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eirekay San Pedro - A travel report by Eire
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San Pedro,  Belize - flag Belize -  Belize
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eirekay's travel reports

San Pedro – a Sleepy Little Diving Town with Shark

  20 votes
Page: 1 2
The t-shirt in the window featured a mug of beer on one side and a dive flag on the other with this text: “San Pedro: Sleepy little drinking town with a bit of a diving problem!” Next to it, a sign claims "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem!" They meant it!


Downtown San Pedro
Downtown San Pedro
Ambergris Caye is a narrow 25-mile-long strip separated from Mexico in the north by the narrow Bacalar Chico channel, dug by the Maya 1,500 years ago. One half mile to the east is the Belize barrier reef, second longest barrier reef in the world, which continues some 190 miles along the length of Belize. In the center of the island sits San Pedro Town, a 3 block wide, 8 block long swath of souvenir shops, scuba outfitters and Tavern/Cafes. The ocean is visible in every direction from the middle of town. What San Pedro doesn’t have is almost more charming than its many attributes. There is not a single Hard Rock Café, Hooters or Planet Hollywood. There are no chain hotels and no building arcs higher than the palm trees. No cruise ships dock here. San Pedro is NOT a resort town in the typical sense. This is what I imagine Cozumel or many of the Mayan Rivera Resort towns to the north were 30 or 40 years ago. Older pastel clap board buildings line the sand streets and golf carts abound. A pick-up basketball game starts on the beach front court, across from the only school, every afternoon and vendors line the sidewalks with wares laid out on blankets in the evening. A unique Garfundi reggae music filters on to the streets and the people are warm and friendly. You have the feel of being in a genuine Caribbean village. The beaches are narrow with not a palapa in sight and very few sunbathers. The turquoise blue ocean is gin clear and warm with little surf but also shallow and filled with turtle grass making it unswimable-unless you dive off one of the many piers. Look closely and you will see sand rays waiting for fishermen to clean the day's catch in the shallows. One Mayan ruin lays on the north end of the island, reached via golf cart and a quaint hand drawn ferry ride over a canal. Several condo complexes and upscale hotels unobtrusively line the shores north and south of town. What drew me to San Pedro was the diving but it is the astrosphere that will bring me back

Favourite spots:
Coral Formation 60 feet down
Coral Formation 60 feet down
DIVING: While I can't claim hundreds of dives, Ambergris Cayes is the best dive location I have ever experienced. Unlike more popular sites, the reefs are pristine and undamaged (gloves are prohibited to keep that way). Eight dives and we never saw another dive group on any of them. High coral canyons allowed you to sink lower and be surrounded on both sides by Neptune's wonders. Treks through coral caves and swim throughs were accompanied by schools of Blue Tang. We saw loggerhead turtles, barracuda, reef sharks, nurse sharks (see below), sand rays, large grouper, lobsters, crabs, tons of eels, and just about every variety of reef fish imaginable. Brain coral, stag coral, coral fans, vessel sponges, tube sponges, you name it! On one dive we felt a large sea turtle sweep over us before we actually saw him, the current from his fins was so strong!

What's really great:
Nurse Sharks arrive after being
Nurse Sharks arrive after being "Chummed"
SHARK TALE: I kissed a shark! On our first dive in Belize, as we were descending down the line, a 6 foot nurse shark circled below us. The dive master swam up to it and started stroking it's back while my son (18) and I exchanged looks in amazement. We joined in the petting but when the shark figured out that we had no food in tow, he swam off. Back on the boat, the dive master exclaimed "Boy, you are game!I am taking you out on Rio's boat next!" That should have been warning enough, but as bags of fish heads were thrown into the boat dockside, I knew I should probably jump out. I didn't. Seven of us in tow, the two dive masters descended 60 feet down with chum. We were immediately encircled with a dozen or so 5-7 foot nurse sharks! They swam in and around us, brushing our sides. Our Dive Master teased one aside, rolled it on its back, took his regulator out of his mouth and kissed the shark on the belly. He motioned me to do the same - I KISSED a shark!

Sights:
Marc cave tubbing at Jaguar Paw!
Marc cave tubbing at Jaguar Paw!
Hol Chan Marine Preserve offers snorklers a shallower version of the diver's delight. Many of the guests who did not dive spoke enthusiastically about both this site and Shark Ray Alley where snorkelers can swim amongst both Sharks and Rays in 10 feet of water.

Amongst the several Land Tours available (a $50/20 minute flight takes you back to Belize City), we had done the Jaquar Paw Cave Tubing before coming to the Cayes and recommend it highly. An hour long hike through the rain forest take you to the top of five caves. Grab your inner tube and take the float back down. The caves were once Mayan ritual sights and provide a mystical etheral backdrop for a fun ride. Try to avoid days when the cruise ships are in port - we had the caves completely to ourselves but some else told us that their experience was noisy and the trail was crowded.

Accommodations:
The view from our veranda
The view from our veranda
We chose Ramon's Village because it had it's own pier and dive shop. Lockers provided on the pier meant we weren't dragging equipment and wetsuits back and forth from the room. Boats (there are 5 total) go out every hour and there are multiple dive masters so you can choose to your own dive preference (I recommend Elbert and Rio). The rooms are in wood hut style structures with verandas overlooking the beach. Bathrooms were small and dated but adequate and the decor was cutesy. The restaurant on site serves a terrific breakfast, making it easy to catch the next boat.

Nightlife:
This little potted fish looked like he was wearing sunglasses
This little potted fish looked like he was wearing sunglasses
Jaquar Club was my son's favorite. You literally enter through the mouth of a huge Jaguar sculpture - hard to miss. They played a variety of Pop/Rap with some Garfundi reggae along for the ride. The crowd was young and the party didn't start until 11pm, but by then Marc was very ready to be rid of Mom.

BC's Beach BBQ was more my style. Literally an open bar/restaurant on the beach, it featured 60's beach music with some Jimmy Buffet thrown in for good measure. Because drinking and diving don't mix the next day, I noticed a lot of beer being served, and in moderation.

Restaurants:
One of many Coral Canyons
One of many Coral Canyons
Elvi's has a laid back style with sand floors and varnished picnic tables. Save it for the Friday night Grand Mayan Buffet, a tour d'force of Latin American cuisine that will have you loosening your belt.

BC Beach BBQ serves up a mean BBQ with great ribs and chicken cooked right on the beach on grills made from steel drums!

Blue Water Grill offers a more upscale, romantic restaurant on a veranda overlooking the beach. Wonderful fresh fish and shellfish!

Other recommendations:
Got Ink Tatoo Parlor: I admit it, I let my son talk me into a tatoo, and I wasn't drunk either. They do a great job (okay, I don't have anything to compare it to, but my son got his 3rd tattoo there and he said so). The artist is truly an ARTIST - I have a purple and pink flower to prove it!

Published on Wednesday November 2th, 2005


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Wed, Feb 21 2007 - 05:46 PM rating by travler

This was an excellent report and the pictures were great.

Mon, Jun 05 2006 - 09:50 AM rating by marianne

Eire,
I must have missed reading this. I did not know this was a place for divers. I love your underwater photos.

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 11:57 AM rating by gloriajames

hiya Eire,
A fab report and great pics! Just noticed u reverted to your butterfly pic on your profile! btw.. how about a pic of your tatoo?? Just teasing.
Keep up the great contributions!
GJ

Tue, Nov 08 2005 - 05:50 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Super report!

Thu, Nov 03 2005 - 10:04 AM rating by rangutan

Exiting scuba stuff. A charming report on a charming place!

Thu, Nov 03 2005 - 09:44 AM rating by davidx

Top stuff. Thanks. You so often make me wish I had tried diving!

Wed, Nov 02 2005 - 09:54 PM rating by toribio

VERY WONDERFUL

Wed, Nov 02 2005 - 08:13 PM rating by isaacmolina

Extraordinary!

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