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Dive Review of Isla Marisol Resort in
Belize/Glover's Atoll andGladden Spit

Isla Marisol Resort, Apr, 2011,

by Mark Kimmey, NY, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 6030.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 0-25 dives
Where else diving [Unspecified]
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy
Water Temp 81 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30 to 60 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Divemaster-led, generally 40 minutes, though on occasion we had more time.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks > 2
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments See writeup.

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Isla Marisol primarily offers two types of diving: reef and whale shark. Most of the reef diving is along the southeast edge of Glover's Atoll, accessible by small panga-size boats (comfortably handle no more than 10 divers) run from the resort's dock. Getting to Gladden Spit for whale shark dives is mostly by their larger cabin cruiser, although on one of our trips there they also sent out one of the pangas. Reef diving sites seemed limited, as we made more than one dive on at least three sites during the week. This may have been the result of rough seas early in our trip than from any other reason, however. Some sites are too deep to enjoy well, the top of the wall being at 60 feet which severely limits what you can do in the time given: we often found ourselves cruising 20 feet above the terrain toward the end of some dives to avoid blowing our profiles for the day.

The first trip out to Gladden Spit (two dives) was extremely rough and we didn't see anything more than some spawing fish and maybe one bull shark. A few days later we tried again and on our second dive were rewarded with multiple sightings, though we couldn't be sure how many different whale sharks we were actually seeing. Waters are warm and a 3-5mm wetsuit is sufficient for most people. Reef dives are mostly drift-style (mild current) and divemaster-led; they do not appear to allow unsupervised or unescorted diving. Since the pangas do not anchor or tie up to moorings while divers are down this probably makes sense from a safety point of view. There was apparently some kind of tiff between the resort management and the environmental agency charged with monitoring activities at Gladden Spit: one of our boats was hassled for no apparent reason, and the divemasters told us it was because other operators (and the agents) motor out from Placencia every day and see Isla Marisol as unwelcome competition, even if the "authorities" are supposed to be impartial.

Dive packages include three dives per day, unless you are flying within 24 hours in which case they limit you to just two. If a night dive is scheduled, they may skip the afternoon dive, but on one occasion we had the opportunity to make four dives, with an additional charge (US $50) for the extra dive. Most reef dives were single-tank: motor out, dive, motor in, wait for next trip an hour or more later. Caution is probably wise here, as medical facilities are a long way away. The resort is very good about not exceeding the eight divers per divemaster ratio on guided dives.

The advertised "dive shop" is really no more than a dive shack housing compressor and rental gear, and drying racks for guest gear. A rough wood rack on the dock serves to dry wetsuits during the day, BCs at night. The shack is locked at night. There is no camera table or air gun available: two large (fresh water) sinks are used for rinsing gear, but be careful with your cameras (see below).

The resort staff was excellent in most areas, with only minor shortcomings. There are only two divemasters currently on duty, a husband-wife team who split up the (generally) three dives each day to avoid getting bent: the operation could really use a third divemaster. However, Chad and Kitty are doing a great job. They know the area well and were very good at helping divers get their gear adjusted and properly weighted. Also they do "pool" work in the safe, shallow lagoon.

The kitchen staff is friendly and competent, though they are a bit unclear on the concept of "vegetarian:" at one meal my dive buddy was served "vegetable" burritos in which the veggies had obviously been cooked in the chicken juices. Most of the time, however, there were adequate and quite tasty substitues provided.

Travel to and from the island can be an adventure, and requires a hop from Belize City to Dangriga on a small 12-passenger single-engine propeller plane that can be beastly hot: we were literally dripping sweat onto the deck halfway into the 20-minute flight. Isla Marisol staff provide ground transportation between Dangriga and their boats, which tie up at a rickety dock in a remote inlet south of town. If they are using the large diesel cruiser, the trip to Southeast Caye is about 90+ minutes; the faster gasoline-engine pangas take an hour, but are not enclosed (bikini top, only) and a lot rougher if the winds are up. If the winds and seas are low, the latter is very pleasant.

Guests are lodged in individual, elevated cabanas that are advertised as "rustic" on the resort's website. That's probably more accurate than "primitive," though there were moments we wondered. Each cabana has a small covered deck with a couple of chairs, a hammock and a clothesline (bring extra clothespins); hooks would have been nice, but we made do without when drying gear. Electrical sockets are three-prong American-style 110v; unsure about cycles. Cabanas are also advertised as "air conditioned," but a more accurate description would be "with installed air conditioning units:" they make a point to encourage guests to adapt to open (screened) windows and ceiling fans. During most of our stay in April this was sufficient due to the prevailing breeze. On the last two days the winds dropped and things heated up quickly: the air conditioning units worked sporadically and then quit altogether. Other guests reported the same thing, and we believed the cause was insufficient power: I would avoid this resort during summer months. Linens are changed on the third day; laundry is evacuated to the mainland.

Bathing water is filtered from wells and contains significant minerals: they advise you not to drink it and provide water bottles from which to drink and brush your teeth. This is also a problem when rinsing cameras: we had to take extra care to prevent mineral deposits from forming on lenses. Water bottles may be refilled at any time from 5-gallon bottles in the dining room: all drinking water is brought in. Water pressure in the cabanas is low, and is heated by direct flow units in the shower: sinks do not have hot water. Our shower drained extremely slow: after two showers it was not uncommon to find spillover on the bathroom floor. The cabanas have flush toilets that empty into sealed composting bins below the units (no odor): they ask you not to put anything down the bowl that didn't pass through you first. A covered waste can is provided for soiled materials. Ice is brought in by the resort's boats: they do not make their own on the island.

While Isla Marisol claims to have a "restaurant" and a bar, the former is really a dining room: food is buffet style with little choice from what is served. Fortunately, the kitchen does a good job and few had problems. The bar is a separate structure nearby built out over the water; we were told this was a means by which to minimize the bug problem when the winds were low. The dining room was equipped with fans only, and can be uncomfortable when the winds die. However the dining room and bar do provide wi-fi access.

Power is a combination of diesel generator, wind turbine and solar panel, and is insufficient to needs. Maintenance overall seems to be an issue, as well. The boats are worked hard and show it: broken welds were evident on the pangas; the cruiser had sharp edges on the plexiglass windows and a myriad of sharp, rusty bolts protruding into the passenger spaces: the latter should be cut and filed smooth before someone gets hurt. Tank keepers on the pangas are insufficient: on one rough day most tanks (and divers' rigs) toppled onto the deck, with at least one broken regulator resulting, even when integrated weights had been removed from BCs. Bungee straps are cheap and should be added. Complaints of slow shower drain were not addressed, nor were comments about a dead bird on the grounds that really began to stink on the third day (it was still there the morning we left, two days later). The sink in our bathroom pulled away from the wall on evening when we were rinsing swimsuits, but we were able to push it back into place; we were careful of it from that point on.

On the up-side, the resort is young (approximately 10 years) and is /was being developed without big money so it doesn't feel like a cookie-cutter experience. Improvements may be slow, but in a few years this could be quite a nice place.
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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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