Ambergris, San Pedro, Belize
Nov 11, 2006
|Prelude: as an illustration how differently the same things can be perceived, on the plane to Belize a gentleman sat next to us, a retired special forces military officer of the US. He retired during the Clinton years, because he felt that he could not serve under such a horrible commander in chief, who let several US personal perish in africa, and elsewhere. He was already appauled at the changes that took place under the Carter administration, and did not want to see any more of these changes, but he saw nothing wrong about Pres. W. Bush and his policies.... I love to learn from oppinions different from mine but would have had an easier time giving a lot of credit to his judgement had he not confused on the map of Belize North with South as well as having made similar other mistakes that I would not have made at age 10, let alone as a highly ranked military officer.
We needed a little re-cap of our trip last year plus after I was away from Michelle for 2 months we thought that spending a week together travelling again will be good for us.
We were thinking about diving off the cast of Central America and Nov. is still chancy in Honduras, or so I read. Cozumel and Belize weather and water visibility sounded better and envisioning Cozumel as a package tourism mecca (I may very well be wong about this), we went with Belize. Surprisingly Belize gotta be one of the most expensive places to visit in Central America; we spent just about as much on things there than if it was the US, It's just that for the same money gets better fun than if we did this in Florida.
We flew Saturday morning to Belize City, took a taxi to the water taxi and a boat ride to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. The taxi was driven by a tall, very talkative guy. He was talking about his wife, whom he eventually talked into having 3 kids. She said 3 is plenty and he is thinking that now he has to go outside of his marriage to knock some other women up. He is a happy father, the thing he loves best about having children is that his wife does not question him so much as she used to when they did not have children where he was when he stayed out all night....
On a related note, I found an age distribution chart (the tree kind) of Belize. It was almost what one might expect, narrow on top, incredibly wide on bottom, except for the last decade it was different. Starting with the 5-10 and even more at the 0-5 age group were quite a bit narrower than 10-15 and above. I kept asking why and finally got the answer. Apparently the government eventually put its foot down on the child pregnancies issue and abandoned their version of "just say no" policy. Now, besides of preaching abstinance to teens, they also provide them with factual sex ed and with condoms left and right. Since than the pregnancies among teenage girls dropped precipitously and that what translates to the slowing down of the population explosion.
The water taxi ride to San Pedro out on the islands takes about 1 1/2 hours and depending on your temperament is either an all right ride, or you wish you spent the extra money on flying directly to SP. Ambergris key is very different from south america in many regards. One is that in SA it is hard not to hear the "el condor pasa" played for tourists. Ambergris happen to have its song, too, but we did not hear it once in Belize: Madonna sang about la isla bonita and San Pedro 20 years ago. Anyway, Ambergris (which my understanding is something of a substance that whales blurp up) Caye is the premier tourist destination in Belize and was suppose to be very touristy. We were very positively surprised to find (at least now, in the shoulder season) that while tourism is the engine that runs the island, but it is by no means the like of many other tropical destinations that are dominated by multinational resorts with the goal of making sure that the esteemed guest does not have to see anyone local at least not without a hotel uniform on.
There are many hotels that line the dirt streets and beach fronts of San Pedro, while over the water many, many dive centers. It is very nice that even though the hotels keep their beach front nice, but it is still open to the public providing a nice alternative for foot traffic to the streets. The streets have quite a bit of traffic, vast majority of which are electric, quiet golf carts.
Our first stop was Protech dive center, which I was in correspondence before. Anna there called around and got us a room for $80 (incl. taxes and breakfast) at a very pleasant hotel (which, according to lonelyplanet rents rooms 120-150/night otherwise).
The following days we did 2x2 local dives with protech. They were good people and the dives were pretty nice. They lacked the colorfulness of diving at Similan islands, but with a few minutes of boat ride we got to really fun coral spurs and deep canyons, long swim trhoughs and lots of fans. Out of these 4 dives we only did not see nurse sharks on one.
For extra fun we sailed a 14 foot mini hobie catamaran once and had wonderful chats with a Swiss couple who had to leave Mexico after 180 days for a few days before they could return there.
Last day we signed up for a dive trip to the Turneffe atoll. There are only 4 atolls in the Western hemesphere, of which 1 is in Mexico, the other 3 in Belize. Turneffe happens to be a big one, with lots of islands sitting in a ring. The ride from San Pedro on a fast boat is about 1 1/2 hours and we were lucky to have a smooth sailing day. Diving at the atolls is a lot more expensive than near the Cayes and we hoped to see something different there. We were not disappointed: the colors were back. Everywhere we looked was like a perfectly arranged salt water aquarium, plus one of my favorite diving views, walls. I really enjoy seeing on one side the coral gardens, the colorful trumpets of sponges, all the pretty fish, and on the other the bottom falling off from view and the deep blue everywhere one looks.