I booked a snorkel tour with Sea Sports Belize for a day when my cruise ship was in port. The email booking process went smoothly. The minimum # for this tour was four people and, as I was solo and only one other couple had inquired, there was some question whether we would go. Eventually, they confirmed and said we'd go out even if it was just the three of us. Price was $90, paid in advance via paypal. Since the other couple was on the same cruise, they introduced us via email so we could coordinate and head over to their dive shop together. When we got to the shop, we were early so they invited us in to wait inside, where we chatted with the staff until our guide Victoria and the boat showed up. As it turned out, they'd added a couple of divers to our group. The plan explained to us when we set off was that they'd take us to a snorkel spot, which included a little sandbar in the middle of the reef, drop us there, and take the divers a little farther out to dive. Then they'd pick us up and take us for lunch on another little island Victoria's grandfather owns, and then we'd have a second snorkel opportunity while the divers did their second dive.
This was, by far, the best snorkel excursion I've ever been on. I can attribute that almost equally to the beauty of Belize's clear water and reefs and the skills, experience, and charm of our guide Victoria. The positives:
--The reef spot with the sandbar island in the middle of it was perfect. The coral and sea life was amazing there and the sandbar close by gave a feeling of safety and a spot to warm up in the sun after being in the water for a bit.
--Victoria grew up in the area and knows the reef, its history, and its inhabitants intimately. She kept us safe from the coral and the coral safe from us. At the same time, she pointed out the different types of coral and fish and what they were called, and carefully dove down and brought us things like sea cucumbers and urchins to look at up close. Then she gently put them back to continue their little lives. Without being too over-mothering, she keps us all in sight and checked in to make sure we were comfortable and safe. When the other woman's mask kept leaking, Victoria offered her own, which worked much better. And wherever we went, she towed a life-saver so we had something to grab onto when we stopped to talk about something or adjust equipment. I really couldn't have asked for a nicer, more knowledgeable guide.
--Lunch on the island was adequate: turkey pastrami and cheese sandwiches, chips, and sugared soft drinks or water. (I would have liked diet soft drink, but small matter.) The island encampment was rough living, and Victoria showed us all around it and explained how it all works. There were 5 dogs staying there with the guy watching over the place. At least one needed serious vet care, which was concerning, but Victoria assured me they were treating it. One can't expect the same pet care standards in other countries that we have in the US, I suppose.
--The after-lunch snorkeling consisted of us dropping our bags on the same sandbar island but going out to the dive spot on the other side and snorkeling back to the sandbar from the other direction. Victoria pointed out Queen Victoria's bathtub along the way (the story being that the sandbar was much bigger and Queen Victoria had a vacation residence on it before a hurricane in the 20's blew it to pieces). After about 45 minutes of snorkeling and another 15-20 warming up on the sandbar, the boat picked us up and dropped us off at the cruise port. Fresh fruit and water was offered on the trip back.
My only negative: there didn't seem to be enough drinking water for the group for the whole day's activities. We drank up every little bit and I would have liked a little more. Had something gone wrong and we were left on that sandbar for a little while, it would have been uncomfortable.
Also, this is not a negative comment about Sea Sports Belize: I was very disappointed that the other couple I was with did not tip Victoria when we exited the boat. I don't know if they just didn't know you should, or were short of cash or what, but she was so fabulous and it was a small group anyway. Guides often count on a substantial amount of their income coming from tips, so PLEASE REMEMBER TO TIP WELL WHEN THEY DO A GOOD JOB. Such a pity that the only tip she got was from me.
I can't wait to go back to Belize and get back out on the water with Sea Sports Belize.
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