A phenomenal week aboard the Sundancer II in Belize

Our first liveaboard experience, and we came away wowed, and hungry for more! We couldn’t have asked for a more fun bunch of people to dive with. The crew was incredible too – they were ever so energetic and helpful, whether underwater diving with us, or on deck giving us hot towels and hot chocolates post-dive, and whipping up dishes of delicious snacks and meals. We were completely spoilt for a week.

Jeff and I both had amazing experiences underwater. His most memorable moment was during one of our night dives, watching a channel clinging crab feast on uni, discarding the spikes of the urchin in a messy pile by the side. I captured that scene, focusing on getting the lighting just right on the crab, but didn’t even realize what it was doing until Jeff told me post dive. For me, I enjoyed experimenting with the camera controls underwater, and gained much satisfaction whenever I successfully controlled my buoyancy and nailed a shot. Already, I see a vast improvement in the pictures from my prior diving trips; I’m already looking forward to more dive trips when I can further practice on my exposures underwater.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

One of the many, many delicious meals we had. We were fed brownies, tacos, pumpkin bread etc after each dive, and lunches and dinners were veritable feasts

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Dive site #1: Julie’s Jungle, Lighthouse Reef… We dove at 2-3 different dive sites around the Lighthouse Reef atoll per day the first five days, and at the Black Beauty site at the Turneffe Island site Friday morning, the last day of diving. Every time we came to a new site, one of the divemasters would draw an elaborate map of the area and give us a thorough briefing of what we could expect to see. Sometimes, we dove with the divemaster, other times, we wandered around with our dive buddies Tracy and Teresa.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

First sight of dive #1: a sea full of thimble jellyfish. Happily, I was immune to their stings, seeing as I was only in a rashguard and shorts.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

As we descended, we were treated to this sight of a giant loggerhead turtle cruising about. It was the largest turtle I’ve ever seen underwater

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

We saw a bunch of giant lobsters underwater. Yummy

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

We had a few turtle sightings throughout the week. Always fun!

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

This is one glum looking lion fish. Since they are considered invasive species in these waters with no natural predators yet, the dive masters try to do their part to eliminate those they come across, killing them with spears and feeding them to french angel fish, barracudas, groupers, eels and sharks. This one was lucky – the dive master didn’t bring a spear down that time.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Our big 140 foot long boat had a hang bar which the crew lowered when the current got rough, so we had something to cling onto while doing our safety stop. The ride was sometimes very thrilling – we would literally be flying through the water clinging on like mad as the boat swung about in its long wide arc.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Jeff enjoying a relatively calm ride on the hang bar

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

We spotted a few spotted eagle rays throughout the week, always in the deep, gliding its lonesome way along the wall

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Just gorgeous reef systems

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Love these beautifully patterned flamingo tongue nudibranches

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

I had a close encounter with this one green moray eel. After I’d peacefully spent a few minutes photographing it, captain Megan came along with a freshly speared lion fish to feed it. It was fun watching it swim out of its hole to claim its prize, which it made short work of before gracefully ribboning its way back to its hole. Then, for reasons still unclear to me, it locked eyes on me and started heading out of its hole again, toward me. Alarmed, I finned backwards rapidly, but still it charged forwards. I had a second to decide: take a video or protect myself? Instinct got the better and I wielded my dive pointer, just in the nick of time. I swiped the side of the eel’s mouth and it retreated a few feet. I’d won that brief bout of fencing, but warily continued to fin backwards, keeping my eyes on the eel as my hearted thumped crazily. It turned back toward me again, and this time I fumbled with both the camera and dive stick. Then Megan was there, helping me ward off the persistent eel with her spear. The eel got the message, and retreated back to its hole. By then, our group of divers had had enough excitement and we decided to end the dive before the eel changed its mind again. Whew! I can tell you this: we saw more green morays after that dive, but each time I took great care to stay a good six feet away, especially when the dive master was feeding it more lion fish!

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

First night dive Sunday… we jumped into the water and were greeted by the sight of a few large tarpons cruising underneath the boat

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Spotted eel… these little cuties I have no problem getting close to. Heh.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Chain Wall dive. Visibility was awful, thanks to the strong currents that churned up the sandy reef bottom. Jeff and I dove with Tracy and Teresa; the rest of the group had headed off in the opposite direction early, and we lost sight of them in the murk. It was an exciting dive. We couldn’t see much, but a big grouper and barracuda hung around us for most of the dive, from the reef to the wall and back. We weren’t afraid of the grouper, and it wasn’t afraid of us either – letting Tracy pet it for a good few minutes near the end of the dive. But we were wary of the barracuda, especially since it tailed us really closely, making multiple close passes by our fins. I spent most of my time along the wall trying to keep an eye on the barracuda, until Jeff signaled excitedly to look down. Two grey reef sharks – just feet away from me! Tracy and I tried to swim as close as we dared to to get videos and pictures, while Jeff and Teresa kicked upwards to get a safe distance. We had three other shark encounters that dive; not sure if they were the same ones, but was it thrilling!

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

When it doesn’t have lion fish to feast on, the French Angel fish makes do with coral

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Our comfortably appointed home for the week, the Belize Sundancer II. The Aggressor and Sundancer fleet have two boats in Belize, the Aggressor and Sundancer. The former costs $200 more but is smaller, with bunk-bed style cabins mostly. Very happy with our choice – it was spacious, with a huge upper deck where we loved to take naps on in between dives.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Another green moray, this time at the Cathedral dive site on day #3. It was our second dive, and six of us descended together. We started swimming in the opposite direction from the wall by mistake, but then decided to spend the entire dive playing around in the shallows. It was fun: there were beautiful mounds of coral reef heads to poke our noses close to, and plenty to see, including this one green moray that looked about to swim out of its hole. We were underwater for over an hour, never venturing deeper than 19 feet, and came up with more than 1000 psi to spare.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Gorgeous sunrise on day #4, aka Blue Hole dive day! We lucked out with the weather – bright, sunny and warm with cool breezes to take the edge off every day. It only rained the last morning as we prepared to disembark – nature’s way of empathizing with us the end of a wonderful week?

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Mooring at the Blue Hole

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Everyone eagerly awaiting the Blue Hole dive briefing

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

130 feet underwater. Huge stalactites to admire, but not much else heh. At that depth, I could feel slightly pleasantly buzzed.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Well, checked that off the list. At least we can say we went to Belize and dove the Blue Hole, though honestly otherwise it was an unexciting dive. Haha

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Our shortest dive of the trip: just 30 minutes, with under 5 minutes at the 130 feet.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

We had to do a long surface interval nonetheless, and spent the time on land, visiting Half Moon Caye Island, which is home to the red-footed boobies (its cousins, the blue-footed boobies, are found in the Galapagos, another site waiting to be marked off on our bucket list)

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

It was sweltering hot on land, so everyone was excited to get back underwater. Megan brought down a couple of frozen lion fish she had speared the day before, in hopes of attracting sharks, but the takers were just this French Angel fish, and later on in the dive, a green moray eel

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

I love late afternoon dives. The lighting is just so beautiful. Though it does get chilly when we ascend, so I have to squeeze my way into a full wetsuit for the dive.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

These indigo hamlets are just beautiful. One of the divers said these were her favorite of the dive trip… that and the time she saw a giant grouper swimming along with its mouth wide open and holding a squirrel fish – we speculated that the squirrel’s fish fins might have gotten stuck in the grouper’s mouth

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

The aforementioned channel clinging crab eating sea urchin

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

This poor tarpon was swimming around with a hook stuck in its mouth

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Divemaster Karim, who accompanied us on the night dive, tried to unstick the hook, to no avail

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Tracy saw this giant grouper eat an unsuspecting parrot fish sleeping underneath a ledge

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

The dive briefing drawings get more detailed as the week goes on

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Loved the dives at Half Moon Caye Wall. We had sandy bottoms with southern stingrays swimming about, fields of garden eels, as well as beautiful reefs and gorgeous walls. It was one of the most popular sites we were at all week; there were a group of divers on small dinghies that dropped their divers off near our mooring line, and one of them got lost from his group (merman!) and ended up swimming with us the entire dive. We brought him up to the boat at the end, and radioed around to find his group.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Conch!

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Ocean triggerfish

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Southern stingray

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Decorated crab

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

We saw hundreds of these adorable tiny puffers on every dive, usually in pairs around the corals

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Huge remora hung around us on the Painted Wall dive. Pity we didn’t see its host shark; must have been huuuuge.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Last night dive! We did a dusk dive this time, before dinner, so we could have a proper feast with drinks. And feast we did. Chef Jerry whipped up a Thanksgiving meal, with a big turkey and ham and all the works!

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

No idea what this was, but I love the lighting and the color

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Last turtle sighting of the last dive. Boohoo.

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

We hadn’t had enough of the water, so after we’d safely docked, 8 of us from the boat went on a cave tubing expedition

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

It was fun – I only wish it was longer!

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II

Cocktail party back at the boat… a last hurrah with the amazing crew and fellow divers

From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
From An Awesome Week Aboard the Belize Sundancer II
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