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Dive Review of Isla Marisol Resort in
Belize/Glover's Atoll andGladden Spit

April, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Mark Kimmey, NY, US
Sr. Reviewer   (10 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 6030
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
0-25 dives
Where else diving
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
81   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
30   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Divemaster-led, generally 40 minutes, though on occasion we had more time.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
1 stars  
Shore Facilities  
1 stars  
See writeup.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
4 stars    
Isla Marisol primarily offers two types of diving: reef and whale shark. 
Most of the reef diving is along the southeast edge of Glover's Atoll,
accessible by small panga-size boats (comfortably handle no more than 10
divers) run from the resort's dock.  Getting to Gladden Spit for whale
shark dives is mostly by their larger cabin cruiser, although on one of our
trips there they also sent out one of the pangas.  Reef diving sites seemed
limited, as we made more than one dive on at least three sites during the
week.  This may have been the result of rough seas early in our trip than
from any other reason, however.  Some sites are too deep to enjoy well, the
top of the wall being at 60 feet which severely limits what you can do in
the time given: we often found ourselves cruising 20 feet above the terrain
toward the end of some dives to avoid blowing our profiles for the day.
The first trip out to Gladden Spit (two dives) was extremely rough and we
didn't see anything more than some spawing fish and maybe one bull shark. 
A few days later we tried again and on our second dive were rewarded with
multiple sightings, though we couldn't be sure how many different whale
sharks we were actually seeing.  Waters are warm and a 3-5mm wetsuit is
sufficient for most people.  Reef dives are mostly drift-style (mild
current) and divemaster-led; they do not appear to allow unsupervised or
unescorted diving.  Since the pangas do not anchor or tie up to moorings
while divers are down this probably makes sense from a safety point of
view.  There was apparently some kind of tiff between the resort management
and the environmental agency charged with monitoring activities at Gladden
Spit: one of our boats was hassled for no apparent reason, and the
divemasters told us it was because other operators (and the agents) motor
out from Placencia every day and see Isla Marisol as unwelcome competition,
even if the "authorities" are supposed to be impartial.
Dive packages include three dives per day, unless you are flying within 24
hours in which case they limit you to just two.  If a night dive is
scheduled, they may skip the afternoon dive, but on one occasion we had the
opportunity to make four dives, with an additional charge (US $50) for the
extra dive.  Most reef dives were single-tank: motor out, dive, motor in,
wait for next trip an hour or more later.  Caution is probably wise here,
as medical facilities are a long way away.  The resort is very good about
not exceeding the eight divers per divemaster ratio on guided dives.
The advertised "dive shop" is really no more than a dive shack
housing compressor and rental gear, and drying racks for guest gear.  A
rough wood rack on the dock serves to dry wetsuits during the day, BCs at
night.  The shack is locked at night.  There is no camera table or air gun
available: two large (fresh water) sinks are used for rinsing gear, but be
careful with your cameras (see below).
The resort staff was excellent in most areas, with only minor shortcomings.
 There are only two divemasters currently on duty, a husband-wife team who
split up the (generally) three dives each day to avoid getting bent: the
operation could really use a third divemaster.  However, Chad and Kitty are
doing a great job.  They know the area well and were very good at helping
divers get their gear adjusted and properly weighted.  Also they do
"pool" work in the safe, shallow lagoon. 
The kitchen staff is friendly and competent, though they are a bit unclear
on the concept of "vegetarian:" at one meal my dive buddy was
served "vegetable" burritos in which the veggies had obviously
been cooked in the chicken juices.  Most of the time, however, there were
adequate and quite tasty substitues provided.
Travel to and from the island can be an adventure, and requires a hop from
Belize City to Dangriga on a small 12-passenger single-engine propeller
plane that can be beastly hot: we were literally dripping sweat onto the
deck halfway into the 20-minute flight.  Isla Marisol staff provide ground
transportation between Dangriga and their boats, which tie up at a rickety
dock in a remote inlet south of town.  If they are using the large diesel
cruiser, the trip to Southeast Caye is about 90+ minutes; the faster
gasoline-engine pangas take an hour, but are not enclosed (bikini top,
only) and a lot rougher if the winds are up.  If the winds and seas are
low, the latter is very pleasant.
Guests are lodged in individual, elevated cabanas that are advertised as
"rustic" on the resort's website.  That's probably more accurate
than "primitive," though there were moments we wondered.  Each
cabana has a small covered deck with a couple of chairs, a hammock and a
clothesline (bring extra clothespins); hooks would have been nice, but we
made do without when drying gear.  Electrical sockets are three-prong
American-style 110v; unsure about cycles.  Cabanas are also advertised as
"air conditioned," but a more accurate description would be
"with installed air conditioning units:" they make a point to
encourage guests to adapt to open (screened) windows and ceiling fans. 
During most of our stay in April this was sufficient due to the prevailing
breeze.  On the last two days the winds dropped and things heated up
quickly: the air conditioning units worked sporadically and then quit
altogether.  Other guests reported the same thing, and we believed the
cause was insufficient power: I would avoid this resort during summer
months.  Linens are changed on the third day; laundry is evacuated to the
Bathing water is filtered from wells and contains significant minerals:
they advise you not to drink it and provide water bottles from which to
drink and brush your teeth.  This is also a problem when rinsing cameras:
we had to take extra care to prevent mineral deposits from forming on
lenses.  Water bottles may be refilled at any time from 5-gallon bottles in
the dining room: all drinking water is brought in.  Water pressure in the
cabanas is low, and is heated by direct flow units in the shower: sinks do
not have hot water.  Our shower drained extremely slow: after two showers
it was not uncommon to find spillover on the bathroom floor.  The cabanas
have flush toilets that empty into sealed composting bins below the units
(no odor): they ask you not to put anything down the bowl that didn't pass
through you first.  A covered waste can is provided for soiled materials. 
Ice is brought in by the resort's boats: they do not make their own on the
While Isla Marisol claims to have a "restaurant" and a bar, the
former is really a dining room: food is buffet style with little choice
from what is served.  Fortunately, the kitchen does a good job and few had
problems.  The bar is a separate structure nearby built out over the water;
we were told this was a means by which to minimize the bug problem when the
winds were low.  The dining room was equipped with fans only, and can be
uncomfortable when the winds die.  However the dining room and bar do
provide wi-fi access.
Power is a combination of diesel generator, wind turbine and solar panel,
and is insufficient to needs.  Maintenance overall seems to be an issue, as
well.  The boats are worked hard and show it: broken welds were evident on
the pangas; the cruiser had sharp edges on the plexiglass windows and a
myriad of sharp, rusty bolts protruding into the passenger spaces: the
latter should be cut and filed smooth before someone gets hurt.  Tank
keepers on the pangas are insufficient: on one rough day most tanks (and
divers' rigs) toppled onto the deck, with at least one broken regulator
resulting, even when integrated weights had been removed from BCs.  Bungee
straps are cheap and should be added.  Complaints of slow shower drain were
not addressed, nor were comments about a dead bird on the grounds that
really began to stink on the third day (it was still there the morning we
left, two days later).  The sink in our bathroom pulled away from the wall
on evening when we were rinsing swimsuits, but we were able to push it back
into place; we were careful of it from that point on.  
On the up-side, the resort is young (approximately 10 years) and is /was
being developed without big money so it doesn't feel like a cookie-cutter
experience.  Improvements may be slow, but in a few years this could be
quite a nice place.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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