Before boarding The Aggressor live-aboard, the ship’s travel office got me 3 tours around Belize. I paid 3-4 times the normal price to go on these tours since I was not with a designated group. There are no chain stores in Belize, so don’t expect seeing a Starbuck’s anywhere. Belizeans cannot brew a good cup of coffee to save their hides! The only shopping was along a narrow city street with immigrant merchants hawking at all the passerbys to come in. The stores offered only cheaply made trinkets that had nothing to do with fine Belize crafts. The one nice marketplace was guarded and walled off from everyone except the large cruise ship passengers, which I found very odd.
As for the Lamani tour: The ruins were interesting, though the Mask Temple has a plastered-facade which looked cheezy. The Howler monkeys were bellowing away which gave everyone the sense of being in a truly wild outpost. The sideways rain was brutal on this tour. Especially the 2 hour boat ride in crocodile infested waters. The term Bucket Seats takes on a new meaning when on a river tour in a torrential downpour. I sat for two hours in no less than 3 inches of rain that accumulated in my seat. I kept swiping the water out, but it kept re-accumulating. The guide offered Hefty bags which most everyone donned. I should have worn my wetsuit on the tour. It rained so hard for so long that I was worried we would sink! I used my life preserver to protect my face from the force of the wind and rain. The force of the pelting rain was like needles on my skin. FYI-no raingear has been invented yet to protect from this type of deluge. As for bugs…..I never saw one. I developed welts later in the day that grew once I was back at the hotel. I was bitten on 2 unsprayed parts of my outer palms which hurt like hell for a week. I also noticed a few welts on my legs and a painful neck bite. I’m waiting to see what hatches out in 2 weeks time. I was appalled that the Radisson wanted to charge $12 American dollars for a can of “OFF”bug spray. That’s not reasonable, it is clearly trying to rip-“OFF” the customer.
The Xunantunich ruins would have been nicer if the rain had not been pouring down in buckets. I had my camera in the underwater housing in hopes of getting some photos, but the rain was so heavy that it skewed the visibility of the pyramids even when standing as close as 10 feet away. The visibility was better underwater on this trip. I booked this trip at the supposed end of the rain season. I can’t imagine what the rainy season is like.The cave tours and zip line tours were cancelled due to rain and flooding. The car ferry across the river was interesting. The Belizean ferry was working well with the steel cables and pulley system. We were greeted on the other side by 4 very young military guards all armed with automatic weapons. Apparently, they do not like their photos taken, so I did not make myself obvious. As in every country I travel to, I smile at the nice men with the guns!
The Belize zoo was actually pretty nice. You can get up close and personal with many of the Belize jungle animals. This owl was trying to offer me his prey.
Crooked Tree Wildlife River tour is great if you have a 400mm zoom lens or greater. The highlight of this tour was seeing my first wild crocodile swimming in front of our boat. They are very shy and getting a photo is near impossible. I would advise forgoing this tour unless it is sunny. Rain keeps the birds in hiding, and overcast skies keep the crocs from getting out onto the banks where they might be spotted on a sunny day.
Now on to the Aggressor dive yacht. The Aggressor dive fleet boasts itself as being “The Ultimate in Liveaboards”. I am disappointed to report that The Belize Aggressor was not the ultimate in live-aboard yachts as advertised. The ship is old and tired and should really be retired.
It has a very small inside lounge that really does not accommodate 18 divers. The dining area is split into separate areas, with a tiny kitchen area separating the two seating rooms. Some of he crew seemed a bit standoff-ish and even a bit grumpy at times. When diving, all food tastes great since you are so darned hungry from multiple dives throughout the day. Strangely, the food was just OK. It was all made from scratch though, I’ll give them that accolade. I noticed all the passengers with Scopolamine behind their ears. Maybe that made the food taste good to them? The seas were not all that rough this week for me to use that drug.
As you climb the ladder down to the old bunkbed staterooms, a strong smell of latrine hits your olfactory senses like a crashing dung wave. They scent is unsuccessfully covered up by a strong stench of some scented chemical that will make your eyes bleed. (Well, actually your eyes will sting & get watery) The dive platform was a good size and had two ladders so divers did not have to wait a long time to get out of the water. The dive platform had 2 warm water showers, which were a nice benefit on this boat. Even with 16 divers we all got in and out of the water without much waiting. The hot tub was out of order which was a major disappointment. The visibility was good all week underwater. The weather was rainy, but not too rough.
Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate), munches coral.
The underwater life was a bit sparse, and extremely skittish. An over-abundance of Lionfish were seen. The coral reefs were not as robust as I would have hoped and the lack of Pelagic fish was noticeable. During the week a stray reef shark or Barracuda was seen on occasion, about 3 hawk-billed turtles, a distant eagle ray, a few Parrotfish, small yellow-tailed Jacks and some smaller reef fish were found. We did find one sea-horse. A few large Tarpon and some Horse-eyed Jacks hovered under the boat on a couple of our night moorings. I feel like this area is way overfished at this point.
By 2015, 45 percent of the fished waters in Belize were to be under the Managed Access system and No-Take zones put into place to protect the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site. It may take a few decades before we see repopulation of this area though.
I did manage to snap a few decent shots with my new Oly E-M5, however the Caribbean seems like a desert compared to other seas I have dived.
Finally, the last nightmare of the trip was cramming two boatloads of tired, wet, moldy divers and their belongings onto a large bus. The Dancer had 20 people, the Aggressor had 16. It was a cluster-mess. Some people almost missed their flight. We swarmed the luggage compartment under the bus upon arrival at the airport so we could get to our gates. The Belize airport was absolutely packed like sardines.
In summation of my trip: It was way overpriced, heavily and erroneously advertised as “luxurious”, mediocre to poor cuisine, and a below average diving destination. I hope we do better next time!