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Dive Review of Peter Hughes Sun Dancer II in
Belize/Caribbean

Peter Hughes Sun Dancer II, May, 2006,

by Lynn Morton, CA, United States . Report 2908.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Both No. & S. California, Hawaii, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 85 to 81 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 130 ft. depth, no time restrictions except as detailed in comments below
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments I would't recommend this boat to any photographer beyond the simplest point & shoot. The facilities were inadequate and unsafe. The only camera tables were on the dive deck, subject to spray and dripping divers. Despite posted signs saying no drinks, both divers and crew routinely set drinks there. For protection at night or to open the housing, you had to go to your air-conditioned cabin. So you were constantly dealing with condensation in the housing due to the extreme temperature/humidity changes. The charging stations were also on the dive deck, 2 very small shelves about 16 X16 inches. The crew used them for misc. items as well, and mixing hot drinks. Whenever the boat was moving, you had to remove everything to protect it from spray. Since no recharging in cabins was allowed(due to fire danger), that really cut down on recharging time. There was a small space in the salon where you could also charge, but it was where everyone charged their computers and there was no room. Besides, one of the crew members was usually planted there working on a DVD to sell to the divers.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 2 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 1 stars
Comments This trip was our first Caribbean diving and first trip in a "chain" dive boat. I did a lot of research and chose the Dancer because it had little to no dive restrictions and a ratio of 1 to 2 crew to passengers, the best ratio of all the Belize dive boat operations. Before this, beyond CA live aboards, we've only been on the Nai'a and Spirit of Solomons, so we may be spoiled. But we will certainly never book another Peter Hughes trip.
My first clue should have been when I couldn't get a real answer to my inquiry regarding camera facilites. It took several days and calls to be told only that there were some. They proved to be inadequate and not safe.
There were no dive restrictions beyond the 130' limit, but reality was different. Time was often limited because we rarely got into the water by the posted time of the 1st dive because the captain was still moving the boat. That meant the 2nd dive started late and since the boat was often moved at lunch, you had to be out of the water by a certain time. Ditto for the afternoon & evening. The 1st dive was scheduled to be at 8:30, which is very late for a dive boat, and I never hit the water any earlier than 8:50. A slipping schedule with set end times made for restricted dive times. Also, at the intial boat briefing, the following statement was made regarding drinking and diving: "The only restriction we have is if you've had so much to drink you can't find your way to the dive deck, you're not diving." Even if it was meant as a joke, they still didn't restrict drinking and diving.
The crew was a real mixed bag. They gave you a shoulder massage when you came back aboard, but I'd rather they had gotten the tanks refilled. Divers frequently got set to go only to discover their tank was still empty. The promised crew to diver ratio wasn't there and it sorely showed when they had problems with the air compressor (no Nitrox on part of the trip) and the air conditioning. A quarter of the salon was flooded and had standing water that made for soggy rugs the entire trip. One couple's stateroom was torn apart for most of the trip with their effort to fix the problem. Lack of organization was evident at all levels. From embarking passengers missing forms from the main office, to missing dive times, down to missing my birthday. They were told by me, my husband, and again by him when we boarded, but claimed when the time came that no one told them. I'm old enough that I really don't care, but it made for a perfect example of the lack of organization that beset the entire operation.
Diving was probably pretty good by Caribbean standards. You always got in with a giant stride off the dive platform and swam back to the boat. They had an inflatable, but it was never used to ferry or pick up divers. Being our first time in the Caribbean, the lack of species diversity compared to the Pacific was hard to get past, but the sponges are beautiful. We dove mostly on Long Caye, a day at Half Moon Caye (the best diving), and 2 dives at Turneffe Atoll. We went to the Blue Hole, but I was forced to abort the dive. In the briefing, we were told that after snorkeling a distance from the boat, we all had to descend as a group. We had 2 minutes to get down to 130' and if you couldn't do it that fast, you had to abort the dive. Before we snorkeled over there, we all had to hang on a line together, being kicked and bumped. Then the pack moved off together. I was already uptight about being able to clear that rapidly, I hate crowds,it was a long snorkel and I'm dragging my camera gear, and I see ahead that they're already signaling for descent without all the divers being there. I pushed to get there too hard and got totally out of breath. That's never happened to me before and it was a bad scenario all around. I nixed the dive. They say they do it for safety, but it was absurd. Later, they claimed that someone would have stayed back with me if I'd had problems clearing, but that was not what was said in the briefing. It was a prime example of cattlecar diving with totally unecessary restrictions.
Our last day was supposed to be at the Elbow, but the captain refused to take us, saying there was too much current. The divers rebelled after the 1st dive was a total bust, so we went to the Elbow. There was no noticeable current. Then we went back to Belize City for the afternoon and the night, disembarking the next morning. The boat sat at the dock all that time so they could restock for the next trip. We had to get off, taking all valuables, for the reloading until dinner. You could pay more to go on a guided tour to escape the boat reloading, but most of us hung out at a wharf-side hotel. Some passengers even paid for a room there that night, because the boat rubbing against the dock all night made incredible noises. We missed a half day of diving for that?
All the other divers seemed as unhappy with the operation as we were. Perhaps other Peter Hughes boats are better run, but I wouldn't recommend the Sun Dancer to any serious photographer or diver beyond the party type.


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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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