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

Peter Hughes -- Sun Dancer II, May, 2012,

by Rickie Sterne/Chrisanda Butto, AR, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 6573 has 1 Helpful vote.

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
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
UW Photo 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
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 Patricia A . Watson in OK, US 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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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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