Isla Marisol Southwest Caye, Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize
This is not a plush resort, but more of a high-end scuba and fishing camp. One comes here to dive or fish, not to loll around in the sun. Food can be excellent to mediocre, depending on the cook. Cabañas are basic. There are screens but the no-see-ums are smaller than the mesh and finer mesh screens would also stop the breezes, which is essential, given the temperature, humidity and no air conditioning on the island. Cabañas have both ceiling and free standing fans, which we kept on at all times. Bathrooms are small and clean, with plenty of desalinated water for showering. The rooms could use a comfortable chair and table for reading or working on cameras. Since insect repellant is essential and sticky, our legs and feet were usually sandy, which meant rinsing off before sitting on the bed or having sandy sheets. Reapplying insect repellant before retiring for the night is needed if one doesn’t want to wake up new bites. The cabañas have nice porches with beach chairs and hammocks, but sitting on them is an invitation for the no-see-ums to feast. So your choice really is to be in your cabaña, in the dining area or out in the bar at the end of a long dock. It is a blessing when the wind blows. Eddie had the island fogged most days, but it was almost futile, due to nearly daily rains that washed the oils away. He does try hard. The dive dock is perhaps the buggiest place, being surrounded by mangroves and grass. I put on my lycra skin in my cabaña before going to the dive dock. Out in the boats, away from the islands is the best place to get your tan. Heavenly after a long dive. Sans lycra upon returning from a dive, I often sprinted back to my cabaña to avoid the bugs. If not for the no-see-ums, I would return here many more times. I do enjoy lounging around outside on occasion, and that was impossible.
The diving is very good. I spent 2 weeks there both this June and last July. I did 73 dives over those 2 trips. All dives are drift dives, always with a dive master. The reef shows no effect of divers and has no trash. The reef critters are ‘wild’ with no conditioning by dive masters. Wonderful. Some combination of large groupers, sharks, rays and turtles show up for nearly every dive. One section of the reef had batfish for me every time I dove. There were also oceanic triggers nesting, many pairs of scrawled and white spot filefish, butterfly fish and angelfish of all descriptions. The reef itself is mostly shades of beige, which, when backlit by the afternoon sun looks like spun gold. Lovely. Lavender fans, purple sponges and gorgonians, yellow tube sponges and orange elephant ear sponges provide colorful touches. And the ever-flowing rivers of blue fishes: creole, snappers, runners and many others. There are large numbers of juvenile spotted drum here. Enormous rough and smooth barrel sponges abound here, sometimes with interesting critters nestled inside. Always worth a look. Scorpion fish, green and moray eels, trumpet fish, and many kinds of jacks. Looking through my Caribbean reef fish books, almost everything is here except the biggest sharks.
The dive masters are special. Last year I had an effervescent fellow, willing to do anything I wanted, always on the lookout for big stuff, and he usually found it. We had sharks, rays and turtles on nearly every dive. This year’s divemaster was the best ‘personal valet divemaster’ I have ever had in my 25 years of diving and 800 dives. I literally had only to get on the boat and get off at the end. Gear was perfectly set up, fins, weigh belt, mask, and set in precisely the same spot each time. If I was forgetful and left my dive socks in my mask instead of in my booties, they were back in my booties for the next dive. He took better care of my gear than I do. Everything was rinsed after each dive; fresh cold drinking water always was available on the boat. Should I forget to put on weight belt or fins, there was gentle reminder before he brought my tank to me and assisted me into my BC. Heavenly. This was possibly the first dive trip I went home from with my back feeling better than when I left. Of special note: there are a few 50 and 60 cubic foot tanks for light air users, which also helped my back. Nitrox is not available. All other dive gear, including computers, is available for rent. There are no dive time limits, except those imposed by computers and air. You do have to come up when the divemaster runs out of time or air. We were always close. My dives were from 55 to 74 minutes. I found no need for the two wet suits I packed. The 84 degree water was like a bathtub; the occasional upwelling was refreshing, not cold.
The bonefish here are special. A small group is literally a few feet from some of the cabañas. You could almost cast from your porch. There is a group of thousands of bonefish in shallow water a few islands away, 30 minutes by boat. Captain Ashton Richie is a fishing guide extraordinaire. Soft-spoken, intuitive, he knows what you want before you can ask and can spot the bones as the boat pulls in to the bay. For those interested in deep-sea fishing, I can only tell you that the boats never returned empty. Always wahoo, barracuda, king mackerel or more.
What is very special is the opportunity to have an island all to yourself. You and the divemaster on a private dive. You and the fishing guide, alone in paradise. The cook catering to your needs and desires. By the end of a trip here, you have new friends and the desire to return . . . soon.
I am the husband of the reviewer above, and a diver and fishpainter for more than sixty years. I got to Belize several times when it was still British Honduras, and many times later including a chartered boat dive trip the whole length of the barrier reef and two other atolls in Belize, Turneffe, and Lighthouse as well as almost every other dive site in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. We chose to go to the nature conservancy on the isolated atoll of Glover’s reef hoping that it would still be untouched by resorts, hotels, spas and other damages civilization has done to the waters and sea creatures of the Caribbean. After two dive trips to Glover’s I can say with convictions that it is the last place left in the whole Caribbean that is still like it used to be sixty years ago in the water, for the number and variety its fish, and for its direct simplicity. If you go there to enjoy hot tubs, lie in the sand while uniformed waiters bring cold margueritas and shiver in air-conditioned suites watching TV you will be totally disappointed. If you go for the diving, the fly casting, the off-shore game fishing and the direct simplicity of a family owned island, with good food, boats, guides and glimpses of how it used to before travel agencies and hotels, then Marisol is the right place to dive and fish. It isn’t Nassau, Roatan, Bonaire or Turks and Caicos, thanks to its isolation from the mainland, nor is it Ambergris Key in Belize or Grand Cayman or Cancun, thanks to the providence which has kept it mostly unvisited for so long.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Isla Marisol Resort lies on a pristine, secluded palm-studded island on Glover's Reef Atoll (a UN World Heritage site) in Belize. Of the five inhabited island on Glover's Reef, Isla Marisol is the only one offering private en-suite bathrooms, fresh water showers, hot and cold water, air conditioning, and daily housekeeping service. Isla Marisol Resort also offers frosty cold libations at our NEW "over the water" bar and phenomenal Belizean style food in our dining room. Incredible water sports are just a stone's throw from the resort - with most diving and snorkeling sites just 5-15 minutes from the island. All ages and experience welcome! Anglers can hit the "grand-slam" from their front porch, with World class fly fishing for tarpon, permit, and bonefish, quite literally at our door step. Daily deep sea fishing trips for Wahoo, Kingfish, Marlin, and a host of other fun fish, depart from Isla Marisol daily. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Isla Marisol Hotel Glovers Reef Atoll
- Isla Marisol Dangriga