Trip Report for Ray and Phyllis, First Time to AC, April 18th – 23rd (Too short !!)
First, I would like to say THANK YOU to everyone on the board, we did so many wonderful things that I would not have known about without following the board topics.
Second, we will be returning next year, a decision we made the day before leaving, it was everything and more than we had hoped for.
We arrived in San Pedro around 4pm on Sunday (4/18), it was a bit overcast, looked slightly stormy. We were staying at Tradewinds Paradise Villas, LeLo was there to fetch us in his taxi. We asked if it was going to rain, he jokingly said, “Oh, didn’t you hear, a hurricane is coming !!” It never did rain. Unfortunately both of our bags did not make it on the Tropic flight and the next one wasn’t expected until 6pm. No Problem, LeLo took us to our villa and returned with the bag when it arrived. Our villa, unit 24B, second floor with a balcony overlooking the ocean and reef, was absolutely breath taking. King size bed that was more comfortable than most, kitchen (oven didn’t work, but the burners did), blender, etc. (only thing missing was a microwave, would have been nice for left overs, but as it turned out we didn’t have any), living room with TV. We had emailed prior to our arrival so the fridge was stocked with ice cold Belikin and bottled water. There was A/C, but we didn’t use it, the trade winds kept it cool and bug free, we slept with the balcony door open every night. We fell asleep to the crash of the reef offshore. Being our first visit to AC, I was in awe of the reef, I could watch the waves crash endlessly. Reminded me of the movie Castaway. Our thanks to Lori and Emanuel at the hotel, everything was great. The grounds are beautiful. Nice pool. It looked like they are fixing up a BYO pool side bar that has stools in the water. 24 hour security, not that I feel it was needed, the island is very safe. Once settled in, it was time to get dinner. Since the evening was iffy weather wise it was suggested that we try Cocina Carambu, instead of my initial plan to go to the Blue Water grill on the beach. Good pick. We had carribean snapper and jerk conch, both excellent. We then set out to look for Tulu to set up a snorkel trip for Monday. We found out where to find him, but it would have to wait until the morning since it was a bit late by now. We had a few drinks at Cholo’s on the beach and chatted with some locals, made new friends, everyone was very nice.
Monday morning we got in touch with Tulu, but he was already booked for the day, so we set up a trip to Mexico Rocks for the following afternoon. Not wanting to wait to snorkel we went out on an afternoon HolChan/Shark Ray Alley trip with Amigo’s, hanging out at Cholo’s with our new friends while we waited. We had buffalo wings and conch fritters from Lily’s, next door, the fritters were probably the best I have ever had. Our Amigo’s captain, Manuel, was wonderful and helpful. At Hol Chan in the first few minutes we saw a spotted manta ray, a nurse shark and a huge barracuda. This along with many other colorful coral and fishes, wow. On the way to Shark/Ray Alley Manuel spotted a sea turtle, he stopped the boat and dove in to try to bring it to the surface so that we could see better, but it was too fast. On to Shark/Ray Alley, oh my, it was super cool. I wasn’t sure if I would be freaked out or not – NOT. I petted both the sharks and rays. In addition to the sharks and rays there was a huge school of horse-eye jacks that were going nuts when Manuel would throw bits into the water, swimming between our legs and bumping us, those are some big fishes. This snorkel trip was the only one where we ran into someone with Pica Pica, she had it on her neck and had gotten it from a dive pretty far out. Nobody else seemed concerned, but we had put on the sea safe, only used it one more day, it didn’t seem to be an issue while we were there or where we went snorkeling.
Once we got back and cleaned up we went over the Wet Willies for a couple of drinks (Paradise Villas had given us complementary drink coupons), one pier down from our place. We took a look at their menu, as we were interested in grabbing breakfast there the next morning. We chatted with the cook, Dennis, he recommended his shrimp omelet. My husband asked if he would be there in the morning, but he wasn’t scheduled until 2pm. He asked what time we would be there for breakfast, we said “no, no !!”, but he insisted that he would come in and cook for us the next morning. Monday evening we ate a Elvi’s, another awesome meal. We had mayan conch and garlic baked snapper. Not a morsel was wasted. After a full day of fun in the sun and water we called it a night.
We were not disappointed with Dennis’s cooking Tuesday morning – it was excellent, and we loved the fryjacks. We then rented bikes at Joe’s bike rental in town, and rode to the cut which is not far from our hotel, and then went as far south as Banana Beach. From there you would have to take a taxi all the time to come in to town, just too far to walk. I loved the location of Paradise Villas, just north of town, we could walk everywhere. The grocery store was just north of the property for incidentals. La Bakery just before the cut had awesome pastries and meat pies that we picked up for snacks. One note, AC is not cheap. We paid $3 American for a box of Kleenex! Don’t buy beer at the grocery; we got Belikin for around $20 a case thru the hotel, delivered. Meals (which all of ours were very fresh and good) and souvenirs are average and we did get some “deals” from the street venders. I just love the wooden/carved sting ray and nurse shark we bought. Rum House for rum, wine (cashew wine is really good) and of course a few Cubans for the hubby. But, from watching the board we had an idea of costs, so we weren’t shocked or disappointed. We really enjoy being with and talking to the local people, we spent a lot of time in town, not hanging out at resorts. Everyone is soooo nice. And we did not feel bothered by anyone, day or night. By this time we were looking forward to our afternoon snorkel with Tulu. He managed to find a few people to come along, Melinda a girl from the US that is living on AC, Michelle from Santa Barbara, who had spent several weeks in Guatemala, Lloyd, and Lorna, also single travelers. One thing to keep in mind is that gas prices there are double that in the states so with us traveling as a couple we ran into situations where outfits did not have enough people to take out a boat for certain trips. We had looked into a day trip that did snorkeling and Caye Caulker, but none were going out. So, finally our trip with Tulu started by heading to Mexico Rocks. On the way up north he stopped and told us history about the island and the resorts we passed north of the cut. He is a wonderful person, funny, great story teller, and smart. Well, pretty smart, his one downfall is that he is a Vikings fan, but being the lovable Packer fans that we are we won’t hold that against him !! And with Tulu you are truly on “island time”, which you may not get with some of the bigger outfits, he will do and go where you want to. On the way we also spotted a couple of dolphins which we stopped and watched for a while. A special treat for me as I had not really expected to see any. We snorkeled Mexico Rocks and another area closer to the reef. Just amazing, I can’t even remember the names of all of the wonderful creatures we encountered and too numerous to list. Tulu spotted a very large puffer hiding, and several lobsters which we all dove down and got a closer look at. At the second snorkel spot closer to the reef, my husband and I spotted a shark which to us didn’t look like a nurse shark, it went one way, we went the other !! On our way back to San Pedro we stopped at the Hammock House for a few cocktails and got back well after dark. Was a great trip and great people to spend a day with. While chatting we had discussed doing a night snorkel with Tulu, and Michelle, Lloyd and Lorna ended up joining us the next evening for one of the coolest adventures I have ever experienced. We had dinner at the old Jabel’s Jerk Pit which was very good. My husband got the jerk chicken, spicy – so I wasn’t able to try his, way too hot for me. I got the baked grouper and it was very good. We sat up on the top level which was cool, and ran into one of our buddies from Cholo’s who joined us for a couple of drinks. Once again the sun and fun got the best of us, so we called it a night, with a nice walk back on the beach.
Wednesday morning we rented bikes again and did some shopping, ate lunch at Shark’s Bar, we shared a mexican combo plate which was good. We then relaxed until it was time for Tulu to pick us up for our night snorkel. We got to Hol Chan just before dark and watched the sun set. There were a couple of dive boats, but we were the only snorkelers. Again I wasn’t sure if I would be spooked or not – again NOT, especially in the trusty hands of Tulu. If you EVER get a chance to night snorkel or dive you MUST do it !! It is like another world. We had lights, which at first glance I thought, no way this is too small. But, they worked perfect. We saw a bunch of eels, including a big pissed off spotted moray. A couple of octopus. Then Tulu had us all shine toward something else, a shark. He identified it as a lemon shark, probably about 4ft, we watch him/her swim away. I am pretty sure this is the same kind we had seen during our day snorkel, with two prominent dorsal fins and much sleeker than the nurse sharks. Thankfully both of those encounters were at a distance. One of our unique finds was a trunkfish, which just hung in the water and allowed us to touch it’s rock hard triangular exterior, very different. When planning our night snorkel we were originally going to do it Thurs., but Lloyd was leaving so we changed it to Wed. Initially I didn’t want to go Wed. because I was hoping to catch the ever famous chicken drop. Well, to my surprise when we got back from snorkeling Tulu docked by the Pier Lounge and we caught the last drop. None of us won the contest, but enjoyed several drinks prior to Tulu taking us home. We had barely gotten ready before our new friends and Tulu arrived at our villa, and after a couple more Belikins (Tulu even did a Jager bomb with my husband!), we all headed over to Wet Willie’s to take in the action. Needless to say we never made it to dinner that night. We did however make it until after midnight, which is very good for us !!
The next morning we ate leftover pastries for breakfast and caught the 9:30 water taxi over to Caye Caulker. From CC we took a 3 hour snorkel trip to the shark/ray “city” near the island, not as much activity as shark/ray alley, but still very cool. The winds were kicking up so we didn’t do coral gardens, but a couple of other spots. My husband made a new friend while snorkeling, a pesky little shark sucker. Once he shewed it away it would move to the next person and so on. Glen our captain thru Tsunami was great. We bummed around CC the rest of the afternoon, shopped and had lunch at Rasta Pasta with Michelle who had joined us for the day. When my husband's blackened chicken burito came our eyes nearly fell out, it was huge. This on top of a conch fritter/crab rangoon appetizers and my order of coconut shrimp !! Once we got back to our villa we decided to just relax on our balcony, finish our Belikins and reflect back on our adventures on our last night in paradise. It was also then that we decided that we would return next year.
We got up early Friday morning and got the packing done. Having skipped dinner after our huge lunch, we were ready for breakfast. So, we headed down to Lily’s to have breakfast on the beach. We each had omelets and fryjacks, was all good. While we there Tulu came by and we were able to say our final farewells, hugs and told him we would see him next year.
Overall, in our 13+ years together, we would rate this as one of our coolest trips. We are considering a trip our to the Blue Hole and maybe a day on the mainland cave tubing next year, which will require a longer stay of course !!
Hope you enjoyed my report as much as I did writing it and remembering it all. I will keep my eye on the board and hopefully I can help others as they have helped me.
As Captain Jeff’s say’s “Live the dream”.
Link to some of our photos: http://photos.yahoo.com/cudahyray
The 2004 Belize Photo Album