Belize After-Trip Report

WP_20140809_036 Many people, particularly divers, have urged us over the years to include Belize in our list of future dive trips.  Well, 2014 was the year!  Terra and I stayed at the SunBreeze Hotel on the island of Ambergris Caye for seven days.  Diving was provided Hugh Parkey’s Dive Center, located on the grounds of the hotel, which was beachfront.  We did all our dives with them with the exception of the Blue Hole, which was through Ramon’s Dive Village.  We had looked at Ramon’s Dive Village as a potential place to stay when we were researching, but it was more expensive than SunBreeze.  However, when we were walking around doing some of our sightseeing we had an opportunity to see firsthand what Ramon’s was like.  We also had lunch there.  If we go back to Belize we will definitely be staying at Ramon’s.  If Gilligan’s Island had turned upscale dive resort, Ramon’s is what it would look like.

The diving around Ambergris Caye was very good, although visibility wasn’t nearly as clear as Cayman or Curacao were.  And, apparently, it is normally much better, judging by the comments made by returning visitors.  Although for overall colorful variety of sea life Curacao is still my personal favorite, the opportunity to see a lot of sharks, turtles and eagle rays was hands-down better at Belize.  The most expensive dive on the trip was clearly Blue Hole, but it was absolutely worth it.  I was not going to make this trip without including the breathtaking dive on Blue Hole.  There were actually three dives included in the Blue Hole package, The Aquarium being one–and it lived up to its name.

PICT0010PICT0057PICT0038 There is plenty of shopping to be done within easy walking distance, and the same is true of the restaurants.  All of the ones we visited were excellent and reasonably-priced.  A majority of the eating establishments in the San Pedro area are on the beach.  The common practice is to simply walk up and down the beach until you happen upon a restaurant you would like to try.  One thing we found particularly awesome was that most places had their menus conveniently posted in an attractive fashion on a walk-up billboard in front of the restaurant.  See something that tickles your fancy? Step right up and enjoy some of the local cuisine.  The shops along the adjacent streets are very closely packed and, as you might expect, a bit on the run-down side, but in most cases the staff are friendly and the products are the right value.  The exchange rate was 2 Belize dollars for each U.S. dollar.  By the way, if you’re hoping to get a good deal on any dive equipment, you can give that thought up.  There’s not a lot there since almost everything must be brought in from the Belize mainland, and most divers bring their own gear or rent from the dive operators.

Finally, we don’t take these trips to spend a lot of time in the room, so having 5-star accommodations isn’t our goal.  The SunBreeze wasn’t the best place we’ve stayed, but it wasn’t the worst.  The internet service is horrible on the island, so when we tried to do our second international video podcast of Two Guys Who Dive we simply couldn’t get enough bandwidth to do anything other than execute a local-recording and upload it later (it is available on our YouTube channel).  Also, we’re not big drinkers these days, but I’ll try something unique if it looks good.  Such was the Horny Monkey.  Fantastic drink…you should try it.

In the end, we had an absolutely wonderful time, had fantastic diving, wonderful meals and good weather.  We highly recommend a 7-day trip to Belize if you can afford it.  To view a video of our trip just click here:

Grand Cayman after-trip report

OCTOPUS5In the middle of July 2013 Terra and Rob “Scubadog” Wade returned to Grand Cayman island for a week-long dive vacation.  Trisha Urban and Gay Culbertson were also onboard for this island adventure.  Interestingly enough, Grand Cayman was where Terra had her first salt water dive–an opportunity during their Caribbean cruise in 2005, and it was also Gay’s first salt water diver.  The group stayed at Compass Point, which is also home for Ocean Frontiers.  This place is valet diving at its best.  In fact, you’d likely have to spend a week on a live-aboard in order to get the service you receive at Compass Point.  The dive sites were almost all first-rate, and you’re missing out if you don’t insist on hitting places with some of the best swim-throughs anywhere.  The couples went on a night dive, a shallow drop at about 25 feet, but it presented some nice surprises, including a fantastic encounter with a small octopus.  This was also Gay’s first night dive, making it a great way to be introduced to the magic that happens when the reef wakes up.  Since Compass Point is on the opposite side of the island from the main town and the airport, a lot of time was spent travelling back and forth in order to do some shopping and touring.  Everything is pretty expensive on Cayman, nearly double what one would pay in the States.  Having been a British territory, the driving is on the left, and when anywhere outside of the main town you’re more likely to see a “roundabout” rather than a four-way stop.  If you’re willing to be adventurous in terms of both exploring and dining, there are some real gems for eating establishments.  Rob finally got to try some lionfish—and it was delicious!  Hopefully folks all over the Caribbean can push a new industry in lionfish.  The Tortuga Rum Factory visit is, of course, a must, and the gang came away with quite a few rum cakes.  Much to their surprise, there was a Divers Supply outlet on the island.  Divers Supply happens to be Scubadog’s favorite place to buy gear and they have multiple locations in the States.  Prices were higher than you can get online.  Speaking of prices, the common mistake (one which the group made, in fact) is to always assume any gear you purchase at a dive resort carries a significantly higher markup than at a traditional brick-n-mortar.  As it turns out, the exact same gear was almost always cheaper at Compass Point–there just wasn’t the variety.  So, after it was all said and done, it was a fantastic week of diving, driving, dining…and the first internationally presented netcast of Two Guys Who Dive.  If you’re looking for an easy Caribbean dive vacation, consider dropping down to Grand Cayman!

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August Balmorhea After-Trip Report

Terra and Rob celebrated their 24th anniversary weekend with a dive trip to Balmorhea State Park.  This seems to have become a tradition now, and this year did not disappoint.  Surprisingly, the park wasn’t as packed as it normally is this time of year, but there were of course the expected dive classes going on.  There was a particularly large group of youth getting certified, and it was great to see the dive community expanding with so many at a younger age.  There was also another encounter with the “purvey turtle”, although not nearly so dramatic this time.  It was a nice, relaxing time, but it was a shame that none of the local Del Rio divers decided to come along.  We really can’t stress enough that it’s diving that makes you a diver—not a C card.  (Note: For anyone interested in the camera used for the pictures below, it was the Sea Life DC1400 Pro Duo–and amazing camera!)

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