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Dan

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Summary
This is an eight-day (6-13 February, 2021) diving trip to Belize. We stayed in Ramon’s Village Resort, Home - Ramon's Village Resort in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. The itinerary, as shown in Table 1, includes 6 days of diving, 2 dives / day, in Ambergris Caye. We took 3-tank boat diving upgrade (for $242.50) to Great Blue Hole & Half Moon Caye. It was one of the best Caribbean diving I ever had. Also another 3-tank boat diving upgrade (for $132.75) to Turneffe Atoll.

Some of the special moments were diving into The Great Blue Hole, seeing the ice-age stalactites at 130-foot depth, getting very close encounters with very friendly Nurse Sharks in Ambergris Caye, with curious Reef Sharks and Nassau Groupers in Half Moon Caye, and curious Green Morays following us while diving in Turneffe Atoll.

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Background
Belize is a near and convenient diving destination from Houston, especially in minimizing our exposure time in public area and travelling during this pandemic situation. We can fly nonstop for about 2.5-hour from Houston (IAH) to Belize City (BZE), as shown in red arrow, in Figure 1, below. From BZE, you can hop on a 14-passenger domestic-flight operated by Tropic Air, as shown in Figure 2, and enjoy a 15-minute low-flying, bird-eye view of Belize City and Ambergris Caye, as shown in Figure 3.

Once you arrive in San Pedro (SPR), Ramon’s Village crew would pick you up at the airport on Golf Carts and take you to the resort, 10 minutes away from the airport.

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Figure 1: Our flight routes Houston (IAH) to Belize City (BZE) and San Pedro (SPR)

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Figure 2: Airplane used for a 15-minute flight from Belize City (BZE) to San Pedro (SPR)

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Figure 3: Bird-eye view of Ambergris Caye from the domestic flight to San Pedro (SPR)

Here is a short video of the highlight of what we saw during the 6 days of diving in Belize:



The water temperatures in Belize then were about 78-81 °F (26-27 °C), as shown in Table 1, above. I was comfortable with my 3mm full wetsuit.

Ramon’s Village Resort
This resort is styled after Tahitian cottages with its own restaurant (called Pineapple restaurant), dive shop (called Ramon’s Village Divers) and boats as shown in Figures 4-8, respectively.

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Figure 4: Ramon’s Village Cottage, San Pedro, Belize

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Figure 5: Ramon’s Village Cottage’s Bed Room, San Pedro, Belize

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Figure 6: Ramon’s Village Cottage’s Bath Room, San Pedro, Belize

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Figure 7: Ramon’s Village Bar & Restaurant, San Pedro, Belize

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Figure 8: Ramon’s Village Divers & Boats, San Pedro, Belize

More detail resort info is available in Home - Ramon's Village Resort

Our group of 6 divers was guided by AC, DM of Ramon’s Village Divers for the whole week. They used a 48-foot boat, which was big enough to handle some big waves (4-foot?) as we passed the barrier reef (caye) to open sea. February is a windy season. The open sea could be choppy and requiring a special procedure to get back on the boat (see further discussion about this, below).

I was fortunate to be able to have a cabin alone without paying an additional single supplement, especially during this pandemic situation. There are plenty of closet space to store our belongings for 2 divers, as you see in Figures 5 & 6, above. The hosts did a great job of keeping my room cleaned and orderly.

Ramon’s Village Divers provided a locker to store our dive gears in the dive cabana, right next to the dive shop on the pier. All the dive sites are outside the barrier reef and we get there by boat. There are no beach diving. You could snorkel right off the pier, but the visibility was not good and nothing but sandy bottom.

Setting up our dive gears and handling them were pretty typical boat diving. Once we boarded on the boat for the first time, we picked a spot on the dive deck, installed our regulator and BCD on one of the available full tank stored on the rack behind the bench along both sides of the stern. Once we were on the dive site, we kit up our dive gears (fins on first before buttoning up the BCD) at our assigned stations in the dive deck. When we were ready to enter the water, the deckhand would help each of us standing up by lifting the tank straight up from the tank cylinder sleeve. Then carefully walked like a duck (with the fins on) and made a giant entry into the water. After resurfacing and signaling OK sign to the deckhand, he would then hand off our cameras. DM would enter the water last and lead the diving.

After the dive, getting back on the boat was a bit tricky, due to the choppy sea condition. I would hand off my camera and fins to AC, then he’d guide me to the ladder. The choppy sea would swing the bottom half of ladder up and down. So, as soon as I grab on the ladder side bars, I needed to lock down the swinging ladder by my boot before stepping up to the boat. Otherwise my body part (shin, chest or face, depending on my body position relative to the swinging ladder and the boat was also going up and down with the wave) would get banged up by the swinging ladder.

After we got back on the boat, the crew would take care of removing our BCD and regulators off the tank and setting them up to another tank for the next dive or washing / drying / storing in dive cabana overnight after the second dive of the day. We just needed to bring back our fins, mask, wetsuit back to our locker and camera to our cottage after each boat dive trip.

See next post about diving in Belize.
 

Dan

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The diving
We did 4 of 2 dives/day in Ambergris Caye area, a 3 dives/day in The Great Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye, and a 3 dives/day in Turneffe Atoll. Typical 2 dives / day schedule in Ambergris Caye was as follows:

07:00 – 8:00 Breakfast at Pineapple restaurant
08:45 – 09:00 Get on the boat with our dive gear
09:05 – 10:00 Dive 1
10:05 – 10:10 Return to Ramon's Village Pier
10:45 – 11:00 Get on the boat with our dive gear
11:05 – 12:00 Dive 2
12:05 – 12:10 Return to Ramon's Village Pier

The 3 dives/day in The Great Blue Hole (GBH) and Half Moon Caye was done on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The schedule was as follows:

05:30 – 6:00 Get on the boat with our dive gear
06:15 – 09:30 Breakfast on the boat & 2.75 hour crossing to GBH
09:32 – 10:01 Dive 1 in GBH
10:01 – 10:56 Surface interval & 15 minute boat ride to Half Moon Caye
10:56 – 11:47 Dive 2 in Half Moon Caye Wall
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch in Half Moon Caye Park
13:20 – 14:08 Dive 3 in Aquarium
14:15 – 16:45 2.5 hour crossing back to Ramon’s Village Resort

The 3 dives/day in Turneffe Atoll was done on Friday, Feb. 12. The schedule was as follows:

06:15 – 6:45 Breakfast at Pineapple restaurant
06:50 – 07:00 Get on the boat with our dive gear
07:07 – 08:40 1.5 hour crossing to North Turneffe Atoll
08:49 – 09:41 Dive 1 in Mini Elbow
09:41 – 10:27 Surface interval & snack
10:27 – 11:17 Dive 2 in Vincente Wall
11:17 – 12:00 Lunch in the boat
12:12 – 13:05 Dive 3 in Sandy Slope
13:15 – 14:45 1.5 hour crossing back to Ramon’s Village Resort

Ambergris Caye Diving
The dive sites were about 5-8 minutes boat ride from the Ramon’s Village pier. Table 1 shows the dive sites, depths (D), water temperatures and visibilities (V) of each dive sites.

Typically we saw very friendly nurse sharks in almost on every dives there. They were like puppy dogs, following us around. One of them even swimming so closed under me and I petted its forehead, which seemed to put the shark in trance, as shown in Figure 9. Some reef sharks also came by checking us out. There were some schooling of Creole Wrasse passing by, as shown in Figure 10. Occasionally we saw Tiger Groupers, Soapfish, Porcupinefish, Hogfish, Squirrelfish, Lionfish, Gray Anglefish, Yellowtail Snapper, Lone Snapper, Great Barracudas, School Master, Sand-tile fish, Indigo Hamlet, Red Hind, Four-eye Butterflyfish, Stingray, schooling of Spadefish, Large-eye Toadfish, Spotted Drums, including the cute juvenile phase, as shown in Figure 11.


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Figure 9: Very friendly Nurse Shark in Mayan Princess, Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Figure 10: Schooling of Creole Wrasse in Esmeralda Canyon, Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Figure 11: Juvenile Spotted Drum in Tackle Box, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Some of the critters we saw in Ambergris Caye were Spiny Lobsters, Hairy Clinging Crab, Penderson Shrimps, as shown in Figure 12, and Flamingo Tongue, as shown in Figure 13.
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Figure 12: Penderson Shrimp with eggs in Mermaid’s Lair, Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Figure 13: Flamingo Tongue in B&D, Ambergris Caye, Belize

We also saw a couple of Sea Turtles, Hawksbill and Loggerhead while diving in Ambergris Caye. The Loggerhead Turtle we saw in Tackle Box dive site. It must be very old with barnacles on its shell, as shown in Figure 14, below.

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Figure 14: Loggerhead Turtle in Tackle Box, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Tackle Box is a neat dive site. Not only, where we spotted the old Loggerhead Turtle and Large-eye Toadfish, but also, it has a nice swim through as you see in the trip video, above.

The Great Blue Hole & Half Moon Caye Diving
Initially, I was not expecting much from this long haul (2 hour & 45 minute crossing in choppy sea), all day trip (11-hour excursion), 3-tank boat dive. I figured that I was in Belize and might as well do it to check off the “Been There & Done That” list. However, the diving in Half Moon Caye was indeed very good, par to what I experienced in Raja Ampat. The Great Blue Hole (GBH), seeing the ice-age stalactites at 130-foot depth, getting very close encounters with curious Reef Sharks and Nassau Groupers in Half Moon Caye, are worth the additional $242.50 for that trip.

Just for the record, I took a screenshot of my dive computer while I was around the ice-age Stalactites and my dive profile, as shown in Figure 15 and 16, respectively.

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Figure 15: Screenshot of my dive computer at The Great Blue Hole’s stalactites, Belize

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Figure 16: Screenshot of my dive profile during diving in The Great Blue Hole, Belize

The diving was a short dip (to 138-foot depth for 3 minutes of bottom time with a total dive time of 28 minutes) to see the Stalactites and some fish and critters in the GBH crevices, like the Hairy Clinging Crab at the tip of one of the Stalactites, as shown in Figure 17, below. I started with 3048 psi and ended with 1696 psi of air in my AL80 tank, using up about 45% of the air in the tank. It was a nice and relaxing dive, but a bit short due to the depth.

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Figure 17: Hairy Clinging Crab at the tip of one of GBH stalactites, Belize

After diving GBH, we dove in Half Moon Caye Wall, had lunch in the Half Moon Caye Park and dove in Aquarium. Those Dive 2 and 3 were fantastic. I would skip the GBH dive and go there again for those 2 dives.

There were some curious Reef Shark and Nassau Groupers in Half Moon Caye Wall, swimming along with us, as shown in Figure 18 and 19.

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Figure 18: Curious Reef Shark in Half Moon Caye Wall, Half Moon Caye, Belize

To be continued to the next post (hit the max post capacity).
 

Reidster

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Very nice trip report, pictures & videos with soothing music! Thanks for sharing.
 
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Dan

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Diving in Half Moon Caye (continued from previous post, above).

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Figure 19: Curious Nassau Grouper in Half Moon Caye Wall, Half Moon Caye, Belize

Other fishes that we saw there and did not see them in Ambergris Caye were Garden Eels, Spotted Moray, Tarpons, Scrawled Filefish, Honeycomb Cowfish, Eagle Ray, Sand Diver, Midnight Parrotfish, and schooling of Horse-eye Jacks.

Seeing a green underwater pasture full of conchs was also a nice treat.

Turneffe Atoll Diving
After nice experience in diving GBH and Half Moon Caye, we became more enthusiastic about taking another 3-tank boat diving in Turneffe Atoll while we were in Belize. The excursion would be 3 hours shorter (8 hour roundtrip) than to GBH with 1.5 hour of less choppy crossing, since we just went to the south, along the inside passage of Ambergris Caye for about an hour, before turning eastward and crossing the choppy sea to the north side of Turneffe Atoll for about half hour.

There was a minimum of 8 divers for that excursion to be economical for Ramon’s Village at reasonable upgrade cost of additional $142.50 / diver. Since there were only 5 of us wanting to go there, we needed to recruit 3 other divers in the resort, but we had time to do it since we still have 3 more days of diving. We decided to plan for this trip on Friday, the 12th, our last day of diving, as Thursday, the 11th, afternoon was already scheduled for COVID Antigen test at the resort, within 72 hours before boarding the flight home.

On Thursday afternoon, we received 2 great news. Everyone’s Antigen test result was negative and 9 divers had signed up for Turneffe Atoll excursion.

In Turneffe Atoll, we dove in Mini Elbow, Vincente Wall and Sandy Slope. Diving in Turneffe Atoll is similar to Ambergris Caye, except for some special treats of seeing several free swimming Green Morays.

There were also some of the fish there that were not seen in Ambergris Caye nor in Half Moon Caye, such as; Ballonfish, French Anglefish, Queen Anglefish, Porkfish, Goldentail Moray, and Scrawled Cowfish.

One of my dive buddies took a nice picture of Arrow Crab inside a sponge, as shown in Figure 20, below. So, it’s good to check out those sponges occasionally and you might get lucky.

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Figure 20: Arrow Crab inside Sponge in Sandy Slope, Turneffe Atoll (courtesy of Stephanie A)


Conclusions
Ramon’s Village Resort is a very nice place for relaxing on the beach between diving. The food in Pine Apple restaurant is very good. There are many other great restaurants within a few minutes of walking distance along the beach. Einer Gomez, the general manager of the resort greeted us every day and graciously giving us a free Antigen test right at the resort facility (by bringing medical professional to the resort) since we stayed more than 4 days there.

My impression of the diving and the trip are very positive. If you want to see friendly Nurse Sharks, Reef Sharks, Nassau Groupers and Green Moray, Belize is the place to dive with them. Half Moon Caye diving is also fantastic, as good as Raja Ampat.
 

chillyinCanada

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You took me home, Dan! Thank you.

I notice that there continues to be a paucity of parrot fish on the local dives. 20+ years ago there were so many! And squirrel fish and surgeon fish and snapper and tornados of horse eye Jack's. Those were the days!

I do have to take exception to one thing though and that is as lovely as Half-moon Caye and Aquarium are, the diving at Raja Ampat far surpasses that of the Belizean Atolls.

It's really hard to beat the friendly local nurse sharks though; like you said, they behave like puppies!

February can be terribly windy and often, the local diving is shut down, except for the big boats going out to the Atolls for the 3 dive day trips.

Yes, now I'm homesick. . .
 
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Dan

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You took me home, Dan! Thank you.

I notice that there continues to be a paucity of parrot fish on the local dives. 20+ years ago there were so many! And squirrel fish and surgeon fish and snapper and tornados of horse eye Jack's. Those were the days!

I do have to take exception to one thing though and that is as lovely as Half-moon Caye and Aquarium are, the diving at Raja Ampat far surpasses that of the Belizean Atolls.

It's really hard to beat the friendly local nurse sharks though; like you said, they behave like puppies!

February can be terribly windy and often, the local diving is shut down, except for the big boats going out to the Atolls for the 3 dive day trips.

Yes, now I'm homesick. . .

Sorry to make you homesick. :p

I have not seen such a friendly Nurse Shark anywhere.

Einer told me to come back in May / June for calmer weather. :)
 

Dan

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First time I have ever heard someone say part of Caribbean is on par with RA.

Yea, I've been to Raja Ampat 9 times. The tenth trip would be in February, next year, on Blue Manta.

Have you been to the Half Moon Caye Wall and The Aquarium?
 

chillyinCanada

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Sorry to make you homesick. :p

I have not seen such a friendly Nurse Shark anywhere.

Einer told me to come back in May / June for calmer weather. :)

Yes, it's quite lovely in June!
 
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