“Learning to SCUBA Dive in Ambergris Caye, Belize” by Josey Miller


Learning to Scuba Dive in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
by Josey Miller

Eddie, our instructor, left us in a small wooden room on a pier over the Caribbean Sea. Following a snack of freshly cut coconut on a picnic bench outside, the sun had started to sneak past the clouds after a hazy, rainy morning. We wanted to soak it up, but it was time to watch a video about water safety. Jeff and I didn’t fly four hours from New York City to fail our Scuba certification—a task that had always been at the top of my life’s to-do list.

The reefs in Belize are listed as some of the most impressive in the world, and if we were going to do it, we might as well do it right. So we booked a one-bedroom kitchenette at The Palms, and I played (more than) twenty questions with Ana at the front desk before we left; I’d simply never encountered an oceanfront view for under $140 and in my experience things that sound too good to be true usually are. But she was patient, courteous and remarkably enthusiastic—and all of her answers were right on target. My most important question: is there a blender in the room? After all, we’d heard the nightlife in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye left a lot to be desired; the tourists who go there are for the most part hard-core divers who turn in early to wake up with the sun. Jeff and I, on the other hand, were novice divers who refused to forget that this was our vacation, after all.

The puddle jumper from mainland Belize to San Pedro provided beautiful views, not to mention a touch of nausea. But it was only 15 minutes long, and we were able to walk right over to our hotel from the airport; San Pedro is that small. Our Scuba certification course began the following morning bright and early. Over a period of just three and a half days, the course included classroom instruction, confined water practice sessions, and open water sessions—all for just $350.

After learning the necessary buddy signals and basics, such as how to react in emergency situations, we explored the Turneffe Atoll and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. At Hol Chan we actually fed and petted sharks (I wouldn’t believe me either, but there are pictures to prove it), and on our way back to shore, dolphins cavorted alongside our boat.

Every day after we finished our lessons, Eddie sent us over to Cholo’s—the local watering hole where he’s a regular for the simple and perfectly understandable reason that, “They serve their beer the coldest.” We enjoyed a few bottles of Belikin, the local brew—both there and at Fido’s, our preferred lunch spot for rice, beans and “stew chicken” in an atmosphere Jimmy Buffett would write songs about.

After a few hours in the ocean, we were happily drained and ready to be lazy and absorb the unforgettable experience that was Ambergris Caye. Cold beer and hot sand aside, our very favorite “You Better Belize It” memories came from about 60 feet below sea level.



  1. Great report. 60 feet below sea level, WOW!


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