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Dive Review of Itza Lodge in
Belize/Long Caye

Itza Lodge: "Itza Lodge, Belize, Buyer Beware.", Feb, 2018,

by Jocelyn Gill, ON, CA (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 10191.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments The outer reefs of Belize are in excellent condition, and have reminded me of how beautiful Caribbean diving used to be. The corals were in excellent health, the fish were quite abundant, and coral bleaching was almost non-existent. Once underwater, it was truly wonderful.

After a 2 hour boat ride from Belize City where the seats had no cushioning, across choppy waters, we climbed out of the boat onto the rebuild dock (rebuild after a recent hurricane). We were greeted with a rum punch, and an “all too brief” explanation of the facilities. Being an eco lodge, we were told the water supply came from a 32,000 gal cistern system filled with gathered rainwater which was doubly filtered for drinking. We brought our own reusable water bottles. We had composting toilets, and two fans in our room (one ceiling fan, one pedestal fan). Power was supplied by solar panels during the day, and a generator at night. Hot water was supplied with the help of a propane tank. We had poor internet connection available only close to the office, but as Jim (the owner) said, the speed varies from “slow to very low”. We were discouraged from uploading or downloadingimages and videos.

The room and sheets were clean, and the towels were new. We were
encouraged to use the same towels for the week, although fresh
towels were promised if we asked for them. The food was adequate, but soft drinks, beer, and alcoholic drinks were put on a tab. The diving offered was 2 or 3 dives daily, or more if we asked. Night dives only happened if there were at least 4 divers participating. We were asked to produce our C-cards and assemble our tanks in front of the divemasters (to prove that we knew how) and then were given our weights. From that point on, the dive staff handled the tanks for us, including stowing fins, weight belts, and filling tanks for the next dive. The web site advertised many available walking trails, bicycles, kayaks at your disposal.

Here were the problems our little group faced: The ATV used by staff to maintain the grounds, shuttle tanks and equipment
back and forth, and move building materials had a rusted-out muffler. Perhaps an ATV is a necessary evil, but the excessive noise from the muffler was unwelcome. One of our group was perpetually sick from the water and was not readily offered bottled water. She had to scrounge and beg for bottled water from the staff. The composting toilets needed new seals, so our room and noses were assaulted with the unpleasant sewer smells when the winds were not strong enough to blow them away. We were one day without hot water because the owner had not noticed the propane tank for the whole complex had run dry. One of our group asked for fresh towels (theirs were left out to dry but were soaked by unexpected rains), but the towels never materialized. Our ceiling fan died after 2 days. The food was adequate, but on a couple of days, the food ran out before everyone had a chance to eat. (The kitchen staff were quick to make an alternative meal for those who missed out on the main course). The walking trails were almost non-existent, the foot bridges over the wet areas dubious (read: unsafe). Along these pathways, we came across the dump. So much for recycling. The kayaks were functional. Unfortunately, there were no-see- ums on the island which left itchy welts on our lower legs (brought DEET). Luckily, the (unusually) high winds (almost gale force) we experienced during our week necessitated only one fogging event. The staff should have notified us so we could vacate the area before the fogging started. Not good to get a lungful of toxins.

The dive boat was brand new, still waiting for the gauges to arrive and be installed. It was a 34 ft open “panga” with a 200 hp 2 stroke Yamaha engine (which leaked steering fluid, leaving an oily streak in the ocean.) There was a wooden tank rack in the center of the boat which prevented anyone from moving freely from the front of the boat to the back. Suiting up must be done ON DOCK, and donning tanks was ONLY accomplished with the help of the nimble, agile dive staff’s help. Backroll entry was the entry of choice. Exit from the water was relatively easy. The dive staff took weight belts and tanks, plus fins for us and cameras, allowing us to exit the water using the ladder on the transom. They took my camera and placed it anywhere there was room. I had no issues, but this system is ripe for a camera accident with the boat so crammed and many divers flailing around.

One “very big plus” to the diving was our allowed bottom time. My buddy and (especially I) are quite comfortable under water, and therefore have long bottom times. The other “air hogs” were encouraged to exit the water when their tanks were down to 500 psi, and the rest of us were allowed to continue the dive. Our dives lasted 1 hour, sometimes more. We got our $60 worth for sure!

As I have already mentioned, the fish and coral life were excellent, including Indigo, Black and Barred Hamlets, Honeycomb Cowfish, Scrawled Filefish, Burr Fish, Scorpion Fish, schools of 50 or more Blue Tangs, schools of Creole Wrasse, many dozens of Blue Chromis, Permit, Arrow Crabs, Garden Eels, Loggerhead Turtles, Green Turtles,and Hawksbill Turtles, Trumpet Fish, Green and Brown Spotted Moray Eels, Juvenile Spotted Drums, Queen Triggerfish, Flamingo Tongues, Giant Hermit Crabs, Spiny Lobster, Channel Crabs,and (most important for a healthy ecosystem) Reef Sharks, Blacktip Sharks (apex predators.) Elvis Solis, a Master Instructor and our primary guide was excellent at finding the little, unusual stuff including a Decorator Crab, Peppermint Shrimp, Long Necked Crab, juvenile Shortfin Pipefish and Slender Filefish etc. A favorite dive site was “the Aquarium” where the Bermuda Chub schooled about the diver, hoping to be fed, and where Elvis habituated a rather large Nassau Grouper where he and others could gently stroke it. Perhaps this practice of feeding fish is not the best, but admittedly, it does give us a good show. Unfortunately, we also saw the dreaded, invasive Lionfish.

Our night diving was wonderful: On one occasion, Elvis set aside the required “4 people rule” and took my buddy and me out alone. It was marvelous having your own personal guide. The dive site was one we had done during the day, “The Aquarium”. There were no schools of Bermuda Chub mobbing us this time, but the resident Green Moray, Spotted Moray, Octopus and juvenile Reef Squid made appearances. Before our night dive, my buddy asked to see a Sculptured Slipper Lobster (his favorite critter), a tall order indeed. Elvis said he had not seen one in 7 years, but he was willing to try. At the end of our hour underwater, we heard woops and screeches. Elvis found one (!!!), and we photographed it. I think Elvis was more excited than my buddy was, and we all had great stories to tell everyone at dinner that evening.

On our penultimate day, we settled our tab. Because my buddy and I did not drink from the bar, I expected our tab to only include our park fees for Halfmoon Key and the Blue Hole. We were in for a shock!

When booking on line for this trip, I chose the “15 dive package” for my buddy and me which was (and STILL IS) clearly advertised on line. We had each done only 13 dives each during the week, (missing 2 dives each due to the weather). Dives that are cancelled due to weather are non-refundable, only dives cancelled due to mechanical breakdown were subject to refunds. Well, not only did the owner try to charge us for 2 extra trips to the Blue Hole and Halfmoon Key (we only did one trip), he also charged us for 3 extra dives each on our final tab, saying we payed for only 10 dives each. I eventually found their web site and showed him what we booked for, but, he said the receipt I got once I paid showed it was only for 10 dives. Sure enough, the receipt was only for 10 dives. I never thought to scrutinize the receipt to make sure the numbers on the web site and my receipt agreed. It was an example of “bait and switch”. We paid the bill, after Jim (the owner) gave a huge and confusing song and dance that the numbers work out… something about taxes and a hotel fee that were not included. But, after returning to my room and ruminating on what he said, I realized he was giving me a song and dance.

The other guests also had inflated charges on their final tabs. One was charged for 11 bar drinks when she only had 2, another was overcharged for the room, another was overcharged for snorkeling excursions not taken. If the overcharges were not too significant, some would say “keep the difference”. The process of refunding money involved connecting to a spotty internet signal, and waiting, sometimes being disconnected and needing to try again. It's understandable why some clients said "keep the difference".

It smacked of a deceitful attempt to squeeze more money out of the guests. Talk about leaving with a sour taste in your mouth.

All in all, I would return to Belize and dive the outer reef again, but, I would not return to Itza Lodge. Although the dive staff busted their hinnies for the guests, and Elvis was very knowledgeable and great at finding critters, the rooms were mediocre (the lighting in the rooms was exceptionally dim, there were only 2 electrical outlets in the room, too few for camera charging, etc. and the outlet in the bathroom did not work), the food was not plentiful, the walking trails were non-existent to downright hazardous, the dive boat was far too small for the number of divers, and the owner was deceitful. Our trip to Blackbird Key in 2003 gets higher marks.
Websites Itza Lodge   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Red Sea, Indonesia, Komodo, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Caribbean islands (many), Cozumel, Florida, Belize, Mexico (Puerto Vallarta), ABC islands, Roatan.
Closest Airport Belize City, TZA Getting There Boat transport from Belize mainland to Long Caye is long (over 2 hours) and potentially bumpy if there is rough weather.

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, rainy Seas choppy
Water Temp 78-79°F / 26-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Very accommodating for bottom times, asked not to go too crazy with depth.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments On board the dive boat, there was not "secure and safe" area for cameras. In my opinion, a camera accident will happen someday.
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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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