Advice - Travel to Belize - first time

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Lazers

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I stayed at Dive Haven Resort on Turneff. Three dives a day, a shore interval between each dive. The resort is still being built, so it is a little rough around the edges. The food was was nothing great and with Covid restrictions, there were only around 50 guests in the hotel (two groups filling three boats). The guides we had were great and the dives were not particularly challenging, but the reef was absolutely buzzing with life.

There were a few add on charges, $80 for a night dive, the blue hole was an additional ~$200. I passed on the Blue Hole trip and heard the hole itself was over rated, but the two other dives on the trip were epic. I paid the extra $120 for nitrox and they gave me AL100s (I’m a big guy and tend to burn through air). Booze on the island is not cheap (they had $180 all you can drink option). There was no shore diving, so you are limited to what they have planned from the boats. Even, so the cost was very reasonable.

Our bus driver from the airport to the boat was stopped and fined $500 (Belize) for not wearing a mask while driving. Everyone was Covid tested before and at the dive of the trip, so no one wore masks at the resort after the first day (everything was open air anyway). All dollars were American, except the fine.

Most of the dives were in the 50’-75’ range all of the were 50-60 minutes. They did one 90’ dive the day before the blue hole. Most of the dives were drop off/pick up. I kept an eye on where the guides were, which wasn’t hard with more than 100’ visibility. After the first day, no one ever asked about my computer or air remaining. We had mostly experienced divers and a shop instructor on each boat, so we (I?) were given minimal supervision as long as we kept in sight of the guides.

That sounds better than my experience but $500 bz is still $250 usd and nothing to scoff at especially for a rule that makes no sense. $75 for a covid test to come back home. The whole thing is a grift. Locals told me they especially go after tourists because of their ability to pay the fines (and I suppose your bus operators or other people on the job would be good targets too). Wearing a mask when you are outdoors alone to avoid getting harassed by the cops ruined the experience. I met another tourist who actually got arrested. Add on the babying by the dive shops and the constant begging and drug pushing (that the cops turned a blind eye too) and this will be a place I never return to.

For an economy that is basically all tourism based it seems especially stupid. Sad.
 

Downing

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There is always the ‘adventure’ diving with ReefCI. It’s not you’re regular operator as trips run for the week, leaving Plecensia on Monday and returning Friday.

@Lazers one for you to look at for a future trip.
Plecensia?

This is what happens when you choose post something on the board at 1 in the morning rather than go to bed.

Just having some fun with you, Edward. :poke:

That sounds better than my experience but $500 bz is still $250 usd and nothing to scoff at especially for a rule that makes no sense. $75 for a covid test to come back home. The whole thing is a grift. Locals told me they especially go after tourists because of their ability to pay the fines (and I suppose your bus operators or other people on the job would be good targets too). Wearing a mask when you are outdoors alone to avoid getting harassed by the cops ruined the experience. I met another tourist who actually got arrested. Add on the babying by the dive shops and the constant begging and drug pushing (that the cops turned a blind eye too) and this will be a place I never return to.

For an economy that is basically all tourism based it seems especially stupid. Sad.
If there is a next time, try Placencia. Ralph and Patty of Splash Dive really do try to accommodate their divers wishes assuming those wishes are commiserate with their level of experience.

I've been to Placencia many times over the years but haven't been since the whole pandemic thing started, so I can't speak to how it's currently being handled there. I can say I haven't been approached by drug dealers In Placencia but have been hit up a few times in BZ City for marijuana and once for cocaine in San Pedro. None of it seemed particularly menacing, just slightly annoying since I don't use either here at home, where marijuana is actually legal, so I definitely won't get involved with that stuff in a foreign country.
 

Lazers

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Plecensia?

This is what happens when you choose post something on the board at 1 in the morning rather than go to bed.

Just having some fun with you, Edward. :poke:


If there is a next time, try Placencia. Ralph and Patty of Splash Dive really do try to accommodate their divers wishes assuming those wishes are commiserate with their level of experience.

I've been to Placencia many times over the years but haven't been since the whole pandemic thing started, so I can't speak to how it's currently being handled there. I can say I haven't been approached by drug dealers In Placencia but have been hit up a few times in BZ City for marijuana and once for cocaine in San Pedro. None of it seemed particularly menacing, just slightly annoying since I don't use either here at home, where marijuana is actually legal, so I definitely won't get involved with that stuff in a foreign country.

To be fair it was really on me since I didn’t really research the trip. Just found an air bnb and walked to the nearest dive site. I was under impression that San Pedro was the place to be. From the little I read it sounded like the most developed and safest area catering to tourists.

My experience with the drug dealers was I would probably get confronted at least 5 times every day, usually once on each walk. Typically trying to sell me cocaine or ecstasy, not just cannabis. There was one dude who particularly hounded me every day who was downright scary. Cartel like vibes and would get very angry borderline violent when you blew him off. I probably got harassed more than others due to my age and appearance (37 year old white dude). But I watched him harass older people as well trying to straight up shake them down for cash and pay him to go away. Cops ignored this dude and basically set up shop in midtown San Pedro and he would just walk around the block constantly during daylight hours. That’s the only saving grace of their stupid 9 pm covid curfew is that it probably prevented violent interactions.
 

Downing

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I haven't been to AC, but my impression is one of the reasons it's the most popular destination in Belize is that it's the most like the United States. Lots of Americans, tourist shops, restaurants and hotels, that sort of thing. Accordingly, it's just not for me, but I'm glad it's there because it means there are fewer tourists elsewhere.

Although Placencia and Hopkins have their fair share of tourists and are definitely developing, they still retains more of their Belizean villages vibe. They're not Nirvana but are still fairly laid back places that are absolutely safe to walk around after dark. The same can be said for San Pedro in the Cayo District, which I often use as a base point when I head into the western jungle. The safest of all would be Punta Gorda, another jumping off point when I want to go into the southern jungle.

Bad things can happen anywhere, but generally the further west or south you go the more remote the country becomes and the safer you are.
 

salth2owannabe

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It's interesting to see the various responses. We've been to Belize numerous times, as well as many places around the Caribbean, but Belize just keeps drawing us back. We have another 2 week trip booked for this February. I've always said that it's good we don't all like the same places or the diving would suck.
We stayed out on Ambergris for 3 or 4 days after an outer atoll trip one time just to see what it was like. Stayed at a typical "tourist" resort and wasn't very impressed. Found a spot to catch a bunch of small tarpon on the fly rod, which made the trip worth it. I've never been offered drugs or similar interactions, but there are streets in Belize City I wouldn't walk down even in the daytime.
We've always chosen to stay on the outer atolls for diving, more expensive, but the old adage - You get what you pay for. On the Blue hole/Half moon Caye days I watched the day tripper operations from Ambergris and knew I didn't want any part of that. We've enjoyed the Blue hole dive for what it is, and have dove it 5 or 6 times. Your experiences may vary.
An example of individual experiences - We've been to Cozumel a few times and dove it for a week a few years ago. We were not impressed at all with the dive experience and it would take some very serious coaxing to get us to go back. Same could be said for Grand Cayman. We dove the Caymans on a live aboard and the overall experience was very good. The diving around Little Cayman was very good but I thought the diving (what we saw of it) around Grand Cayman itself was mediocre at best and the expensive, snobbish island experience was enough to keep me from going back. People on the forums here rave about both locations. To each their own.
 

MtnDiverColorado

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My experience with the drug dealers was I would probably get confronted at least 5 times every day, usually once on each walk. Typically trying to sell me cocaine or ecstasy, not just cannabis. There was one dude who particularly hounded me every day who was downright scary. Cartel like vibes and would get very angry borderline violent when you blew him off..

Hmm, been to Ambergris Caye three times in the last few years (Sunbreeze/Ramon's/Mata Chica) never experienced anything like this. Everyone has always been very friendly. Mileage varies I suppose.
 

Venancio Tillett

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Check out Scuba School And Family Dive Center Belize, the dive sites are within 10 minutes boat ride from their dock. The way the dives are setup are as follows, the first dive of the morning leaves at 9am come back to the dock for surface interval, 45min to an hour surface time the go out for the second dive. You will be done by 12:30 with the 2 tank dives, and ready to hit some of the local restaurants.
 

wetb4igetinthewater

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There is no free for all with reckless DMs. Those people would be fired immediately as the operators are obsessed with their online reviews.
I'm heading to Belize in a couple weeks. One of my former students when to Belize. She did not have the greatest DM. Remember, one's personal experience is not fully representative.

Back to reading.
 

lowflyer

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I've never been to San Pedro so can't comment on @Lazer's experience there, though it seems to me unfair to paint all of Belize based on a trip to San Pedro. but I have been to Turneffe Island Resort and Blackbird Caye multiple times, and I did not experience a "nanny state" there. Excellent DMs who treated divers according to their dive experience.

As far as the Blue Hole goes there are mixed reviews, but I enjoyed my three trips there, especially since the two additional dives to Half Moon are great dives, IMO.

The OP should study the many reviews on this site re diving Belize.
 

mbwilliamn

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You will be totally fine. I disagree with the above poster. Belize is a nanny state. Everything is highly regulated. The dive shops are basically all identical due to the number and competition. There is no free for all with reckless DMs. Those people would be fired immediately as the operators are obsessed with their online reviews. If you are just looking to just see some fish and sharks (which they sadly chum for) you will be happy. If you want to explore and do more advanced stuff you will be disappointed unless you can somehow find an operator to cater to this, which I failed at.

I’ve just spent a week here on San Pedro and am leaving today. Overall I did not like this trip. The diving was extremely repetitive. Go underwater, max depth 50-60 ft and look at fish type stuff. My requests to do deeper dives and more challenging dives exploring the canyons and walls instead were ignored.

The dive shops all obviously cater to people like you. Wasted a lot of time with students and beginners who would take forever to get down then the DM kept us on a tight leash. A few had an obvious chip on their shoulder against tourists and seemed to get a kick out of treating advanced divers like beginners and criticizing anything about their diving they could. Extremely frustrating. Usually when I solo dive I’m a breath of fresh air for the DMs as they pair me with one and we can do something more interesting than the mundane kick around until somebody hits 1000 psi. Shops pack boats as full as they can and keep the dives as close to their shop as possible. I regularly came back with 1500 psi and I’m large.

The town of San Pedro is an interesting mix of tourist town combined with developing third world country. People tried to sell me cocaine non stop. A lot of people living in shacks then a block away is a fantastic restaurant. I would not come back here. This is without the literally insane covid restrictions. I won’t even comment on those. So many other better options in the Caribbean area.

Also the blue hole was very overrated. It’s a standard wall dive. 2.5 hour rough boat ride out there. You will have lots of new divers in the group who have not been deep. They take you down to 130 ft. Then come right back up for a 12 minute safety stop/deco. Obviously also on a tight leash for this. Trip was way over priced for what you get (which I suppose is why they operate it). On the other dives they sold me nitrox under false pretenses. The dives were only a max depth of 50-60 ft per DM restrictions and we came back up as a group again. So nitrox was totally useless. I read somewhere that you must get Nitrox for Belize. Where? Why? Where are these 90 ft dives people are doing where they are maxing their bottom time and coming back up as pairs? I didn’t see that happening anywhere.
Very interested in who you went with. Will save me emails. I work very hard to avoid situations where I'm not allowed to dive my computer.
 
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