Our heartfelt thanks from all of our past and future guests, friends, and family who have contacted us with concerns about the welfare of our staff, our island, and facilities on Long Caye at Glover's Reef. We cannot thank all of you enough for your kind thoughts and prayers. It really does feel like our family just gets bigger and bigger as the years go by.

We are thrilled to report that we have good news. Everyone on our staff and on the staff of Off the Wall Dive Center who reside in Belize is fine. Although we were definitely within the path of the storm (the eye of Hurricane Iris passed about 13.8 miles SSE of our island at about 7 p.m. on Monday, October 8) we escaped with relatively minor damage and will have no problem getting the island and all of the facilities back into shape in time for the first trip of the season (November 30.)

Of course everything is relative, and had we not had the experience of Hurricane Mitch, we might not feel so positive. Those of you who have joined us on Long Caye since Hurricane Mitch parked itself off the coast of Honduras in October of 1998 know first-hand how much damage we sustained during that storm. We were very fearful of what Hurricane Iris had in store for us, as catastrophic reports from Placencia were coming in. The devastation in the Placencia area is almost beyond belief. Danny Wesby of Middle Caye called us Tuesday evening with a full report, having just returned from the Atoll, and we have since spoken with Jim Schofield, owner of Off the Wall Dive Center, who is now on the island. The damage on Long Caye is so much less than it could have been that we feel extremely lucky we fared so well. Last time we had five weeks to rebuild and this time we have seven. The mood in the office here in Utah is: No problem, Mon!

For those of you that have been there, here is a full report:

1. The kitchen/dining hall is fine! Even the roof is still there! Apolitico moved all of the refrigerators, freezers, solar panels, etc. to safer quarters before he evacuated the island. We can thank all of Politico's hard work on the sea wall that saved our dining hall.
2. All the kayaks but one are undamaged, they all remained on the rack throughout the storm.
3. The hammock palapa fell down, but will be easy to put back up.
4. The kayak palapa is completely undamaged, as is the dock.
5. The following cabanas are undamaged: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7,and 10.
6. The following cabanas were knocked down by high winds and will be easy to raise back up, as they are intact: 4 and 9.
7. Number 8 is down and the land under it has eroded somewhat. We have wanted to rebuild this cabin as it was slightly smaller than the others were, so we feel extremely fortunate in that this is the only one that needs to be rebuilt completely.
8. The Groovin' Area is fine! (My favorite spot.)
9. All of our buildings in the interior: staff quarters, bathroom, showers, etc, are unharmed.
Off the Wall Facilities:
10. The dive shop is unharmed.
11. The roof of Topsy's house blew off, but the building is fine.
12. Lord Jim's dock is "tilted."

On a more sobering note, Placencia in southern Belize, along with Seine Bight, Monkey River, and other surrounding areas were hit really hard. The devastation is almost total. We encourage everyone to join us in contributing to the relief efforts. Information for financial assistance can be found on this message board.

If you prefer to help in some other way, what Belize really needs right now is tourism. Whether you travel with us, or with some other company, there are plenty of areas in the country unhurt by the storm. If you want to get away from it all this winter please visit Belize! The negative PR from storms of this type can cripple a small country like Belize, which is currently dependent on foreign tourists. The diving, kayaking, jungle exploring, or if you prefer an easier sport: hammock lounging, will all be unaffected by this storm except for a few months in the Placencia area. I would expect the tourist lodges of Placencia to be open at least by December.

Again, thanks to everyone for all of your kind thoughts. Please keep in touch.

Lucy Wallingford
[email protected]