Belize / Ambergris Caye Trip Report

Belize / Ambergris Caye Trip Report

Post by Joe Chil » Wed, 29 Apr 1998 04:00:00

My wife Cathy and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last week with a
trip to Ambergris Caye, Belize. The following is a brief description of our
trip. If anyone would like additional information, phone numbers,or URL's feel

Getting there:

Continental and TACA are the only airlines that service Belize from Houston. We
didn't want to "take a chance", so we booked on Continental. During check in,
my wife mentioned that it was our 10th and the agent graciously upgraded us to
First Class.  We had a great time "up front", MIXED nuts, hot towels and
everything. Flying time was about 2 hours. Upon arrival in Belize City, we
discovered that our luggage hadn't received the same treatment that we did. In
fact, all three bags were was missing. The baggage people assured me that "this
happens all the time, your luggage will *probably* be on the next (and last)
flight." After an anxious 90 minutes of  multiplying our bags weight x 2.2 x
$9.07 (maximum compensation for lost stuff), the next flight rolled in with our
luggage, none the worse for wear. Stage two required getting from Belize City to
Ambergris Caye. There are 3 or 4 airlines that make the short hop on a fairly
frequent  (every 30 minute) basis.  We got a couple of tix, checked our luggage,
jumped on the plane (an 8 seater) and were on our way again. Twenty minutes
later, after a brief stop at Caye Caulker to drop someone off, we arrived at the
Ambergris Caye airport. This time, the baggage hassle was much less stressful.
Our dive bag made the trip, and only our clothes were missing. Thirty minutes
later, another plane arrived with the balance of our luggage. Having officially
"arrived" it was time to find  some lodging.

Accommodations
Not having made any advance planning for any aspect of this trip other than
plane tickets to Belize City, we (actually, just Cathy) were a little nervous
about finding a hotel. A taxi driver at the airport said he knew just the place,
and took us to "Corona del Mar". Corona del Mar is on the ocean, about 1 mile
south of town(San Pedro) and consists of a fourplex building with 1 bedroom
apartments, and a 2 bedroom bungalow. We stayed in one of the units in the
fourplex. Amenities included: 2 double beds,full kitchen, living room, direct
dial phone,air conditioning, cable TV and drinkable tap water. The place is
owned/run by Woody Canaday and his wife Helen. They live on-site in their own
bungalow and provide breakfast daily, and rum punch on a continuous basis. We
really enjoyed "hanging out" with Woody and Helen. They are from California, but
have been in Belize for 20 years.  

San Pedro Town
Our week long trip seemed to go by very quickly, and we didn't get to spend a
whole lot of time exploring the town, other than to visit the restaurants and a
couple of gift shops. For the adventuresome, golf carts are available to rent
for about $60 per day.
We weren't particularly impressed with any of the restaurants that we visited.
Fish and chicken make up the majority of the entree items, rice, beans and cole
slaw are the usual accompaniments.
One "don't miss" activity is "The Chicken Drop", which is held every Wedneday
and Saturday the Pier Lounge. Without getting into details, it's basically
betting on where a chicken is going to, umm, relieve itself

Diving:
There are probably around 15-20 dive shops in town that offer both "local" and
"daily" dive trips. Dive sites were uncrowded. The surface intervals for local
diving are usually spent at the dive operations dock, just a few minutes from
most dive sites. Water temps were a consistent 80 degrees, visibility was
usually about 75'.

4/20
We dove with "Amigos del Mar", one of the larger operations. They picked us up
at our dock at 9:00 for 2 tanks of "local" diving. The  reef is about 1/2 to 1
mile from shore and extends for the length of the Caye. Most dives consisted of
being dropped off at the outer edge of the barrier reef at about 50', going
perpendicular to shore for a few minutes while dropping to 80' or so and then
traveling parallel to shore for the duration of the dive. The dives are
considered drift dives although the current is virtually non existent. Depending
on the DM, you may drift north, south, east or west.
We did a nite dive al "Hol Chan" marine park. This site is *just* inside the
barrier reef. The dive consists of dropping in at 8', swimming about 100 yards
to the reef, and then swimming back to the boat. Max depth is 29'. This one was
kind of tough due to an outgoing tide.

4/21
Amigos del Mar again. We decided to take a 3 tank "day" trip to Turneffe atoll,
since we heard that this was where the "real" diving was in Belize. The boat
(38' w twin 200's)  left our dock at 6:45 and we were in the water 2 hours
later. Dive sites included "The Elbow", "Billy Bob's" (saw a black tip shark),
and "Gail's Point". This trip icluded a stop on a deseted island (there's quite
a few to choose from) for lunch.  We noticed that at the Turneffe dive sights,
there was quite a bit more fish life, and vis was a bit better than at
Ambergris.

4/22
We used "Adventures in Diving" this morning. They were a bit unorganized, mainly
due to the fact that 18 people showed up for a 10 person dive boat. After
securing another vessel, we took a short ride to "Amigo's Wreck", a barge that
had been sunk by, you guessed it, Amigos del Mar dive shop. The second dive was
at Cypress Gardens. The high point of this dive was discovering that I was
diving with a classmate from senior high school (Hi Janie!)

4/23
I don't really want to talk about it.  l'm still not sure of the dive operation
that was responsible. It was either "C. Dolphins"  or "C***Beach Dive Club"

4/24
Back to "Amigos del Mar" for our final day of diving. The first dive was at
Victoria's Tunnels, the only site we dove that had any swimthroughs. The second
dive was at Hol Chan. Several  Black and Nassau groupers accompanied us for this
dive. These fish were tame enough to let you hold them for several seconds at a
time. During the last few minutes of this dive we swam within 20 feet of 4 eagle
rays.

While we saw very few reef fish except for the trip to Turneffe, we did see many
eagle rays, sting rays, nurse sharks and loggerhead turtles. This was OK by me
since I should be seeing plenty of angles and triggers in Cozumel next month :)

Misc:
Weather-
Temps were in the mid to upper 80's throughout the day. Winds were usually 10-20
mph, which the locals considered "calm"  We heard that diving was pretty much
shut down for the 5 days prior to our arrival due to high winds/seas.
Money-
Belize dollar and American dollar are both used. $1US=$2BZ. Travelers checks as
well as credit cards are both widely accepted. Expect 5-10% surcharge for credit
cards.
Prices- (US) 2 tank local dive 40-50, 3 tank day dive w/lunch 125-175,  
hotels 40-100, dinner entree 8-16, beer 2-3
Language- English, but you can try out your Spanish or Creole if you want to.
Bugs: We went whole hog, got the malaria medicine, 100% deet, and ended up not
seeing a single mosquito during the entire trip. Water bugs are another story.
We were severely bitten/stung by what the locals call  "peeka peeka". I call em
jellyfish and I'm still itching 4 days later.

Joe Childs
4/27/98