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Dive Review of Peter Hughes -- Sun Dancer II in
Belize/Long Caye,Half Moon Caye,Tur

Peter Hughes -- Sun Dancer II, Jun, 2011,

by Rickie Sterne/Chrisanda Butto, AR, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 6085.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, BayIslands, Bonaire, Caymans, Cozumel, Turks&Caicos, Australia, Fiji, Micronesia, several areas of Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 82 to Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions return to the boat with 500 psi (no one checked); no deco diving
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments With only two large photo rigs on board, there was plenty of room on the two camera tables. There were also enough power strips for battery charging, our subsidiary hobby. The rule against liquids on the camera tables was enforced, and the camera rinse tanks were treated as sacrosanct. Crew members handled all cameras respectfully.

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments We accept totally unpredictable flight schedules, incomprehensible overweight charges, and indecipherable departure gates as part of the adventure when we dive in Indonesia. However, when we visit the Caribbean, we feel strongly that the travel should be painless. We did not have to be at the Little Rock airport until 0730, and our direct flight from Houston reached Belize City just before three in the afternoon. The only downside was that Continental's check-in machine double charged us for the fee for our third bag. The return flight left Belize City at 1115, so we did not have to languish in the lobby of a Belize City hotel for much of the day. The Dancer Fleet provides free transport from the airport for divers who arrive on the day of the boat's departure. We flew down a day early just in case our luggage needed extra time to catch up with us (it didn't). Reef and Rainforest, who booked the trip for us, strongly encouraged us to have a prearranged driver for safety's sake. It is nice to get off the airplane and find someone holding up a card with our names on it and ready to wrestle our bags into an air-conditioned van. We spent the night at Chateau Caribbean, a shabby genteel colonial structure that offers huge rooms with comfortable beds and a quiet restaurant with white table cloths, delicious food, and generous portions. The Chateau is across the street from the Sun Dancer's dock. The Chateau's staff was helpful both before we arrived and during our brief stay. As an example, while we sat in the hotel's first floor sitting area awaiting boarding time on the boat, we were provided with a pitcher of iced water even though we had already checked out.
When we boarded the Sun Dancer, we were alarmed to find that there were eighteen divers on board. However,the dive deck was spacious enough to accommodate the boat's full complement of guests, and the crew organized entry into the water and exits back onto the boat very smoothly. They put on our fins for us and sometimes removed them when we returned to the boat's ladders. With a group of fairly experienced and considerate divers, fins are the usual culprit in holding up the line for giant strides on the dive platform. The crew also learned quickly who owned which camera and had them ready to hand to us in the water, further expediting quick entry of all the divers. And the walls of Belize extend far enough in every direction that dive sites did not feel crowded when everyone chose to make a dive. There was at least one dive master in the water on every dive. Divers were free to follow the DM or to go their own ways. We did both. Sometimes it's fun to share "finds" with other divers and to enjoy their discoveries. The divemasters did point out some critters, like tiny blennies, well-camouflaged neck crabs, and a nearly-hidden white-spotted toadfish. Our dive stations were large enough that I never tried to pick up a neighbor's octopus, and the ladders were great. We are quite Mutt and Jeff, not to mention old, but we both found the ladders easy to climb under full gear.
Belize's walls are steep and deep, but they start in just 20 feet of water at many sites. We were able to do safety stops while enjoying corals and fishes. We did virtually all of our diving above seventy feet and therefore do not recommend paying the$170/week tariff for Nitrox. Stony corals in the Caribbean are not in great shape, but there were enough sponges and gorgonians to add color to the dramatic reef structures. Some walls were covered with deep-water sea fans (okay, they are not colorful, but they are beautiful). We felt like we saw a pretty good variety of fish. We think of Creole wrasse, constantly swimming up and down the walls as Belize's signature fish, but the reefs also had a huge population of sharp-nosed puffers. We saw all the Caribbean angelfish, looking large and healthy, and all the local butterflies as well. There were a number of decent-sized tiger, Nassau, and black groupers. Juvenile fish abounded. We saw a dozen juvenile spotted drums, but only two adults. Do they all move to Honduras when they grow up? Four eagle rays and a couple of Southern stingrays swam past during the week. We even saw a gray reef shark on a late afternoon dive. There were spotted and green morays as well as garden eels. We did not find a single nudibranch, but saw six species of shrimp and several of crabs. We were disappointed that we saw no turtles. Night diving was rather sparse, although several octopus and a goodly number of lobsters showed up. The Blue Hole was a guided group dive with one divemaster in the lead, a second in the rear, and a third accompanying one uneasy diver. For us, the Blue Hole was "been there, dove that," but there were guys on the boat who said the Blue Hole was on their bucket list. Chaque a son gout. The boat offers five dives a day. While we prefer the more relaxed schedule of four longer dives on Pacific boats, we found it easy to make sixty-minute plus dives in each slot.
The Sun Dancer is, perhaps, the second most spacious and luxurious liveaboard we have been on. And the food was far better than that on the Truk Odyssey. The cabins were configured with two lower beds, which can be pushed together if couples want double beds. You get more open floor space if you stick to the single bed arrangement. There was plenty of storage space for all our large and small bags, as well as our clothes. The sink is in the bathroom. We greatly appreciated the individual air conditioning controls in our cabin. While all the boats in the Pacific let divers choose their own temperature, the Sun Dancer II is the only Caribbean boat we have been on to offer this luxury. I have actually demanded extra blankets on one boat. Cabins were cleaned daily and the towels changed whenever divers left them on the floor or the stewardess decided we needed fresh towels. We found a chocolate kiss on our pillows each evening. The stewardess will deliver coffee to your cabin with your wake-up if you like. We found nice terry robes hanging in our rooms for our use during the week.
On the subject of Jerry's food, I may wax poetic. Only one other boat we've been on served such delicious western fare. Continental breakfast was laid out at 0630. Hot cooked-to-order breakfast began thirty minutes later. When we had waffles, they were not frozen. Eggs and bacon or sausage were available daily. Lunch was served from a buffet, which always included homemade soup. Dinners were seated affairs with cloth tablecloths and napkin and pretty dishes and stemware. The four courses were: homemade soup accompanied by fresh-baked bread, a salad, entree (often with a choice offered)accompanied by fresh veggies, and utterly decadent desserts. Entrees included baked duck in fruit sauce, Parmesan snapper, curried shrimp, and surf and turf. Rickie asked for, and received, seconds on a dessert called chocolate decadence. Sweet snacks in the morning and savory snacks in the afternoon were equally impressive.
We skipped a dive after the Blue Hole and were offered the option of visiting the Half Moon Caye bird sanctuary. It was nesting season for red-footed boobies. We also actually saw a leaf-footed iguana hiding in the bush.
The Sun Dancer II is a very comfortable boat. At least at the moment she boasts a good and personable crew whose members work well together and act as if they enjoy their jobs. We actually enjoyed this dive trip more than we expected to. And there was no jet lag when we got home.
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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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