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Diving Group Tour

15 days from £2,978pp

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Diving Group Tour:
Trip Dossier

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As Mexico and Central America are home to so many unmissable dive sites, we have created a small group tour which combines the region’s top scuba diving with the best natural, cultural and adventure activities on land.

As a diver it would be impossible to visit the Yucatan peninsula without wanting to submerge yourself in the unworldly limestone cenotes; or travel to Belize without diving the famous Blue Hole, likewise, how you can skip the Mayan archaeological sites or the opportunity to hike an active volcano? The good news is, you no longer have to.

Traditionally the only options available to divers were dedicated dive holidays where you live and breathe diving every (exhausting!) day or cultural tours with a dive extension. As nature, culture and adventure enthusiasts ourselves we know you love to dive but don’t necessarily want to do it every day, which is why we’re giving you the best of both worlds - some of world’s best dive sites interspersed with a range of other captivating activities and experiences to keep your mind and body stimulated over a fabulous fortnight.

The tour will be led by experienced JLA tour leader Carolyn Gallagher who has not only travelled and dived all over Latin America, but also lived and worked as a professional divemaster in Roatan, Honduras and continues to scuba dive whenever and wherever she can.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart, arriving Cancun the same day.

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in Tulum.

Day 2

Afternoon tour of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Day 3

Dive the famous freshwater cenotes.

Day 4

Travel by road and boat to Caye Caulker in Belize.

Day 5

Dive one of the world’s most famous sites – The Great Blue Hole.

Day 6

Day at leisure.

Day 7

Head to mainland Belize and fly to the Honduran island of Roatan.

Day 8

Day of diving.

Day 9

Day at leisure.

Days 10-11

Travel to Copán and visit the famous Mayan ruins.

Days 12-14

Overland to Guatemala and the beautiful city of Antigua.

Day 15

Travel to Guatemala City for your international flight home.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Sunday.

Detailed itinerary

UK clients depart, arriving Cancun the same day.

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in Tulum.
 
Transfer to Tulum at the southern end of the Caribbean Riviera Maya. This low-key beach alternative to the major resorts will be your base for the next 3 nights to explore the surrounding area. Small thatched palapa-style hotels and guesthouses flank the main road that cuts through town

The nearby beaches are simply superb with sugary white sand and enticing turquoise waters. To cap it all, the Mayan ruins of Tulum are spectacularly perched on a cliff behind the delightful main beach.
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Tulum Ruins

Day 2

Afternoon tour of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
 
After a morning to relax we make an afternoon visit to the nearby Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. It is a small ecotourism and education centre, an example of sustainable development in sensitive tropical ecosystems. Hike through the jungle and discover the historical site of Muyil, an impressive Mayan temple. Cross the lagoon by boat while your guide will explain more about the reserve's ecosystem and wildlife. You even have the opportunity to swim and float on the freshwater stream through the channels.
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Day 3

Dive the famous freshwater cenotes.
 

How many of us can say we have dived in one of the world’s largest freshwater cave systems? This truly is an experience like no other.

The Yucatan peninsula is a huge porous limestone shelf where fresh water flows into underground river and cave systems. Parts of the shelf have collapsed over thousands of years creating sinkholes or cenotes. These underwater caves and caverns popular among divers today were believed by the ancient Mayans to be entrances to the mystical underworld.

Each cenote is different - some are completely underground, others semi-underground - in many the roof allows sunlight to penetrate, creating a magical feeling and intense aquamarine colour.

The cenotes are located in the middle of the jungle close to Tulum, so it is not uncommon to see iguanas, colourful birds and other wildlife while you are gearing up. The day includes two dives in two different cenotes, with free time in the afternoon to visit the Tulum archaeological site perched high on a cliff overlooking the white sand beach. Or you can do a third dive if you’re hooked already.

Although you will be guided by a certified cave diver, these are not technical dives and can be enjoyed by divers of all experience levels.

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Cenote diving

Day 4

Travel by road and boat to Caye Caulker in Belize.
 
Heading south for 3 hours we reach the border town of Chetumal. From here we board a water taxi for the two hour journey to Caye Caulker.

The 'no shirt, no shoes, no problem' signs that crop up in the numerous bars epitomises the easy-going vibe of this charming small coral island. It’s been a long-time favourite with backpackers, but now a broader range of visitor is discovering the island’s unique barefoot atmosphere. There are next to no cars and people mainly get around on foot, by bike or golf buggy.
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Day 5

Dive one of the world’s most famous sites – The Great Blue Hole.
 

Since Jacques Cousteau declared The Blue Hole - or The Great Blue Hole - one of the world’s Top 10 dive sites in 1971 it has been ever present on every diver’s bucket list, and for good reason. This remarkable coral-fringed limestone sinkhole – which is even visible from space – measures 300m across and 120m deep and is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Here, advanced open water divers can venture to the limits of recreational scuba diving to see and swim through Cousteau’s giant and ancient crooked stalactites at 40m. Open water divers with fewer than than 25 dives can dive to 24m where you will experience the immense drop-off and likely enjoy the company of reef sharks and colourful fish.

After the Great Blue Hole dive, it’s a 25-minute boat ride to Half Moon Caye Wall for the second dive of the day. Along the walls, which drop beyond 400m, you’ll see colourful sea fans, giant barrel sponges, turtles, eagle rays, eels, octopi, reef sharks and sting rays hiding in the sand flats. Half Moon Caye is a picturesque Caribbean island with a bird sanctuary observation deck that overlooks a red-footed booby colony. We have lunch on the Caye and explore the island before heading out for our third and final dive of the day, Long Caye Aquarium.

While the Blue Hole is a bucket list item, often the other two sites on Lighthouse Atoll are the highlight of the day as the marine life is very healthy and abundant.

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Blue Hole

Day 6

Day at leisure.
 

Relax and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere swinging in a hammock, or sitting on one of the wooden piers watching the lilac and tangerine sunset with a beer. Lobster fishing has long been an important activity here and the fresh lobster you can order in the many little restaurants is delicious and cheap!

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Day 7

Head to mainland Belize and fly to the Honduran island of Roatan.
 
It’s back in the water taxi for the short hop to the mainland and Belize City. It’s a brief visit as we head straight to the airport for a flight to another archipelago and the Honduran island of Roatan.

Roatán is situated 50km off the north coast of Honduras and is the most developed of the Bay Islands. It was once a hideaway for pirates and the infamous captain Henry Morgan made it his lair. Its people are a mix of Afro-Caribbean, European and Garífuna indian descent with English the principal language spoken. Fishing is still its main economic activity although in recent years it has become a top international destination for scuba diving and snorkelling.
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Day 8

Day of diving.
 

Roatan’s fringing coral reef is part of the giant Mesoamerican Barrier Reef - the second largest barrier reef in the world which runs from Mexico past Belize and Guatemala to Honduras.

This diverse ecosystem is found just a few hundred metres from shore, offering exhilarating diving without the long bumpy boat rides!

Wall diving on Roatan is truly impressive and is what the island is most famous for. Vertical drop-offs offer some of the best visibility and variety of marine life. Giant sponges, sea plumes, deep water sea fans and black corals provide habitat for a wealth of creatures and the proximity to greater depths means encounters with larger pelagics such as eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and large jacks are possible.

Overhangs, cracks, canyons, deep channels and ravines can be found on several dive sites and are excellent hiding places for many shy species of fish and creatures such as spotted drum, groupers, eels, lobsters, crabs and shrimp and our local guides have a keen eye for the littlest of creatures.

We will do three dives today, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. There is also the option of a night dive for a chance to see the globally rare ‘string of pearls’ phenomenon which regularly occurs in Roatán – tiny strings of crustaceans that light up like underwater fireflies to attract a mate. A truly remarkable and unforgettable sight.

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Roatan Diving

Day 9

Day at leisure.
 

A day to unwind and relax, however for those wishing to see a little more Roatán offers a wide variety of adventures from zip-lining to swimming with dolphins and horse riding to sunset sails. Kayaking, fishing, glass-bottomed boat tours: there's something to appeal to everyone.

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Roatan beach

Days 10-11

Travel to Copán and visit the famous Mayan ruins.
 
The journey continues today with a flight to the busy city of San Pedro Sula, where you’ll be met and transferred south-east for 3 hours by road to Copán. Copán is home to one of the most impressive of the Mayan ruined complexes. This region of western Honduras is a remote province of velvety green hills and rushing rivers, dotted with whitewashed colonial villages where the horse is still the main form of transport. Its genial atmosphere comes in part from its relative prosperity gained through trade in coffee and tobacco, and through the tourism generated by the Mayan ruins.

Spend the night at Copán Ruinas, an attractive cobbled village close to the site. There is time for a short hill walk, but the main attractions, of course, are the archaeological site and the superb new museum, both of which you visit the following day.
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Copan

Days 12-14

Overland to Guatemala and the beautiful city of Antigua.
 

The Guatemalan border is a 10 minute drive from Copán. From here you continue to Antigua. There is a marked change in temperature as you climb into the highlands. 'Land of eternal spring' is an accolade adopted by Guatemalans to describe the climate of this western highland region, where the heat is benign and nights are pleasantly cool.

Guatemala is unique in Central America; a mysterious, timeless country in which half of the population is Mayan indian. Many, especially women in the highlands, still dress in their traditional hand-woven clothing, similar to that which was worn over a thousand years ago. Antigua is a colonial city of cobbled streets, overhanging tiled roofs and a beautiful, leafy central plaza. There is an abundance of huge, ruined churches, convents and monasteries, testament to a time when Antigua was the country's capital and its main religious centre. It seems that every doorway opens onto a leafy tiled courtyard.

A dramatic backdrop of smouldering volcanoes reminds you how the city was destroyed by an eruption in 1773. Antigua is a welcoming place to relax and unwind, do some shopping and enjoy some excellent food, or just to wander around the ruined convents and enjoy the flowers in their beautifully tended gardens.

Two whole days here means you will even have time to venture further afield should you wish to hike an active volcano, visit some local villages, a coffee farm or even the picturesque waters of Lake Atitlán.

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Volcano over Antigua

Day 15

Travel to Guatemala City for your international flight home.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Sunday.

Essential information

Transport

2 flights (longest 1 hour) 4 road journeys (longest 5 hours) and 2 water taxis (longest 2 hours).

Accommodation

As this is a one off tour focusing on diving, accommodation will vary slightly from our other tours as we aim to keep the price competitive while ensuring the basic comforts. Hotels/guesthouses are comfortable and all properties are well maintained and all will have a private bathroom with hot water.

Examples of hotels include:
• Tulum: Casa Bloom Apartments
• Caye Caulker: Caye Caulker Plaza
• Roatan: Cocolobo
• Copán Ruinas: Casa de la Café
• Antigua: Casa de las Fuentes

These hotels may be subject to change and are dependent on availability. Address and contact details will be sent out with your final documents.

Meals

Breakfast daily and lunch day 5.

Included Excursions

• Tulum: Sian Ka’an nature reserve
• Tulum: two guided cenote dives
• Caye Caulker: three guided dives including the Great Blue Hole
• Roatán: three guided dives
• Copán: guided tour of the ruins
• Antigua: guided tour

Summary of Nights

15 days, 14 nights: Tulum 3; Caye Caulker 3; Roatan 3; Copán 2; Antigua 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of Journey Latin America tour leader
• All land transport
• Accommodation as specified
• Meals as specified
• Diving and Excursions as specified

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and insurance
• Meals other than specified
• Optional excursions
• Border entrance and exit fees

Optional excursions

There is a range of optional excursions available throughout this holiday which can be booked locally through your tour leader once you are in Latin America.

There are also further opportunities to dive on your free days should you wish, which again can be organised locally through your tour leader.

Travelling alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with a same-sex member of the group who is usually also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to be sure of having their own room there are a limited number of single rooms available, which carry a surcharge.

Currency

The unit of currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso, in Belize the Belizean dollar, in Honduras the lempira and in Guatemala the quetzal. US dollars are widely accepted in all countries where it is the not the currency, but should not be relied upon.

Budget

A budget of around $45-55 USD per day should cover the cost of meals, drinks and the odd souvenir, although prices do vary greatly from country to country.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. These bills should be in good condition as soiled or torn bills may be refused and smaller denominations will be easier to change. Travellers’ cheques are increasingly less favoured by visitors who find them awkward to change as well as offering a poor rate of exchange. If you do decide to carry some with you they should be US dollar cheques only (American Express are by far the most accepted brand).

Tipping

Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $3USD (or local equivalent) per person per day for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

If you would like to show your appreciation to your Journey Latin America tour leader, who you may feel has exceeded your expectations, a discretionary gratuity would be gratefully received. As a guideline we recommend an amount of between $4 and $6USD per person, per day. You are obviously free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. Please ensure your policy covers you for scuba diving.

Airport taxes

International departure tax is included in the ticket price but a small airport security tax (approx. $3USD) is payable locally either in local currency or US dollars. There may be small local taxes to pay on departure for the internal flights.

Journey Grade

During the tour there will be some early starts and long days of travel, but there are also plenty of days at leisure for relaxation. 

All divers should be minimum Open Water certified to participate in the dives on this trip. Please bring your certification card with you.

The standard Blue Hole dive due to its depth (40m) is available only to divers with more than 25 logged dives as a minimum requirement. Divers with less than 25 dives can join the dive to a depth of 24m.

Climate

The trip covers four countries with climates ranging from Caribbean beaches, through tropical lowland to more temperate zones in the highlands. You may encounter high temperatures (around 30°C) and high humidity in the lowlands. There may be rainfall in most countries, as the 'official' rainy season is May to October.

Water temperatures in the Caribbean in May are a very pleasant 28°C and visibility is often 30-plus metres. In the freshwater cenotes, the water will be cooler around 23-24°C. You will always be provided with the appropriate grade wetsuit for the dive.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. Some warm items and good waterproof jackets are also necessary. We suggest that you plan to 'layer' your clothing. It is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper. Sandals are a good informal option for evenings. Protection against the sun (sun protection cream, hat) and mosquito repellent are essential and you should bring swimwear. A backpack or soft holdall is the most sensible and comfortable way to carry your belongings. Light sleepers should pack ear plugs. Owing to the number of road journeys on this trip, we recommend passengers pack as lightly as possible. There are plenty of opportunities to do laundry on the trip, and your tour leader will be able to advise about the best places to do this.

All the dives include the cost of full equipment rental so it is not necessary to bring your own gear. If however you have your own equipment that you would like to bring, such a dive computer or mask, that is perfectly fine. For larger items, please bear in mind there is a 11.5kg luggage limit on some of the flights.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Central America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on malaria tablets. Please take precautions against biting mosquitoes as cases of dengue fever have recently been reported in several areas of Guatemala.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports should be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Other nationalities should enquire or check with the relevant consulate.

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.

This costs $14USD per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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