Just returned from 8 great days on the island. We had a great time and all 11 of our group returned still speaking to each other. Managed to get in 8 dives while there. Like scubabuddy mentioned, it was quite rough outside the reef but we managed. Here's a report of our trip.
Friday 3/7 – Arrived in Belize City on time at 4:30 PM. After getting our group of 11 through customs and checking in at Tropic Air we headed to Jet's Bar for Belikins and rum punch while awaiting our 5:40 flight to the island. Arrived almost on time in San Pedro and loaded up in cabs for the short ride to Banana Beach. Check in was a breeze and in no time we were sitting on our Balcony enjoying Belikins from the fridge. We noticed that the rod case holding all of our fishing rods did not make it from the airport to the resort. After a quick call down to the desk, the case was delivered 15 minutes later. We walked down the beach to Rico's at Banyan Bay for a late dinner. The conch fritters and the tortilla soup were excellent. After dinner we headed back to Banana Beach for a few more Belikins and then hit the sack.
Saturday 3/8 – With everyone getting up at different times we decided everyone would do their own thing in the morning and we would all meet at Fido's at 1:00. A few of us went to BC's for early burritos and Belikins. The beef and chicken burritos were great. We hung out there four a couple of hours and met several really nice folks. We even met Sylvester from Sylvester and Tweety from this board. We met our group at Fido's and I took a golf cart and went to Hustler tours to set up my diving and to SEArious to set up our cave tubing trip. Our group had one golf cart rented from Banana Beach (I think they used Cholo's) and two carts rented from Pany's (I think). I would definitely recommend getting golf carts from Pany's. They were the same price as pretty much anywhere on the island but they were gas powered and much more reliable and faster than the battery powered ones. The only downside is that they do not have a "oh sh_t" bar for the rear passengers to hold on to. As a result we did lose a passenger at full speed. Fortunately he had enough Belikin in him so he did not tense up and he got up with just a few small scratches and a severely bruised ego. After we we sure he was fine we all were very sore from lauging so hard. When I got back to Fido's we decided to head north to the Palapa bar. Everyone loved the ferry ride and pretty soon we were sipping rum punches at the Palapa. Had a great time and we met David and Gay from the board. (I apologize to Gay for the “plumbers crack” displayed by our buddy swimming at the end of the pier). After a couple of hours at the Palapa we headed even further north to Journeys End for a few drinks at the bar there. Made it back just before the hand ferry shut down for the night. Bring plenty of bug spray if you are going to be north of the cut after dark. This was the only time on our trip that anyone was bitten by mosquitoes (and man were we bitten).
A few of us hit Elvi's for a great dinner of stewed chicken with rice and beans and grilled red snapper. Food and service was great. Met everyone back at Bananas and enjoyed Belikins on the balcony.
Sunday 3/9 – Two of us were picked up at the dock at 8:45 by Guillermo and Everett of Hustler for our two tank dive. I was kind of disappointed when I saw the number of people already on the boat. I was quickly relieved though when I was told that we were heading back to the Hustler dock to drop all of the other people off so they could get on another boat for a snorkeling trip. My buddy and were the only divers for the day!!!!!! Everett the Dive Master gave the briefing as we headed towards the cut. The water was very rough once outside the reef. I would guess 6' to 8' swells with some reaching 10'.
We had two very nice dives even though the visibility as not that great (probably 60').
After our dives we met the rest of our group at BC's for the Sunday afternoon BBQ. You cannot miss this if you are on the island on a Sunday. The BBQ was Awesome!!!! You know its good when 11 people from Texas all think it is great. My wife and I shared the combo plate of ribs, chicken, and sausage and were stuffed to the gills. It does take a while to get your food but it is definitely worth the wait. Talked with David and Gay again for a while. Hung out at BC's until about 3:30 and then headed back to Bananas for the rest of the day. Everyone crashed pretty early as our cave tubing trip was leaving at 7:00 in the morning.
Monday 3/10 – We were picked up at about 7:25 at the Bananas dock by SEArious adventures. Our guide for the day was Ricky and he was great. We had a full boat of 32 for our 1 hour boat ride to the mainland. Once we entered the river a breakfast of fresh fruit, Johnny Cakes (and Belikins for some of us) was served. After a few more minutes up the river we got off the boat and were given a few minutes to use the restroom before boarding the bus for the short 30 min ride to the Belize zoo. We spent about an hour and a half touring the zoo. Ricky was very informative and entertaining during our tour of the zoo. We then got back on the bus for about an hour long ride to the Jaguar's Paw jungle resort. After a delicious chicken lunch (included in the price of the trip) we all changed in to our swim suits, locked up our stuff, and grabbed a inner tube. After a 30 minute walk through the jungle we got in the river. It was kind of chilly but felt good after the hike through the jungle. The tubing through the caves was incredible and well worth the long trip to get there. After the tubing we boarded the bus for the ride back to the boat. Once back on the boat the rum punch flowed freely and everyone was feeling good by the time we arrived back at Bananas. I highly recommend this trip and SEArious adventures. They even gave us 15% off because we had a group over 10. After hitting the showers a few of us headed too Jerry's Crab Shack for dinner. The service was slow but we were told it would be before we sat down. It just gave us more time to talk and enjoy plenty of Belikins and pina coladas. The dinner was Excellent and definitely worth the wait. We had the garlic shrimp pizza and the crab cakes. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it. After dinner we met up with the rest of our group at the Palace Casino. Played Blackjack until 1:00 AM and enjoyed the Coldest draft Belikin on the island. Headed back to Bananas and slept like a rock with the windows open listening to the waves.
Tuesday 3/11 – Chartered a 36' boat for the day from Hustler Tours and went out with Guillermo and Alex for a day of fishing and snorkeling and a beach BBQ. Had a great time. They picked us up at 8:30 and we headed way up north. We tried trolling for a few minutes outside the reef but it was just too rough and one person in our group started power chumming over the side of the boat. We headed in an anchored inside the reef where we fished, snorkeled, and drank more than our share of Beliknis and rum punch. The fishing was kind of slow but we caught enough to feed our group. Alex also dove down and got a few conch to add to the menu. We had our beach BBQ at a deserted beach that had about 10 partially built palapa style huts on the beach. Seems this guy started building them to sell as time shares and after getting quite a bit of money from investors, he just split with the money. After a delicious meal of fish and conch we headed back to the Hustler dock for a few drinks at Wet Willy's while Alex & Guillermo cleaned the boat. We then headed back to Banana Beach where we all showered up and then hit the restaurant at the resort – El Divino. The food was excellent but a little over priced. Everyone crashed early after a full day of sun and fun.
Wednesday 3/12 – Did another two tanks with Everett of Hustler. Wind had calmed down a little so it wasn't as rough and the visibility had improved. The dives had some really great swim throughs and I think I got some really good photos. We will see when the film is developed. After heading back to Bananas a few of us headed into town and did a little shopping. Also stopped by the Internet Café and e-mailed some pictures back to our friends who could not join us on the trip just to rub it in. Aren't digital cameras great. We then headed to Lilly's for an early dinner. I had some of the best fried chicken I have ever had. It was incredible. Banana Daiquiris were also great. We then met the rest of our group at Pier Lounge at the Spindrift Hotel for the Chicken Drop. Played three games and despite having 20 squares for each game I did not win a game. We then headed to Wet Willy's for the ladies night party. It gets kind of foggy after that as the drinks were going down fast. We left about 1:00 AM after eating BBQ pork chops some guy was grilling on the beach. I remember the food being excellent but my opinion may have been influenced by all the booze. Back to Bananas and crashed hard.
Thursday 3/13 – Went with Billy and Guillermo of Hustler to Hol Chan and Shark(less) Ray Alley. Two of us dove at Hol Chan while the others snorkeled. The diving was great but the current was very strong. I was pretty worn out after the dive and glad we would just be snorkeling at the next stop. We then headed to Shark(less) Ray Alley. The snorkeling was great and everybody had a good time. My wife and I were very disappointed by the absence of the nurse sharks. When we were there 3 years ago on our honeymoon we saw no less than 15 sharks. Billy said that they are rarely seen now due to the increased number of visitors due to the cruise ships and more disturbing was that there had been reports of a commercial fisherman fishing the area for sharks at night.
Even without the sharks it was great to see all the rays, fish and even a sea turtle swam with us for a while. After getting cleaned up we headed to Coconuts Resort and ate at Lucifers. The food was O.K.. The atmosphere would have been very nice if they were not building an addition to the deck. It was pretty loud. Headed back to Bananas and decided to do some night fishing from the dock in front of the resort next to Bananas (Mata Rock I think). Used shrimp purchased from the island supermarket and got a ton of little snapper (and a really nice Belikin buzz). None of the fish were big enough to keep but it was a lot of fun as we were all using ultra light gear. Back to the room for a few more on the balcony and then crashed for the night.
Friday 3/14 – Got a call that my wife's grandmother had passed away so we were going to have to cut our trip short by one day and come back on Sat. instead on Sunday as planned. My wife told me to go ahead and do my dives that I had planned and she would get on the phone with TACA and Tropic Air and try and change our travel arrangements. Did 3 more tanks with Everett and Guillermo. The wind had kicked back up and it was the roughest day so far. The visibility on our first dive was terrible but we headed further south for the next two and the visibility was much better. Lots of eels and lobsters. When we got back my wife told me we would be leaving on the 8:00 AM Tropic Air Flight to Belize City and then on the 10:30 AM flight to Houston. Needed to finish our shopping so we headed into town. Word of Caution: BEWARE THE DOOR ON THE SALTY DOG GIFT SHOP. It slams REALLY FAST. Got my toe really bad and made quite a mess. Go figure, 8 dives in rough water and I get taken out by a gift shop door. The lady working in the store gave us some paper towels but was pretty happy to get the bleeding gringo out of her shop. Bandaged up my toe with supplies from the backpack and needless to say we were through shopping. I'm just glad it happened on our last day because it was bad enough to put the end to my diving for the trip. We ate a very good and inexpensive meal at Ambergris Delight and then headed back to the resort to meet up with our friends for one last night on the town. After telling our group the toe story another person said she had here finger slammed in the same door. Just be careful….. We all headed to the Barefoot Iguana. Belikins and rum drinks were $2.00 BZE until midnight. So after an hour or so my toe was fine and I was tearing up the dance floor. It was also 80's night and as almost all of our group graduated high school in the 80's it was a blast from the past. Headed back to the room at about 3:00 AM dreading the early Tropic Air flight to Belize City.
Saturday 3/15 – Awoke at 6:30 AM with a kicking Belikin and rum hangover. It was going to be a long trip back to Houston. Made it to the San Pedro airport with a few minutes to spare. Flight left on time. We checked in at the TACA desk and not only did they not charge us the $200 US fee for changing our flight, they also upgraded us to first class. The only bummer was that the lady that uses the hand held metal detector wand on you right before you board the plane confiscated my nice Colibri cigarette lighter saying it was dangerous (even though it was out of fluid and would not light). She didn't seem to have a problem with the 5 or 6 working cheap Bic lighters in my wife's purse. I tried to reason with her but she was having none of it. I was too hungover and tired to argue with her so I just gave it up. I was asleep before we took off and slept most of the way home awaking only long enough to eat. Breezed through U.S. Customs and was home by 3:00.
Got may wife on a 5:30 flight to Georgia for the funeral.
All in all it was an excellent trip. I was kind of disappointed that it was too rough for us to get out and dive the atolls and that we were unable to make it over to Caye Caulker and to Rasta Pasta due to our shortened trip. Oh well, just a couple of more reasons to get back. I want to say a big thanks to everyone at Banana Beach for helping to make our vacation a great one. We will definitely be back. I highly recommend the guys at Hustler for all your diving and snorkeling needs. Billy, Everett, Guillermo, and Alex went out of their way to make sure we had a good and safe time. Also thumbs up to Ricky and SEArious adventures for the cave tubing trip. What a Blast. Sorry if this was kind of long. Hope it helps those fortunate enough to visit in the near future. Its my first day back at work and I have already been looking at the calendar trying to figure out when I will have enough vacation time to go back. Can't wait....