– Reservation Process and Pre-departure Communication.
I was very happy with how easy it was to communicate with you all prior to deciding to book our trip to ReefCI. Jo (I’m still not sure that she really exists) was quick to respond to all of the questions we had and once we had confirmed our week, continued to support us in planning our entire trip. I appreciated her help in making in-country flight reservations and helping me contact hotels for the weekends before and after our ReefCI week.
I really enjoyed everything about the accommodations at Thomas Owen Caye. I guess I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised with what was there. I still reminisce about laying in bed, in my little cabana by the sea, watching the palms sway and listening to the waves breaking just 10 feet from where I was laying. It didn’t hurt knowing that Kansas was getting hit with a major snow storm while I was getting ready to go to sleep in “paradise”.
The meals at ReefCI were very good. I try to eat Vegan at home and knew that I would have to modify my diet somewhat. I was really happy with how accommodating the staff was with trying to work out a happy medium. The staff always made sure that I had plenty to eat. It was fun to get to eat meals that incorporated the fish that we brought back from our dives. The Lionfish soup that I had (everyone else had chicken) was especially tasty. The meal that we had on Tuesday (with the Trade Winds boats) and also the evening meal on Thursday were especially good.
– Conservation Training
This is probably the area that we did the least with. Most of our dives and preparation with diving were taking up accomplishing the PADI objectives for the open water and advanced open water certifications. I tell people that we didn’t do much to help with the science that is taking place at ReefCI but hopefully we didn’t hinder it either. I went in to the week knowing very little about the types of fish species that we would encounter and came away with a pretty good general knowledge of what we were seeing. At first I didn’t think it would be possible to remember all of the names but by the last dive on Friday I think I was doing a pretty good job. I did learn the different types of coral but my ability to differentiate between the amounts of bleaching and the diseases present is still in need of a lot of work. The Lionfish Project was the best. We went in to the week determined to do our part to help get rid of as many Lionfish as possible!
– Dive Training
We came down needing to get our 4 open water dives done for PADI certification. We ended up accomplishing that and also getting the requirements for the advanced open water certification finished. I was really impressed with the job that Simon did with us. He was very patient with us and made sure that we worked to continually improve our diving technique. It is amazing how emphatically one can communicate underwater. One of the reasons we decided to do the ReefCI trip was so that we would immerse ourselves in diving for a week. Without a doubt, we accomplished that beyond our expectations.
The diving was absolutely great. The best dive of all was the one we did Tuesday afternoon. It was the one dive where we had already finished our open water requirements and hadn’t started working on the advanced open water requirements yet. That dive was totally relaxing. We saw a sea turtle laying on the bottom on that dive and had an abundance of fish and coral to observe. I also really enjoyed the two dives where we dropped down along the Continental Shelf. I remember lying in bed the night before thinking about having that much space underneath me but once we started it was all good. I felt very comfortable having Polly, Simon and Tracy diving with us and keeping track of us. Even my one encounter with a partially opened tank valve (lesson that I will never forget) and some difficulty breathing at 50 ft. was a good one. I do feel bad that Tracy had to continually go up early with us fast breathers.
– ReefCI Team
I can’t think of one negative comment about any of the ReefCI staff. Maybe Spot, but he will grow up. Everybody we met on our trip to Belize was friendly and the ReefCI team was no exception. I should include a comment about Rich and Lizzy. I really looked at them as part of the ReefCI team, they had spent so much time there already and were so knowledgeable and helpful. I can’t imagine the week without them.
– What did you like best about your time with ReefCI and why?
I don’t know if I could pick one best thing. We went down to ReefCI wanting to finish our certifications and really learn how to dive, immerse ourselves in diving. We knew that we were going to be challenged and that we were in for many new experiences. We got all of that and more. The best thing about our time at/with ReefCI is that we got exactly what we wanted, an “epic adventure”
– What could use improvement?
I guess the one thing that I have trouble visualizing is what it would have been like having a full group diving and living together on the island. Having the additional 4 people from the sailboat with us on a few of our dives definitely seemed to be the limit for the capabilities of the boat. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if that would have been the norm each day. We really didn’t have much time to relax at all during the week, but that was our fault, trying to maximize our time and getting the advanced open water certification objectives and dives completed.
– Any other comments
If reading through my evaluation comments makes it sound like I had a great time, then I succeeded. From the beginning (making contact with Jo, who may or may not exist) till the very end (getting dropped off at the Snack Shack on Friday) the trip more than met my expectations. We joked, before the trip, that we were going to be called “Team Epic” and that we were going to have an “Epic Adventure”. That’s exactly what happened. ReefCI was the beginning of my dive experience and it couldn’t have started in any better way. Thanks so much. I will try to steer as many people as possible your direction and hope to be able to return.