The Very First Tour Guides

oday there must be close to 200 tour guides in San Pedro. They all range in ages from 20 years to perhaps 60 years old. Their skiffs range from small vessels with 40 horsepower outboard motors to very large skiffs with two 250 horsepower motors. Their activities range are very diversified and include snorkeling, fishing, sailing, diving, bird watching, manatee watching, cave tubing, and picnics. There are guides with years of knowledge and skills and experience and there are those that have taken courses to be certified and licensed. Then there are also some highly professional guides who are certified dive masters and those who are diving instructorrs as well. Tourists who stay long enough on this island can actually return home as certified divers from PADI and NAUI.

Mr. Abel Guerrero reels in a good size red snapper
Some tour guides today are earning the minimum of three hundred dollars a day and work every day- frorn-December-to April during the high season. However, that is not how it has always been. The very first tour guides had it much different 25 years ago or in the middle of the 1960's when tourism was in its initial stages in Ambergris Caye. It was not La Isla Bonita then. It was a laid back- fishing village, peaceful' land tranquil, an unspoiled and undiscovered little island of Belize in the Cariftean. There was not television no telephone, no computeis, no vehicles, no traffic only a handful of fishermen who earned their living off the sea.

With the first arrivals of tourists, these men, the very first tourist guides 'had to improvise and experiment so as to offer the visitors a memorable experience. They first met the tourists arriving at the small airstrip with 2 landings per day and carried their luggage to their hotel by means of a wheelbarrow. A five-dollar tip was extremely welcome. Tourists were attracted to the island for the beach, the sea, the reef, the diving and fishing and that is exactly what our guides made good use of. There were a few diving enthusiasts, but no certified divers here so they both sort of learned it together. Diving was do in a sort of risky situation. Tourist guiding was family oriented At the end of the day the visitor want to know the guide's family and the guides were willing to take- them home, enjoy a supper and get to know the family. Every year, when the visitor returned it meant a shower of gifts for every family member. The tourists sort of became attached to the guide and his family.

On the average, the guide was earning about thirty-five US dollars a day and tipping was much more moderate than it is today. And when it was departure time, there was the feeling that some family member was leaving the island.

And who exactly were the very first tourist guides of our Island? Abel Guerrero Sr. and Jose Gonzalez are certainly two of the first that come to mind. Along with them were Lucilo Guerrero and Gaby Perez all of Holiday Hotel. Two of the younger guides in the 60's were Manuel Ancona Sr. and Alfredito Alamilla (deceased). Ramon Nunez and Edwardo Brown had the reins of guiding at Paradise Hotel and joining them later on were some guides such as Gil Gonzalez, Robert Bradley, and Adolfo Ayuso Jr.

These were the men who thorough miss and catch, trial and error, established the foundation for a vibrant career that is tourist guiding today. They are the heroes, some of them still active, who set the pace and proved that tour guiding is a rewarding occupation. We all owe them appreciation and respect. One day we shall honour them in San Pedro's Hall of fame or Breaking the Barriers.

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