First Airplane: The first plane to land on Ambergris Caye had to be one from the Petroleum Exploration Company at Basil Jones up north. However, the first plane to actually land here was a sea plane owned by a young and handsome pilot of Kentucky, Mr. John Greif. The first aqua landing was at the lagoon behind the village and the seaplane docked at a little pier by the football field. The entire village came to see this historic and awesome landing. (I guess we call it a landing) This first sea plane was one of the moving factors behind the Holiday Hotel, the pioneer hotel for San Pedro and owned by John and Celi. From there came the development of the airstrip, local commercial airlines, and the commencement of tourism for San Pedro. This dates back to the 1960's. Today we have the best airstrip in the country, even over the Belize City strip.
First Airstrip: The first strip of land used for landing planes here in Ambergris Caye was at Basil Jones area in the northern end of the island. This airstrip that goes back to the early 1950's was used to fly in personnel and goods for a petroleum exploration company that was drilling on the island looking for crude oil. I understand that traces of oil were found, but nothing in commercial quantities. Very heavy equipment was barged in and the high officials were flown in using this all-grass airstrip at Basil Jones. Old timers call it “El Aeropuerto de Berce Yon”. The airstrip is still there according to some hunters who know the area, and from time to time, there have been rumors of plans to re-open that airstrip.
But in actuality, the first airstrip built to serve the needs of San Pedro Village came about at the time when the first hotel was built in San Pedro by John Greif and Celi Nuñez. John Greif (deceased) also contributed much towards the opening of that airstrip. Area Representative Louis “Cuz” Sylvestre at the time was very influential and so was Mr. Jim Blake (+), who was the owner of the land. That first airstrip was all grass, very narrow, and about one third the length of the present airstrip which has very appropriately been named the John Grief II Airstrip. It used to land one plane occasionally and has grown to what we enjoy today.
Click here to read the rest of the article (First doctor, First theatre) and see more photos in the Ambergris Today