Just got back from a trip to Belize in which one week was spent at Tobacco Caye. Getting there is easy! The flight to Dangriga was short. We were stranded in Dangriga on New Years Day due to bad weather and hungover boat captains, but we didn't mind, as it was interesting to see how the Garifuna people ring in the New Year. Try the Chinese restaurant - Silver Gardens, I think. Great lobster in garlic butter sauce! Louise at Bluefield Lodge was very nice and helpful. The 30-40 min boat ride out can be rough (as it was on our way out, with a northern front in the area), or smooth and easy (our way back).
I really hate to post anything about such a wonderful little place as TC, but I don't think it could be ruined by too many visitors. It is simply too small (5 acres) !!!! The literature you read states that it takes 20 minutes to walk it - I think that could only be true if one had had way too many drinks at the Oceans Edge bar or was otherwise impaired. We are animal people and enjoyed that the island had 3 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 rabbits, aside from the usual avian and marine life.
There are several resorts to choose from:
(1) a new, very cheap lodge called Tobacco Paradise is at the extreme north end; it is owned by a relative of Louise, the lady that owns Bluefield Lodge in Dangriga. Quite rustic still, and for some reason, it has a fence between it and Tobacco Caye Lodge - quite silly on an island where one can wade around it.
(2) Tobacco Caye Lodge (former Island Camps) is the next most northern lodge. It has nice new light blue cabanas with hammocks on the porch - there are two beds in all of them to the best of my knowledge. Denise is a good cook, but I recommend bringing snacks to tide you over, esp. if you are diving and in the water a lot. People are nice. There is a small bar on the west side next to a dock where barracuda and a small ray can almost always be seen. On the oceanside in the lagoon behind the reef, reef octopi are spotted every night starting about 9 pm or so. Bring a good bright light - like a small dive light.
This resort has a dive deal with Second Nature Divers out of Hopkins (Martin and Janette Spragg). We dove with them 3 days and had a great time - very clear briefings and very nice - always on time.
(3) Gaviota's is just south of Tobacco Caye Lodge. Looked a little worn and quite frankly wasn't very busy while we were there. A new person is managing it apparently. They are the only lodge that has signs threatening guests from other lodges to use chairs and hammocks. It is really quite silly, as the island is so small it is really hard to tell where one resort ends and another begins. It almost challenges one to lie in a hammock!!!!
(4) Oceans Edge Lodge is in the middle, which is good as it features the primary bar on the island, attended by Raymond. We can't say enough about how welcome Raymond makes one feel no matter where one is staying. We ran a tab all week with them and had a great time on each visit. It truly was the gathering place for the entire island. Raymond will help you on anything you ask for, too - renting snorkeling gear, loaning fishing gear, etc. Raymond also stocks Snickers bars!!!! We just loved this guy. His wife, Brendalee, is sweet as everything and is apparently the best cook on the island, judging from the happy guests and under-the-table piece of coconut pie we tested. The accomodations appeared adequate, and THEY HAVE HOT WATER!!!!! I think Reef's End is the only other lodge with hot water. Next time, we will stay there for sure.
Andy Muha operates Tobacco Caye Diving out of here. We talked to several people that dove with him and they seemed happy.
(5) Lana's - just behind Ocean's Edge and Gaviotas - I think it is resort, but not sure. Maybe Belizeans stay there. I'm not sure.
(6) Reef's End Lodge is on the south end with its restaurant and bar in a building over the lagoon, just where one snorkels around the reef. They had good barbeque one night, I can attest. People there seemed to be happy with it. They are in the process of renovating/building new rooms (a two-story bldg).
Once on Tobacco Caye, it is possible to do pretty much anything you want. Fish, snorkel, dive, etc. You can wade across the ankle to mid-calf deep lagoon and walk across the reef and fish. You can swim around the southern end of the reef and do some really great snorkelling. There is damage from Mitch evident in parts of the reef, but many good undamaged parts. We saw large eagle rays and brown sting rays, eels, morays, great fish, etc. just snorkelling around. If a northern front is influencing the area (as it was the first 2 days we were there), the wind may blow from the ocean side rather than the mainland, so that the surf makes it inadvisable or at least more difficult to snorkel the reef.
Just one more piece of info - many of the people there had just come from Placencia or Caulker or Ambergris. The people who were looking for a low key uncrowded place to relax preferred TC to anywhere else they had been. If you want many choices in restaurants and entertainment, leave TC for those of us who feel in love with the place. It is possible to send emails to loved ones from the island - you just can't check it.
We left Dangriga via the bus - easy trip from Dangriga to San Ignacio. Must take the bus up this road if you get a chance.
Unwinding at TC cannot be avoided.