Once we landed in San Pedro, the airport staff phoned our resort to let them know we’d arrived (we were put on an earlier flight than originally scheduled). It took a few minutes but soon enough a van arrived for us for the 300m drive to the boat dock. En route, we stopped at a supermarket in San Pedro town to pick up a large case of beer (the mandatory Belikin) and fresh groceries (the most fantastic homemade salsa and yoghurt!). US dollars are readily accepted everywhere, at a set exchange rate of 1 USD = 2 BZD.
The transfer to White Sands Cove Resort was seamless. The boat took us to our resort, a couple of miles north of San Pedro. Marlon, the resortâ€™s on-site manager, waited for us on their dock with a wheelbarrow and took all our luggage to our suite. We were welcomed with this view:
We walked up to the bar and enjoyed our welcome cocktails by the pool.
Our ground-floor suite was perfect. There was a living room and full kitchen, a bathroom and large bedroom. Only the bedroom was air conditioned, but both rooms had fans and screened windows and door. The screens were essential – the Belizeans mosquitoes were horrible.
The resort was pretty quiet the entire time we stayed there (9 nights) â€“ between 3 and 5 couples at any one time, out of the 20 available suites. The bar and kitchen were open from lunch to dinner and we took advantage of that a couple of times. We had packed in our luggage some Indian boil-in-a-bag meals, a box of Ianâ€™s beloved Cheerios, some rice and some oatmeal. We discovered a fresh produce store in town called The Greenhouse where we picked up huge mangoes, pre-peeled and sliced pineapples, mint for mojitos, and weird things like guayas (also known as genip … somewhat like lychees). Those basics plus the fresh groceries we bought in San Pedro were perfect. The local beer (Belikin or Lighthouse) was the typical weak tropical lager, so we had Red Stripe whenever we could. The food at the restaurants in Belize was unremarkable to tasteless except for 2 places, Wild Mangoâ€™s and Elviâ€™s Kitchen. We had delicious and huge burritos at Wild Mangoâ€™s, and Ian had a really good conch soup called Good Fu Di Back at Elviâ€™s Kitchen.
The main reason we came to Belize was to scuba dive, so on our second day we set out to organize some dives. Another couple at White Sands directed us to the El Pescador resort down the beach where they highly recommended dive instructor Alonzo. We had already reserved dives with White Sands Cove Diving, which we didnâ€™t realize wasnâ€™t actually located at our resort any longer. In the end we only did 2 dives with Alonzo and 2 dives with White Sands. We also went on a half-day snorkeling trip at Shark Ray Alley in Hol Chan Reserve. We chickened out of the all-day dive trip to the Blue Hole (leaving the resort at 5:30 am for a 2+ hour boat trip each way seemed â€¦ un-vacationlike). The diving in Belize was alright. Unfortunately it was overcast and rough the majority of the time (Hurricane/Cyclone Agatha hit nearby Guatemala on May 29) so the visibility and colours werenâ€™t fantastic. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the dives, I even got to pet a nurse shark (!!!), took lots of photos and identified lots of marine life. More about the diving in a separate post.
The snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley was pretty cool as we got to see lots of big rays and big nurse sharks, as well as turtles and other smaller fish. We also borrowed the kayaks from White Sands and paddled out to the reef break, tied up to a buoy and snorkeled there.
The other downside to Ambergris was the abundance of mosquitoes, despite the resort spraying for them. We learned quickly that we had to douse ourselves with DEET whenever we went out of our suite. Unfortunately Ian developed a sensitivity to DEET so we were a bit worried about overdoing it.
We also borrowed the resortâ€™s beach cruiser bikes to make our way to San Pedro town (2+ miles south of White Sands Cove Resort) or the Palapa Bar (probably 0.5 miles south).
The Palapa Bar was a fantastic place to enjoy the Caribbean breeze, good drinks and the passing marine life (we saw a ray, some barracuda and many needlefish).
To get from our resort to San Pedro town, we had to bike over a toll bridge (1 Belizean dollar = USD $0.50 per bike). Ianâ€™s bike chain broke so we had to find a repair shop and then had to wake up the repairman who was having a nice siesta in his hammock. The replacement chain cost $6 and took only a few minutes to fix.
While waiting for the repairman, I noticed an odd-looking cat with a collar nearby. It turned out to be a pet raccoon! Very odd – apparently quite a few people in San Pedro keep raccoons as pets.