Belize Trip Report, 5-15-2003
by: River Shark
Day 1 Friday May 2
Debbie and I make it to the airport just in time to get an early morning strip search. First leg of flight - no problem, even got in to DFW early. Met Eracsder (Gene), Islenutt (Jan), and a couple of girls not on the board, but interested in how our group had got together - so we told them about the board. A slight problem with the plane kept us from leaving Dallas for a couple of hours . Fortunately we arrived at BZE just in time to get the last flight to AC (via Caye Caulker - quite a landing strip there).
We arrive at dusk, so going thru San Pedro in the van was a little hard to get a handle on the town and how it's laid out. They block some of the main streets in the evening on weekends so we zig-zagged thru town. Islenutt heads for Banana Beach, and our van drops Gene at the Mayan Princess.
When we arrived at the Paradise Villas, we find that Kristen with Hustler has provided us with a fridge full of Belikin & Coke. We take in the view of the ocean from our balcony (room 2-B is Great), then go to Wet Willys for some sustenance and brew. Gene and I walk the beach down to Sharks Bar taking in all of the nightlife of a Friday night. Fido's is jammin' and next door the Roman Catholic Church is holding services, while just up the street the street vendors are peddling their wares. Sharks' Bar has live music and everyone is having a blast.
Morning comes early on the island when you dive, so we decided to call it a night around mid-night.
Day-2 Saturday May 3
Going Diving Today ! Hustlers' taking us out beyond the reef - what a ride. When we hit the open water coming across/thru the reef, the clam waters turn into 8-10' swells, we hold on a little tighter and keep our mask/snorkel close at hand just in case. It's obvious that the sea knows whose boss.
The size of the reef is amazing. Fields and fields of coral, sponges, and fans galore. We are somewhat disappointed at the lack of marine life. After a 65-70', we return to the dock for our surface interval. The second dive in the same general area is about the same - nothing spectacular, but some good bottom time blowing bubbles and a beautiful view of the world below the surface.
After off-gassing in the room for an hour or so , we decide to look for food once again and end up at the street vendors by the central park. The chicken, rice and beans were pretty good, I don't think I could live on it but they don't seem to have any problem eating it everyday.
We decide to take refuge in Lagniappe's for a cool drink. Just as we are sitting down, Debbie points up and says - "Doesn't that guy look familiar?" I turn around and sure enough it's Captjeff, my soon-to-be-fishing companion. After introductions we all decide to meet up at BCs the next day for the BBQ. Oh, and by the way, Lagniappe' has the best burger in town / on AC / and in Belize for that matter. We crash for the evening, beat and ready for bed.
But the island is not without it's downsides.
In the middle of the night the electricity decides to go down. I'm here to tell you - that place gets really dark when there is no light coming form anywhere - not even a moon. Thank God for the flashlight (and whoever came up with that idea on the board).
Electricity is only one of the creature comforts we have come to take for granted in the states - water is another. Without electricity we had no water . I assume that the water is pumped by electricity, hence the problem. This would be an ongoing situation throughout the week.
Day-3 Sunday May 4
Up with the sun and down to the dive shop just to find out they want us to come back at 10:30 to go to Hol Chan for a 1-tank dive and a snorkel. While I'd rather do a 2-tank dive beyond the reef, I figure we have all week to do those types of dives, and this gives me a chance to dive with the wife on an easy dive. Hol Chan proves to be a shallow yet challenging dive. With a strong current pushing us, we find the marine life we have been searching for. We saw large Groupers, lots of fish and a very large eel. I followed Debbie and dive master Everett, with Gene bringing up the rear.
Debbie had a ball. Everett took such good care of her, leading her by the hand, showing her things and helping her with the current. This frees me up to have more fun and less worry about her. After a bad experience with the dive operators in the Florida Keys, I didn't know if she would ever dive again (she threatened to sell her equipment after that trip last year). She told Everett he had saved diving for her and I believe it even though it would prove to be the only dive she would do this trip due to the wind.
I would just like to comment again on the job Everett of Hustlers did. He took such good care of my wife. I would recommend him to anyone diving - Novice to Pro .
After diving we found the power and water had returned . Then we sprinted to BCs for the BBQ. We saw CaptJeff, Islenutt, Eracsder, Chuckelbutt, d6pack and wife, Seaislegal (151 rum in Jell-O shots?) and group, Becky Bound for Belize, Pedro, and many others from the board.
It was a great time, and a great opportunity to put faces with board names. The BBQ was really good, almost as good as my own.
OH YEAH, 6PACK don't forget to email me for those recipes.
Another day in paradise shot, but not wasted. Time to think about the fishing trip on Monday with Captjeff. Gene comes down and helps me knock off some of the grog in the fridge. While we plan to fish he plans on going to the Blue Hole on Monday. We are all beat from a full day so we call it a night.
Day 4 Monday 5/5/03
Fishing With Captjeff (the Roy D. Mercer of the travel industry):
When I think of fishing, I think of a relaxing afternoon under a shade tree - just kicked back. Not the case fishing in Belize with Captjeff. This was some intense fishing. First our guide and his son took us to the mangrove swamps west of AC to catch sardines to use for bait. We weaved through the mangroves like a jet plane through the clouds, what a ride!!! Beacho took us around Cayo Espanto, the exclusive private island resort - its nice to see how the other half live.
Beacho used a net to catch the bait and it was so cool to watch. He would watch the water very intently and when he saw the bait he would throw the net out and pull it back in - full of sardines. We even went into the mangroves through an opening that was just barely big enough for the boat (after we put the canopy down) - but we still had to come out the way we went in.
The high winds were going to keep us from fishing on the reef, but we can stay on the westside of AC where the waters are protected from the wind.
After we had the live well full of bait we tried to fish just out of the mangroves, in an open area with the wind blowing very hard. My first cast caught my first fish, a yellow tail snapper, not real big but he put up quite a struggle. We decided to go back to the shallow protected area on the eastside of AC, where the wind would not be such a nuisance. In the shallows we spotted a shark chasing a school of yellow tails, so we followed him as close as possible, casting right in front of him and pulling out fish right and left. This was great fun until the shark gave us the slip a few minutes later.
Next we came upon a dolphin feeding in the shallows, just minding his own business. I just couldn't leave well enough alone, I had to get in the water to see if he would interact with me (we did this in Bimini on a wild Dolphin excursion). Needless to say this dolphin has never been to Bimini, and he probably doesn't know any of those dolphins at all, cause he didn't even give me the time of day. As soon as my fins hit the water he vamoosed out of there - he didn't pass go and he didn't collect $200 - he just got the hell out of Dodge. So there I was in the water, next to a fishing boat and no ladder or platform to get back on the boat - guess who didn't think this thru? Fortunately for me, after they picked themselves up off the floor (from laughing) Captjeff, Beacho and Mrs. Shark were able to pull my butt back into the boat. So much for my wild dolphin encounter.
We fished for 3-4 hours catching fish like there was no tomorrow. I'm standing on the back of the boat, having gotten comfortable casting that open-faced reel, when I loose it. That's right the rod, the reel, hook, line and sinker and of course the bait. Well I never loose anything that's not mine if I can help it - so first I reach for it but it's sinking. I reach one more time and over I go - head first into the drink. Jeff gave a 9.88 on form, Beacho gave me 9.76 on style and my wife just called me "You Idiot". So there I was again, next to a fishing boat with no ladder or platform to climb back on. Just then Beacho pulls out a ladder from the storage area. Great but where was it when I went in earlier - Oh well, at least it made it a little easier this time to get back on the boat
After another drying off spell it was time to head back to SP, through the mangroves, then past the ferry and back to the room.
We decided to get cleaned up, then go to lunch with the Capt. and his crew. Gene (Eracsder) hooked up with us, and the Capt. took us over the ferry to Sweet Basil's for lunch. Most had salads, I had pasta and Carlissa had the burger - I've got to tell you that burger looked great. Pasta was Okay, and the salads were huge, but that burger__. I wish I had got the burger. Capt. took on a tour of the town then it was time to relax and get ready to go out for the evening. We decide that we will go to Jackie's Birthday party but we will have to make it an early night as we have plans to dive early on Tuesday.
Went to BB for the party but had to leave early. I hope everyone had a good time.
Day 5 5/6/03
Well the wind that kept us from going out to the reef to fish on Monday, looks like it is going to keep us from diving on Tuesday. We accept this to be the way it is and decide to take it easy and just hang out at the pool and relax. Later that evening I hoof it down to Sharks Bar for a pizza to go - back to the room and down for the night. We saw Piasano, shaking his cane and cussing some boys in a truck that had yelled something at him. He was pissed. My big accomplishment for the day is to get a case of Coke at the distributor south of town.
Day 6 5/7/03
Well will today be different than the last two - Nope, the wind is still up and no one is diving out over the reef. The big boats are able to go to Blue Hole but that's it. Another day to kick around town, do some shopping and eat. I had a burger (finally) at Lagniappe's - IT WAS GREAT. Just like the Capt. said - better than back home. We find Gene who went on a land tour the day before and was wounded when the boat hit a big wave and threw him out of his seat. We have the fish from our fishing excursion, so we decide to take it to Elvi's that night for them to cook. We have them fry part of it and the rest we have them cook in their garlic sauce (ANOTHER GREAT MEAL). Gene has the pork chops and is pleased. We go back to the room and try to plan for Thursday - if the wind are down. Gene is instrumental in helping me get rid of those nasty Belikins in the fridge.
Day 7 5/8/03
Thursday is no different than previous days, wind , wind and more wind. I walk the beach in search of a dive shop going out - anywhere. Aqua dives is going to Hol Chan, but we did Hol Chan on Sunday. We decide to take the island ferry to Caye Caulker. Gene, Mrs. Shark and myself leave on the 11 AM ferry and arrive around 11:30. We have lunch at the Rasta Pasta, and although I wanted to meet Marilyn, they were busy and I did not want to intrude. We walk the island and end up in a three story tree house/bar with swings for seats, this place is COOL. After a cool drink we board the ferry for our return trip back to AC. When we get back to AC, I start my quest to dive. Shop by shop I go asking what the itinerary for Friday is. Each one gives me the same answer - Maybe the wind will lay tonight so we can go tomorrow. I asked Hustler about going to Blue Hole and Billy suggest I go on Saturday. Well that would be okay if I was diving locally on Friday, but that did not seem like it was going to happen. Next stop Amigos Del Mar, the only dive shop that could tell me for sure (within reason), that they would be going to Blue Hole on Friday - I sign up for the trip.
Now I've got to tell you I had absolutely no intentions on diving the Blue Hole when we got to AC. I thought I would be able to keep busy diving for a week at the sites just off of AC. Wrong, the wind had other ideas. I thought the Hole was - Overpriced, Overrated, and Over-dived. Well, so much for my opinion.
Gene had wanted to dive it, but after he was wounded on his tour, he had decided to stay out of the water, just to be safe. When he heard I had signed up for it he just had to go. So there we are signed up and ready to go.
Debbie, Gene and myself meet Captjeff, Carlissa, and d6pack & wife at Lagniappe for dinner and it was great. I had a Cuban dish that was pretty much like home-cooked beef roast, w/potatoes and carrots. This hit the spot. Most of the others had ham steak and everyone for the most part was very satisfied.
Another early night due to rising early on Friday (4:45).
Day 8 5/9/03
Up before the Crack of Day. First thing is to get to Gene's and put a dressing on his wound that would not come off during the 3-dives of the day. We fixed his hand and he put his glove on it for the day. At 6AM we're off for the Hole, but the seas are rough with 8-10 and sometimes 12' waves in the open water crossings. We skirted the other cayes south until we got to St' George's Caye where we headed east across the open water. For about 30-minutes the boat was thrown wave to wave. When the captain would shut the motor down, we knew we were going to hit a big wave - GRAB YOUR ASS AND HANG ON TIGHT!
When we got to the Turneffe area it was beautiful and the water was calm. Then we headed out of Turneffe near Blackbird Caye and within 100-yards or so we hit a turbulence of water going all directions. This rougher than anything we had experienced yet. We felt like the boat on the "Perfect Storm" - straight up, then straight down - or so it seemed. After another 20-30-minuets we were in Lighthouse Reef.
Normally you dive your deepest dive than the shallow dives - Not Today. Due to the conditions we are told we will dive the "Hole" last. That will put us closer to AC when we are done.
I honestly don't remember much about the first dives, they were so overshadowed by the "Hole", that I can't remember much. The Aquarium - Lots of fish & a nice wall. The other dive (I don't remember the name) about he same. Then lunch on Half Moon Caye. After we had lunch, chicken, beans/ rice, and potato salad (how'd you guess), we went on a tour of the island. We saw Iguanas, Red Footed Bobbies, Frigates, and Albatrosses. We took a pretty long surface interval at this time due to our diving profile. Then it was time to head for the "Hole". 15-20 minutes later we're there, sitting in the middle of the Blue Hole.
This is an awesome site. As you sit in the "Hole", you can turn completely around and see the coral surrounding you. The boat ties to the mooring line and divers swim about 150-200' feet to drop sight.
After all gather everyone drops down at the same time and again gather at 45' depth.
We are told that if anyone has trouble equalizing that they would only have 4-minutes to get it accomplished after that they would be left to go back to the boat as they would not be able to catch up to the rest of us.
After all gathering we drop over the edge of the wall - at about 100' we see the wall stops and become a roof to the cavern with huge stalagmites hanging down 40-50' long and quite thick, like the trunk of an oak tree (upside down).
At 138' I swam thru the stalagmites weaving in and out and shining my light on the walls and roof.
It was totally awesome, and very surreal - no current to deal with, a very calm relaxing feel. We thought this must be how it is to be in outer space.
BE SURE TO TAKE A DIVE LIGHT!!!
After about 10-minutes of bottom time, we slowly start to ascend to the surface. As I look at my computer to make sure I'm not going up too fast or running low on air, I see a group of Gray Reef or Bull Sharks about 30-40' below me. I shine my light on them for an instance then decide that probably is not a good idea as it might make them curious about the bright light (must be something to eat!). As I look at them I can count 9, but I figure there has to be more that I don't see (maybe as many as 20). The divemaster is motioning for us to proceed up - as we reach the down line we see extra air tanks that have been lowered for our safety to 25' - we perch above the shelf, the sharks come out of the deep blue right in front of us. At this time the divemaster has signaled the boat and they start throwing fish parts over the side to the sharks. The sharks hit the pieces of fish like bass hitting lures, snagging them and diving back into the hole. One of the sharks looked me in the eyes from about 15' away - and let me tell you it was a bone chilling experience, but I would do it again in a heartbeat!
They go at it for about 5-minutes and when the fish runs out they are gone. Like phantoms in the night they are gone back to the mysterious depths of the Blue Hole. There are only two operators on AC that feed the sharks when they come up out of the deep, Hustler and Amigos Del Mar (according to Billy at Hustler).
Then it was a 2-hour ride back to AC. Beat and tired Gene and I regroup that evening to recap the day and polish off a few more of those damn Belikins.
Day 9 5/10/03
Gene heads home today, so we meet for breakfast at Estel's. I have gained a good friend on this trip and we talk of doing it again either in Roatan or back to the Bahamas. So long to Gene - a good guy to know. Mrs. Shark and I decide to get a golf cart and check out the island - end to end. We get a gas powered cart and head north. Just after crossing the ferry we come across a family of four (husband, wife and two young daughters), pushing their cart (electric) toward the ferry. They have run out of power and have been limping along for a couple of miles. We hook our cart cable locks together and pull them to the ferry. We offered to take them on across and to their destination, but as we try to pull them up on the ferry, the lock breaks and we have to pus them on by hand. They headed across and we head back north.
As we go north we pass several very nice homes on the East side of the island. To the west the lagoon water, in the ditches, is sometimes very brown and smells bad (probably sewage). The road is very rough and gets narrower and narrower as you go. We pass some plywood homes further north and feel sorry for the people living in them. At Journey's End we decide to turn back. When we get back to the other side of the ferry we eat at Papi's. Now I know a lot of you like this place, so I guess I have to think I probably should have had something other than the soup. If you guessed Chicken Soup and Rice on the side you guessed right, just too much curry.
We head south out of town, past the beer distributor, past BB, down to the lagoon. I had heard of the Satan, the crocodile in the lagoon. I figured he probably is only a tale tail - WRONG. When we pulled up to the lagoon we saw what we thought was a rock or stump out in the water 50-60' out. Another cart pulled up next to us and about that time the "rock" raised it's tail out of the water. We just about shit our collective britches. The other cart took off and we took some pretty good pictures. After gathering ourselves we headed further south on the main road. There are some really big termite nest in the trees as we near the end of the road. Just before we turn around we are swarmed by biting flies and sweat bees. Thank God for the gas cart - it has the power to get us out of the area fast.
I decide to dive Turneffe with Amigos on Sunday with much inner turmoil - it's Mother's Day, it's our last day on AC, and I am going to leave my wife to go on an all day dive trip - WHAT A GUY!!!
After tuning in the cart we head for Cocina Caramba for dinner. Very good menu selection, service was great. We see some other board members eating there - Islenutt, Seaislegal and their entourage. This is only the second time we have seen Islenutt since we landed and would be our last. (Jan, Debbie said she really would have liked to spend more time getting to know you.)
Day 10 5/11/03
Down to Amigos at 5:30. We head south at 6 AM. The wind is down just a bit so the ride is not as rough as it was on Friday.
At 7AM the captain shut s down the boat at St. George's Caye, no where near our first dive. We haven't even started our open water crossing. We are a couple of hundred yards off the caye, and are drifting toward the shore. When we get close enough we hook up to a pier. The crew has already figured out the problem - one of the engines has pumped all of it's oil of thru the dipstick - something about an exhaust filter that clogged and caused the problem. At 9 AM another Amigos boat brings us more oil and in a few minutes we are up and running again. After checking everything we head east toward Turneffe.
1st dive is a wall dive with a lot of current about 70' with pretty good marine life. The second dive is the memorable one The Elbow. We go out into what looks like open water - waves are 6-8', and as we drop in we are instructed to drop below the surface to get out of the wave action. This dive is a drift dive in heavy current but very relaxing. We see one shark in the distance and some large groupers nearby. After 30-40minutes we surface in heavy surfs - the boat is really rocking and there are extra divemasters in the water to help everyone back on the boat. One girl, Lisa is having tough time and is throwing up thru her regulator. She has not aired up her BC and is crying out. I reach her and hit her inflator button to keep her afloat, then turn her over to the divemaster to help her climb the ladder - she's OK. She didn't have a problem until she hit the surf on top but the waves were huge. Needless to say she sat out the last dive.
Oh yeah, guess what we had for lunch - Yep, Chicken, Beans/Rice, and Potato Salad (I wonder if they ever get tired of this stuff). After we get back to AC, the wife and I decide on Mickey's for our last meal. I had the Mexican Plate and Debbie had the Filet (just not sure filet of what).
Day 11 5/12/03
Time has flown by, even though the wind makes the days drag on when you can't dive. We go to Estels for coffee and something light, then we run into Lisa (the girl form the previous days dive). She runs out and hugs my neck and tells my wife that I'm her hero - now remember the wife was not on the dive with us, but I had told her about what happened. Lisa and Debbie hit it off great (they could even pass for sisters - you should see the picture).
We are ready to head home since we have new grandbabies and the wife is missing them something awful.
Our trip home went off without a hitch - only problem was that Debbie got sick when we got home Monday night and by Friday she had to be given 2-bags of fluid by IV. She's OK now but its was tough.
HAD A GOOD TIME - JUST WISH I COULD HAVE DIVED MORE
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