Trip Report Huracan Dive Lodge Trip Report

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

RyanT

Contributor
Messages
2,455
Reaction score
2,512
Location
Maryland
# of dives
500 - 999
My buddy and I, @Kim Hunter, usually dive NC and Florida and do a lot of tech diving. We decided to try something a bit different and do some easy dives at Huracan Dive Lodge on Lighthouse Reef, Belize. We booked a four night trip because we weren't sure what to expect. We figured if we didn't like it, we wouldn't have to stay so long. From the moment we stepped foot on the island we realized that was a mistake. Ten days wouldn't have been long enough! Many thanks to @Stoo for steering us to Huracan. And with apologies to @drrich2, I'm sure my report won't be as detailed, but I'm hoping I can provide some useful information for others who might be considering. Happy Holidays all!

The Lodge: It is an ecolodge, so that means no AC, compost toilets, etc, but more on that in a bit. The front of the lodge is a small dining room/living room. All the meals are eaten here and there are some comfortable chairs for relaxing. Everyone tended to congregate here for drinks and discussions about the day’s dives. They have the Humann/Deloach reef guides and everyone enjoyed looking up the fish and critters from the day’s dive. Behind the dining room is a central hall that runs the length of the lodge and opens to the back. Off the hall is the kitchen and four guest rooms (there’s a fifth room where the captain/lodge manager stays). The inside of the lodge is beautiful; it’s built of tropical wood (maybe mahogany?) and has beautiful, dark polished floors and walls.

The lodge is powered by solar panels and a generator. This means that electricity is limited, so there’s no A/C. Fans kept the lodge and rooms comfortable though. I even got a tad chilly at night. I had to ask for an extra sheet (which they gladly provided) and turn the fan down! This was Dec, so I’m sure July is a bit hotter. Overall, I found the temperature to be exceptionally comfortable, even without A/C. Sandflies were present and ready to bite, as they are pretty much everywhere in the Caribbean. I’ve seen the density worse in other places though. During the day I didn’t find them terrible and I’d often sit out front without insect repellent (I avoid the stuff whenever I can). At night, I opted to just hang out in the living room instead of wearing bug spray.

Each room is equipped with it’s own bathroom and a composting toilet. I was envisioning a pit toilet like I’ve seen in many national parks. I was a little afraid! My fears were unfounded. The toilet has a valve that keeps “sewer”gases out and economizes on water use. It worked really well. Water for showers/toilets/hand-washing is provided by rainwater they collect. There is hot water, but it’s hit or miss. I didn’t care. When the hot water didn’t fire, I just enjoyed the cool rinse.

Food & Drink: It was extraordinary! Every single meal was on par with something I would get at a really nice restaurant in my home town. There was lots of fresh seafood and fruits, as well as some traditional chicken and rice type dishes. We only stayed four days, but we never ate the same meal twice. Snacks (fruits, nuts, cookies) were plentiful. The only added charge was alcohol. Given the location, and that I've paid more elsewhere, I felt like the alcohol prices were really reasonable. In addition to beer and wine, they had a variety of cocktails available. Bottled water, fresh juice, and coffee was always available. I was having some ear issues and was a little worried about not being able to dive. Fortunately, I was able to dive. If I had ended up not being able to dive, however, I would have actually been ok just hanging out and eating the food. It was that good! At one of our first meals, one guest told the chef (Benji) hat she couldn’t eat the dessert it because of a gluten allergy. When booking on-line, there is place to report any dietary restrictions. Benji seemed genuinely upset that he didn’t know about her restriction ahead of time. He asked if she noted it. The guest was really gracious. She told him that she was diagnosed after she booked, so it was OK. Less than 10 minutes later Benji showed up with an amazing gluten free dessert that she could eat. Benji also provided meals for vegetarians along side the dishes with meat. On one dive day, we spent the day on the neighboring island (Half Moon Caye). In addition to loading up dive gear, we loaded up Benji and the grill! He made us a great lunch during our surface interval on the island! He even put down a table cloth and put locally picked flowers on the table! It was rather decadent!
 
OP
RyanT

RyanT

Contributor
Messages
2,455
Reaction score
2,512
Location
Maryland
# of dives
500 - 999
Huracan Part II:

Diving: The diving was stunning! Most dives were wall dives and we followed the DM (Eric) as a group. This isn’t really my style of diving, but once Eric recognized that we were confident divers, he gave us a little more rein. The visability was so good that it was easy for us to keep the group in sight, but hang back far enough to feel like it was kind of our own dive. Also, the boat is limited to 8 divers (we had 7 divers in our group) so it definitely wasn’t a cattle dive. Eric also moved really slow. There was no “swim constantly to keep up” kind of thing. He told the group that this wasn’t a race and he didn’t want folks finning around and burning gas unnecessarily. A big hats off to him on that front.

I think the worst visibility we had was maybe 80'. On many dives the viz was probably 150’! We had reef sharks and eagle rays join us on most dives. The reef sharks would often follow us around, making slow, close passes back and forth. It was pretty cool! All the usual suspects (reef fish) were abundant on every dive. We saw a couple of turtles too. At the Half Moon Caye preserve, there were tons of queen conchs, sea grass beds, and eel gardens on top of the wall. The reefs had a number of places with dead or dying coral. This isn't the fault of the lodge though. It is unfortunately, the state of coral reefs worldwide now. Despite that, the reefs were still some of the healthiest I've seen in recent years. The lodge provides AL 80s with air. Fills were always 3000 psi. They don’t have nitrox, but the dive profiles are such that air didn't really limit us that much. On most dives you can drop down a little deeper on the wall at the beginning and then finish your dive up top in the shallows. Most of my dives were 60-70 minutes. Some in our group ran low on gas at around the 45 minute mark. Eric would escort them back to the boat and let those with better SACs to do some more time on the reef.

We did one dive day at neighboring Half Moon Caye. It’s a well-protected reserve. There was a rich seagrass bed with garden eels at the edge of the grass. There was a wide expanse of white between the grass and the edge of the wall. The reef, on the edge of the wall, rose maybe 15’ off the bottom before plunging on the other side. There were a number of pretty swim throughs. It was impressive to see such healthy seagrass beds and abundant queen conch up top. On a couple of dives, my buddy and I spent the last ten minutes of the dive hanging at 20’, watching hog fish, jacks, and stingrays foraging in the seagrass. We spent all our surface intervals on the island. There is a bird rookery (frigate birds and red footed boobies) that you can watch from the observation tower. It was also fun to walk around look at the land hermit crabs. Doing the Sis on the island was a great experience, but it made for a long day. It’s a bit of run from Long Caye, so I can see why they wouldn’t run back and forth between dives.

At the end each dive, they had divers get out of their gear and they hauled it onto the boat to make the climb easy. My buddy and I dive a long hose, so we found it easier to just climb the ladder. We usually climb in doubles, so climbing with a single AL80 still felt like vacation! Back ashore, the crew handled our gear and had our rigs with fresh tanks waiting for us on the next dive. On dive trips, my buddy and I always haul our own gear, get fills, and cook our own food. This felt extravagant!

This is a place that is BEGGING for tech dives. It would be incredible to do a deep dive down the wall and then finish up deco on the reef. The lodge is remote and 45 miles off shore. Getting O2 and especially helium would be logistically difficult, so I can see why they only do air.

I’ve heard a lot of people say the Blue Hole is a one-and-done kind of thing. I enjoyed it and I would definitely do it again with Huracan. Our group dropped down to the stalagtites, did the swim through and worked our way back up. I hit 148’ near the ledge where the hole continues to drop. The viz was quite good, but the water had a “milky” look to it. There aren’t many fish, but for me, the geology was the attraction. I quite enjoyed it. By the time we got back to the top of the hole, my buddy and I had a little deco obligation. I’m sure the other divers had a more liberal algorithm so they got back on the boat. We just hung around under the boat, looking at the reef and off gassing. By this time, a ton of other boats were showing up, including the Agressor. It looked like a parking lot and they started dropping tons of divers. Huracan intentionally left the dock early so we’d beat the crowd to the hole. I would have hated it if we had to dive in the crowd, so I was really grateful that they took us early.

Staff & Guests: This was the hardest working staff I've ever seen. They were working when we got up and they were working when we went to bed. Despite working so hard, they always had a smile! Each meal was eaten with the other guests (8 total). It was a very social environment and most of us had drinks and played games after dinner. We had a great time getting to know everyone and we all clicked as a group. That made the whole trip that much more enjoyable. The staff came and played dominos and other games with us on our last night at a bit of an impromptu party. It was a blast! The boat captain and site manager (Jose) was great. He’s a competent captain and was always around to ensure that everyone had what they needed. Benji worked non-stop in the kitchen and was assisted by Danni and Eduardo. They kept the lodge/rooms clean and everyone well fed. All five of these guys were a seamless, well-oiled machine. I ended up tipping a bit more than I had planned because the crew were just so good.

Boat & Transfers: They use the same boat for diving and transfers to and from the mainland. It’s maybe a 32’ boat with about a 10’ beam. Twin 200 outboards. It was comfortable for 8 divers without being crowded. Many of the dive sites are just a few minutes from the dock; we enjoyed that. The transfer from the mainland is about a 2-hour run and can be a bit rough and wet. The bow of the boat has an enclosure where you can get out of the wind, spray, and/or rain. If it’s rough, however, the bow is not going to be comfortable. They also put the luggage up there, covered by a tarp to keep it dry. There is a bench at the stern which is a comfortable spot in the waves. It is windy and potentially wet back there though. We chose to sit in the stern. Overall, it’s not the most comfortable transfer, but I didn’t mind it. The lodge and diving on Lighthouse reef made it worth it though. A lot of boats visited the blue hole from the mainland. I would NOT want to do that as a day trip.

Mainland airport transfers: We chose to fly in the day before and stayed at the Radisson Fort George (5 min taxi from the dock). The boat leaves the dock for the island at around 2:30 pm. Our Delta flight made it in time to meet the boat, but we did not want to risk missing the boat. If you miss the boat, you have to take a very expensive, private charter to the island. The Radisson was clean and comfortable, but certainly not great. They have a nice restaurant/bar on site and a taxi stand right outside. The boat meets the dock behind the Ramada. The Ramada reviews were pretty bad, so we decided not to stay there. It looked pretty run down on the outside, so I was happy with my decision. There is a nice restaurant/bar right at the dock, that made the wait on the boat nice.

The only negative experience was the airport transfer after the trip. There was a couple who had Huracan set up a city tour/airport transfer. They asked us if we wanted to accompany them. We had enjoyed their company, so we said yes. The woman who provided the city tour was the sister of the manager, Carlos. We thought she actually worked for the lodge. It became clear that this was kind of side hustle for them. And "hustle" it was. We got in the car and she told us it would be $60 each. The guy we were with kind of balked, so then she pretended she misquoted us when adding things up and the price was really $40 each. Our city tour consisted of a 30-minute drive around town pointing out an old church, the courthouse, and the poverty-stricken area of the city. The police had a check point at one spot and only allowed certified tour guides in. Our guide made up some story about why she didn’t have her certificate, but that she was allowed in because she worked for Huracan. She then stopped at the cruise ship port so we could take our picture with the Belize sign. We were instantly accosted by people trying to sell us junk. Then our tour guide's friends saw us, stopped, and they went after the two women in our group to braid their hair. The whole thing was pretty much a shake down. Our guide then took us to the clinic for our COVID test. It was cheaper than at the airport, but you MUST tell the clinc to email/what’s app the results. If you don’t, they won’t send it. We almost missed our flight because of this.

All in all, it was an incredible experience. We're already planning our next trip back. Next time we’ll just be catching our own taxi though!
 

Attachments

  • Pygmy filefish.jpeg
    Pygmy filefish.jpeg
    147.2 KB · Views: 23
  • Reef Shark.jpeg
    Reef Shark.jpeg
    40.8 KB · Views: 24

drrich2

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
10,074
Reaction score
8,504
Location
Southwestern Kentucky
# of dives
500 - 999
Excellent report, with the details people considering the destination will need! When I dove the outer atolls region of Belize via live-aboard back in 2015, I thought the reef was comparable to what I saw off Little Cayman by live-aboard in 2016, albeit L.C. wildlife was more approachable (e.g.: touchable Nassau grouper). I liked Half Moon Caye; the land craps and spiny iguanas in the forested area were neat, in addition to the birds you mentioned.

It is an ecolodge, so that means no AC, compost toilets, etc, but more on that in a bit.
I'm glad to see options like this exist, as I know some people like ecologically-minded and 'sustainable' businesses. That said, no A.C., no 'me.'
They don’t have nitrox, but the dive profiles are such that air didn't really limit us that much.
How many dives/day were offered?
 
OP
RyanT

RyanT

Contributor
Messages
2,455
Reaction score
2,512
Location
Maryland
# of dives
500 - 999
@drrich2, oh wow, I can't believe I forgot to mention the number of dives....kind of important! They offer 3 dives a day. We had three dive days, so ended up making 9 dives. They advertise it as 8 dives, with the idea of not doing the third dive on the last day, to provide that 24 hour window before flying. Our flight was late the following afternoon, so we got that extra dive in.

Wednesdays and Saturdays are transfer days to/from the mainland. So no diving on those days. That's how they advertise it anyway. In reality, they did take one couple out for a dive Wednesday afternoon when we arrived at the island. If you stay the full week (Sat-Sat), they do provide at least one dive on that no-dive transfer day.

I know some folks might feel like it's not enough diving (compared to a live-aboard). For me though, I don't a slightly slower pace. My ears sure appreciated it anyway!

On the AC front, I like to sleep cool and dry. I was really surprised that I actually got chilly and had to get an extra sheet after that first night. I'm sure July is different! :wink:
 

drrich2

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
10,074
Reaction score
8,504
Location
Southwestern Kentucky
# of dives
500 - 999
I know some folks might feel like it's not enough diving (compared to a live-aboard). For me though, I don't a slightly slower pace. My ears sure appreciated it anyway!
True, but conversely, not everyone wants to dive 4 - 5x's/day, and some might feel they paid for but didn't use the option on a live-aboard. Plus those who don't might prefer hanging out on an island to a boat. I love live-aboard trips, but it's good there are options.

Richard.
 

salth2owannabe

Contributor
Messages
387
Reaction score
142
Location
Idaho
# of dives
I just don't log dives
The Radisson was clean and comfortable, but certainly not great. They have a nice restaurant/bar on site and a taxi stand right outside. The boat meets the dock behind the Ramada. The Ramada reviews were pretty bad, so we decided not to stay there.
Very good trip report and glad you enjoyed it. We are really looking forward to our return visit this February.

I've mentioned it a few times on this forum before, but I'll throw it out here again if it's helpful.
As a pre/post trip stay option outside of Belize City I highly recommend The Black Orchid hotel/resort on the other side of the airport near Burrell Boom. We found this little gem on our first trip to Belize and have been staying there both pre and post dive trip as it makes things so easy.
The Black Orchid is a small family run business that sits right on the Belize River. They are self contained, in that they have a restaurant, pool, and bar on site so there is no need to leave. They have canoes you can take out on the river, and they usually have a few howler monkeys on the property. They have free airport transfers and will also arrange transport to Belize City if needed. They arrange excursions which are listed on their web site. We did a private Mayan Ruins day tour that I can't say enough good things about.

I'm not affiliated in any way to the place and not compensated. Sorry this got a little long, but I see many folks looking for better pre/post stay options. Take a look at this option, you won't be disappointed.
 
OP
RyanT

RyanT

Contributor
Messages
2,455
Reaction score
2,512
Location
Maryland
# of dives
500 - 999
@salth2owannabe, thanks a bunch! That's really helpful information. I also forgot to mention in my report that Belize City is not so great. This sounds like a really great alternative to staying in Belize City! We'll definitely check it out on our next trip! Say hi to the crew for us in Feb!
 

Downing

Contributor
Messages
1,951
Reaction score
695
Location
Portland, Oregon
# of dives
200 - 499
Mainland airport transfers: We chose to fly in the day before and stayed at the Radisson Fort George (5 min taxi from the dock). The boat leaves the dock for the island at around 2:30 pm. Our Delta flight made it in time to meet the boat, but we did not want to risk missing the boat.
A couple of more alternatives to the Radisson:

The Great House, which is located right across the street. Old, historic renovated house with unique rooms. If you don't like the one you got, you can ask to see the others. Personally, I prefer the one right next to the office on the second story for the extra security, corner view and lots of windows. On site restaurant, The Smokey Mermaid. Stick to the basics.

And the Villa Boscardi. It's on the edge of town, just off the Northern Highway (the road to the airport). I like the room in the back for the privacy. This place is really handy if you have an early flight out. Very clean and everything works.

I haven't stayed at the Black Orchid yet but will someday. Last time I tried to book there it was full. Looks very, very nice and a lot more relaxing than BZ City.

Our city tour consisted of a 30-minute drive around town pointing out an old church, the courthouse, and the poverty-stricken area of the city. The police had a check point at one spot and only allowed certified tour guides in. Our guide made up some story about why she didn’t have her certificate, but that she was allowed in because she worked for Huracan. She then stopped at the cruise ship port so we could take our picture with the Belize sign. We were instantly accosted by people trying to sell us junk.
Lol. You pretty much saw all BZ City has to offer. If you were in the St Johns Cathedral area then you probably saw the Governor's Mansion as well and probably crossed over the Swinging Bridge on your way to "Tourism Village." You know there's not a lot more to see--maybe the old American Consulate and the original Belize Prison (now a museum)--when you're taken to the cruise ship port. As far as "poverty stricken," yeah, that's pretty much 90% of Belize City. For a once in a lifetime experience, you can go into Tourism Village, buy a Rolex, then walk out and be relieved of it at knife point all in under 10 minutes.

Years ago, I was watching a travel show on tv and much to my surprise the episode was about Belize City. At one point, the host walked over the Swinging Bridge, then looked down a side street, chickened out and would go no further. It was hilarious. They had a hard time filling 30 minutes.

All in all, it was an incredible experience. We're already planning our next trip back. Next time we’ll just be catching our own taxi though!
Cool! Glad you had a good time.
 

Stoo

Contributor
Messages
3,370
Reaction score
3,511
Location
Freelton & Tobermory, Ontario, Canada
# of dives
5000 - ∞
I'm glad you guys enjoyed yourselves. I mentioned elsewhere that we are booked in for our 12th stay later this winter. Having missed last winter due to COVID, we can hardly wait to get back there.

I sometimes think that when people hear "Eco-lodge" they assume the place is some version of "glamping". And in this case, it just isn't so. Beautiful, comfortable rooms, and rustic bathrooms. The compost toilets take some adjustment, but a minor one. The water table on Long Caye is about 3" below the surface, so a septic system just isn't possible. And as you pointed out Ryan, the AC really isn't an issue. The lodge itself is shaded my trees, and stays quite cool. The front dining/lounge area is basically an open-air porch and the bedrooms all have an entire side that is a huge screened window. I also tend to get cool in the middle of the night and end up shutting off the fan normally.

I'm glad to hear the food was good. We've been spoiled for years under the care of Chef Shannon and Chef Mynor before him. Mrs. Stoo chooses dive locations based on the food.

Anyway, I'm glad you had a good trip.
 
OP
RyanT

RyanT

Contributor
Messages
2,455
Reaction score
2,512
Location
Maryland
# of dives
500 - 999
The Great House, which is located right across the street. Old, historic renovated house with unique rooms.
The only reason we didn't choose it is because they said they had limited staff hours. We were a little worried abut having trouble if we got in late. It actually looked like a place I would have preferred to stay over the Radisson.

For a once in a lifetime experience, you can go into Tourism Village, buy a Rolex, then walk out and be relieved of it at knife point all in under 10 minutes.
I really enjoy authentic travel experiences. I'll have to try that one next time. LOL!!!!
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/teric/

Top Bottom