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Trip Report

Exotic Caye Beach Resort - Ambergris Caye, Belize

Okay...so Gary and I are going to go check out this place. Mike Cobb's been asking me to try out his resort for months, but my schedule would not allow for it. On our trip to Roatan, we were flying via Belize City down and back, so I had TACA reschedule for a stop off for a couple of days during the return trip ($40.00 USD add-on). Gary and I had stayed up way to late and drank way too much to get up in time for the early morning flight, direct to Belize City, but figured we could catch the flight at 1:30 PM. No big deal, right? WRONG! If you don't catch the morning flight, you're in for a trip. We left Roatan, landed in La Cieba, stayed for about 45 minutes, then on to San Pedro Sula, hung out for an hour or so, then on to Belize City. Total travel time? About 5 hours. By the way, the direct flight takes about 50 minutes... Okay...lesson learned.

So, we get to Belize City and grab a Tropic Air flight to Ambergris Caye ($42.00 USD each). Tropic Air and Maya Air run small prop planes between Belize International airport and Ambergris Caye about every hour up until 6:30-7:00PM. You can also take a cab to the municipal airport and catch a hopper for around 20.00-25.00 USD, but we were running really late as it was.

Here's a travel hint: A word of caution: I've been using a plastic storage locker kind of thing to transport my dive gear lately, and there was a bit of uncertainty as to whether or not it would be able to fit on the flight with us or not. These planes have small belly baggage compartments, and oversized stuff just won't make it. My gear had to ride in the passenger compartment, but it did go with us.

We arrived at the San Pedro Town airport, gathered up our stuff, and grabbed a cab. As it turns out, the resort was only 3 1/2 blocks away from the airport ($5.00 Belizean/$2.50 USD). Here's where things got a bit weird. We were already showing up late, and when we went to check in, it took the desk manager over 10 minutes to find the reservation. After our brief panic, we were given a room. The resort is pretty nice, with parts of it under active refurb and new construction. We had an upstairs room facing the water. The furnishings were kinda' sucky. Clean, but well worn. The bed was a marshmallow. (Mike Cobb had a container load of new furniture on the way down that probably cleared customs right after we left) There were some nice touches though. The place has real thatched roofs, air conditioning in the bedrooms, big front balconies/patios on all rooms with lines and hooks to hang your gear, a nice freshwater pool, and lots of palms and loungers on their beach. The bar (Howdy Carlos) is down by the water, and offers up a full complement of beverages, including of course, Belikin.

Because we had arrived so late, there was no diving to be had that day, so we went to eat at the resort restaurant, the 'Laughing Barracuda'. If you are in any kind of a hurry to eat, this is not the place. All of the food is cooked to order, and as a result, it can take a while to get your meal. Afterwards, we went down to the bar to make dive plans for the following morning, then walked down to the dive shop. The shop was small, but fairly well equipped, and there are plans to extend the dock another 100' and expand the dive shop to about twice its current size within the next 60-90 days. We spoke with the folks at the dive shop, (who were expecting us and had our dive reservation) and were told to be at the shop at 8:00AM for the 8:30AM dive.

Gary and I made it down to the restaurant at about 7:00AM, thinking we could grab a quick breakfast and have plenty of time to make the morning dive. Oops, I forgot how slow the food service was. We ordered at 7:05AM...we got our food at 7:50AM...see what I mean? While we were waiting for breakfast, a couple of the dive shop folks showed up, so we walked down to the shop to verify our arrangements. We went back to the restaurant, finished breakfast and went to grab our gear. When we got back to the dive shop, we were told that the dive trip would be at 9:00AM, as there was a couple that was debating if they wanted to dive or not. As it turns out they did, and we finally left the dock at 9:40AM. I was concerned about the time, as I could only catch a couple of dives and leave enough 'time-to-fly' the next morning. Gary's flight wasn't until the next afternoon, so he had a bit more time to play with. Both of the boats currently at Exotic Caye are 6-8 packs, although Rico Black, the dive shop owner, plans to add a couple of larger boats when the dock extension is completed. At this time, larger boats cannot come in to his dock, as the water is just not deep enough. On to the dives...

Diving Day One: Monday, February 21st:

The first site was the 'Amigo Wreck': We dropped off a good way from the wreck site, and swam across a number of sand chutes (they called them canyons) that varied from 5-50' deep enroute to the wreck. Great hard coral heads and soft corals between the chutes, as well as rays, lobster, crabs, a fair amount of small tropicals, and huge Grouper and Yellowtails. So far, so good. We suck down around 1500 PSI getting across the chutes and come to this bigger chute, maybe 100' across and 65' deep, and there's the wreck. It's a barge, so the deck is large and flat. The deck was covered with Nurse Sharks, Grouper, Yellowtails and a big Green Moray. We swam down to the deck and the Sharks and Grouper immediately began gathering. I disagree with feeding marine life, and we did not feed them, but it was obvious that they had been fed in the past. If you sat on the deck of the barge, Nurse Sharks would flop down next to you like a puppy waiting to be petted. I had never experienced anything quite like this...We made a safety stop and climbed back into the boat.

Depth: 45-50' at the drop-off spot, 65-70’ at the wreck site. Visibility: 100-120’.

The second site was the 'Hol Chan Marine Sanctuary': We did our surface interval inside the atoll that encloses the park. Gary and a couple other folks did some snorkeling while we were off-gassing. The water was only 3-7' deep, so they saw quite a bit of large fish during the snorkeling as well. After the SI, we went just outside of the atoll and made our drop. Once again, we dove laterally across a number of chutes/canyons, but at this spot, the canyons ranged from 20-80' deeper than the surrounding coral. The visibility was incredible, something like 150'+. Lots of Huge Grouper, Amberjacks, Horse-eye Jacks, Morays and Lobster. Absolutely wonderful dive.

Depth: 35-40 at the mooring, 120’+ at the lower chutes. Visibility: 150'+.

Well, that was it for me. I wish I would have had some more time to dive, but the schedule wouldn't allow for it. Gary did one more dive, and then had to call it a day as well.

Overall impression:

Exotic Caye has the location and potential to do well. I'd like to go back in the next month or so, as most of the stuff that was underway while I was there will be completed. It appears that Cobb is willing to put the capital in the place to make it a truly nice resort, and I think he is customer service centric enough to run a good operation. The dive op is very capable, and maybe a bit conservative until they know your abilities, and the diving is incredible. If you're planning a trip to Belize, you might want to check this one out...

DSAO

TexasTim

 

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