My husband and I are planning a move to the Caribbean and Belize is on our short list. We just returned from a 2 week trip; we loved the country but have some concerns/questions and would greatly appreciate insights you all may have.
One big concern: ability to scuba dive several times a week without going bankrupt.
Background: We plan to start with a 6-9 month stay in San Pedro. Afterwards, we may decide to extend our stay, move within the country (e.g., Placencia), or move to somewhere else in the Caribbean. We plan to come in on a tourist visa which we would extend monthly, with an eye towards applying for residency if we decide to stay. We would rent rather than buy, both to maintain flexibility and to confirm we have the "right" location prior to making any purchase decisions. (We do not receive pensions, so QRP is probably off the table.)
The concern: We were considering buying/renting a boat locally to go diving, but I understand you cannot own a boat or obtain a Captain's license unless you're a resident or own property. We considered "hitching rides" with other divers who have boats, but I've read that you cannot go out with non-family members on their boat unless the Captain also has a Tour Operator's license, which is only available to Belizeans or citizens (not residents/property owners?). That appears to mean that our only option for diving is to go with a local commercial dive operator, until such time as we achieve resident status.
Do I have these facts correct? Is it possible to find local residents with a boat + a Tour Op license who would take a couple people out for inexpensive private trips to dive the reef? Diving is a primary reason for us wanting to move; but financial constraints will severely limit the number of dives we can do with a commercial dive op, unless they give very substantial discounts (~75%) to locals.
Thanks in advance for any advice/corrections/suggestions!