B elize’s tourism industry has matured and developed into a full-fledged thriving industry. The Belize Tourism Board’s latest visitor arrival figures for the first quarter of 2007, shows a substantial increase of 2.7% over last year’s first quarter, which is good news not only for the country but for each and every stakeholder of the tourism industry. This, of course, is not something that happened overnight, it has taken many years and the vision of many people to make it possible. One such person is not only a visionary but an entrepreneur of the now booming tourism industry. This week we introduce the President of Discovery Expeditions Belize Limited, a primary local supplier of room nights to the island of Ambergris Caye, as well as to the adventures hidden within mainland Belize – David Gegg.
Stop Press! There is a new lady in town – she is known as The Reef Rocket and is berthed at Fido’s Dock, in San Pedro. This is one of David’s latest visions! And she is one good looking lady! A proud achievement, locally built in Belize City and outfitted with twin Caterpillar Diesels and revolutionary Arnsen Drives, “The Reef Rocket was envisioned to be the thrilling start to the wide variety of inland tours that Discovery Expeditions offers” David explained.
David was born in Belize City to Edgar and Alice Gegg on January 9th, 1950, one of 10 siblings (one deceased). The Gegg family spent many summer vacations out at St. George’s Caye, pursuing recreational fun such as fishing, sailing, boating and diving. “There were no licenses, certifications, or courses in those days; these hobbies were self taught, trial and error, and much enjoyed” David comments. The family would also spend time sailing, fishing and exploring the islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. This was the start of David’s love of the sea and determination to develop and share his experiences.
Educated through primary school at St. Catherine’s Academy, David then went on to attend St. John’s College High School. He then continued his college education at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, USA where he graduated with a BSBA, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. David returned to Belize where he joined his father in the family business of merchandising at “The Vogue”. He soon realized that this was not for him and that he wanted to pursue his dreams in the then very fledgling tourism industry. His ideas for the future were further cemented when he joined Jacques Cousteau onboard The Calypso for an exhilarating venture of exploratory diving, coupled with an inhalation of knowledge from Mr. Cousteau and his crew.
David decided to grab the proverbial bull by the horns, and in 1973 went up to Florida, purchased a 36’dive boat hull, outfitted it, and piloted it back to Belize. His prize boat, The Carib Gypsy provided dive services from The Blue Hole to Mexico Rocks to Gallows Point.
In 1975, David married his lovely wife, Debbie Tattersfield, a Belizean who also had a great love of our Caribbean Sea. Together, they have three children, Brigitte, Angela, and Cameron. The two girls also share David and Debbie’s passion for tourism. Cameron, only 14, holds great respect for the environment and conservation of his country. Debbie is an integral part of all aspects of their business ventures.
In 1976, David’s entrepreneurial spirit shone through once again when David realized that a much needed service was lacking between Belize City and the islands of Caye Caulker and San Pedro, a reliable scheduled water taxi with cargo capability was desperately needed. Hence the purchase of a new boat, the Don Pedro, her home being the dock at the then Ambergris Lodge, located where Mayan Princess is today. These were the days when San Pedro ended at Paradise Resort just after the graveyard!
The birth of Sail Belize Limited continued David’s quest of improving and expanding the tourism product in Belize. This venture brought in 18 sailing yachts which ranged from 31’ to 52’, the larger vessels bring fully outfitted as diving yachts. He contacted the then senior publishers of Yachting, Sail, and Skin Diver magazines, convinced them to make a trip to “unexplored” Belize. Hence the first major articles on Belize by mainstream magazines were published in 1982 an 1983 by all three magazines.
With the much increased visitors to mainland and offshore Belize, David quickly realized that visitors wanted to see more of the country, and a small, effective tour operation was set up, MayaWorld Safaris. This operation quickly grew and expanded on its services to clients from all over the world. MayaWorld Safaris merged with another tour operation in 1994 giving birth to Discovery Expeditions Belize Limited.
Throughout the years, David has spearheaded and been a major contributor to many tourism ventures in the country, from lobbying with the various cruise companies to expand into Belize, and ensuring that when this happened, he had everything in place to fulfill their needs and expectations, to opening a family run restaurant “The Smoky Mermaid”, located at The Great House in Belize City. Belize will have enjoyed almost 10 years of cruise tourism this year and The Smoky Mermaid is in its 10th year!
Also on David’s repertoire of accomplishments, includes the opening of his own boatyard where he manufactures the boats used in his tour company. His newest design and creation being The Reef Rocket, a boat that he is extremely proud of, especially with the knowledge that this was home made in Belize!
From dabbling in farming cashew, blackberry, and planting mahogany to creating new tours, including the ever popular Aerial Trek, zip lining tour, David’s latest and most passionate interest centers around Gracie Rock, Peccary Park, located 23 miles on the Western Highway where he is determined to help out a community to become self-sustainable, while preserving primary rainforests. In this regard, David has sponsored tour guide workshops and is supporting the local school feeding program, and providing jobs in the area. The Peccary Park project’s aim is to protect a pristine jungle environment, home to Belize’s healthiest population of Jaguars, 307 bird species and a wealth of flora and fauna notwithstanding many interesting geological formations, a labyrinth of caves, holding artifacts from the pre-Columbian Maya still intact. “By involving the community in the birth of tourism in this area, they have become the true custodians of this pristine jungle. Tourism has become a means of being self-sustaining” commented David.
In his free time, David and his family enjoy what has always come naturally, being one on one with nature, whether inland or near the beautiful Caribbean Sea. This is where new ideas and plans for the future rise, continuing David’s quest to solidify and affirm Belize’s future in tourism.
Discovery Expeditions is going strong with no signs of ever slowing down. With The Reef Rocket all ready to go, visitors can now enjoy many of the exciting adventures within mainland Belize. Their office located at the Fido’s dock is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. everyday.
Always looking ahead at the future, a great family man and an amazing entrepreneur, David Gegg, has rocketed Belize into the international tourism industry and become a powerful asset in “Our Belize Community.”