Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
Topic Options
#459493 - 03/05/13 01:56 PM Tourists abandoned and stranded in paradise
Marty Offline

Belize is paradise to many no matter if the tourism industry’s selling point is no longer “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.” But for a couple from the United Kingdom, the country for a brief moment became a small road to perdition. Last Wednesday, the Neilson family went diving near Halfmoon Caye, and while basking in the island’s natural beauty, the dive shop abandoned them on the island for being sixteen minutes late. The Neilsons said they reported the incident to the authorities.

St. John Neilson, Stranded

“We had hired Big Fish Dive Adventures to take us to the Blue Hole to go scuba diving for three dives. They had subcontracted to Aqua Scuba in San Pedro. We left at six-thirty in the morning and went scuba diving at the Blue Hole. Afterwards we did a second dive just off Halfmoon Caye. We were given one hour for lunch on Halfmoon Caye and told not to be late otherwise the boat might leave without us. We thought this was a joke. We went to see the red-footed boobies after lunch. We arrived back at the dock to see the boat disappearing into distance. We tried to whistle and hail them; they did not stop. We found a ranger; he informed us that this was not a single scenario; that his had happened before with other divers. We were sixteen minutes late according to his watch. He contacted another dive company, Ecologic Divers, who then took us back to the boat because they had our belongings and then we got back here and reported the incident straight away.”

Reporter

St. John Neilson

“Were you guys scared?”

St. John Neilson

“Originally yes, when we were on the island by ourselves.”

Reporter

“What did the tour operators explain to you? I mean did they say anything to you guys?”

St. John Neilson

“No. I’ve spoken to the owner of Aqua Scuba; he did not apologize. In fact, he taunted us to escalate the situation if he could.”

Reporter

“What did he say to you?”

St. John Neilson

“He said you will not be receiving a refund, I’m not going to apologize; you kept twenty other people waiting on the boat—even for sixteen minutes—and the crew left without you.”

Claire Neilson

Claire Neilson, Stranded

“They said they had left people before, but again, we thought it was a joke. I mean you don’t leave people on a scuba diving expedition—whether it is on an island or in the water. You always do a head-count. And that is the point; it is all about safety in scuba diving. If they just left us, they actually said they believed we were on the boat. They thought they had done a head-count. They obviously hadn’t done one properly and they hadn’t realized that they had left us. So whether you are late or not—ten minutes late [or] half an hour late—you do not leave people behind. If we were in the water, it could have been a much worse scenario. And this is what we are concerned about divers being left—either on a deserted island or in the water in the future—this should never ever happen.”

Reporter

“Did you guys report this incident to authorities in Belize?”

St. John Neilson

“Yes. We contacted the British Consulate here in Belize; we also contacted the International Diving Association, PADI; we have contacted the Belize Tourism Board and we contacted the B.T.I.A. as well.”

Reporter

“What are they saying to you guys?”

St. John Neilson

“They were very shocked about the situation and there is going to be an investigation into Aqua Scuba and they have been asked to appear in front of the tour operators committee.”

Channel 5


Top
#459715 - 03/08/13 01:57 PM Re: Tourists abandoned and stranded in paradise [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Tour Company abandons couple on Half Moon Caye

BTB calls action “totally unacceptable”

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) has started an investigation following an incident at sea in which a European couple was left stranded on an island by a tour operator located on Ambergris Caye. The incident has the two visitors questioning the level of professionalism involved in diving in Belize. St. John and Claire Neilson, told reporters on Caye Caulker, that on February 27th they were left stranded at Half Moon Caye by the dive company, Aqua Scuba. According to the tourists, who had traveled to Belize from London, England on an extended honeymoon trip, they had booked a scuba diving package with Big Fish Dive Center in Caye Caulker. Since Big Fish Dive Center was having trouble with their vessel they subcontracted the tour to Aqua Scuba Dive Center in San Pedro to take the couple out diving off Half Moon Caye and the Blue Hole.

The couple told The San Pedro Sun (SPSun) that after two dives, the crew of Aqua Scuba docked at Half Moon Caye for a one hour lunch break. St. John explained that the crew informed the divers that any persons arriving at the boat late would be left on the island. “We were given one hour for lunch on Half Moon Caye and told not to be late otherwise the boat might leave without us. We thought this was a joke. We went to see the red-footed boobies after lunch. We arrived back at the dock to see the boat disappearing in to the distance. We tried to whistle and hail them; they did not stop. We found a ranger; he informed us that this was not a single scenario; that this had happened before with other divers. We were sixteen minutes late according to his (the ranger’s) watch. He contacted another dive company, Ecologic Divers, who then took us to the Aqua Scuba boat because they had our belongings, and then when we got back here we reported the incident to the tourism authorities straight away.” The couple further explained that the reserve ranger had told them that it was not the first time that the crew of Aqua Scuba had left divers stranded on the island, something that was later confirmed to The SPSun by the BTB who has now launched an investigation.

Although the couple’s safety was not put in direct danger, they have justifiable reason to be upset. “We are outraged that this outfit is allowed to operate and ‘toy’ with the safety and lives of its clients,” said the couple who explained that they had contacted the owner of Aqua Scuba Dive Center, Benjamin Aguilar. “He (Aguilar) didn’t apologize for the actions of his crew; he even blamed us for being late back to the boat hence their departure, and then taunted us to escalate the situation if we could,”said St. John of his conversation with the owner of the dive company. The particular incident now places the safety and reputation of Belize’s dive industry in jeopardy, especially since Belize promotes itself as a recreational and professional dive destination. In fact, according to BTB, diving has quickly escalated as one of the main attractions for Belize. Through the years, hundreds of tourists have flocked to the country for a unique dive experience. According to BTB’s Director of Quality Assurance Armeid Thompson, incidents such as the Neilson’s can damage the entire tourism industry for Belize.

“You always do a head-count. And that is the point; it is all about safety in scuba diving. They actually said that they believed we were on the boat. They thought they had done a head-count. They obviously hadn’t done one properly and they hadn’t realized that they had left us. So whether you are late or not—ten minutes late [or] half an hour late—you do not leave people behind. If we were in the water, it could have been a much worse scenario. And this is what we are concerned about, divers being left—either on a deserted island or in the water in the future—this should never ever happen,” said Claire Neilson.

Armeid Thompson reiterated that the incident with Aqua Scuba is isolated. “This is definitely not the norm for any tour operator in Belize… there are certain standards that tour guides and tour operators should adhere to even in the absence of local laws. It is definitely not the norm of having divers left behind on a Caye or island especially if an operation is being run under the name of the Professional Association of Divers International (PADI) because they also have strict standards which diver operators need to adhere to. What I have been able to ascertain so far is that Aqua Scuba has not renewed their certification with PADI since 2010, because we are doing our investigation also. They used to be a PADI member but had expired since 2010, and PADI has no intension of renewing this operation’s license because of similar complains in the past. Now that we have this information, we will take it to the Tour Operator’s Committee and I definitely believe that the committee will use this tour operator (Aqua Scuba) as an example for the rest of the country.” Thompson further added, “It’s very egregious, it is something that is unheard of about divers left behind and its totally unacceptable and extremely abhorrent. We at the BTB are appalled.”

The British couple is calling for authorities in Belize to ensure that better standards are put in place to assure the safety of its tourists and also wants Aqua Scuba to be disciplined. Armeid explained that Aqua Scuba will be summoned to appear before the Tour Operator’s Committee meeting scheduled for March 19th, where it is expected that the tour operator will be given an opportunity to explain their actions. A decision will then be made as to whether or not BTB will suspend the company’s tour operator’s license. “The committee will pretty much make a decision. Their decision can go from suspension of the tour operator’s license, a probationary period of probably six months or more, or ultimately to revoking the tour operator’s license. Really what the Tour Operator’s Committee is looking to see is if there is a complaint that comes up against somebody or against a tour operator or even a tour guide, that there is a level of responsibility that is accepted by the operation,” said Thompson.

The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) has also condemned the incident and calls for the BTB to address the matter. “It is certainly not a situation one would want to have. It is very distressing obviously to hear that a dive boat will leave without you or will leave you behind stranded on an island. It’s a situation of significant concern. We have passed on the information to BTB and we are fully behind their course of action as it relates to their investigation. We call for a proper investigation to be done into this particular matter and if there are penalties due to the negligence of the operator then we certainly would want to see that those penalties are enforced. We cannot have operators and outfits behaving in this manner and ultimately cause a black eye to the industry because of the negligence they wanted to embark in,” said the National President of BTIA Herbert Haylock.

According to Haylock, this is a pressing matter since lives were put at risk, whether they were or were not in immediate danger, there were no ethics on behalf of the dive center. Haylock said “ I think honestly at the end of the day regardless of the operation you are in, whatever sector you are in the industry, you need to first and foremost be conscious on the safety of the individual that have entrusted your establishment… a proper head count should be done at the end of all operations.”

Besides The San Pedro Sun, the Neilson’s also contacted the British High Commission in Belize, BTB, Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and International Diving Association concerning their incident.

The SPSun attempted to get comments from Aqua Scuba Dive Center but was flatly denied an interview by Mr. Aguilar.

San Pedro Sun


Top

Links
Click for excellent scuba lessons with Elbert Greer!


Things to do

News
Daily News
Daily Weather

Classified Ads
BelizeNews.com
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
SP Town Council
Channel 7
Channel 5
Amandala
Love FM
The Reporter
Caye Caulker
Chronicles

PLUS TV
TV Newscasts
Radio Stations

Click for our
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites

Event Guides
Event Calendar
Specials & Events
Things to Do
SanPedroScoop
iTravel Belize
Paradise Theater

Blogs
San Pedro Scoop!
Tia Chocolate
Tacogirl
My Beautiful Belize
I-Travel Belize
Belize Adventure
Belize Hub
Romantic Travel
Bound for Belize
Conch Creative
As The Coconuts Drop
More Blogs...
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites
Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Conch Shell Inn: All rooms are right on the beach in the heart of San Pedro, so within walking distance to anything and everything!!
Lil’ Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
Mini Chat

Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
December
S M T W T F S
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Who's Online
3 registered (dabunk, lomckenna, 1 invisible), 56 Guests and 5 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
18,675 Registered Members
44 Forums
64,062 Topics
462,318 Posts

Most users ever online: 1,262 @ 06/10/07 07:16 PM




AmbergrisCaye.com CayeCaulker.org HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town
BelizeSearch.com Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History
BelizeNews.com Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory
BelizeCards.com SanPedroDaily.com Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.