Scuba dive Belize atolls, Belize reefs and the Belize Blue Hole - Turneffe Flats Belize
There over 60 named dive sites on Turneffe Atoll, many are located within a short boat ride from our resort. Each week we travel to Lighthouse Reef and scuba diving the famous Blue Hole in Belize.
With our location near the center of Turneffe Atoll, we can find good diving nearly all days regardless of wind direction and sea conditions. This offers a huge advantage on those days when the weather is not perfect for diving.
Our location on the Eastern side of the Turneffe Atoll allows us to choose dive sites each day based on the weather and our divers' interests. Since there are exceptional dive sites ringing the entire atoll, we have the ability to plan our day around whatever Mother Nature may bring. Regardless or the weather, we are generally within 10-30 minutes of the selected dive site.
FAVORITE DIVE SITES
The Chutes off Calabash Caye, is approximately 50 feet deep along the top of the wall. It is good for pelagic encounters and taking wide angle photographs with a huge sand flat that is home to garden eels and yellowhead jawfish. Wide chutes lead to a wall covered with yellow tube sponges, purple sea whips and brain coral. Here we often find hawksbill turtles, spotted drum, scrawled cowfish and spotted morays.
At Crickozeen Cut, predatory trumpet fish camouflage themselves among the sea fans and a myriad of damselfish and parrotfish graze on algae, keeping the coral clean and healthy. Spiny lobsters are commonly found under ledges and Creole wrasse aggregate and spawn in their thousands around the full moon in summer.
The Elbow is a popular advanced drift dive located at Turneffe's most southern point. The reef crests at 80 feet and is very wide and exposed with a current that generally flows from the north at about 2 knots. Due to this current and the site's depth, most of the dive is spent in mid-water. Visibility is typically 100 feet and large schools of pelagic fish such as dog snappers, horse-eye jacks, permit and Atlantic spadefish aggregate here. In the canyons below, large groupers, turtles and balloon fish can be seen among enormous gorgonians, and out in the blue, the occasional sharks and spotted eagle rays add to the excitement of this dive. A pod of dolphins live close by and will often come to play with the divers while they are on their safety stop.
Lindsey's Back Porch is where you can drift slowly through a garden of gorgonian fans and sea plumes at 45 feet and see an abundance of butterfly fish, angelfish, blue tang, surgeonfish and parrotfish. As the reef divides into narrow fingers that run down to the wall edge, the coral ledges provide the perfect home for the white spotted toadfish, found only in Belize. Hawksbill turtles amble over the reef, feeding on algae and sponges and nurse sharks can be found rummaging for mollusks and shellfish in the sand.
Baker's Drop in front of the lodge, shelves gently towards the wall at about 50 feet reef. Colonies of thin leaf lettuce coral provide shelter for the juvenile rock beauty and spotted eagle rays are often seen in pairs, cruising in the blue.
The Terrace consists of narrow spur and groove formations, with an abundance of soft corals, Barrel sponges and Tube sponges. The top of the wall averages 35-40 feet and the sheer drop is covered with huge sponges, black coral and gorgonian fans. Thousands of schooling Creole wrasse, many varieties of hamlets and the white-spotted toadfish can often be found here.
Rendezvous Cut is a wide sandy expanse dotted with pristine coral heads and frequented by furry sea cucumbers and giant queen conch. Approaching the wall at about 30 feet, the reef forms canyons, grottos and sandy chutes which run away to the blue. A great dive site for spotting reef tropicals such as French & queen angelfish, white-lined filefish and juvenile spotted drum.
Wonder World is a site just north of us and is comprised of many large coral formations that drop dramatically from a depth of 65 feet. The site's topography allows for swimming around and between the coral heads to look for sleeping nurse sharks, southern stingrays and green moray eels. A pod of bottlenose dolphin sometimes appears and seems to enjoy "buzzing" the divers as they desperately try to take photographs.
A colorful array of yellow tube sponges, azure vase sponges and huge barrel sponges await you at Tubular Barrels. Several "cleaning stations" dot the reef and big groupers and snappers settle down to be picked clean by neon gobies, Pederson cleaner shrimp and juvenile bluehead wrasse.
Spotted eagle rays, black grouper and great barracuda are common visitors to divers at Pelican Wall. Caribbean reef sharks and even hammerheads have been seen cruising in the deep blue over a horizontal ledge feet below.
At Sayonara , the remains of the former passenger and cargo boat rest on the sand at a depth of 50 feet, having been decommissioned and sunk in 1985. To the South and Southeast of the wreck, large coral formations harbor banded coral shrimp, spiny lobsters and brittle stars. Stoplight parrotfish and French and queen angelfish pick amongst the encrusting sponges and large ocean triggerfish cruise the edge of the wall.
Weather permitting, we take a day trip to Lighthouse Reef to visit The Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye and Long Caye.
Pioneered by Jacques Yves Cousteau in the early 70's, The Great Belize Blue Hole has become Belize's most famous dive site. The hole is a "karst-eroded sinkhole" formed when the roof of a cave, in an underground tunnel complex, collapsed. When sea levels rose at the end of the Ice Age, the once dry cave filled with sea water producing the hole that now measures 1000 feet across with a depth of over 460 feet. It is a Marine Protected Area and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The rim of the Blue Hole and the surrounding lagoon is only a few feet deep and excellent for snorkeling.
As you descend over the edge, through a thermocline at around 50 feet, big groupers, snappers and horse-eye jacks come to investigate. Deeper still, with your eyes adjusting to the low light, black tip sharks can be seen slowly patrolling the depths. At approximately 110 feet, the first limestone ledge appears and immense stalactites hang from the ceiling. On your slow ascent back to the edge of the hole, spotted morays can be found in crevices and on the wall crest, you return to the domain of the parrotfish and angelfish.
After a picnic lunch on the island of Half Moon Caye and a visit to the Red Footed Bobby Bird Sanctuary, we head back underwater. Click here for more info on Lighthouse Reef activities.
The Cathedral is aptly named, with coral spires and towers that rise up from the seafloor in large segments. Numerous sandy passageways lead you through the coral reef, out to the wall at 45 to 60 feet and into the brilliant blue. Sheet corals cover the wall and soft corals and rope sponges extend several feet. The top of the reef is a breathtaking coral garden and every nook and cranny teems with orange, red & yellow sponges. The sand is home to colonies of garden eels and gigantic southern stingrays lie in wait with only their eyes protruding. Black groupers, blue parrotfish and hogfish are regulars and yellowtail snappers escort you throughout your dive.
We tend to finish our day at Lighthouse at one of the shallow sites off Long Caye. The Aquarium with its variety of corals, invertebrates and profusion of reef fish is a very good spot for underwater photography. Big coral heads are dominated by mountainous star coral and at a depth of 40 feet orange elephant ear sponges grow out from the wall. Iridescent azure vase sponges and blue bell tunicates add to the color of this site and decorator crabs and neck crabs are can be seen clinging to the sea fans.