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

June, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Rickie Sterne/Chrisanda Butto, AR, US
Sr. Contributor   (24 reports, with 7 Helpful votes)
Report Number 6085
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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 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
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  
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  
 
 

Overall Rating

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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