here's what we got...
Aloha Gals & Guys:
I recently had the pleasure of diving with Beverly, Stef & OZ aboard the Nekton pilot in Belize.
I have submitted some of my photos on photopoint.com. It's a first for me & I'd just wanted to share some of the marine life we experienced while on our cruise.
Comments welcomed, (flame away)
URL address is http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=365149&a=2701445
American was on or close to schedule for every leg, and all my luggage arrived as hoped. Quick story. Friday before Belize, while repacking all my gear I left at my mom's place in South Miami Beach, I couldn't open the King Pelican to dump the old batteries. Mom took me next door to ask her neighbor for help. Turns out he is a freediver/spearfisher (100 - 200 ft), who grew up with Pepin Ferrina (sp.?) in Cuba, and dives with him on a regular basis. My Mom has met Pepin, and of course had no clue who he was, and probably wouldn't have cared. They were going out Saturday, and invited me, but I had to leave that day. Moving right along...I\'m at the American gate in Miami bound for Belize, and, apparently as usual, the flight is overbooked. The bidding starts at $500 AA bucks. No takers. $600, a couple takers. $800 is too much to ignore for about 6 more. With 2 seats to go, AA finally coughed up $1,000 apiece for a couple already down the gangway. Darn, if only the boat was Sunday - Sunday!
The Nekton Pilot was as nice as I found it the last time. The crew were all friendly, helpful, and competant. And Pam, the chef, does a fine job with the cooking - all dinners with fresh green salads, nonfat dressings, a varied menu, and fresh-baked cookies & snacks between dives. The boat was full, as it was the last time I was on it, but seemed a little more crowded; maybe because our foursome would try to find 4 seats together at the dining room table, and would dive together, as well. The dive platform was always crowded for the 1st dive of the day, and the 3rd dive, which was after the boat moved for the afternoon dives. Other times, it was fine.
BTW, my main dive buddy & roommate for the week was Stef, and her friend roomed with Haw'n Diver (posts here too). We all got along famously, and were compatible dive buddies. Not quite 'same day, same ocean', as we usually had at least a vague idea whose bubbles might be where. All experience divers, and slow on air. Only problem with that is I garnered the only steel 75, while everyone else had 95's, so I would try to stay a bit shallower & breathe slowly. :-)
The biggest disappointment of the week was that they scrapped the Glovers Atoll itinerary - supposedly due to rough seas and 25 - 35 nott winds in the forecast. When I asked, midweek, I was told that this is only the 2rd time this has happened. I found this very hard to believe, as the worst winter weather was behind us. The thing that really ticked me off was that in the captain's briefing the 1st evening, we were told that the morning dives would be at Half Moon Cay. Looking across the room, nobody seemed to bat an eye, or maybe they did not realize this meant Lighthouse Reef. The captain did not even mention anything about this being a change of plans. Stunned, I interrupted to get an explanation. Bummed, but still very hopeful, I looked forward to a week of fantastic diving. So, we stayed at Half Moon Cay and Long Key all week. And while most sites were fantastic, 2 sites - for a total of 5 dives - were marginal, and nearly devoid of fish. One was a site they had never even been to before, called Julie's Jungle. They went back to Aquarium for a 2nd time, which was okay. Better repeat a great site than go to a crappy one just to log a new one. It's disheartening enough to go to crummy sites, when you know there are great ones nearby. The crew did not seek feedback on sites they were unfamiliar with - just a rudimentary "welcome back" as you exited the water. I later learned that the 3 separate itinerary deal was a joke. Sometimes they go from Lighthouse to Glovers. Placencia (was part of the Glovers itinerary) is now 'out' as no whale sharks have been spotted, and the dive sites there are not as good.
Water temps generally 77 - 78 degrees. Vis varied from 50 ft to 150 ft, but mostly around 100 on the walls. Part 2 probably tomorrow. Fish & critter lineup, review of my new Bio-Fins and Mares Opera mask, the Belize Zoo, Belize City, the Saturday outing with Hugh Parkey's Belize Dive Connection, and the Fort Street Guesthouse & Restaurant. Ooooo...stay tuned!
There were some sites, including Aquarium, Sweet Revenge, Wayne's World, Dos Cocos, Scorpio, that were quite memorable. Not going to report on all the usual suspects I saw - only what I saw that was not expected, AND what I DID expect, but did NOT see. In terms of coral, and sponges, generally speaking, there was the largest variety of healthy stuff condensed in certain spotss that I've ever seen. Tons of bent sea rods, maze corals, scrool & sheet corals, and my favorites, cactus & spiny flower corals.
Notable critters were 3 slipper lobsters at Waynes World - 1 riding high up on a barrel sponge, and 2 getting it on in the sand. Same dive, an octopus making his way across the sand (was all white for the trek). A few huge channel crabs. Some regular spiny lobsters, but not nearly as many as you see most elsewhere - a small fraction of what you see in the Florida Keys.
Many Queen Angels, lots of Indigo Hamlets, more Dog Snapper than I've ever seen, but not 'lots', same for Spanish Mackeral, a few spots had lots of large Ocean Triggers. There were lots of good sized Groupers of many kinds everywhere, seemingly half the time being cleaned. Most were very shy. Paul Humanns book reports Bluestripe Lizardfish as being rare, but I must have seen 7- 10 of them. Nothing else in the book looks like them either. The only Butterflies I noticed was the Banded variety. Noticably few Sageant Majors, Schoolmasters and far fewer Grunts than I've seen anywhere - usually they are everywhere, and in large numbers. Haw'n Diver & I caught a pair of adult male Hogfish in the 'gaping' behavior (territorial dispute). They were so entranced, they ignored our presence, and hopefully, I got some decent shots of them jawing up to each other. At Aquarium, there is a pair of Dolphins named Bonnie & Clyde, who seems to enjoy swimming around us. They mostly played with each other, bumping & nuzzling each other as they swam in all directions - a truly beautiful thing to watch.
Saw just 1 Nurse Shark, 1 large, freeswimming Green Moray, 2 Eagle Rays, and 1 Stingray. All in all, there were fewer fish than I expected, but enough to keep you interested.
Gotta run off to work now, so there will be a Part 3.
So, Friday we are off for a 4 hour excursion to the Belize Zoo. It was well worth it. They tried to create as natural a habitat as possible for the animals. I suppose in some cases that would be to do nothing, except build a fence. we went out with Hugh Parkey's Belize Dive Connection. It was just the 4 of us, for a 3-tank dive on Turneffe. The new Pro 48 boat holds up to about 25 divers, so you can imagine it was like our own private yacht. The boat was very roomy, had a head, fresh rinse shower bag setup, and a wonderful lunch was provided from Fort Street Guesthouse Restaurant - spicy baked chicken, a delicious pasta salad, homemade cookies, and a huge bag of peeled oranges for in between dives.
Hugh had a last-minute scheduling conflict that morning, so we went out with captain & divemaster Romy, and another DM (forgot his name). He took us to a site at the Elbow, which had very strong current. Still a decent dive. But one of the best dives I did the whole was the 3rd dive that day at T's Trail, named after Hugh's wife Teresa. I did have the pleasure of talking with Hugh & his wife, who manages the Fort Street Guesthouse. This was nice, as Hugh is a great guy, and fun to be around. We stayed at the Fort Street Guesthouse the Saturday night we got off the boat. Its only a 2 block walk from the Radisson, which is by the pier. The accommodations were spacious, clean, and comfortable - and very reasonable compared to the Radisson, about 1/2 price - AND included breakfast. I would definitely stay there again. The staff was great, and the restaurant (we ate there Friday AND Saturday night), was probably the best in the area.
We made the trek into Belize City late Saturday afternoon. The people are obviously poor, but I never felt like I was in danger. The only 2 people that even approached us were interested in selling us a cab ride, or offering the sale of drugs, pot I presume. Nothing even CLOSE to the nuisance factor in Jamaica. But people seemed a bit curious, if not friendly. I still wouldn't want to walk alone there at night.
The new Bio Fins worked great for me. I noticed the increased power immediately. However, and this MAY be my imagination, they seemed to be a little harder to maneuver when you're going slow, sideways on a wall. It seemed more difficult to swim away from the I was also diving with a new mask, the Mares Opera, which fit like a glove, just perfect. The biggest surprise of the week was something I thought would be a real pain in the a#$, but worked out just great. I wore my ScubaPro .5mm Steamer under my full 3/2. The Steamer actually made it SOOO much easier to slip on the full 3/2 over it, even when wet or damp - even easier than just the 3/2 by itself. And it was just as warm as I had hoped. First time with my new fleece hood too. Kept creeping up on my mask, and it would leak like crazy, but I'd pull it way back & all was okay.
Date: 03-09-2000 12:40
I just got back from a wonderful week on the Nekton Pilot. This was my first live aboard so I really have no base line for comparison. I did not realize how easy and totally enjoyable diving could be! The trip was excellent in every respect. If you would like more comments Email me at FTDOLPHIN@AOL.COM and ask.