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Mar 4, 2013

Tourists abandoned and stranded in paradise

Belize is paradise to many no matter if the tourism industry’s selling point is no longer “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.” But for a couple from the United Kingdom, the country for a brief moment became a small road to perdition. Last Wednesday, the Neilson family went diving near Halfmoon Caye, and while basking in the island’s natural beauty, the dive shop abandoned them on the island for being sixteen minutes late. The Neilsons said they reported the incident to the authorities.

 

St. John Neilson, Stranded

“We had hired Big Fish Dive Adventures to take us to the Blue Hole to go scuba diving for three dives. They had subcontracted to Aqua Scuba in San Pedro. We left at six-thirty in the morning and went scuba diving at the Blue Hole. Afterwards we did a second dive just off Halfmoon Caye. We were given one hour for lunch on Halfmoon Caye and told not to be late otherwise the boat might leave without us. We thought this was a joke. We went to see the red-footed boobies after lunch. We arrived back at the dock to see the boat disappearing into distance. We tried to whistle and hail them; they did not stop. We found a ranger; he informed us that this was not a single scenario; that his had happened before with other divers. We were sixteen minutes late according to his watch. He contacted another dive company, Ecologic Divers, who then took us back to the boat because they had our belongings and then we got back here and reported the incident straight away.”

 

Reporter

St. John Neilson

“Were you guys scared?”

 

St. John Neilson

“Originally yes, when we were on the island by ourselves.”

 

Reporter

“What did the tour operators explain to you? I mean did they say anything to you guys?”

 

St. John Neilson

“No. I’ve spoken to the owner of Aqua Scuba; he did not apologize. In fact, he taunted us to escalate the situation if he could.”

 

Reporter

“What did he say to you?”

 

St. John Neilson

“He said you will not be receiving a refund, I’m not going to apologize; you kept twenty other people waiting on the boat—even for sixteen minutes—and the crew left without you.”

 

Claire Neilson

Claire Neilson, Stranded

“They said they had left people before, but again, we thought it was a joke. I mean you don’t leave people on a scuba diving expedition—whether it is on an island or in the water. You always do a head-count. And that is the point; it is all about safety in scuba diving. If they just left us, they actually said they believed we were on the boat. They thought they had done a head-count. They obviously hadn’t done one properly and they hadn’t realized that they had left us. So whether you are late or not—ten minutes late [or] half an hour late—you do not leave people behind. If we were in the water, it could have been a much worse scenario. And this is what we are concerned about divers being left—either on a deserted island or in the water in the future—this should never ever happen.”

 

Reporter

“Did you guys report this incident to authorities in Belize?”

 

St. John Neilson

“Yes. We contacted the British Consulate here in Belize; we also contacted the International Diving Association, PADI; we have contacted the Belize Tourism Board and we contacted the B.T.I.A. as well.”

 

Reporter

“What are they saying to you guys?”

 

St. John Neilson

“They were very shocked about the situation and there is going to be an investigation into Aqua Scuba and they have been asked to appear in front of the tour operators committee.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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12 Responses for “Tourists abandoned and stranded in paradise”

  1. Belizean Sun says:

    I’m a scuba diver myself, Belizean and living in the UK
    What a disgraceful thing this tour operator did to this couple. We also had a dive operation and would never ever do such a thing. This company should be put out of business. Fire the boat captain and dive master.

  2. Gimme Some Jokes says:

    It is called the Gilligan Vacation excursion, they should have told you.

    No apology, no refunds, just their laughs. This is Belize tourism lite.

    If you don’t like the slow beaches, if these uppity clock-watching tour operators annoy you, then try the hot spots in Belize City to see some real action, you can negotiate each deal separately, real time. Cabby’s can get you to the hospital or morgue, pronto.

    Don’t forget the penalty bill is in the fine print of the credit card charge.

    Maybe this is your only vacation to the paradise of Belize, “the Jewel”, but it is their job to take no stragglers, and you aggravated them by being late. Time is money. Try the coconut water. The sand is soft, rough it for a night.

    Lucky you did not end up dead like Abagail Brinkman. But that ex-tour operator, Mark Tucker, might be available for a ride if his boat has gas; check with BTB they are on top of things.

    BTW, it is in the fine print: tourists, limbs, and possessions are expendable. At least your leg is not cut off like Rob Leonard. These guys mean business. It is your privilege to hang with them, not the other way around. Your travel agent should have told you this, not much has changed in 30 years.

  3. jimmy says:

    @GimmeSomeJokes Oh, man, you’re on a flipping roll. make that bath salts.

  4. Starbros Intel says:

    Tourism is a source of income for this country, so this country need to protect this. Safety is number one priority and who cares about lateness on a dive expedition. It is a service provided and the responsibility to take and bring back all people to safety. I live in Belize but I condemn this behavior. Make it public because businesses like this gives Belize a negative impression. Glad you are ok.

  5. Storm says:

    If they can’t run a safe operation, they shouldn’t be in business. I think Aqua Scuba should lose its license, or have it suspended for 30 days. They have a duty to account for everyone before they leave — someday they will leave divers in the water, and they will die. It’s happened before.

    An intelligent dive boat could easily carry a big horn or bell, or even a signal cannon, to let the passengers know when to return to the boat. Are they too stupid to be in business?

  6. Jacki says:

    Mein, get your facts straight, “Gimme some jokes”
    Mark Tucker was never a “Tour Operator,” he was the dive master on the boat owned by, the former tour operator, VANCE CABRAL, he was Mark’s employer-I know, I live in Placencia long time and knew Abigail. Although I can understand these divers concern about being left behind and I do not condone it, in my opinion, they are blowing it way out of proportion-there was a Ranger on the caye whom they spoke with almost immediately-he has a radio and they were picked up shortly by another boat so how could they possibly be “scared, as they were left on the island by themselves,” huh, the Ranger’s there, right? Another boat soon came and picked them up. Does not make sense……

  7. Jen says:

    My husband and I partnered in a dive shop on ambergris a few years ago and sold it 18 months later. The problem with the guides in Belize is that there is no repercussion for the tour their actions. Once they leave on tour you have no control over what they do on the boats. If something goes wrong due to their lack of care or just simply being lazy to follow procedures, the one that will be held responsible will be the company. But is it the company’s fault that the guide don’t follow procedure? So, now you fire the guides and what happens, they simply go and work at another organization and continue with the same care free attitude. I believe the Tourist board needs to start holding the guides responsible for their actions. The guide need to take their responsibility seriously and know that their are repercussions for their actions. We experienced this first hand and are glad we got out of the business.

  8. Genotu Rembiuos says:

    All in all, they were late, and were told not to be late.
    But…but the tour business should have gone to get them. Yes they had to go get them and charge them more if necessary, but don`t leave them behind.
    Attitude is poison to business.
    Apology was absent, so attitude was present.

  9. Genotu Rembiuos says:

    All in all, they were late, and were told not to be late.
    But…but the tour business should have gone to get them. Yes they had to go get them and charge them more if necessary, but don`t leave them behind.
    Attitude is poison to business.
    Apology was absent, so attitude was present .

  10. ceo says:

    So they showed up late and got left? Is this the problem? Then how can it be anyone else’s fault but theirs? So how will the report read: we failed to return on time and we were left on the island? I wonder what would have happened if they were on a cruise ship and returned late? Answer: they would have been left!

  11. Rob says:

    Devil’s advocate?!?!

  12. Gimme Some Truth says:

    @Starbros Intel nailed it twice
    1) Safety is number one priority
    2) Tourism is vital to the economy, happy customers talking up the country is number two priority.

    @Jacki
    Like tourists are going to know the difference? a licensed tour operator, a licensed dive master operating illegal tours using a licensed tour operator’s broken boat with no radio, gas,etc.
    In this unfortunate death, this group of adults should have realized after going to a number of legit tour operators, nobody was going out to sea for a reason. Keep looking and they found an illegal incompetent should-not-be-a tour operator. either way, it destroys lives and the country’s reputation for safe tourism.

    @Jen –> BINGO

    @Genotu Rembiuos
    BADD Attitude is poison to business.
    GOOD Attitude keeps them coming back.

    @jimmy
    Thanks for the offer. I’ll pass.
    Keep your stash, Not my game.

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