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Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY!

Posted By: WeGotBelized

Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 03:43 AM

All we can say is watch out, and protect yourself in Belize, or you’ll have problems! We found out the hard and expensive way this December, 2006. Bad communication, poorly maintained equipment, electricity failures, and many other problems make Calypso Retreat a poor choice for a vacation. If you want to know the details, please read on…

My husband and I stayed for a week at Calypso for week this December, and it was a very expensive fiasco. For weeks before we left we had problems communicating with Cheryl Steinmeyer, the absentee owner of this island resort who lives in the US. On the phone she was friendly, but by e-mail she ignored questions, failed to share information that would have helped us immensely, and downright lied to us.

Two days before our departure, we STILL didn’t have all our problems worked out, (we didn’t even know what dock to meet her “boat” at or a name of who to ask for) and we were sending desperate e-mails saying “if you don’t get back to us by 2 p.m. tomorrow, before we leave for the airport, we’ll have to assume we need to cancel and find somewhere else at the last minute.” It was then she decided that would be a good time to charge our credit card number even though she’d been holding it for a week. She got around to responding to us, just hours before we were to board our flight, and she still didn’t answer all our questions.

All we were really asking for was functional SCUBA equipment, functional kayaks, 6 tanks of air, and one steak dinner during the week, and we didn’t get any of that. Here’s a catalog of the problems we encountered AFTER we got to the island, which is 35 miles off the coast, has only five inhabitants, and no way to fix any of them once we got out there:

--The SCUBA equipment Calypso provided was Cheryl’s own family’s personal gear, and the “Dive Master” on the island, Ron, said it was so poorly maintained he couldn’t get two sets to work properly out of the four available: one of our BCs still leaked, both regulators had leaks, and only one of the regulator gauges worked (Scary!!). We had to borrow weights from Ron, who lives on the island (Yes, there were some good things about the island, and Ron was one of them - more about him at the end of this post). The kayaks were leaking, sun baked, all the seats were torn out, and only one of two paddle was in good working order. There was no function fishing gear. It was really sad.

--Of the six air tanks we rented for the week, we got only a two half-dives each, because they were leaking so badly; they had never been stamped for inspection, and the O-rings on the 10+ year ld tanks were dry crusty originals. Two tanks were just flat out unusable, and two others leaked air even when the valve was closed with no regulator attached. We rented them from Amigos Del Mar dive shop in San Pedro, and while the poor quality wasn’t Cheryl’s direct fault, she was the one who set us up with them, even though her own staff at the island knew Amigo’s was one of the worst dive shops in San Pedro. Unfortunately, they were our ride out to the island, and we did three SCUBA dives with them, which was another story onto itself. We were rushed on the dives, we didn’t have enough dive masters down with us, and instead of a hot-barbecue lunch on an island, we were offered inedible cold food on the rocking boat; I couldn’t eat more than a few bites, even though we’d just had two dives after a small, early breakfast; my husband wouldn’t even try it, and everyone else threw most of theirs away too.

--Before we booked our trip, we really asked for only one only thing beyond the functioning SCUBA equipment: one steak dinner. We knew we’d get pretty tired of fish and chicken for a whole week. Well, guess what; no steak was purchase, we got pretty tired of fish and chicken. The food was tasty most f he time, and it was nice to have it prepared for us, but they couldn’t have spent more than $20 on food for both of us for the whole week combined for the whole week, but we got charged $50 per day. We did not eat one vegetable for the entire week, but we did have fresh fruit for two days, although the meat portions were never generous. There was always four times enough bread, only it was a month past its expiration date, and a dry as sand. We were taken out fishing one night by our dock and caught the fish we ate for three more nights, but we didn’t eat a tenth of what we personally caught, and we never saw it again. The “really good” tasting fish our guide caught mysteriously never got cooked; we’re guessing they got sold later.

--Jennifer, the cook/housekeeper, wasn’t even there when we arrived, and we ended up cooking for ourselves the first night and eating granola bars we’d brought with us for breakfast the next morning, before she got there in the afternoon of the second day. We were charged for her cooking meals that first day she wasn’t there anyways, and for the day we returned and didn’t eat on the island.

--The house itself hasn’t been maintained very well since it was built only two years ago- scary how fast it goes downhill down there! It was still lovely, all rough wood, but was very dark inside, and there wasn’t very good air circulation, even though there were fans, louvered windows, and the top foot of the walls was open to allow circulation between the rooms. The beds were nothing more than 6-inch springs with an inch of cotton batting, and not comfortable at all. Worst of all, all the screens have huge holes, and the bugs munch you all night.

--THERE WAS NO PRIVACY!! The bathrooms, bedrooms, living/dining area, and kitchen were all left open to each other along the ceiling line – ironic that it still didn’t allow enough airflow, but ruined any feeling of being alone or private in the bathroom or bedroom. We discovered they have no real building codes in Belize, and the engineering is left to local tradition. If you are looking for a romantic hideaway, you would have done better to stay at Glover’s Island in a tent.

--The electricity, provided by solar panels and batteries, went out almost every night, even though it was a particularly sunny week, with only one afternoon shower the whole time we were there, and it was gorgeously clear the rest of the time. The batteries were only two years old, but from what we were told, they hadn’t been maintained in all the whole time, and they just couldn’t hold enough electricity to last the night, even though we only ran lights a few hours after dark and the fans all night. And we only used the sheets one night; but the other 80 degree humid nights we sure did want a fan. I can only pity the people staying there when it’s even hotter, and the fans can’t run the whole night through. And then, of course, there’s no warm shower in the morning either.

--The biggest shock was the trash everywhere. It washes in from the ocean, and we were told there’s no way to keep up with it, but we were also told they had never made an attempt to actually clean up the island. When we say trash, we are talking every inch of the beach, one to two feet deep in some places, and 10-20 feet wide through the mangroves. It is vile, and after four of seven days into our trip, we must have commented enough on it that they hired some locals to clean up the stretch in front of the Calypso Retreat. Too little too late I’m afraid though.

--I was also shocked, at first, at how rough the place was, and how awful the bugs were. By the third day, I was in love with the pristine isolation of the place, but I really feel that full disclosure would be in everyone’s best interests. The couple who was there the week before us left after only two days - forfeiting their pre-paid week’s stay, and paying for another hotel inland for the rest of the week. The website kinda says how it’s rustic, but I don’t think it says it clearly enough; I read the website several times, but I didn’t understand the implications of what they hinted at, and neither would anyone else who hasn’t been to such an environment. For example, I’d read about and thought I could handle these things called “sand fleas” that jumped around your ankles and could be dissuaded with mineral oil; what I didn’t know about were the “sun flies” which are completely different bugs, - you can’t see them, even when you can feel that they’re biting you, and they’re so small they go right through mosquito netting. So basically you can’t go outside for a couple hours around dawn and dusk without getting bitten so bad you look like you have measles; apparently after you live with them for a few years you get so the bites just itch mildly for a few hours, but my arms and legs itched so bad I thought I’d go nuts; give me mosquitoes any day! They also filled the house at night, and going to bathroom was a dreaded experience because of them. Then there’s the fact, not even hinted on the website, that in the rainy season “mangrove island” means “funky-smelling brackish-water swamp.” There’s a reason the website doesn’t really have many pictures of the house itself, inside or out. Also, there aren’t any real beaches like we think of beaches; on the whole island there are only a few 50-200 ft long and 5-15 ft-wide stretches of sandy beach, with a big hump/line of grass/weed/debris where the waves wash it up, filled with TONS of trash everywhere. There are only a few trails around the island, and just a couple of boardwalks over swampy areas. This is no eco-paradise.

WORST OF ALL, now we’re home and ultra-busy trying to catch up with our small-business’ backed up work, sick as dogs with colds and stomach bugs back to back, and today when I went to pay my credit card bill, I found that CALYPSO CHARGED US ANOTHER $665 TWO WEEKS AFTER WE LEFT THE ISLAND!! Without even telling us they were charging more to our credit card, or telling us what it was for!!! Turned out it was for an extra day, but we were told we were paid up before we left for an itinerary of 7 nights - that did not change. We were also charged a rental fee on gear that we were told was included (BC and weights) and Cheryl even acknowledged that she knew the gear didn’t work, but charged us anyways. We also got charged for a guide that we didn’t order to bring us out on dives we couldn’t go on, because the gear didn’t work. We were also told transportation to and from the island was included (in writing twice) but we got charged twice for that too. We are astounded at the incompetence and callousness of Cheryl Steinmeyer and this Calypso Retreat, which is not retreat at all.

We’ll make sure to post an update of how our lawsuit we are filing this Friday turns out.

Okay enough of the bad stuff, HERE’S THE GOOD PARTS:

We absolutely loved the island and its surrounding waters and coral, we loved how natural and beautiful it was, but it’s surely not for everyone, and there are many other Cayes you would want to say at before choosing this one. I was so happy to be able to hop into warm water and snorkel within sight of the shore and sit out on the dock at night and shine my light on a crocodile.

The sad part is that I really wish I could say something nicer- the island is stunningly beautiful underneath all that garbage, and I’d go back to live there in a heartbeat if I could. There’s so much snorkeling and scuba diving and fishing and exploring to do around there, you could never get tired of it. Just pitch a tent if you go to Long Caye.
Posted By: CatMo

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 04:11 AM

Long Caye?

I'd call you a victim but for the fact that Long Caye's long been more than a questionable destination and the operations there more than survior level. Some web research and boards/forums would have provided that.

And I'm pretty doubtful of just what ADM's involvement was. I've been on many, many of their (dive) trips and seriously doubt their equipment was to blame. I suspect they were contracted to drop you off and nothing else there was connected to them. I've seen that happen before.

Let us know how the lawsuit pans out, though.
Posted By: indygal

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 04:22 AM

Wouldn't it be easier to just dispute the charges to your credit card? I am surprised you stuck it out, sure did not sound like a vacation.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 05:29 AM

I see that you posted this in two separate ares. Therefore I will respond to both,

I’m sorry to read that you had such a bad experience. I have stayed at Calypso at least three times and found the facility wonderful. I must admit I have not been there for ten months but hard to believe it would fall into disrepair in such a short time. I’ve stayed in the huge bedroom on the lower floor which was completely private and stayed in each of the rooms off of the dinning area. I don’t remember that they were open between rooms.

The times I went breakfasts were the only meals provided and we brought food for the other meals and the boat captain cooked for us. I have never gotten tired of fresh fish; but that’s just me.

Ron and his wife Linda who live on the island are wonderful and I’m happy to hear you had a good experience with him.
There are a lot of people who bought lots out there when it was first being developed. There were two different ventures that were to build dive shops there. Unfortunately this has never come to fruition. Cheryl took a big risk by building her B & B. I will go back any chance I get.

Amigos Del Mar has a good reputation as a dive shop here in San Pedro. They provide tanks to the majority of the shops here on Ambergris Caye.
I hope you continue to communicate with Cheryl and get this worked out to your satisfaction.
Posted By: JZB

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 06:24 PM

Sorry to hear about your experience. Your credit card company would surely remove any and all charges on your card if you explain the situation. A Lawsuit is a rather extreme course of action that would probably result in more headache for you than anything. Also file a complaint with the BTB or the BTIA.
Whichever you choose, good luck.
Posted By: ambergriscaye.us

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 08:13 PM

"All we can say is watch out, and protect yourself in Belize, or you’ll have problems! We found out the hard and expensive way this December, 2006"

Would you mind not blaming belize, it was an american who has your money, she is not belizean.. i do not like it being blamed on belize or belizean's when it is american owned and anamerican who has your money in america.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 08:36 PM

Ahh, yes. Please don't forget that America is the root of all evil in the world. Thanks for the public service announcement frenchie.
Posted By: ambergriscaye.us

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 08:42 PM

i just said what it is,. an american owns it, an american charged their credit card , an the money never touched belize. BUT on a much brighter note , since you reminded me, Belize Customs has now begun to read forum boards , so it won't be long before the tourist tax collector's will be as well.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! *DELETED* - 01/17/07 10:10 PM

Post deleted by Marty
Posted By: ambergriscaye.us

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/17/07 10:57 PM

you really really need a larger vocabulary ...

and on top of that, you foulmouthed on a tourist thread.. tsk

Posted By: Axeman

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! *DELETED* - 01/18/07 03:15 PM

Post deleted by Marty
Posted By: dogmatic prevaricator

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 03:20 PM

Sacrebleu grin
Posted By: Denny Shane

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 03:23 PM

Aber ich spreche Deutsch nicht
Posted By: Bobber

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 04:18 PM

In response to Axeman's comment. Years ago I was talking with my uncle who had worked in country with the French resistance during the war. His statement was that they had some very, very brave people, but not enough of them. Just a comment.
Posted By: ambergriscaye.us

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 06:45 PM

There are so many americans like you without ability to go past ww1 historically.. It is because of that attitude of your's why France and Germany , for the first time, were in agreement to say no to Iraq..They did not say no to the united nations in case your memory fails you.
Posted By: Amanda Syme

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 06:51 PM

Originally Posted by ambergriscaye.us
i just said what it is,. an american owns it, an american charged their credit card , an the money never touched belize. BUT on a much brighter note , since you reminded me, Belize Customs has now begun to read forum boards , so it won't be long before the tourist tax collector's will be as well.


The Belize tax man is definitely reading this board, as well as the rental and sales pages to ascertain who they need to pay a friendly visit to.
Posted By: travelqueen

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 07:10 PM

How far is Long Caye from AC?

Not to say you are wrong about AMD but honestly, that is hard to believe about their equipment. I have only heard wonderful things about their establishment.

That is too bad that your trip turned out so badly... you say one should pitch a tent... are there no other places to stay on the island??
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 07:14 PM

Yeah mon! The one thing I love about this world is that every nation has good people and unfortunately bad people. To categorize a nation's populace in one statement is, um......, moronic.

Mark Twain said: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." Unfortunately on a whole, Americans travel less than most other first world countries.

SIN
Posted By: Bobber

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 07:23 PM

Damn, there I go again. I always get WW1 and WW2 confused.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/18/07 10:29 PM

SIN -- very well stated. Americans have both the fortune and misfortune of not needing much beyond its borders.

Every country has idiots, but when you have as "sophisticated" a media as the U.S. has, it airs all the dirty laundry around the world. Imagine the whole world thinking we're like Britney, Paris, Maury, et. al. Holy crap! We need to travel more, but me thinks a lot of the world has a warped view of Americans as well.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/19/07 05:52 PM

Too bad it is so hard to get a tourist visa for those who want to experience how fun the US and it's Citizens can be.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/19/07 05:53 PM

Most of my friends are enlightened upon the return from a trip to "foreign".
Posted By: Bobber

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/19/07 06:28 PM

Why don't they just get a student visa? Then they can stay forever if they want.
Posted By: klcman

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/19/07 07:46 PM

Actually, Bobber (and I know you made that comment semi-tongue-in-cheek), student visas are more difficult to obtain now that a tourist visa. The bureaucratic red-tape from both the student, as well as the educational institution, are often overwhelming.

And, if you happen to be a single, unattached male, of a certain age group and from certain areas around the globe, nothing will help. I cannot tell you how many well qualified applicants I've seen turned down because of the unfortunate happenstance of birth.

Heaven forbid, too, that your interview occurs on a day when your embassy bureaucrat is nursing a hangover or PMS!



Posted By: Bobber

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/19/07 08:52 PM

I was definitely being tongue in cheek. Unfortunately, from some stories that have come to light over the past few years, apparently it was not always so stringent.
Posted By: klcman

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/19/07 08:55 PM

Of course it was not so stringent. Those controls,if indeed that is proper terminology, have been re-crafted, beginning in late 2002, and still have some soft spots.

I can vouch for some of those old stories and could tell you a few as well. Mind-boggling stupidity and ineptness.

Apologies for hijack, no pun intended!
Posted By: Coolio

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/20/07 10:19 PM

I say we get back to the nonsense surrounding Long Caye. I have been doing a lot of reading about this over the last few days and I cannot say I am impressed.
Posted By: Spyder

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/20/07 11:02 PM

Why get a visa? 11 million got in without!!!
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/21/07 05:08 PM

How much does a Big Mac cost these days?
Posted By: dabunk

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/21/07 05:21 PM

Do you want to know the upfront cost or the after eating costs?
Posted By: WeGotBelized

Re: Calypso Beach Retreat–STAY AWAY! - 01/29/07 05:31 AM

Hi all, I'm the original poster back again. I'm cutting and pasting a reply I made in another forum, to a lot of comments, including one from the owner of Calypso herself, though I won't re-post her comments here. If anyone wants to see the other discussion of this, go to the Belize Forums.

To specifically address the comments from THIS forum: if Amigos Del Mar has a good reputation in San Pedro, then the other dive shops scare me. I guess I wouldn't have been so unhappy with them if I'd just done the normal daytrip blue hole dive, but the fact that they dropped us off on a remote island with tanks that had never been inspected or serviced, which had corroded O-rings, and one of which was leaking even with the valve fully closed, was extremely wrong. They knew they could get away with it, and were playing a game with us. Even just the daytrip part wasn't very good: they rushed us through the dives, and the food was TERRIBLE!!! And served on the rocking boat, precooked and cold, instead of the promised "island cookout." And you know, we weren't going to say this, but we HEARD from the locals that they smoke pot up on the boat while the divers are down. Not sure if that's true, but that's what the locals were saying, and IF true, is unforgivable. So agree or not, that's our experience.

Now to address the posts from Cheryl, the owner of Calypso: First and foremost, she LIED when she wrote "We did not charge the guests for these tanks as I knew they had problems with the tanks." As I said in my first post, I didn't even see until I went to pay my credit card bill that she had charged us ANOTHER $665 two weeks after we left her facility, but when we demanded a reason, she sent us a list which included not only those tanks, but the other gear rented for that first day from Amigos Del Mar (though she'd told us that the first day's diving was already paid).

First of all, isn’t it good business practice, if not a requirement of Visa merchant services, to send us an e-mail or invoice TELLING us she was charging us more, even though we had authorized the original charge?? She was trying to slip it by, of course, hoping we wouldn’t notice or object. Before we left, we thought we had prepaid for everything except those six air tanks, (which she and Amigos del mar REFUSED to negotiate a price for until we were standing on the dock). Honestly after all the trouble we had with her and the tanks, we were expecting not to be charged for them, and for Cheryl to APOLOGIZE to us for the problems, and to be refunded part of our prepaid trip!

Her reasoning for most of the $665 unauthorized after-the-fact charge was the "guide services" we used while on the island, which she defends by saying "the prices are on my website." Well, here’s how it was: the day after we got to the island, when the staff actually showed up, there was Jennifer, the cook/maid, and Reeves, the local fisherman's son/boat driver. They both stayed in a room at Calypso, they both ate every meal with us, their primary purpose was to keep us happy - we thought they were included in the package. We were never told otherwise, so that’s a reasonable assumption, right? When we asked Reeves if we were paying for his gas and boat, he said “Cheryl’s paying for it. Don’t worry about it, this little motor hardly uses any gas.” We tipped him well, because he was the one responsible for really making our trip, helping us to appreciate the island in spite of all our problems with the facility and equipment. So while it is true, like she says, that she posts prices under “build your own package” for “half and full-day fishing trips” and “snorkeling tours” at the bottom of one page on her website, we sure as heck never saw them, NEVER were informed of them, and NEVER agreed to them. Before we left home, we had no intention of needing any “extra services” and we thought we’d be kayaking out to snorkeling and diving sites right off the island- which we would have done if we knew we’d be charged for the use of the 30-year-old skiff and Reeves’ driving services. Once we were on the island we didn’t get on the internet and go to her website to see if we would be charged for the friendly companionship of the local who was always there with us, the same way as the cook/maid. As a further irony, the fishing trip she mentioned in her e-mail as part of the extra charge was a couple hours one afternoon when we tagged along when Reeves was going fishing anyway, just a few hundred yards off thee front dock. We caught the five fish that were prepared for all four of us over the next three dinners, though we were still charged $50 a day for food on those days. We only ate a small portion of what we caught ourselves, and the rest disappeared; was it saved for other guests, sold, who knows?

Cheryl posted "most guests love the accommodations, the authentic Belizean dishes, the friendly staff, the remote beautiful location and the incredible snorkeling, diving and fishing." The island itself was GREAT. Her accommodations, equipment, and especially service were the problems. I AGREE that the diving is world class- so when her scuba equipment and the tanks she arranged for us failed, and we were 35 miles off shore, we were that much MORE frustrated!! We never said the food wasn’t tasty, just that we would have liked even ONE MEAL other than chicken or fish. And with all the fresh fruit and vegetables available in Belize, vegetables with even some of our dinners, and more than two lunch-sides worth of fruit would have been nice! (On a side note regarding food, I forgot in my first post to mention the refrigerator: dear gods of microscopic bugglies, it was awful! The freezer was solid black/brown on the bottom surface, with scary colors all up the sides; and the refrigerator couldn’t have been cleaned since it was first brought to the island, lots of food spills overlapping and sticking to whatever you put into it. Scary!

I guess the bottom line is that I UNDERSTAND that remote living is tough, and things break down, and it’s harder to keep standards as high as they would be inland. But we were neither asking for nor expecting a full-service extra-frills resort in downtown Belize City! We spend about 50-60 days a year camping as far into the middle of nowhere as we can get in the pacific northwest, for FUN. We live 25 miles from civilization, on acreage at the edge of a national forest. We understand that it’s not easy, and we plan accordingly. But we spent a lot of money for a nice week-long stay in paradise. We weren’t expecting AC and jewelry shopping and gourmet food; we were expecting a functioning room-fan, shower and kitchen. We were expecting a reasonably-nice-smelling toilet and excellent bug netting. We were expecting, because we had been reassured repeatedly that we would have it, functional scuba gear; we could have rented our own before we left the mainland, but we relied on Cheryl’s word. Ron, who lives on the island and functioned as our unofficial dive master, said he’d told Cheryl and her family that she needed to maintain her gear better, and wash it after using it in salt water; sounds basic, doesn’t it? So no, we weren’t charged for using it, but we would happily have paid to rent gear that worked, if we’d known.

Funny how reasonable and nice Cheryl sounds in her posting, and on her website. Oddly, she didn’t sound that reasonable when she responded to two of our e-mails in the last couple of weeks, ignoring our complaints by simply saying that’s just what she charges and we should have known. Well, we want to make sure everyone else knows from now on. Maybe not everyone will agree with our position, but we want to make sure everyone knows it at least. And yes, we’re already in the process of disputing it with the credit card.

So, on to everyone else’s comments! I really appreciate the responses we’ve been getting, and everyone’s concern and desire to reassure me that not all of Belize is like that – believe me, I knew that before I left the country, and can’t wait to come back. I’ll just do it smarter this time. So here goes:

We did about two months of research before our vacation; we bought several books, borrowed others from the library, watched videos, bought maps, and surfed the internet like you wouldn’t believe. Before we even got on the plane, we already knew that if it was everything we thought it was going to be, we were going to move there someday. Now we’re convinced; our next investigative & business trip is tentatively scheduled for August. So it wasn’t lack of research that got us into trouble. We came across Calypso on several Caye-resort lists, all the ones you can register your business with for no cost, but were concerned when we couldn’t find any online reviews. There was actually one posting on the forums, not in this category though, which basically said “Hey, has anyone heard of this place?” And Katie Valk, a local tour planner who has also replied in this posting-thread, said “Careful, I’m not sure they are who they say they are,” which I believe was related to the overall Long Caye development scam. So we wrote to her, and also to Lan Sluder, author of several of our favorite guide books and the Belize First online magazine, who answers questions thoroughly and posts them on his website, no matter how repetitive or seemingly minor. Great guy, great website. He promptly replied that they were indeed an actual business, new but not just a credit-card processing scam. We also asked our inland tour operator, Belizean Sun, to check with the tourist board or whatever registry there is, I can’t remember the name anymore, and Calypso was indeed registered with them. So basically we just figured they were a new business, and we’d have to work twice as hard to make sure we organized everything we’d need. However, the island is where we wanted to be; our next best option was going to be Glovers “Resort” but there were so many posts about the misconduct of the owners, and we got such unprofessional responses to our attempts to contact Glovers, both by phone and e-mail, that we gave up on them; we couldn’t get a straight answer about the scuba diving, while at least Cheryl was giving us clear assurances. So yes, it’s partly our fault for not staying someplace with more of a reputation, but we were asking tough questions and getting solid promises, and Calypso was the only lodging on the whole atoll where we wanted to be.

Another point related to research was our expectations for bugs: Calypso’s website didn’t say a word about them, and other forums were hazy at best and didn’t sound TOO bad at worst; the weeks before we arrived had been particularly wet, so the bugs were worse than anything we’d been reasonably expecting; again, that wasn’t Calypso’s fault at all, except the lack of ANY warning about ANY kinds of bugs. HOWEVER, the crummy bug netting/screens was, in my opinion, inexcusable. With all the holes, it didn’t even deter mosquitoes, but it was never even intended to deter the no-see-ums; I looked like I had measles, with literally hundreds of bites; and we hardly went outside at all from an hour before sundown to several hours after sunrise, and always had bug spray on, even just for sitting around indoors after dinner. The mosquitoes were a joke, not even half as bad as at home on a good day.

As for trash, yes I understand that sea-trash is a fact of life on the islands; but Half-Moon Caye, all of Turneffe Atoll, Ambergris, Caulker, and several others which we passed, had nothing like that, even in the uninhabited areas. And after we complained about it, they did clean up at least the area right in front of Calypso, but not very thoroughly, and not the rest of even the most commonly-used areas of the island. And yes, I know they burned it afterwards; the smoke was blowing towards us. Our neighbors at home do that too, without even the excuse of having to haul it 35 miles on a boat. Not much of an eco-friendly practice, though, huh?

We didn’t try our cell phones there; probably wouldn’t have worked anyway, not being on the Belize monopoly phone company plan. Probably no cell range anyway, they had to use satellite internet access, and used a net-based telephone service, like vonage or whatever, although I thought that was illegal in Belize too. We didn’t use our own laptop there, either, just their computer hooked up to the internet, and that only twice; the cook/maid was kinda reluctant to get off it for even five minutes in the evenings so I could check my e-mail and make sure the house sitter was doing all right.

Regarding the island itself, and the big property scams or whatever is going on there, I’m not in a position to tell the whole story; I don’t know enough myself. I know a lot of properties have been sold and not built on, and a lot more are not selling as the seller would like. I know a lot of the properties are under sludgy mangrove swamp; Calypso itself is on stilts and is half-surrounded by smelly swamp. I know that there’s a resort/restaurant that is closed and empty, along with a medical center. They have a hyperbaric chamber, only the second or third in Belize I think, but it’s just sitting in the box, unused; same with a high-quality scuba tank filling system: just rotting in the sea air.

The couple who live on the island, Ron and Linda, were another of the really good parts. They were great company, and extremely helpful. Ron’s the “island manager,” paid part-time since the island’s not really going anywhere right now. No, their boat wasn’t running when we were there- they were fixing it, though. They went into town on the same boat we returned on, and they have a great relationship with the Audubon people on Half-Moon Caye, the next island over. So basically, the boat that gets to the island the most regularly is run by Richard, sorry don’t know more than just his name. He was Reeves’ dad, he does all the shuttling of the Audubon people, and we saw him twice for the week we were there: once mid-week, and when he picked us up and took us back to Belize City. There were also small fishing vessels there every day, as well as several sailboats and cruise ships anchored around the island.

Ron and Linda are actually putting the final touches on a guest house of their own; they showed it to us, and we’ll definitely be staying there when we go back to lighthouse reef. If anyone wants to go to this wonderful island, I recommend they stay with Ron & Linda instead; we’d be happy to give you their e-mail address, and I’m sure they’ll have a website ready to go soon. The building quality was much higher than at Calypso, the bed we saw was actually comfortable, and if you were the only person/group there, you’d have privacy because you’d be alone in the guesthouse, instead of feeling like your room and bathroom were wide open to the kitchen and living room (sound-wise, at least).

So I think that answers everybody’s questions and comments, if I missed anything let me know. Sorry it’s so long, I just had a lot to say. Thanks again for listening and being so concerned for us, everybody! We really do know it’s not all of Belize itself, and don’t hold it against them.

(Oh yeah, and my screen name, WeGotBelized - I know Cheryl’s not Belizean, but Belize offered the setting and opportunity for our rip-off: so yes, in spite of our best efforts, we did go to Belize and get taken.)
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