Sunday, June 10, 2012

Belize - Guest Post from Terry

Hey everyone! Julie’s husband, Terry, here. This is my first post to BLWB, so go easy on me. Julie asked me to share a recap of my week in Belize.
Wish you were here!

Sitting on a dock in Belize

This trip goes back further than just a few weeks ago. You may recall Julie’s post about her not-so-great experience learning how to scuba dive. Well, my thoughts on that event were the exact opposite, and I’ve been actively diving ever since. I do pretty much all of my underwater breathing with a fantastic company, PCH Scuba, and I could not recommend them more. So if you’re ever in the LA area and want to get certified (or need a dive buddy), look them up!

Anyway, PCH put together a group trip to Belize that was too good to pass up. Julie and I had originally planned to both go, but due to restrictions in Julie’s schedule, she wasn’t able to get the time off. And because I have the most amazing wife in the world, I was still able to go.

My trip began with landing in Belize to turn around and hop on this little puddle jumper. 

Cute, ain't it?

Twenty minutes later, I landed in beautiful San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and took a cab to Banana Beach Resort. Now, there are plenty of resorts on the island, and let’s just say that they’re probably on the nicer end. Ok, definitely on the nicer end. But Banana Beach was extremely affordable, had great A/C (it’s pretty darn humid in Belize), two pools, an excellent restaurant, and sits right on the beach! My only complaint was the internet, which was shoddy at best and would not allow for any voice chatting with Jules.

Home away from home
Pool #1
Pool #2

Yep, that's a sliding glass door as the front door.
Room to beach in 30 seconds
One of the many great views in Belize

When I wasn’t in the water, I was probably eating. Lucky for me, there was plenty of great food in San Pedro. Fish and chicken reign supreme on the menus of Ambergris, but if you happen to go at the right time of year, you can catch lobster and conch season. Unfortunately, we were a bit early to enjoy the alleged deliciousness that is conch, but that just means I’ll have to go back (with Jules!). The rock star entree in the area is jerk chicken, and it’s featured on pretty much any menu you come across on the island. You may have had a jerk dish in the states, but I guarantee it doesn’t compare. And that’s 100 times truer if you visit Robin’s Kitchen, just down the street from Banana Beach.

Robin’s Kitchen may not be much to look at, but man, can Robin cook. The restaurant is literally a shack on the side of the road equipped with 3 smokers. Three of my dive buddies and I ventured on down the road and decided to try it out. Luckily, Robin had three chickens and a fish left, and prepared them just for us. Both options were absolutely delicious, and served with sides of coconut rice and beans, and coleslaw. Turns out, Robin runs the shack all by himself and is extremely friendly. He invited us back and told us to swing by early in the day to tell him what we wanted to eat, and he’d have it ready for us. Needless to say, we provided a lot of business that week. 

Robin's Kitchen - Jerk Chicken

My second favorite place to eat was Elvi’s Kitchen, which was located in downtown San Pedro. I ended up frequenting this place a few times: once for dinner and twice for lunch. A few of my dive buddies had been there a few nights prior and were raving about the garlic roasted squid appetizer. Since they wouldn’t shut up about it, I ordered the appetizer... and subsequently ordered a larger version for dinner. It was phenomenal! Melt in your mouth, smokey, garlic goodness. I’m not even sorry I didn’t get to try the rest of the extensive dinner menu. But I was lucky to go back later. Elvi’s is right around the corner from the dive shop we dove with, so it was perfect to hop on over for lunch.  My midday trips allowed me to sample their fried chicken, ceviche, and tacos. All were excellent, and were great with a Belikin beer, the only beer brewed in Belize.

Garlic Roasted Squid

Fried Chicken

Pulled Pork Tacos

I mentioned earlier that the restaurant at Banana Beach, El Divino, was exceptional. Most of the meals I had here were breakfast, and I usually had the Belizian Breakfast. It sounds a lot cooler than it really is, as it was just a scramble with fry-jacks (fried tortillas), but those fry-jacks were delicious, especially with a little sugar on them. Dinner and lunch had large menus, but the noteworthy items were the shrimp burrito (perfect balance of spice, and loaded with grilled shrimp), and the ceviche. I had seen someone get the small order of ceviche, which came in a soup cup. I knew this wouldn’t be enough for my appetite, so I ordered the medium. I don’t know who’s responsible for defining the portion sizes, but it’s a pretty drastic jump from small to medium. But hey, I’m not going to complain about it. I enjoyed every bite, and even ordered it again on my last night.

That's an iPhone for comparison... the large must be the size of the table

There were many other restaurants (Wild Mangoes, Fido’s, Caramba’s) and meals (really, just lots of fish and chicken) that were delicious, but they didn’t top the list like the above, with the one exception of the homemade frozen custard. Yeah, that’s right. Good, old fashioned, Pennsylvania frozen custard. We stumbled across DandE’s Frozen Custard, which is owned by a lovely Pennsylvanian couple that decided to retire to Belize. Let’s just say I’m not surprised it’s ranked #1 on TripAdvisor in San Pedro.

And it wouldn’t be a vacation without a few tropical drinks. I mentioned Belikin, which is a great lager (and they also have a pretty good Belikin Stout), but I thoroughly enjoyed the local spiced rum. Forget the top shelf stuff; if you’re ever in Belize, stick to the local spiced rum and coke, or a spiced rum and punch. They’re yummy and dirt cheap($1.50 for a rum and coke!). Speaking of inexpensive, the joke in Belize is that for Americans, everything is half off. That’s because the exchange rate is 2 BZ: 1 US, so you can find some fairly good deals.

My poison of choice
 It would be wrong of me to write a blog post about my dive trip to Belize without at least mentioning the diving. I bet most of Julie's readers don't give a shark's tail about scuba, but there were some pretty amazing things to see under the water. I spent 6 days diving off Ambergris on the world's 2nd largest barrier reef! Of those days, four were just off the coast from the resort, one was in Turneffe Atoll (pronounced "Turn F"), and another was at the Blue Hole! On the reef, I saw plenty of nurse sharks, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, sting rays, lionfish, and grouper! We saw more of the same at Turneffe, along with the beautiful mangroves and beaches! Unfortunately, I don't yet own housing for a camera so I can shot underwater, but I was lucky to be diving with some awesome fellows who do! The following photos were taken by my buddies, Chris Kerr, Brian Ko, Dan Hienzsch, and Abe Rolick.

Two soaring spotted eagle rays! (Photo by C. Kerr)

Clear view of an eagle ray (Photo by A. Rolick)

Caribbean Grouper - yummy! (Photo by C. Kerr)

Lionfish - beautiful, but deadly (Photo by C. Kerr)

Nurse sharks feeding - don't worry, they're harmless (Photo by C. Kerr)

Sting Ray (Photo by C. Kerr)

Resting sea turtle (Photo by C. Kerr)

"...tourists... let me be." (Photo by C. Kerr)

Young sea turtle in the shallows (Photo by C. Kerr)
"Let's put a smile on that face!" - Moray Eel (Photo by B. Ko)
Colorful coral on the reef (Photo by A. Rolick)

A tiny sting ray! (I took this one from the surface)

Perhaps the highlight of my dives was my day at the Blue Hole and surrounding reef. The Blue Hole is a perfect circle in the ocean that drops to about 450 feet. It's thought to have been a dry cave, and then was flooded when the Ice Age ended. 
We got to dive to 130 ft (the deepest recreational divers can go). As you can see from the above photo, there's a light ring around the blue hole. That's a sloping sand bank that drops to about 45 ft. After that, it just drops away into blue nothing-ness. We followed the wall down to around 110 ft, where the stalactites formed! These formations were at least 30 ft tall, so at 130 ft, we were swimming right around them! Due to decompression limits and density of the compressed air we're breathing (I won't go into all the dive theory), we only spent about eight minutes down there before starting to ascend. Not much wildlife aside from a few reef sharks, but it was extremely cool to experience!

Stalactites (Photo by B. Ko)

Swimming through (Photo by C. Kerr)

Reef shark creeping around the Blue Hole (Photo by B. Ko)

 Overall, I had a fantastic time! Not nearly as good a time as I would have had if Julie had been able to make it, but it just means we'll have to make the trip again.

Me free diving (Photo by A. Rolick)

Just clowning around (Photo by D. Hienzsch)

Wow! That was exhausting. I have a new found respect for you bloggers out there that do this on a regular basis. 

Happy travels!


  1. Great job, Terry! I was so glad to finally hear about your trip! Sounds amazing!

  2. Awesome clicks!
    I love the ones with the tortoise. Great job!