Huatalco to Belize City and thence to Ambergris Cay
We landed in Belize City to clear customs, which were noticeably friendlier and more Caribbean in spirit than the Mexicans had been. It was necessary to spray some insecticide in the airplane and close it up to kill disease carrying mosquitos, but after that things went very smootly. Aero Taca, the largest El Salvadoran airline, is in the business here of assisting private aviators. For a small fee, paid on departing the country no less, their agent took care of all our needs and greased the skids.
Finally, a country with officialdom that treats tourists nice!
We flew on from Belize City to Ambergris Caye at an altitude of 1000 feet. There's steady traffic along this route and little air traffic control, so we kept a sharp eye out. There were many uninhabited cayes to be seen as well as the beautiful Caribbean green ocean and lots of water traffic.
Here's a shot of the hotel taken from the air, shortly after we took off. As you can see, it's adjacent to the airport. You can make out the hotel pool, and the small building where the bar and attached Italian restaraunt are. You can also see the numerous docks. The scuba operators will come pick you up from your hotel dock.
There is an operator right at the hotel, but we didn't use them. They were kind of unfriendly when we asked where the best snorkeling was, and I had gotten a good recommendation from Amigos del Mar. We visited Amigos, and found them very friendly and professional. Alas, conditions did not permit us to dive with them. In a fit of desperation we went with the hotel operator. They were okay, but a little disappointing. The divemaster was a young lady who seemed very full of herself, and had modelled her style after the original scuba nazi. She was more intent on testing everyone's knowledge than in actually helping anyone. She managed to get one friend mis-weighted, so he literally had to be towed through the dive by two other's like a parade float. Needless to say, I was disappointed we didn't get to dive with Amigos del Mar.
To make the long story shorter, Tropical Storm Allison destroyed our scuba activities in Belize. Most diving is outside the barrier reef, but close to it, and we could see 8 to 10 foot waves there. The wind blew hard day and night. On the last day, the hotel operator was willing to take us to a shallow spot inside the reef near Shark and Ray Cay. We did one shallow dive that was pretty good. They warned us two divers had gotten sucked out to the surf and one rushed to the hospital in shock the prior day--not what you like to hear from the scuba operator. Visibility was terrible for the area--about 50 feet. Despite the poor operator and conditions, I managed to see 2 stingrays, 4 moray eels (the most in a single dive in the Caribbean), a very pretty scallop (I think they call these razor clams though), a big crab, and many cleaner shrimp stations.
I can see that under ideal conditions Belize would have awesome scuba diving. I plan to go back someday to sample it. We also did a snorkel and got to pet some stingrays and a nurse shark. On the snorkel we saw 4 nurse sharks, 4 frisky stingrays (similar to Stingray City in Grand Cayman), blue tangs, parrot fish, and a range of hermit crab sizes.
BTW, the only interesting snorkel from shore is off the end of the pier with the thatched hut you see in the photo above. There's some artificial fish shelters and a fair amount of fish there. You have to stay up under the pier to avoid the boats, but its pretty cool. We saw lots of grunts, angelfish, triggers, puffers, and others I can't remember. Like Roatan, you have to swim out a ways to get past the eel grass.
All material © 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.