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  • At Play in the Realm of the Wave Dancer
    Exploring the Secrets of a Promised Land
    By Bill Harrigan
    Imagine this: You buy a lottery ticket based on your sweethearts birth date, figuring it will bring you good luck and, bingo, you win $21 million. Suddenly, your bank account is large enough to finance your wildest dreams. You decide to buy a big boat, set it up for diving, stock it with gourmet food, hire a talented and congenial crew and invite a bunch of your best friends to go exploring the worlds great coral reefs. Well, the bad news is you didnt win the imaginary lottery;again. But, hang in there with your sweethearts numbers, theyre bound to bring you luck. The good news is you dont need to win the lottery to take that dream dive trip. Wave Dancer, Peter Hughes superb live-aboard dive boat, is ready to take you exploring Belizes remarkable coral reefs.

    Even the winner of a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot would have a difficult time putting together a better live-aboard than Wave Dancer. Peter Hughes boats have come to define the standards of quality, service and innovation by which live-aboards are judged;and Wave Dancer is a perennial favorite. First launched as a live-aboard in 1992, Wave Dancer was recently brought back to the U.S. for a complete renovation, including a new tropical jungle decor and a nitrox fill system.

    Aluminum construction and a length of 120 feet make Wave Dancer a solid, comfortable vessel. A pair of 560 hp diesels gives her plenty of speed and large capacity generators, air compressors and a watermaker contribute to the luxury of life onboard. Throughout the vessel youll find convenient features, such as twin, hot water showers on the dive deck, an on-deck head, two separate drying racks for wetsuits, a dive deck battery charging station, a huge camera table with excellent lighting and compressed air nozzles and Peter Hughes unique rigid safety stop bar.

    Even with all these great features, it is the quality of service that makes Wave Dancer so outstanding. Somehow the crew makes you feel, on one hand, as if you own the boat and, on the other, as if youre just out diving with some of your best friends. The service starts before you even get to Wave Dancer, when a crew member greets you at the airport. From this point on you are treated better than a lottery winner at a family reunion. After your gear is collected and loaded on the van, you climb onboard for the short ride to Wave Dancer. As you are welcomed onboard, your gear is moved to your cabin, which features an ensuite bathroom with shower, air-conditioning and your own personal bathrobe. The dining room is one level above the dive deck and its large windows and pleasant arrangement of booths and tables make it seem like a cozy waterfront restaurant. Wave Dancer meals are gourmet events; each one is a delight that you look forward to as much as diving. Eggs and omelets are cooked to order at breakfast, fresh brownies and cookies are put out between dives and lunch has a different theme each day. Dinner is the most formal meal, with your order taken at the table.

    The dive deck is set up for safety and comfort. Its open on the sides for maximum ventilation but covered on top for protection from the sun. Everyone has plenty of private storage and you are not elbow to elbow while you are getting suited up. You can move around easily on both the deck and the dive platform. Fresh, dry towels are stacked where you can reach them easily and, on the night dives, a warm towel is draped around your neck after you rinse off.

    You could show up in Belize with just a carry-on bag of clothes and still be perfectly outfitted on Wave Dancer. You can choose from a full selection of rental dive gear, including computers. An extensive array of Nikonos photo equipment is also available, from macro to wide angle, as well as underwater video cameras. Daily E-6 processing is provided, along with light tables and a projector.

    Nitrox Available

    A membrane system for mixing nitrox has been installed and 32 percent nitrox is available at no extra charge to nitrox certified divers. The principal reason for adding nitrox on Wave Dancer is to increase the safety margin against the possibility of decompression sickness rather than to increase bottom time. This is an excellent idea, especially for the intensive repetitive diving typical of live-aboards. So, bring your nitrox certification card but plan on using your air computer. Divers without nitrox training can receive their IANTD nitrox certification onboard for a small additional fee.

    Wave Dancer Diving

    Most of the dive sites are in the huge expanse of Lighthouse Reef, just east of the Turneffe Islands. This is part of the incredible barrier reef system that runs almost 185 miles along the coast of Belize, the second longest barrier reef in the world. Under some weather conditions, Wave Dancer also visits Glovers Reef, another large section of the Belize reef system. Belize diving is characterized by high visibility, warm water and very little current. Visibility is generally more than 100 feet and it is often in the 120 to 150 foot range. Diveskins, Polartec, shorties and light wetsuits cover the range of thermal protection that most people find comfortable.

    Five dives are planned each day, two in the morning, two in the afternoon and one at night. The lush reefs are draped over sheer walls in many places but wall dives are only part of the diversity you get to sample during the week. Half Moon Caye Wall is a series of underwater promontories with deep cuts to explore. Queen Triggerfish, Creole Wrasse and Barracuda are among the hundreds of fish common here. Tarpon Cave can be a shallow dive in 30 to 50 feet of water or a deep dive along the wall from 60 to 130 feet. The name comes from the deep notches cut in the top of the reef, exiting at about 80 feet. Green tube sponges, plate-form star coral and lots of fish, including some huge Black Groupers, make this a fabulous dive. The Great Blue Hole is a unique and fascinating dive. One thousand feet across and 475 feet deep, the Great Blue Hole was once above water. During that time huge stalactites were formed from the water dripping down its sides. Now they hang in ghostly rows deep within the blue circle. Night dives can be made in many places on Lighthouse Reef. Nudibranch City, for instance, makes a high intensity night dive with Southern Stingrays and Tarpon actively feeding, Reef Squid, brittlestars and lacy basketstars. Eagle Landing, Uno Coco, South Cut, Shark Point and Coral Garden all have their own unique features and, since diving is just a small slice of life underwater, they are different on each dive.

    Travel Information

    Passports are required for entry into Belize, which is an independent state in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The official currency is the Belize dollar but travelers checks, major credit cards and U.S. dollars are generally accepted. You should expect, however, to receive your change in Belize dollars and coins. One U.S. dollar is worth two Belize dollars.

    The average temperature in Belize is 80F, so light, informal clothing is appropriate. Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen; a sweater or jacket is nice to have on winter evenings. Otherwise, most of your time is spent in either a swimsuit or shorts and a T-shirt. Shoes are only needed for a shore trip to Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, a beautiful island where iguanas and nesting marine birds have been protected since 1981.

    Several airlines provide service to Belize City, including TACA International, which has daily flights from Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans and Miami. American Airlines provides service from Miami and Continental flies to Belize from Houston.

    For more information, contact Peter Hughes Diving at (800) 9-DANCER, (800-932-6237) or (305) 669-9391. You can also request information or make reservations by fax at (305) 669-9475 or write to 6851 Yumuri Street, Suite 10, Coral Gables, Florida 33146. Internet surfers can get information by e-mail at dancer@winnet.net or from the Peter Hughes Diving Web Site at www.winnet.net/dancer/.