Travel World News, June 2003
For divers, location is everything, especially when they can look forward to shorter boat rides to some of Belize\'s hottest dive sites. Forty miles south of Belize City, the coastal town of Dangriga juts into the Caribbean Sea. It is the closest point for getting to South Water Caye and the southern barrier reef. Outer atolls like Glover\'s Reef, Turneffe Islands and Lighthouse Reef- home to the famous Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye, are also easily accessible. Unlike the popular dive centers of Ambergris Caye and Placencia, divers have only recently begun to discover the pristine reefs and uncrowded diving in the virgin waters off Dangriga. Much of the success of luring divers to this emerging coastal region is the opening of Hamanasi Dive & Adventure Resort, a 16-room small luxury hotel, near the tiny fishing village of Hopkins, offers its guests a combination of personalized service, superior accommodations, great diving and nearby adventure options.
David and Dana Krauskopf, owners of Hamanasi, had dreamed of running a small secluded hotel. Both avid divers, they knew it would have to be nearby a reef. Leaving computer and advertising jobs in Chicago, they moved to Eastern Europe and Russia, before finding the perfect location for their dream hotel in Belize. Dana gained valuable industry experience working as a travel agent in Moscow and throughout their worldwide travels they gathered ideas to incorporate into their hotel.
The resort features the great house with a restaurant, bar and gift shop. A 50-foot fresh-water pool is on the 400-foot private beach. Treehouse cabanas surrounded by coastal forest, family suites, luxury beach-front suites and rooms, elude a casual elegance. Belizean hardwood furnishings, colorful Mexican tiled bathrooms, spacious floor plans, ceiling fans, air conditioning and private porches grace the uniquely decorated room. Mahogany and stately four-poster king and queen beds are dressed in 250 thread-count fine linens. Plush towels are a treat after a day of diving. The on-site dive shop offers a variety of PADI courses, rental gear and gear storage. Pampered diving is the buzz word here as the professional PADI-certified staff carry all dive gear to and from the boat and will help with setup if requested. Hamanasi runs daily boat trips to the southern barrier reef and day trips to the atolls three-times a week. They are the only dive operator to regularly dive all of Belize\'s three atolls. Recently a third custom-built, 43-foot dive boat has been added to the fleet.
A five-mile stretch of the southern barrier reef, a short boat ride from the dock, is Hamanasi\'s playground. Here divers will rarely, if ever, encounter another dive boat. In this undiscovered region, divers can explore over a dozen different sites. Pristine and very healthy reefs create a habitat for a wealth of marine life including spotted eagle rays, turtles, and a profusion of tropical reef fish. Most sites feature wall drift dives.
During full moon phases, April through June, whale sharks come to feed and mate at Gladden\'s Spit and thousands of Mutton and Cuberra snapper are spanning. Many divers plan their vacation around this phenomena, so advise clients to make their reservations early during this time.
Besides diving, Hamanasi is the perfect springboard for nearby adventures. Bikes or kayaks are free of charge for guests to explore the nearby Garifuna fishing village at Hopkins. The colorful Garifuna, descendants of Carib Indians and Africans, maintains a strong cultural heritage, fish from dugout dories and weave baskets. Often a troop of singers, dancers and musicians will entertain guests after dinner at Hamanasi.
For wildlife viewing, guests can sign up to explore rainforest trails at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world\'s only jaguar preserve. Jaguars and other cats are nocturnal and elusive, but fresh tracks are often spotted. The park is home to howler monkeys and over 290 species of birds. Guests can also take a tubing trip down the jungle stream.
Another option for spotting wildlife is on a canoe or kayak trip down the Sittee River. Along the water\'s edge, Egrets, heron, parrots, toucans, iguanas and sometimes crocodiles are spotted in a rainforest setting. Other adventures feature a historic tour of Maya sites, exploring jungles and caves and a hike to waterfalls.
The Reef & Rainforest package is ideal for guests who wish to explore a combination of diving and mainland adventures. Flexible packages allow guests to mix and match adventures including diving, snorkeling, exploring Maya ruins, a cave and jungle adventure, river canoeing, a hike to waterfalls and an excursion to Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve. Airport transfers, internal flights, meals, welcome drink, tanks, weights and belt with diving and taxes are also included. A four-day package with three adventures is priced low-season at $655 per person (double occupancy) and can be extended for additional nights. Room rates for low season (Apr 30 to December 17) are $170 for beach front or $210 for treehouse accommodations and $220 for a suite, including tax and service charges. Hamanasi will also create custom designed packages.
Flights to Belize City International Airport are available on American, Continental and TACA. Clients can take the 20-minute flight to Dangriga on Maya Island or Tropic Air from Belize City. Hamanasi will arrange transfers from Dangriga. If clients rent a car, it is a two and a half hour drive from Belize City.