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

May, 2012, an Instant Reader Report by Rickie Sterne/Chrisanda Butto, AR, US
Sr. Contributor   (24 reports, with 7 Helpful votes)
Report Number 6573 has 1 Helpful vote
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Bahamas,Bay Islands,Bonaire,Caymans,Cozumel,Turks &
Caicos,SeaofCortez,Australia,Fiji,Micronesia,Indonesia
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy  
Seas
calm, choppy, surge, no currents  
Water Temp
82   to    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
5
Water Visibility
40   to 60    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
Dive with a buddy; no deco diving.    
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
yes 
What I saw
Sharks
Lots 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
Schools 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
> 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
Fewer than half of the 20 divers carried cameras.  Three were big rigs, two
were smaller cameras with strobes, and the remaining were small cameras in
Lexan housings.  The two camera tables were more than spacious for that
number of cameras. There was always space for batteries on the separate
battery charging station. Crew members handled our cameras carefully. 
Camera rinse tanks were treated as sacrosanct.  One diver who dipped his
mask in the camera tank was politely  reminded by a crew member where the
mask bucket was.  Nor were any liquids left on the camera tables.
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 $$
4 stars    
Beginners
4 stars   
Advanced
4 stars    
Comments  
     During our twelve years of diving, Belize seems to have become our
favorite Caribbean destination.  We have, at any rate, visited Belize most
often.  Obviously, we think the diving is good.  We also prefer to dive
from liveaboards, so the presence of the very well-appointed Sun Dancer II
contributes to the country's attraction.  Airline connections between
Little Rock and Belize City are convenient, and IAH is a well-organized
port of entry into the US.  Finally, we have discovered the Chateau
Caribbean, a very pleasant and accommodating inn with a good restaurant,
located directly across the street from the Sun Dancer's anchorage.
     The Sun Dancer is hands down the most comfortable liveaboard we have
been on in the Caribbean.  The cabins are better configured than those on
the Aggressor boats.  Deluxe cabins provide two single beds that can be
moved together.  No one has to climb into an upper berth.  There is also
more storage space than on the Aggressor boats, and the bathroom is self
contained - sink, toilet, and shower are all in the bathroom.  This year we
were in a Master Cabin because the Master Cabin was the only one available
when we booked our trip. We actually preferred the Deluxe Cabin we had last
year.  The two Master Cabins are in the bow of the boat, which is a bit
unstable in rough seas.  On our crossing from Belize City to the outer
cayes, meclizine was in order.  Plush terry robes hang in each cabin for
divers' lounging comfort during the week.  Wake-up service with the
delivery of coffee or tea to your cabin door is available each morning. 
The stewardess kept our cabin clean and changed our nice, thick towels even
more often that we requested.  
     The dive deck is spacious enough for the full load of twenty divers to
gear up simultaneously.  Each station provides an under-seat
basket for small personal gear, and the stations are large enough that one
does not bump into a neighbor while donning BC's. The ladders for
re-entering the boat are very good.  Despite qualifying for the senior
diver discount, we found it easy to trot up the ladders under full gear all
week.  The two warm water deck showers felt great after each dive, as did
the warm fluffy towels.  Each towel is monogrammed with a dive station
number, a great innovation for infection control. We were served orange
slices after every dive, a good way to cure dry mouth.
     The Lido deck, outside the salon, had covered tables outside near the
wet bar.  Many divers rehydrated and logged their dives there.  Guys who
had finished diving for the day sat there with Beliken beers.  The sun deck
at the top was partially covered.  There was always a vacant chaise lounge,
although the two hammocks in the sun were frequently occupied.
     In the air-conditioned salon, we enjoyed Carlos's delicious meals and
snacks.  Continental breakfast was always laid out by the time we got there
around 0630.  Hot breakfast began at 0700.  Breakfasts included omelets,
eggs to order, , Belizean journey cakes (I only wish we had been offered
journey cakes more often!), and waffles made from scratch.  After the first
morning dive, Carlos served some sort of cake each morning, and there were
pitchers of iced water, sweet tea, and lemonade available.  Lunches
followed the second morning dive.  Lunch always included a hot, homemade
soup.  The entrees ranged from sandwiches to tacos to pasta to burgers -
all good.  Snacks after the first afternoon dive were savory.  My favorites
were hummus and conch fritters, although most people might have voted for
the spicy chicken wings and legs.  Dinner on the Sun Dancer is a seated,
served affair with cloth tablecloths and napkins, stemware, and attractive
china.  Each of the four courses is served separately.  Dinner began with
yet another homemade soup accompanied by fresh, homemade breads. Salad,
different each evening, came next.  Entrees included duck with fruit sauce,
snapper, shrimp in a cheese sauce, chicken in mushroom sauce, and a
"holiday" dinner of stuffed turkey and ham.  Veggies were fresh
and well cooked and seasoned.  And then came truly stellar desserts!  Very
decent Chilean wines were poured for those who were not night diving. The
Sun Dancer certainly has served us the best meals we have eaten while
diving in the Caribbean.
     Most important of all, however, is the diving.  Belize's walls offer
corals, sponges, and gorgonians as pretty as any we have seen in the
Caribbean and prettier than many destinations.  Many of the walls begin in
less than twenty feet of water, so you can continue diving during your
safety stop.  The walls are also quite expansive, so you do not constantly
run into the other eighteen divers.  We actually thought the diving had
improved during the past year.  We certainly saw more species of fish this
year.  We saw turtles on most dives, and we saw two dozen reef sharks
during the week. Diving from the same boat in May, 2011, we saw no turtles
and one gray reef shark.  When I asked divemaster John about this rather
dramatic change, he explained that the Belizean government has passed a
new, stricter law limiting trawler and longline fishing and is enforcing
that law vigorously.  Fisherman found in violation lose their fishing
licenses.  And, said John, fishermen who lose their commercial fishing
licenses "lose their future."  All the groupers we saw last year
apparently did not get caught and had grown quite large.  We spotted two
large nurse sharks snoozing under coral heads.  We also saw tarpon on every
dive.  The Sun Dancer now allows divers to spear fish for lionfish.  We
suspect that the tarpon thought our reef sticks were spears and were hoping
for a lionfish treat.  On Long Caye Wall we saw areas of very healthy,
algae-free stony corals that looked as if they might be new growth.  Eagle
rays soared past on three of our dives.  We saw green and speckled morays,
large colonies of garden eels, three species of sea cucumbers, a number of
lobsters, and huge clinging channel crabs.  In addition to admiring the
many species of colorful tropical fish, we like to spend some time hunting
for small stuff.  We actually spent one entire dive over a bed of turtle
grass scanning for pipefish.  We did finally spot one of those filamentous
creatures, despite the distraction of a half dozen southern stingrays
accompanied by various opportunistic hunters.  Other small critters we
encountered included arrow blennies, wire coral shrimp, tiny squat anemone
shrimp, and tozeuma shrimp.  Despite finding colonies of bluebell
tunicates, we were unable to locate any nudis. The highlight of our diving
week occurred on a late afternoon dive at Cathedral.  A mid-sized hawksbill
turtle was dining on a large sponge at 80 feet.  Around him hovered two
gray angels, one French angel, one queen angel, and a rock beauty, feasting
on his scraps.  Both turtle and fish were indifferent to our observation
and Rickie's strobe.  We came very close to violating the no deco rule on
that dive.  We enjoyed four days of very good diving and two days of diving
wherever the crew could find shelter from the strong winds that accompanied
the rain that fell.  Chain Wall and East Cut are decent sites, but they
start in fifty feet of water.  We had chosen to dive air, and were watching
our no deco time far more closely than our air time on those dives.  On our
last dive at East Cut, a pod of ten dolphins swam very close to us.  The
reefs at Turneffe Island are far more damaged than those at Long Caye and
Half Moon Caye.  We did two dives at Turneffe Island on our way back to
Belize City.  Even there we saw a turtle and a reef shark, as well as the
endemic whitelined toadfish. 
     Sometimes repeat trips can be disappointing.  But we felt that the
diving on Belize's outer cayes had actually improved and that the Sun
Dancer II and her crew remained outstanding.  If we dive in the Caribbean
next spring, you will find us in a deluxe cabin on the Sun Dancer. 
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Subscriber's Comments

By lakegma at Jun 05, 2012 10:09 EST  
Thanks, Chris!  As always,  you are so generous with your marvelously
detailed reporting!   So good to hear of the more plentiful marine life
since we were all there together in '11!    Reunion in '13???    Pat Watson
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