Belize Trip Report
by: dbdoberman, AmbergrisCaye.com Message Board
Started off very good, everything right on schedule, but I didn't have time to meet Jet before catching my Maya Air flight. I really enjoyed the flight over. We dropped a passenger off at Caye Caulker, and were quickly airborne in a matter of minutes. It was nice getting to see CC, but the view coming up was even better - that beautiful water! I arrived on AC mid afternoon, sunny day, nice and warm. I was met by the lovely Nubia from Playa Blanca, who gave me the warmest welcome. Other folks going to PB were arriving on the flight after, so instead of leaving me sweltering in the heat, I was taken to Cholos to relax with my first ICE COLD BELIKIN! Ahhhhhhh! May I have another please? I met Shlomo, the new chef at PB, on the dock, and immediately enjoyed his colorful personality. When the other couple arrived, off we went to PB. Loved the ride up the coast, such a beautiful coastline. Gaz was attending a dive show in NJ when we arrived, so Andy the DM, gave an orientation and showed me to my lodging. I had asked that the fridge be stocked with a case of belikin and sodas, and so it was. I kicked off my shoes, scrunched my toes in the sand, enjoyed the belikins, gazed at the beautiful water, and decided life was very good. I chilled right there for the rest of the day.
I awoke the next day to find a norther had come to visit for a few days. It cooled things down some, and the sun disappeared. What to do, what to do? Go to San Pedro, of course! Off I went, and was sure glad I had packed that windbreaker! At SP, I went straight to BC's for the BBQ. It took some time to get the food, but was worth the wait. There was quite a wind, and some rain, but fortunately, I was seated at the back on the southside - and nothing distracted me from my BBQ! It was delicious. I looked around for Hope and the gang of banditos, but may have been early. Missed meeting you, Hope. I did however, get to meet Charlene, and what a warm, friendly person she is. Rented a golf cart and went as far south as I could, turned around, found my way to the soccer field and watched some young girls play for awhile. I started north again, determined to cross the cut. I passed Coconet and took note of it, so I could drop in to meet Peter on the return south. Within a few blocks, I spotted a beautiful white dog, accompanied by a gorgeous lady. I stopped to ask if the dog was Peter's, and found that it was indeed Charlie, and the great looking babe was Tina. Very nice talking to her. I got an invite to join them for drinks, and said thanks, I might on the return trip south - I was on a mission to see what was north. Peter, you better nab her, what a sweetheart!
Sorry I missed seeing you, but definitely was glad to meet her! Onward! The wind made crossing on the hand ferry an adventure of it's own. Mine was the last golf cart allowed over that day, and everybody had to help pull. Bumping along the golfcart path, I stopped at Palapa's for a quick belikin, then to Sweet Basils to put in an order for on the way back. I went as far as Capt. Morgans, then back to Sweet Basils. YUM! By the time I got back to the ferry, the crossing was even more difficult. None of the ferrymen had gloves, and one had suffered some nasty rope burns. Everybody helped pull again, and at the other side, folks had to get off quickly, it was hard to hold the ferry in place. Started south again, and went to the Water Treatment Plant to see if Satan was hanging around. I stayed for a short time, but no sign of him. I turned in the golf cart, caught a ride with Andy, and went back to Playa Blanca.
Monday was another dark and windy day, but who cared? I was off to Lamanai! I was picked up early by Rico of Searious, and was taken to SP to meet up with the rest of our group. Rico was both entertaining and informative. The crossing over to the mainland was wild, the wind really had the water roughed up, but we made it fun with various sound affects everytime there was a good bump. Of course we hit a sandbar right before we got to the river, so what else could we do but get out of the boat to pull and push. We pretended we were doing the scene from "African Queen", so even that was enjoyable. Finally got started up the river. The breakfast of fruit and delicious johnnycakes hit the spot. So many birds to see, and Rico knew them all. I wish I could remember the names, especially those HUGE storks we saw flying around. Must be the storks who bring the multiple babies. Got to Bomba with just enough time to take a gee whiz, then into the bus for a fantastic road trip. I enjoyed hearing the history of the road, and how Bomba got it's name, loved seeing the farms, the Mennonites have a large one here, and the brahma cattle ranchers. More flora and fauna were described, so very interesting. We switched from the bus, back to a boat for a trip up, or is that down, the New River. We were not the first boats on the river that morning, so were told not to expect to see crocs - and we didn't. The boat stopped now and then to point out more of nature's sights. It was cool to see locals, sometimes in dugout canoes, and Mennonites fishing along the way. When we got to Lamanai, we enjoyed a tasty lunch prepared by the guide's mother. After lunch we began our tour of the ruins. The history of this site is amazing, with incredible restoration work being done, but funds might run out in a year. If the project should stop due to lack of funding, it would surely be everyone's loss. I saw a family of howler monkeys, complete with a little one, and could have watched them for hours. The howls of monkeys in the distance were eerie. The ruins are so impressive, and it was wonderful getting to watch the restoration in progress. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone. You get a river trip, ruin tour, nature outing, and countryside tour all rolled into one. The bus brought us back to Bomba to shop at the vendors set up there, and then back into the boat. The trip back was much quicker, and I returned to Playa Blanca in time to shower and enjoy a delicious dinner. Gaz came back that day, and I had the opportunity to talk to him over dinner. What an interesting guy. Over the remainder of my stay, we talked about environmental issues, diving, politics, education, housing, and his love of AC. I learned much from him.
The next morning was even more of the relentless windy weather, even the water inside the reef was very rough. I had planned on diving, but wasn't sure if I wanted to try it in these conditions. I had put off diving long enough though, so I took Seashell's advice, took my anti-chum pills, and went diving. Much to my chargrin, they really didn't help, and I was in the water and had to abort the very first dive (after swallowing a mouthful of seawater, and feeling some panic). The past few years of diving had not been in seas like this. I had forgotten what diving in swells 6-8 ft. could be like. With the help of Andy, PB's DM, I was soon in the water (which was a good thing, because the swells only got bigger with each passing day) and enjoyed diving the Pillars where I saw the biggest jewfish I had ever seen, a big turtle, jacks and groupers. Spent our surface interval snorkeling Shark Ray. There were many rays, 3 sharks, and lots of jacks. Then on to Victoria Tunnels. Viz wasn't the best, but not bad. I sure wish the sun would have been shining to see all the color, but it was good diving all the same. Before dinner, I walked the golfcart path, and then beach south to Mata Chica, then north past the condo construction, checking the lagoon for critters along the way, and walked back on the beach. Nice and peaceful. I cancelled the night dive at Hol Chan, but I heard it was great. I love night dives, but not in those conditions. What a wuss!
to be continued.......
More morning dives, Love Tunnels and Happy Hour sites. Both had loggerhead turtles, eagle rays, and groupers. I loved the formations at these sites. Some of the swells are now 10 ft. Maybe that's not pushing the envelope for some, but it was enough for me. What an adrenaline rush, in those big breaking waves, trying to find the cut to get back through the reef. Andy is that good. Wednesday evening found me back in SP. Went to check on Satan, still a no show. I enjoyed dinner at Jambel Jerk - which ended up being my favorite place. Next I went to the chicken drop, didn't win, but had a super time. Linda Carter, who runs the chicken drop, is so very funny. After that, I had time to browse a few shops before catching Category 7 at Fido's. What a great band! Enjoyed the tunes and good vibes of the crowd, but I had to leave early, the Blue Hole trip was the next morning. Waiting to catch a ride with Andy, I talked to two guys who had come up after a dive that day and.....no boat. The boat motor had quit, and the boat drifted away. Over an hour later, a swedish couple in a sailboat picked them up. What an exciting tale to be able to tell, and how lucky they are to be around to tell it.
I was waiting on the dock for the 5:30 am pickup by Amigos Del Mar. Picked up others along the way, and saw thimble jellyfish at Journeys End dock, the only signs of pica pica during my stay. Once at Amigos Del Mar dock, we transferred to their very nice 48 ft. boat, and along with 17 others, began the long trip. The weather still did not want to cooperate, but it was a great group, no complainers. I enjoyed viewing Caye Caulker and Turneffe from the water. Finally, we arrived at the Blue Hole, and after a very detailed briefing, the crew did a great job getting everybody into the water. For the dive, we were split into two groups, each having a DM leading, and one bringing up the rear. Even with a caution to watch our depth, I looked at my gauge at one point, I found myself at 140 feet. If you do this dive, pay close attention, this was so easy to do. I was awed by the stalactites, and wish we could have had more time down there, but we soon headed back up to 40 feet, and it was time for the sharks.
I knew they were probably there, but had totally forgotten about them. They were provided a little snack (not a diver), and came fairly close in. This happened quickly, but I think there were two reef and one bull shark. The viz was not that good, and as they zoomed in out of the gloom, it was very surreal. They left as quickly as they had appeared, back into the murk.
Back onboard, I heard comments ranging from "unbelievable" to "wasn't worth it". If you stop to consider how amazing it is to dive such a geological wonder, a cave not completely collapsed, forming an almost perfect circle, those amazing stalactites, it should seem incredible. We headed to our next dive site.
The DM during his briefing only called it "Long Caye Wall", never naming the specific site. It was a great dive. Fish, critters, corals, sponges, many of the things that I had not seen diving around AC. The viz was a vast improvement over my previous dives.
Time for our long surface interval, and more importantly LUNCH! We arrived at Half Moon Caye, an enchanting island. The lunch was very good, and appreciated by all. A group of us did the nature walk to see the booby birds. The floor of the preserve is alive with hermit crabs, some of the largest I had ever seen, huge termite nests, and the occasional frigate or booby along the way. At the end of the path is an observation platform. Climbing up brings you to treetop level, with a view of countless boobys/boobies? (don't get excited men), frigates, and sizable iguanas. Time to climb down and get back onboard to do the last dive. I had asked our DM if we would be diving the Aquarium - the dive that many boarders say is one of the best. He said they would check out the viz, but probably we would, as it is normally the third dive. In just a very short time, we arrived at a site that I don't know the name of, and was told we would enjoy a drift dive from there and end up at the Aquarium. YES! If the last dive was a great dive, this one was a superduper, humdinger of a dive. Great schools of fish, eels, groupers, lobsters, turtles, corals, sponges, and much, much more - a superior wall dive. My only complaint is that we were not allowed to dive our own profile. I understand keeping us bunched up for the Blue Hole dive, it is a potentially dangerous dive, but there was absolutely no flexibility on the two wall dives. Other than that, diving with Amigos Del Mar was effortless diving. They made it easy. Everyone was happy with that dive, and the whole day gave us plenty to discuss on the long trip back to AC. The post dive belikins and snickers were a big hit as well. I arrived back at PB for another fantastic dinner, and was out like a light soon after.
What a great day, if you have time, do this one!
I had planned on doing some morning dives, but clearly the seas were bigger than any of the other days, so I decided to let the dives of the previous day be the memories I took away with me. Soaked up some sun, and early afternoon found me on the boat to SP. Had a great lunch at Papi's - another favorite! Rented a golf cart again, and looked around the residential neighborhoods of the San Pedranos. Stopped and talked to many folks, all very nice. They appeared to want to talk to me as much as I wanted to talk to them. Gave a group of young guys a donation - the story was they needed sponsors for their team. True or not, it wasn't much, so why not? Little kids begged for rides and got them, along with the small toys that I had in my backpack. They squealed like it was Christmas. It made me happier than it did them. Evening was coming, so I headed south again, stopped and bought some chicken for the invisible croc (won't do it again, Simon), gave a lady just off work a ride south, then headed back to the water plant. Quite a crowd this time. I found out that I had left too early on Wednesday evening. Somebody had arrived with a great deal of chicken, and Satan did show up for dinner. I was the only one with chicken this night, a small amount, and was told the best way to see Satan was to lay it at the water's edge. So I did, and waited, and waited, and waited. BAH! It just was not meant to be. I gave up, headed back to SP to turn in the golf cart and head to Caliente's for dinner. I swear every place is my favorite place. It was delicious. I had also gained a buddy - the cutest little white pup. I wanted to take her home with me, but the folks at Caliente's said impossible. It was too late on a Friday, and nothing would be open on Saturday. I was heartbroken, she had a great personality. I have folks looking for her (thanks SimonB). She did seem to be in excellent condition , so maybe she was just lost. Folks told me that they had seen one that looked like her with a mamma dog around Ramons. By the time I left Caliente's, the pup had disappeared, so I headed to Fido's to catch Barefoot Skinny. What a blast! Tim started off by telling the bartender to turn off the CNN crap. Loved it! He played a few instrumentals, then jumped into some livelier tunes. A member of the audience asked to sit in for a few, and he graciously allowed him to not only use his guitar, but his harmonica. The guy was ok, but I was glad when he finally left the stage.
I had the pleasure of meeting kayesscee/Kelly, a fellow boarder, with a super personality and great sense of humor. She has moved to AC, and is in the process of writing a book, a potential bestseller. She told me where Harriette lived, but it was too late to go and meet her. Didn't know it at the time, but SimonB was there with Kelly, another one missed. The absolute highlight of the evening was meeting Paisano. He initially came up to sell me a shell. Tim introduced him to the crowd as his father, so of course Paisano had to join his "son", on stage for a number. He accompanied Tim on the guitar case, and the guy rocked! It was all fun, and I had the best time watching him work the crowd, and flip folks off. I did get to tell him that I knew a lady who was sweet on him. He wanted to know who? who? or maybe he said "what you say?" I reminded him that it was Becky, of course! I forgot to ask him about his impending nuptials to Becky. haha! I can see why you find him so special, Chloe. He oozes charm. Is his name really Habib? The next break, I went to Sharks Bar to find Andy the DM from Playa Blanca. It was his birthday, and I wanted to celebrate it with him. Didn't see Andy, he had crashed back at PB after doing 4 dives that day. After enjoying a belikin, I headed back to Fido's, and finished up the evening when Tim did. I caught the late ferry back to PB, and decided I would try my best to finish off the belikins left in the fridge. That took me until 3 AM. The stars that night were close and bright - it was finally warm enough to stay out and enjoy the night. Heavenly.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, so after catching 3 hours sleep, and packing up, I said goodbye to my Playa Blanca family, had my last boatride to SP, and headed to the airport. What a brilliant day! Absolutely gorgeous, wouldn't you know it? A good day for flying......I suppose. Soon enough I was on Maya Air, landed, and had enough time before my flight to go to Jet's Bar, and meet Jet. We talked some, I asked him how he was feeling now, and he said better than he had, but he still had to deal with some health problems. I wish him the very best, he's just a darn nice guy.
Regrets: didn't spot Bill Thornton, didn't find Harriette, didn't meet Hope and Pedro, didn't go to Barcalar Chico - but I will next time, klc! Other than that, it was all good. Even the weather didn't stop me in my pursuit of enjoyment. NYGal told me a few times to be flexible, and that is very important advice. With so much to do, there are always alternatives. There just isn't enough time.
I absolutely fell for the charm of AC. The warmth of the San Pedranos, those wonderful old wooden structures, and the many contrasts to life in the US, all made it appealing to me. I will return of course, once you lose your heart to the place, you own a piece of it. Did that last sentence bring a tear to your eye?
Thanks to the boarders for answering my countless questions, and giving me many great tips. It definitely helped, I had a map in my head based on this information, and to my amazement - things weren't too far off.
I'll be back *said in my best Arnold voice*
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