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Trip Report Adventures and Relaxation in Belize!

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We got home yesterday from what I would say was probably a perfect vacation in Belize! This trip I actually kept a mini journal so I could write a decent trip report because I love reading everyone else's so much - so hopefully I can do our trip justice. Also, there doesn't seem to be too many reports written about Belize.

For a bit of background, my husband and I are early 40's and we love to travel - we've been t Mexico - Riviera Maya, several times, a few of the islands - including Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia and the Bahamas and Costa Rica twice. But Belize has been calling my name now for a year of so. I think what intrigued me most about Belize in my planning was the easy access to the ruins and the reef as well. So, in planning we decided to do a combination of both the jungle and the beach. Many of the resorts offer combination packages where you can book directly and they'll handle all of the details of the transfers and what not to get you from one resort to another from the jungle to the beach - but from what I found most were 7 day packages and with travel time, I felt like that might not be enough time to get a full vacation experience. So I booked each resort separately however I did do a package with each resort that included some combination of meals and tours.

Day one we left Philadelphia on a 5:30 am flight on Continental and it's been a long time since flying with them and they were great! 1st bag free, direct tv (for a fee) on the plane and - they served a small meal! Unheard of! We connected in Houston and arrived in Belize City by 10:30 am where we were greeted by Miguel from Chaa Creek. We chose Chaa Creek for a few reasons, but mainly because the "inland adventure package" they offered included meals, transportation to and from the airport, as well as several tours during our stay - not to mention the wonderful reviews both online and in various publications! Anyway...off we went with Miguel....he told us all about the country as we drove. One of the inclusions with our package was a stop at the Belize Zoo, so we chose to do that on our way to Chaa Creek.

We got to the zoo and Miguel came in with us and walked us through the zoo - not that you need a guide to visit a zoo - but he told us all about the natural habitat of the various animals and made sure we saw everything there is to see. As others have mentioned - it's a cute, small and unique zoo. The signs are handpainted or carved and are humorous and the animals are all native to the country.

We had about another hour drive to get to Chaa Creek and as we got closer we moved into some beautiful mountain countryside. Miguel would point out every time the countryside changed and what made it different. As we drove over the Macal River he became very passionate about a dam that was built that has very recently turned the river brown with mud and has actually started to polute the water. Apparently there is a major political controversy over this and we heard a lot of talk about the dam that turned the river brown.

We arrived at Chaa Creek and checked in. It's stunning....my husband looked at me and his first words were "where in the world did you find this place?!!!" I said, my Fodor's friends....those words would be repeated often! We were taken to our cottage...we just had a standard cottage, but it was beautiful. Hardwood floors, big bathroom with a double sink and double shower and also an outside shower. We got settled in and went to grab lunch. After lunch we headed to the pool. The pool at Chaa Creek is new and to be honest, I can not imagine staying there without the pool. We spent most afternoons and early evenings cooling off at the pool and it seemed that most other guests did as well. It was HOT there! The pool is a decent size infinity pool.

All in all our first day was pretty fantastic! More to follow....

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    Gret - can't wait to hear more!!

    If you'd like to learn more about the Chalillo Dam, read the amazing book "Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw" about the fight to keep it from being built. Lots of background into the country and it's people including Sharon Matola who started and directs the zoo and Mick Fleming, owner of Chaa Creek. Everyone who travels to Belize should read it imo. There have been some recent thread on the Belize Forum, too: www.belizeforum.com

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    Shell, welcome back! Belize is on our to do list, so I can't wait to hear all the details. I got an e-mail from Katie that I'm up for a free guidebook, so I'm getting Belize. It sounds like your trip was wonderful! I've always been intrigued by Chaa Creek. Sounds like it did not disappoint!

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    Day 2....we got up early. Actually we had a really hard time sleeping. It was hot and of course the rooms aren't air conditioned. For some reason we had a room with two full size beds instead of a king size (or even one queen sized) and for some reason we thought we could sleep in a full sized bed together in the heat...that was the last night we did that! Too hot! Even with the ceiling fans on high I just could not sleep. And I found the mattress to be very hard.

    We got up, had breakfast and decided to walk along the river. It's hard to not make comparisons from one vacation/country/resort etc to another - so of course I was comparing Belize to Costa Rica and Mexico most often. The most striking difference to me was the absolute lack of any wildlife at all. The area was beautiful, but there was not one bit of wildlife to be found. They said there were many birds in the area, and maybe to a birder they would notice several different ones, but there were not many that a novice would see. The main bird that we saw was a yellow and brown bird that would fly around the pool. Seemed to be just one of them and my husband and I started to joke that it was a robot bird put there to convice us that there was wildlife there afterall! However, we were told there was a small family of howler monkeys by one of the cottages by the river and one of the guests did see them (about 4 of them) one morning out for a jog.

    The walk to the river was very pretty though. Huge bamboo trees. We enjoyed that and sat down by the canoe dock for awile. We decided to spend our first day relaxing by the pool after our long day of travel the previous day. We also did a self guided hike along their medicinal trail. It's a trial where you can pick up a booklet that decribes all of the various trees and how they can be used for medicinal value. It was really interesting! Sometime the previous day my husband was bitten by something on his foot and his foot and ankle were now swollen up pretty badly...we later figured out he must have had an allergic reaction to a doctor fly...it took about a full week for the swelling to go down! We didn't find the bugs to be too bad at Chaa Creek. A few of these flies and the mosquitos weren't bad at all.

    We had an early morning departure for our first big adventure...Tikal. I couldn't wait! This was one of my biggest reasons for coming here. We were staying at Chaa Creek for 5 nights and our package came with 2 full day and one half day tours as well as all of their onsite activities. We only had to pay for the park entrance and border crossings.

    Day 3...Up early and had a good breakfast. We were ready to go to Tikal. We had another couple in our group and one of the waiters and a bartenter from Chaa Creek. It was the end of their season and the employees got to take a day or two and go exploring with the guests during the slower days. It was great having them with us! The staff there were amazing. Incredibly friendly and they just seemed to know us so well after such a short time! Actually, I believe about a week after we were leaving the were closing for a couple of months and then would re-open. This seemed to be the practice thoughout the country during this time of year.

    We had about a 15 minute ride to the Guatamala border. We left our van on the Belize side and walked through immigration and customs. No issues or anything there. Paid our $7.50 BZE fee and then walked into Guatamala. Our guide took our passports and did something, he may have paid some other fee and then we got into a different van on the Guatamala side. They didn't bring the same vehicle over the border. While the country was stunningly beautiful it seemed very poor, at least the part we were in. It was mainly cow farms. The road was rocks...and our driver kept telling us how it was 300% better than in years before, even 6 months before, and I'm sure he was right because we drove through several areas where they were doing road work to pave it! He said the new president of Guatamala has to drive this road so they're focusing on it now! But the area is dotted with little farm huts surrounded with fields of cows and palm trees. We passed several lakes and stopped to take some pictures. At the lakes we saw the women of the villages washing their clothes at their designated spots. It was about a 2 hour drive.

    We picked up our Tikal guide about 30 minutes from the park entrance. Our Chaa Creek driver told us they won't allow Belizean's to be park guides. Walter was our Tikal guide and he was amazing! He was so filled with knowledge! From everything from the Mayans to the country to the plant life. Any question you could throw at him, he had an answer and he just loved to talk about anything you could ask. On the way into Tikal we stopped to take pictures of some spider monkeys in the trees. Finally some wildlife! We got out of the van and started walking to the ruins. Walter stopped and asked us if have seen a tarantula yet...ummm....no, we hadn't - so he walked to a hole in the ground, put a little piece of grass in and out pops a huge fuzzy tarantula! Great start to the day! Spider monkeys and a tarantula in a few minutes and we haven't even seen a ruin yet! Walter told us all about the history of Tikal and the Mayans in Guatamala and we looked at several of the ruins as we made our way to pyramid IV (I hope I have the numbers right!) This is the tallest one. As you approach it is just is breathtaking as it peaks out of the jungle! We climbed up and it's only partially excavated. You're high above the canopy and the views are breathtaking! We wanted to just sit up there all day and look at the jungle and the tops of the other ruins, but I suppose one must go down to the bottom again.

    We then went into the great plaza and learned some more. We had some time there to explore on our own. And we climbed #2 - again, beautiful. You can't climb #1 anymore though. We walked to pyramid #V and my husband and a few others in our group climbed it, but it was way too steep for me. It's actually not as high as #IV, but it looks so much higher and the steps are steeper. I was done with the climbing by then! I waved from the bottom!

    We saw some Toucans, coati, quite a few monkeys, a grey fox, huge ant hills, some other birds - it was a great place for wildlife and I didn't expect so much of the walking to be in the jungle - so it made it not so hot.

    I loved Tikal. It truly is a mystical place. I think everyone we met after who was waivering about the drive and full day to go see a ruin - I couldn't stress enough that it was SOOO worth it! How could you go all the way to Chaa Creek and NOT go to Tikal?? It's not far once you're there! It's such an amazing place - I could have spent so much more time there - but I did feel that we did have enough time and got enough of an exposure with our tour. As I said our guide was fantastic. We had lunch at one of the restaurants at the park, which was not great. The highlight was the home made tortillas.

    When we got back to Chaa Creek, it was right to the pool! Dinner that night there was excellent. Each night they had a soup, salad and then a choice among three entrees. The variety was always good - that night I had Shrimp with Coconut Sauce....it was wonderful!

    To be continued...

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    Glad you enjoyed Tikal. This year I visited for the 3rd time and saw buildings, underground places, and sculptures I didn't know were there; having a great guide certainly adds to the experience, doesn't it? More wildlife, more history, more secrets. Thanks for all the detail!!

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    I didn't get to see Tikal :( That will be a must do if we can go back. I was bitten terribly by bugs and also had an allergic reaction one morning - my right eye was swollen! Caves Branch provided benadryl and that knocked me out a bit and relieved the pressure in my eye. Not fun. Can't wait to read more of your trip!

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    So, now it was Saturday morning, our third full day in Belize. After a full day in Tikal, we decided today would be a half day excursion day. After breakfast we walked, or maybe it would be "hiked" up to the Natural History Center" and Butterfly Farm on the Chaa Creek property. It's way up many steps and above the actual part of the property where the rooms are. It's a nice walk though, not real hard to do. The Natural History Center has some information about Belize, the Mayans and Chaa Creek as well as the native animals in the area.

    At Chaa Creek they actually farm Blue Morpho butterflies. It's quite a project! We spent some time there with a guide who told us all about the whole life cycle and just about every imaginable detail of the blue morpho. They have a small house with the butterflies as well as an area where they have them from egg size through the pupae stage. They are active at harvesting the butterflies - hundreds of eggs a week!

    Afterwards we went and had a great lunch, poolside. I tried their ceviche and thought it was delicious! Chaa Creek has a pretty good lunch and pool menu. We relaxed at the pool for a bit before our 1:00 pick up for our 1st cave adventure!

    We were picked up by Alexi, one of the Chaa Creek guieds - to head out to Barton Creek Cave. This excursion is to one of the Mayan Caves that likely was used as a Mayan ritual site. It was a ride on one of the very bumpy roads - which as we soon discovered other than the main roads, all the roads seemed to be bumpy! Part of the adventure! We were in a canoe with our guide and he paddled into the cave with a strong lamp powered by a car battery. It was such a cool site first getting to the cave and then entering into total darkness with only the light from our lamp. The guide told us all about the cave formations as well as the history of the Mayans and the legends as well. There was a bit of pottery and a skull on one of the ledges. We saw quite a lot of bats in there too. It was gorgeous to be in the cave with that lighting. Alexi said the entire cave system is 7 miles long and we went approx. 3/4 into the caves. The ceiling goes up over 150 feet in places. There is said to be over 28 human remains found there.

    We got back to Chaa Creek and had another great meal and then went on a night hike with Adrian. Not too much to see - agian - the wildlife just wasn't out in Belize! We did see a few tarantuals and some other spiders though.

    We went to bed knowing that the next day was our last full day at Chaa Creek. It was exciting because we were doing the ATM cave tour which I absolutely could not wait for! Especially after going to Barton Creek Cave! But also a bit melancholy because I felt Chaa Creek was one of the most peaceful places I've been to. I really didn't want to leave!

    Next up...ATM cave adventure! (right now I gotta do some work!)

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    sharie - my husband was practically living on benadryl those few days! It didn't seem to do anything for the swelling though. He kept saying he had cankles! You could actually press his foot with your finger and it would leave an indent mark for a few seconds! Finally I had him ask about it at the desk and they gave him some lotion stuff and within 2 days the swelling was much better. I told him there were so many of the plants on the "medicinal trail" we say for itches and stuff - we just had to find the right one and boil it down!

    It's good to laugh about now though I suppose! Definitely not the only one with an allergic reaction!

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    I'm glad his ankle swelling went down. I can imagine that would be painful. Scary in the moment too, being so far away from home. Great report - can't wait to read more!

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    Sunday morning...our 4th full day and today is what I'm thinking is big day number two - (Tikal was #1) the ATM Cave! I was a bit nervous as I'd heard it was a fairly strenous day and I'm not the slightest bit fit. I also have a bone issue with my leg and hip that can sometimes cause issues - but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

    Francisco from Pacz Tours picked us up at Chaa Creek. The tour was part of our package, but Chaa uses Pacz Tours for the ATM cave. Back out onto the Western Highway while Francisco jut talked about everything - from the country, Belizean History, his family, past tours....everything one could imagine! He was great. We were the only two on the tour so that was wonderful. After about 30 minutes or so on the main road, we were once again on one of the bumpy roads of Belize. That was another 30-40 minutes and we drove across two river beds. Francisco said they were very shallow compared to past trips. We finally got to our parking area. We loaded up our gear and off we went. We'd have about a 40 minute hike into the jungle. This was mainly flat walking. There wasn't much to see but Francisco kept talking and sharing his stories with us. He was a very fast walker (in my opinion) though. He wanted to get to the cave before any of the other groups. He said it would be a better experience if we were the first group in. We had three river crossings. The water was never above my theighs and I'm pretty short. At points it was only calf deep. It was slippery in some areas because of the rocks on the river beds, but it was an easy river crossing. It felt great to be in the nice cool river for even a few minutes in between our speed walk through the jungle!

    We got to our 'base camp' and left all our dry gear there, including our boxed lunch and back packs. I gave him my camera and took out my waterproof camera in the hopes of getting some pictures going into the cave. Off we went! We swam into the cave, which starts out deep but only for a short portion. We have on hard hats and head lamps. We started walking and climbing. We climbed over and under some very large rock formations. Some were very slippery and sharp others were very easy to climb over and under. Some of the water was deep and some was only ankle deep. The rock formations were beautiful. Francisco always was sure we had safe footing, but I did feel he moved at a quick pace, which was a bit hard for me. With my hip I needed to be really careful and sure of my footing, so I just went as slow and careful as I needed to be.

    We get to a high ledge that I know is going to lead to the Great Catherdral area. It's really high looking and I'm thinking no way can I climb up there! But I suck it up and push ahead! It's not hard because Francisco tells me exactly where to put my feet and hands, it is slippery though. We get to the top and take off our shoes and have to put socks on to not damage the floor of the cavern. We can only walk on the hard parts of the floor and not the "softer" sections. We go up even further into the cavern and start to see the artifacts. Francisco points out some pottery and then as we go further we see even more pottery and skulls. We are told how the Mayans may have set up the pottery for their rituals to the gods of sun, rain, and fertility. He shows us how even with the lighting that they would have had from their fires the cave formations actually look like the gods themselves. And they DID! I am not exaggerating when I saw this was by far the most unique thing we have every experienced. It is something that is definitely a once in a lifetime event and it is amazing to see. The cave is as it was 1000's of years ago and to see the artifacts and it's so quiet and untouched - it's eerie and peaceful at the same time! And then of course the highlight is the full skeleton of the female - totally preserved! Amazing....1000 years old! She's way back in a corner where we had to climb a ladder to get to. We spent probably an hour or more up in the cathedral area.

    Then we made our way back out of the cave and then we had our boxed lunch and hiked back the 35 minutes or so out of the jungle to our vehicle.

    We went to the pool when we got back to Chaa Creek. It was our last night there. We had another good dinner with a bottle of wine.

    Our thoughts on Chaa Creek - it was a beautiful place. It however is expensive...the drinks are very expensive and I probably would not go back without a package. There were several people staying there who didn't end up going on tours because they weren't part of their package and they didn't want to pay for the transportation. Because it was the slow season they couldn't find people to split the transportation costs with and it was expensive. It's incredibly peaceful there. Although I was very surprised by the lack of wildlife. I was so pleasantly surprised by the genuine friendliness of the staff. They not only were nice, but they really took the time to get to know the guests. They knew us by name, where we were from, what we liked to eat and drink and always asked us what we were doing that day, how we liked it etc. It was like talking to family. There were also several families there with young kids. That somewhat surprised me but I do think it's a great place for kids. The staff was friendly with them and very accomodating. I do however think that the excursions we chose may be a bit gruelling for some kids - long days and fairly physical - especially the cave.

    Overall we loved it there!....Next stop...Ambergris Caye!

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    We did the ATM trip with Francisco from Pacz the 1st week in August, a great experience!

    We visited Chaa Creek including the butterfly place and natural history museum when we were in Belize in 2003 (pre pool). We stayed at the Macal River Jungle Camp, Chaa Creek's jungly cousin about 5 minutes away and it was a phenomenal experience: sweet tent-cabins, comfortable beds, kerosene lanterns in the cabins and lining the trails, a beautiful open-air palapa dining room and really outstanding food. The camp host, Dolcio, was extremely friendly and helpful and we enjoyed hiking, canoing, and hanging around in hammocks. The wildlife viewing was excellent and we've since heard there are howler monkeys in the area. We saw tarantulas, scorpions, iguanas, kinkajous, motmots, toucans, parrots, and aracaris from our cabin decks. Although it's not a budget-level accommodation price-wise, we felt it was a great value for $55/pp which included a wonderful dinner and breakfast with beverages (not sure about alcohol); kids below a certain age stay free still, I think. My guess is the wildlife is close to Chaa Creek but the place is so landscaped and civilized it's hiding a ways off in the jungle.

    Thanks for your continuing detail!

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    Continuing along...One of these days I'll have time to finish thig up! But writing it in sections, let's me linger in my vacation a bit longer too ;)

    So, on Monday morning we got up and had breakfast. We didn't have to leave for the airport until around noon so we decided to spend one last morning relaxing at the pool reading. At about noon we paid our bill and our driver got our bags and we headed back out the bumpy road to the Western Highway just as the rain started. We had our flight on Tropic Air arranged for us by Portofino and we were leaving from the Municipal Airport. We arrived in plenty of time and it was a smooth 15 minute flight over the water. By now the sky was clear and while leaving Chaa Creek I was feeling a bit sad, just seeing the crystal blue ocean I knew we were in for a totally new adventure for this part of our vacation!

    We had settled on Ambergris Caye based on the little bit of research on Fodors and Trip Advisor. We chose Portofino because it is a bit more secluded than being right near town and they again offered a nice package and were very easy to communicate with. Their price was in our range and their website was inviting as well as their reviews were mainly outstanding. We went with a package that didn't include meals, except one dinner and a continental breakfast because I knew there would be many dining options available to us in the area. We are definitely "foodies" and my husband is a chef and to try a lot of variety when possible is part of the vacation! At Chaa Creek we were much more isolated and it made sense to get a package that included food. But at Portofino we had a package that included a snorkel trip to Mexico Rocks and a Sunset Cruise.

    Anyway...Mo picked us up at the airport and took us to the boat dock for about a 15 minute water taxi ride to Portofino. They have their own water taxi so you don't have to rely on the ones in town. However, you do have to rely on their own schedule. We used both when there. We pulled up to the dock at Portofino and I felt like I was at home. We were greeted right at the dock and given a little welcome drink and hot towel and got all the information we needed. We were taken to our beach front cottage, which is the standard room and shown how everything worked. If I had one complaint and it's small it's that the air conditioner just didn't quite cool the room. If they're going to offer a/c - it should be a bit more powerful! However, with the thatched roof and screened windows I can understand it's working extra hard - but it got HOT in those rooms!

    We unpacked, had lunch and hit the pool/beach.

    On Tuesday we spent the whole day relaxing at the beach and pool. As with most beaches in Ambergris Caye you can't really swim off the beach because of the turtle grass. They don't clear it out because it's a nesting area for the fish and other marine life. But they have a nice beach to relax on. They have a nice dock you can swim off of if you'd like with some sandy areas around it but their pool is wonderful. And our cottage was steps from the pool which is on the beach. Our view was perfect. I could live there in a second! The drawback there was the bugs. A lot of flies and as soon as the sun went down the mosquitos were out in full force. You had to put bug spray on to go out at night for sure. Everywhere we went they offered you bug spray with dinner!

    On Wednesday we left at 8:00 for snorkeling at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Again, something that drew us to Belize. Belize has the 2nd largest reef in the world and this was exciting! We went with Ecologic Divers and they were a great outfit. Very consious of the environment and they absolutley were not ones to chase after the rays and pick them up or try to chase after them. They were very respectful that we were in the marine world sharing it with them not the other way around. First stop was Hol Chan, and our guide was Charlie, who we would get to know well in the next three days! It was just my husband and I on the trip - again great! And Charlie took pictures and I had my underwater camera. He would point out everything for us. The reef wasn't supercolorful, which is a shame. It's sad to see the colors fading in reefs. But the fish we saw! We saw: baracudda, morey eel, huge groupers,stingray, spotted eagle ray, green see turtle, nurse shark! Not to mention all the colorful fish!

    Second stop was Shark Ray Alley....here we went right in the water with many, many sting rays and a few nurse sharks. This was really cool.

    I hadn't been snorkeling in a few years and wow...I felt like I could do this all day!

    We got back to Portofino, had lunch and went to the pool/beach for the rest of the day.

    The bartender - suggested we go to the restaurant at Matachica for dinner. It's one of the resorts a couple of docks south. What a great recommendation! It was fabulous. The restauant is called Mambo and the food was spectacular. Again with Portofino being way to the north, everywhere you go you have to take a water taxi. So we were picked up by Matachica and they then took us back when we were done.

    On Thursday we had an afternoon snorkel trip scheduled to Mexico Rocks. This is part of the reef really close to Portofino. Actually we could have just taken a kayak out on our own and snorkeled, but since our package included it as a tour, we figured we'd do it that way. And once again Charlie from Ecologic Divers picked us up and off we went. He's a great guide. He points out the best fish and names of all the coral and again, takes pictures. Their dive shop posts them for you for no fee and you can download them for free! I think I liked Mexico Rocks a bit better than Hol Chan for the reason that the fish were so much more colorful. At Hol Chan we saw the bigger fish - the baracudda and eel and stingrays, but here they were the beautiful tropical fish that are so colorful! And I think the reef was a bit more colorful as well. We had two stops on this excursion as well. The first Charlie went in with us and the second we just explored on our own. And again, it was just my husband and myself.

    We decided to go into San Pedro for dinner and we ate at the Blue Water Grill. Again, great meal. My husband had some sushi which he said was really good and he had a lobster dish that was great and really well priced! After dinner we walked around the town a bit and did some souvinir shopping. I was glad to be staying up north. This was just too much hustle and bustle for me!

    Friday....after two days of unbelievable snorkeling I decided to go all in...we were going to DSD - that's Discover Scuba Diving! It's an intro to Scuba that you get a crash course and do a dive at Hol Chan however you don't get certified, but can use what you learn towards certification. I was so hooked on the ocean at this point I didn't want to think about going home, except my kids were there! So, back to the dive shop and there's Charlie again who will be our instructor - I was glad, we were really comfortable with him by now! We filled out a bunch of paperwork and then watched a video about diving. Then we got our equipment and training on the equipment. Then went out on the boat. We got into somewhat shallow water, but it was still over my head. My husband doesn't float (when he snorkels he has to hold a life ring or he'll sink right to the bottom!) So I think he was a bit uncomfortable - although the not floating would have been good in the long run for diving! We got comfortable with the regulators and then my husband said no way - he didn't like the feeling and couldn't breathe at all. There were 2 others with us, one a certified diver and the other was certified but couldn't find his paperwork online. So I was the only true beginner. Charlie tried to get Keith comfortable but he said he'd prefer to just stay by the boat and snorkel while we dove.

    Ok...so I had to do the test stuff, like get the regulator in and out of my mouth underwater and clear the water out of my mask underwater. Then once I had enough weights, I kept floating up! We were ready to go. I was not prepared for the way the bubble felt around my ears and that took a lot of getting used to, and I know I breathed way too fast, but I tend to be a fast breather anyway - so that was hard to get used to. But it was AWESOME! We went down 28 feet and although I kept floating up and Charlie had to keep pulling me down and telling me to swim down, I think I did great for my first time! We spent about an hour underwater. It was beautiful! Something I know I will do again. When we got back to the boat, Keith said he practiced with the breathing while we were gone and did feel better and he would try again someday - maybe starting in a pool where he could stand.

    We said goodbye to Charlie and had lunch at Fidos. Good lunch, right on the beach. Then back to Portofinos and the beach and pool.

    We were scheduled for our Sunset Cruise tonight - it was cancelled the past two nights. Once due to rain and once not enough people maybe? But it was on tonight. That would be nice for our last night! Pick up at 4:00.

    We went back to town on the water taxi and got on a nice catamaran with only one other couple, on their honeymoon - as it seemed so many people were there! There was no sunset - cloudy night. But it was a super relaxing night to be on the boat. One of the guides told us so much of the history of Ambergris Caye and Belize on the way out. We had some rum punch and just hung out. How PERFECT! On the way back we had chips and salsa under the moon...We went out past Hol Chan again and then back to San Pedro's boat docks.

    When we got back to Portofino we had our free dinner as part of the package. We could pick anything from the menu - 3 courses and a bottle of wine. We both had lobster :) It was really good. What a great last night!

    We had an uneventful trip home - left around 8 am for our 9:00 Tropic Air flight and 11:30 International flight. Did some souvinir shopping in the airport - they actually had a pretty decent selection of shops! Got back to Philly at 9:00 pm, 30 minutes ahead of schedule...but long travel day.

    Our feelings on Portofino - LOVED it! It was super relaxing and the staff was wonderful. The bartenders (Raphael and I'm sorry I don't know the other's name but he was the BEST) were so helpful and would go out of their way to make your stay perfect. The desk staff and wait staff treated you like friends. The rooms were simple and small, but beautiful. Hardwood floors and walls and thatched roofs, hammocks on the deck/patio and three steps to the sand. Their pool was perfect with chairs overlooking the ocean. The grounds were constantly being maintained. There were only couples there when were there so I don't know if it would be a good family place at all - it definitly is a couples location. It's very secluded and you have to take the water taxi to go anywhere. But that added to the charm. The restaurant was ok - it wasn't specatular but it certainly wasn't bad. It was better than average. It was a place that was good to eat, but if I had to eat every meal there I'd get bored pretty quickly.

    Overall we both LOVED Belize. However I think it's a fairly expensive destination. I know it can be done less expensive, but when I compare the type of accomodations to the same type as we've stayed at in other countries (Mexico, Costa Rica, etc) it's almost double the price! The food prices are pretty good though and the prices for diving/snorkeling seem good. The other excursions did seem expensive, mostly the prices for the travel - so if you can split it with other people it may work out to be less.

    I hope to get my pictures organized this week and post them!

    Thanks for reading and I hope it wasn't too much detail!

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    Definitely NOT too much detail - thanks for that especially! We also had a wonderful vacation in Belize but it was so different from yours it's hard to believe it's the same country! I, too, hope to have my photos and travelogues completed this week-end - time will tell!

    We spent 3-4 weeks in Belize in 2003 and have traveled to Honduras 3 times and Guatemala twice since then. In planning our Belize trip (which included bits with my brother-in-law's family and bits with our daughter and her husband) I was really surprised by the expense of transportation compared to Hond and Guat. We're fond of chicken buses but they didn't always work since we were a bit off the beaten track for much of our trip this year so we hired various shuttles. There are great budget places out there, but not everyone wants to travel in a budget way and the higher end places are really amazingly high imo. We had mostly places we could fix our own meals and loved every place we stayed.

    Thanks again for traveloguing! You've inspired me to get busy on mine!

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    Loved it, loved it, loved it. Made me want to go back. Agree with the expense part. Ours was probably more than most (for one week) because we booked separately (and in a hurry as we were leaving for CR the next day) and didn't get package deals. But oh well--we sure had a great time! Your great report brings all that back!

    Good for you on the scuba-ing! Impressive. . .maybe I could get up some nerve for that sometime. . . ?!

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    I truly enjoyed your trip report. Belize has been on our list for awhile. Our preliminary planning is similar to the trip you took. Thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures.

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    we dove with ecologic too, and would totally recommend them. Charlie was the Dive Master for the other group on the boat we were on, and a great guy, like you said. Steve Lee (owner/manager?) was an incredible instructor - I listened in to one of his classes, and he was the best. If anyone want to learn scuba, or do a referral, go with him. Great!

    Glad you had a good time!

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