3 Routes
Highlights of the Area

The sun was shining and it was hot! We had several hours to wait before the remainder of the guests arrived from the various incoming flights. Our bags were loaded on Blackbirds boat, so we decided to make a shopping trip into Belize City but came back disappointed. The streets were dirty and reeking of rotting garbage. We did not feel comfortable wondering around looking for gift shops that were few and far between. According to all the reports weíve had, Belize City is not to be traveled lightly, especially after dark. Fortunately, there was a restaurant and bar on the dock, where we procured some munchies and a drink. As the temperatures cooled we lounged on the wharf with our fellow travelers exchanging introductions and dive stories while the crew of our boat handed out complementary soft drinks. With the last of the guests finally aboard we set off on our one and a half hour boat ride to Blackbird Caye Resort.

Turneffe Island Atoll is an ideal spot for individuals who want a secluded, quiet getaway. There are no shops, no disco, and with only 28 other guests, there is very little to disturb the peaceful serenity of this tropical paradise. There is plenty to do, if you choose to, such as fishing, snorkeling, canoeing, sailing, mangrove walks, and bird watching. For the more laid back there is stretching out in a hammock on your porch reading a good book or soaking up the sun on the beach. Our accommodation was a thatched roof hut, with two double beds, a bathroom with a shower, air conditioning, and a couple of cans of raid. The bugs feasted on my wife but seemed to avoid the other guests. We enjoyed three delicious meals a day, served in the large central hut.

The staff was friendly and helpful. Larry, the general manager, was always available. He generously obtained nasal spray, dive watches, replacement masks, fins and various other items people invariably forgot to pack or lost. His company was enjoyed out on the dock at sunrise, down on the beach in the afternoon shade., at the tiki bar and in the evenings around the dinner table. He kept the conversations lively and entertaining.

But we had gone for the diving, and thatís just what we did. Turneffe island is located on one of the longest reef systems in the Western Hemisphere and where the diving is rated as some of best in the world. With over 70 dive sites located around Turneffe it will take a number of trips to fully explore the waters. A very effective and simple "no gloves" rule helps keep the coral from slowly being destroyed. Gino, our dive master, and the crew pampered us royally. Our gear was waiting for us on board when we arrived all set up and ready to go. Gino would go over the dive routine and point out any interesting features of the site. If you were swimming next to him during the dive he would always mange to uncover some unique finds. On the whole we enjoyed independent, leisurely dives without the feeling that we were being herded. We were free to explore the area in our own way and at our own pace. After each trip our equipment was washed and readied for the next dive. Heaven!

Our dives were nothing short of spectacular! Each dive site had itís own unique charm, and we always spotted something different on every one. There were, of course, all the regular reef dwellers, you expect to see in tropical waters. What astounded me the most was the size of the corals and sponges. Fan corals spread out farther than my arms could reach, barrel sponges that could hide a diver, and forests of gargonians populated the various dive spots. The reefs were in magnificent shape and the fish were abundant. On one particular dive we had two 4 foot long remoras circle us while we were making our decompression stop. They seemed as confused about why they couldnít attach themselves to us as we were about seeing them free swimming in the open ocean. On another dive we came across a solitary sea turtle. One of my favourites was the eel grass. It was fun to lay on the bottom and watch them come in and out of their burrows in the sand. The most intriguing inhabitant of these waters however, is the Toadfish. Apparently, it is only found in Belize! During the dives it was quite common to hear the distinctive "Whomp, Whomp, Whomp" sound that the toadfish makes. It wasnít until our first night dive that we finally came across two with in ten feet of one another. Toadfish are purplish brown in colour with white spots and a row of short whiskers coming out of their lower lip that looked a lot like a speckled beard. The night dives were our favourite. Large basket stars stretching out from the branches of stinging coral , lobster marching over star coral , crabs perched upon enormous brain corals and number of different moray eels gaping out of their hiding places.

Our trip to the Blue Hole was an experience. It is a large open cave almost 1,000 feet in diameter that was formed in the ice age. The opening starts at about 110 feet and doesnít bottom out until around 400 feet. Descending through the clear water to a murky layer of silt to finally reach the cold dark water at the lower depths reminded me a lot of diving back in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada. The large stalactites were impressive, but the dive is short due to the depth and I was only too happy to return to the warmer waters of the surface.

As this was the only full day trip, we had lunch at Half Moon Caye. This ecological reserve is the nesting grounds for large numbers of frigate and booby birds. From the lookout we could see across the tops of the trees and down into their nests. Since it was mating season the male booby birds were all busy trying to impress the females by inflating their bright red bags located under their bills. It was a restful break after which we enjoyed a second dive off the south end of the Caye. Here there were large clumps of reef with narrow channels or tunnels, about three feet wide, between each formation. Take turns being the lead diver so your not always viewing clouds of sand being kicked up in your face. Our third and final dive of our entire holiday was the Aquarium. As usual it was a very pretty dive with lots to see, typical of all the dives we encountered in the extremely beautiful area.

Our week at Blackbird Caye Resort ended without any regrets. So with fond farewells, some new friends, and wonderful memories, we headed for home. Our many thanks to John and Susan Hessburg of Doug Poulin
November, 1997

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