I meant to write up my “travelogue” much sooner – like right after we returned home from Belize, but like all good intentions, I find myself finally making some time to sit and compose nearly a month later!
My hubby and I took our first jaunt down to Ambergris Caye the first part of February. A lot of Doug’s friends (in the airline biz) kept telling him that Belize was the place to go. I can’t tell you how many of his co-workers have gone to Ambergris over and over again. In part, to be honest, the low cost of the place is a major attraction, but more than that, it is the people, the culture, the atmosphere – and the total lack of snow!
So, we went to the bookstore and got a travel guide to Belize. Then someone turned us on to this BBS. We did our homework, asked lots of questions, and decided this was definitely where we wanted to spend our free time. This BBS became invaluable to us, not only for the candor and the accuracy of the information provided, but also for the one piece of information we wanted more than anything else: “Did Ambergris have a Bed and Breakfast?” This is our thing, I have to say. We love the atmosphere, the personal touch, and the care we find in B&B’s, and much prefer them to hotels or motels.
Through the BBS, we were put in touch with Lori Reed, from Changes in Latitude B&B Inn in San Pedro. We connected over email, and soon were on our way to Belize. I can’t say enough about our stay with Lori. I have been in the field of Customer Service for many, many years, and have to comment that is it is perhaps the most important thing to me in the business world. From our first email, I had confidence that we would be taken care of, and indeed we were. We arrived, and were warmly greeted. We had a nice long chat, talked about our expectations, and what we wanted to do. We were given an overview of what was offered, and an orientation of the area, so to speak.
Over the next day, Miss Lori did exactly what she said she would do – she took into consideration what we had said we might want to do during our week stay, and set us up with several tours. She arranged them in such a way that we wouldn’t be over-taxed with too much to do, yet filled our schedule nicely to include all the great activities we wanted. It was wonderful – all we had to do was show up! No fuss, no worries; it was great!
Lori’s staff was terrific as well. We had wonderful breakfasts cooked fresh for us each morning. Coffee was always available, and the beer, of course, was ever present and cold! Our rooms were small and cozy, exceptionally clean, and well maintained. The girls were always very friendly! As with most B&B’s, the guests staying at Latitudes were also very friendly, warm and interesting! We had a great time spending free moments with one another, comparing notes, and sharing our interests. Aside from breakfasts that we all took together, Miss Lori set up a Punta dance demonstration, which we all participated in! It was a blast!
We ate out at several restaurants while we were there, our favorite being El Patio. We liked it so much that we went back two more times, bringing everyone from the B&B with us on our last night. The island chicken was terrific, the pork chops were good, but the FLAN was the BEST!!! We did the beach BBQ at Cannibals, as well as the Sunday BBQ at BC’s, which we found to be a really great feed. We also ate one night with another couple at the Blue Water Grill. While the food was really good there, we weren’t too impressed with the service.
Most memorable was an evening spent at El Divino, the lovely restaurant at Banana Beach Resort. In talking with Miss Lori, we found out that both her and Doug’s birthday fell on the same day. That was more than enough excuse to get dressed up and head out for a celebration! Some of the other guests at the B&B joined us, and we all had a superb time together. The place was beautiful, the food was delicious, the drinks outstanding, and the service was exceptional! And oh, the singing was heavenly! Ha! Ha! We can’t imagine a better way to spend a birthday! We really appreciated how the staff went out of their way to make it such a special event.
We didn’t go out for too much nightlife, as our main focus was on the tours, and getting in some snorkeling. And as far as I’m concerned, aside from our choice of accommodations, this was the best part of our trip. To Lori’s credit, she hooked us up with whom we have come to think of as the best tours on Ambergris.
The first night we arrived on the island, we were a bit tired from our journey, so we decided to take it easy. Lori called and arranged for us to be picked up at the Yacht Club’s pier. We went for a wonderfully, leisurely sunset cruise aboard the Rum Punch II. Terrific! We were treated most kindly, in a very relaxed atmosphere. We were allowed to just lounge around with a drink in our hand, while we sailed along the beautiful waters off Ambergris. It was a great way to see the island, and the sunset was gorgeous! After a couple of short hours, we were taken and dropped off in town, where we wandered in for dinner (our first time at El Patio!). Then it was back to our room for a good night’s sleep. All in all, it was a perfect start to a fabulous week!
We went out twice with Daniel Nunez of Tanisha Tours. What a fantastic time we had with him and his crew! He was very well informed on the local environment, flower and fauna. He knew and understood bird and reptile names and habitat. He spent a great deal of time and patience explaining different aspects of the Belizean environment. Even the men that went with us as his helpers were informative. We were very impressed at his willingness to take his time with us, a smaller group than any other tour we saw out on the days we went. He didn’t race to get where he was going. We never felt rushed, or made to feel part of a numbers game. Daniel truly came off as a man who cares about his country, what’s in it, and what’s happening to it. He knows a great deal, and is more than willing to share it with those in his care, as a way of passing on an awareness, an awakening to the impact of tourism on a very delicate eco-sphere. Through Tanisha Tours, we went to both Lamanai, and a trip that included the Manatee Sanctuary, the Baboon Sanctuary and Hol Chan. Both excursions were chock full of all manner of plants, birds, reptiles, fish, mammals and other animals! We couldn’t have been more pleased, or more impressed by the wonders we saw. I will also say that we felt fortunate to have gone with Daniel for safety reasons. I had mentioned that we weren’t made to feel rushed. We saw a number of other tour boats during our travels- all of which seemed to be in quite a hurry. We saw a lot of what I would term “hot-dogging” it – racing, driving too close to animals and birds, creating large wakes in passing one another. Everyone in our boat made mention of it at one time or another, and we were all very grateful NOT to be a part of those other tours. On the end of our second tour, we stopped off at Hol Chan for a bit of snorkeling. Again, Daniel impressed us all with his knowledge of creatures of the deep. He joined us in the water, and was more than willing to name whatever we pointed out to him.
We also took a snorkeling tour out to Mexico Rocks with Alfonso Graniel. We had a real blast with him and his helper. Alfonso really knows the area well, too, being able to give us a brief tour of the island on our way out, and answering any questions we might have had for him. He too, takes out smaller groups, as he finds it more personable and easier to manage. This makes it great for the visitor as well, for many obvious reasons. We had a grand time in the water, seeing many fish we recognized from other places we’ve dove and snorkeled as well as some we’d never seen anywhere before. On the second half of our outing, Alfonso and his helper joined us in the water. Alfonso took most of us around in tow, pointing out fish and creatures of interest. That was the best, for many of us. On this adventure, too, we never felt cramped, rushed, or short on time. In the end, we had all learned something new, were slightly flushed from the adventure, and pleasantly ready for a nap upon our return!
And neither one of us ever tired of that rum punch everyone always seemed to have stashed in coolers and ready to pass out on the return voyage!!! LOL
In any regard, as I’m sure you can tell by now, Doug and I had a marvelous time. It is more than certain that we will be returning again to Belize. There are other tours to take with Daniel, more areas to snorkel with Alfonso, and you can bet we will be staying with Miss Lori! I’m sure we would have enjoyed Ambergris no matter where we stayed, but it is without a doubt, that Lori Reed made our trip special. The attention to detail, the care and concern, her knowledge of the island, and the people who live and work there, all added up to experience that one might not get at a larger, more impersonal place. For us, this was the ONLY way to go!
Our very best regards go out to Lori, Daniel, Alfonso, and the Captain of the Rum Punch II. Thank you all for making our first Belizean experience a most memorable one. It’s important for you to know that what you do makes a difference – and the impact of what you do is felt. We are both looking forward to meeting you all again.
If anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free --
Cat & Doug Wingate