and snorkeling, arrangements were made for an early breakfast so we wouldn't leave hungry. The breakfast (included in the villa rate) and lunch offerings were varied and delicious. The owner, Greg, was onsite and greeted us several times, checking to see that we had what we needed. Our condo, #13, was in the back on the first floor, only steps away from the bar/main area, and was quiet, comfortable and well equipped. In short, we loved Pelican Reef and will stay here again on our next trip to Ambergris Caye.Ē

That pretty much says it all. As far as negatives, I really canít think of any that affected us. We would arrive back to the resort after dinner, around 8-9pm, and the bar area would be closed and dark. Weíre not late-night people and enjoyed the quiet, but anyone who likes to party at the bar after dinner might want to stay elsewhere. I had heard the pool was cold but I never got in it; the week we were there wasnít very sunny or overly hot so I didnít feel the need to cool off. And yes, there were Ďskeeters and no-see-ums, but they were everywhere, not just at Pelican Reef. My poor hubby is a bug magnet -- within one day he was covered in bites and resembled a chicken-pox victim, despite the DEET and other sprays he tried. But that happens every time we go to the Caribbean.

There were things on our list that we didnít do at the resort, including taking out a kayak, snorkeling the man-made reef under the pier, strolling the beach to see other resorts to the north and the dragon trees to the south (I took pictures from our dock). Those were planned for Friday but it rained all day. And there were a zillion things we didnít see or do on the island in general. Weíll just have to do them on future trips.


Iíve listed the places we went to in each dayís posting. Our favorite place was Wild Mangos for the food, service, atmosphere and location. Red Ginger rates high as well, but the ambiance was a bit upscale and I felt like I was back home instead of in the Caribbean, although the enclosed location worked well for us on the rainy night. We went to Mr. Joeís twice mostly because it was easy -- we could walk to it and the food was decent. Elviís, Palapa Bar and Waraguma were on my ďmust doĒ list after reading the forum and they did not disappoint. Hidden Treasures was nice, too, but hubby was mercilessly attacked by the bugs.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to this forum and all the help it provided to me in planning our trip to Belize! grin

#430252 - 02/11/12 10:08 AM Re: First-Timers Trip Report: Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2012 [Re: jigzmom]
lakerat Offline
Great trip report! It was fun reading it and reliving our recent visit there. The Aquarium is my all-time favorite dive spot...anywhere. I looked back in my dive log and over the years I wrote the same thing....OMG, I LOVE it here! It was at the Aquarium I saw the largest loggerhead turtle I've ever seen. It looked like a Volkswagen gliding along beside me.

As for your mention of mosquitoes and noseeums, we have never had a problem with either, but we stay in town at the Palms, although we have been all over the island. DH is usually a bug magnet, too. Hmmmmm....


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