Like many of us, my time off from work is limited and so I must choose my vacation destinations carefully. We booked a Groupon trip to Yok Ha "Resort" in December 2013. It was suppose to be after the rain season but unfortunately, the official "rain season" that was to end by November was a dry season...which leant Mother Nature to release her torrential rains upon us in mid December during our trip. We met the driver of our boat, Winnifred Prescott, who also happened to be the resort's owner, at the small flat bottom skiff fishing boat after his wife picked us up 50 min late from our hotel. We were schedule to depart to our island retreat at 2pm but we weren't even picked up from the hotel until 2:50pm. After she dropped us off at the boat in the rain, we were told that we had to wait while Winnifred and his wife continued to gather supplies to take to the island. This took nearly another hour. We were told that we could wait inside their office that resembled an abandoned run down gas station that leaked rain water inside, had no working toilet and no chairs on which to sit in the dirty wet unkempt lineoleum room. It was cold, filthy and not a charming first impression of what we were about to embark upon. Because it had been raining and storm season was in full swing, the ocean was choppy and the waves and swells were big. It was an unnerving 8 mile ride to Waterfoot Caye Yok Ha Resort. Once to shore, the dining room and bar were a most welcomed site. It was colorful, pretty and inviting. However, the windows in the dining rooms and most of the cabins leaked due to the poor quality of the-contractors-torrential rains had been thrust upon the region and Winnifred stated that he needed to get all of the leaking windows fixed. He stated that the contractors put up the 5 cabins and dining area within 6 weeks in order for him to open the resort. There were issues with the plumbing, toilets and rain water leaking through the windows. Had these things been working properly, the 4 mile island (of which about 1/4 mile had been developed and was accessible to walk and take out subpar kayaks), the island could have been considered a respite for those who wanted only to lay on a beach or swing in their hammock on the porch of their cabin for the duration. Our cabin did not have any porch chairs. We were one of 2 couples on the island at this time and there were 3 other empty cabins which all had porch chairs on them. When I asked Winnifred if we could get 2 porch chairs for our cabin, he stated that yes he would get them and then proceeded to walk into the dining hall, sit down and began eating and reading a newspaper. We had to find someone else to bring us chairs so that we could sit on our porch. We learned that 4 people were required to book an excursion together before we could go ashore so we had to confer with the one other couple and agree to visit the same excursion. We would have been out of luck if we wanted to go to a reef and another couple wanted to go to Mayan Ruins. There was only 1 boat available during our VACATION. The rains were torrential in the mornings and night. We had 1 opportunity to go ashore with the other couple that we had chosen to visit the Mayan Ruins. Winnifred told us that we would have to leave by 07:30 am to take the usual 30-min boat ride ashore (in calm conditions) and drive 2-hours to Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins. Because of the torrential rains and stormy sea we could not leave shore in the morning. We were content to remain safe, stay in our cabin and read for the day. However, at 10:30am Winnifred announced that the trip was "on" to the ruins. We were all stunned and concerned because the sea swells were large and another storm was on the way AND we were getting a 3-hour late start. Not only that, it turned out that the drive was 3-hr, not 2-hr like he told us. This meant that we would have to be crossing a stormy sea in the dark. We almost had Winnifred turn the boat around 3 times on our way to shore because of the frightening swells. We made it to mainland Belize after a frightening hour+ long ride in the swells. We heard his wife calling numerous times beginning shortly after 2pm to inquire our whereabouts because there was another couple stranded at their makeshift gas station office awaiting their 2pm departure to Yok Ha. We were still touring the ruins at that time and then we were going to an authentic mayan restaurant for lunch before we embarked upon our 3-hr ride back to the boat to meet the waiting couple. Winifred kept telling his wife to tell the waiting couple that we would be back soon. We didn't get back to the boat until 6pm. The couple had to wait 4-hr in their unsuitable cold wet "room" that had 1 plastic bucket that they used for a chair. It was now dark. Our boat was an open skiff with no lights, no emergency radio and our driver, Winnifred, we later found out did not have a boating pilot's license to operate a passenger boat. The swells were big even in our river inlet. His wife asked if we wanted to wait awhile before trying to go out to sea. Winnifred said that we would be fine and he took us out into the eery angry waters now having to navigate long tree logs at the rivers inlet from the sea in the dark. When we got nearly a mile off the coast, on of Winnifred's outboard motor's died, leaving us with minimal power in these already overpowering waves. At that point I stood up and spoke for the 6 of us passengers to demand that we turn around because we still had 7 miles to go if we headed for the island and the sea would get worse the farther out we ventured. I began sailing in 1990. I sail in the San Francisco Bay and Greece and we have NEVER gone out in such dangerous conditions. I acquired my bareboat cruising license through US Sailing and have taken coastal cruise course as well. When I asked Winnifred to alert the coastguard to come help us, he refused. He did, however, turn the boat around in the 15 ft swells at which point his other engine went out. We were now powerless 1 mile from the coast in a stormy sea with no lights, no emergency radio, no beacon and a captain who refused to call the coastguard. There were NO other boats in the water that night. We later found out that the reason that he didn't call the coastguard was because he didn't have a license to operate the boat and he would have gotten fined. He finally called his wife to alert her family member to come out to rescue us. The family member at first didn't heed the call because, as he told us, he thought that the wife was joking....no one would be out in that water that night. In fact, they cancelled an outing because of the weather. Winnifred was silent during this time after he told us they were coming when really they hadn't even left shore for more than 25min from his call. They finally reached us after about an hour and they towed us back to shore. They said that they used to have the type of boat engines that Winnifred was using on our passenger boat but they bought better engines because the engines that Winnifred was using were known to stall, break down and be unreliable. We would have died in the sea that night if we didn't get towed back to shore. Winnifred refused to alert the coastguard because he didn't want to get fined and perhaps have his business shutdown for dangerous operations. Winnifred may retort that the waves were not that bad in which case I ask any reader to check out the weather in Belize Cayes December 19, 2013. I have reported this incident to the Belize coastguard. Bottom line: We should have never gone out in such dangerous conditions but Winnifred wanted to collect our excursion fees to the ruins and he risked everyone's life,even his own, for that few hundred dollars. I gave this review 2 stars instead of 1 because I took into account the adverse weather conditions that were cast upon us that were not in anyone's control. It was how the owner of the "resort" chose to handle the weather situation that became life endangering to his guests.The island getaway was pretty albeit very remote and lacked sufficient amenities to supplement on shore excursions for more than 1 trip per day. The kayaks for use on the island were not sea kayaks. Our room on the island was clean, sleep quality good. There is important work to be done, a licensed boat pilot and proper excursion boat to be added to make this "resort" a relaxing and safe getaway. Unfortunately for us, I have not embellished or exaggerated the danger we experienced on this excursion that nearly cost us our life.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Place!Yok Ha Belize Resort is on a three (3) acre private island just eight (8) miles due east of Dangriga. The five cabanas at the Resort have been designed with your privacy and beach front comfort in mind. For serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks, our over the water restaurant and bar is the perfect place to have a meal, grab a beer, or enjoy a relaxing sit on the deck looking out over the sea. Our rates include all meals and transportation to the island so once you book there is no need to worry about anything!!The Experience!!A vacation at Yok Ha Belize Resort will be the EVENT of a lifetime as you explore and capture Belize’s beauty and uniqueness. A multitude of activities are available for you. The fabulous sea is right at your doorstep where snorkeling, fishing and kayaking awaits you. Spend lazy days on the beach or enjoy the use of our complimentary Kayaks, skipping from island to island.The Difference!!!It is our mission to provide exceptional service and an unforgettable experience to all our guests. We put sustainable eco-tourism in the forefront.By choosing Yok Ha Resort you will go home relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated. ... more less
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