by Wendy de la Fuente
Hi. Welcome to Belize and Caye Caulker. You have just made a conscious decision to enter the gates of paradise. Some of the most awesome diving in the world is done here. The second longest barrier reef in the world runs along the coast of Belize. Belize has many world class dive sites to captivate you. Today, however, we will go over my favorite trip - the Blue Hole trip.
Several dive shops on the island offer snorkeling or dive trips to the Blue Hole, made famous by world renown diver Jacques Costeau. The Blue Hole is located inside one of Belize's three atolls, the Lighthouse Reef atoll. Inside Lighthouse Reef, there are five islands, two of which are Half Moon Caye and Long Caye. Our trip today will take us alongside these two islands.
Departure time to the Blue Hole is at 7:00 a.m. Wake up with the coffee and rolls on board. Commute time will be 2 hrs. The first 45 minutes of the commute will be over open waters. This can be a bit choppy but is bearable. It is entirely possible to spot dolphins frolicking in the water during the commute. After about 45 minutes, we will enter the Turneffe Atoll. Since this is inside the reef, the calm waters are most welcome after the first stretch. Don't get too comfortable, though, 20 minutes into the smooth sailing you are once again on open seas. This for an additional 40 minutes. Then we enter the lighthouse atoll, home of the Blue Hole. It should be a little past 9:00 a.m. now. Here we are!
Time to get suited up and geared up. The divemaster gives the dive profile - 130 ft. for 8 minutes. At this depth you will be diving among the stalagtites and stalagmites. Scientists believe it takes 100 years for stalagtites and stalagmites to grow just one inch. Some of these are 40 feet in length. Look out for the Black Tip sharks below you. They usually linger in around 160 feet of water. Diving in the Blue Hole is like diving into a black abyss. Enjoy the feeling going down but be sure to face the wall on your way down. It is easy to get disoriented facing the center. After 8 minutes cruising among the stalagmites and stalagtites, we will ascend slowly on an incline until we reach the shallow coral formation up around 20 feet. Here we will do a safety stop of 15 minutes. Ready?? Let's descend..
The second dive will be done at the Half Moon Caye wall. Surface interval between dives will be the commute time from the Blue Hole to Half Moon Caye. Let me just digress here for a second. This commute is probably one of the most breathtaking boat rides one could ever hope to take. The sea is literally a bed of hundreds of shades of blues and greens. Moments are like this many people look up and thank a bigger being for the wonder of nature. This pristine area of the world is uncomparably beautiful.
A national park, Half Moon Caye is the home to the red-footed booby birds. Found only in Belize and on the Galapagos Islands, they are pretty special birds. We will visit the booby birds when we lunch on Half Moon Caye. But for now, the second dive awaits us. Dive profile for the second dive is 60 feet for 40 minutes.
Consensus on the second dive - AWESOME!!! The Half Moon Caye Wall is literally covered with what I prefer to call soft corals. There are huge barrel sponges, fans, tube sponges and gorgonians to make you feel like you are on a movie set. Since the wall drops to 3,000 feet deep, the ground in the shallow area the blue hue makes this dive utterly unreal! The garden eels buried on the ground in the shallow area sway back and forth to camoflague themselves from intruders. At the advancement of any intruder, they duck into the sandy bottom below. The lonesome turtles seen floating among the corals makes the second dive even more spectacular.
Hungry now? No problem. At Half Moon Caye lunch is a delactable buffet prepared just for this trip. There are lots of drinks and water to quench any diver's thirst. Enjoy, relax, swim in the hammock, walk around the island if you wish. If you do, be sure to climb the observation deck to view the birds in their natural habitat.
Third dive stop - an area near Long Caye referred to as the aquarium. The aquarium is aptly named due to the endless schools of fish life that cover this area. The coral formations on the bottom form many tunnels and crevices where a diver can easily loose him/herself in the wonder of it all. Aside from the breathtaking underwater view of the schools of colorful fish, the real delight at this dive site is definitely the two dolphins that sometimes come over and frolick in the water with the divers. There are only a few places in the world where you can swim with the dolphins in the wild. This is but one of the special places where the dolphins are still in the wild, but friendly.
Dive profile for this dive is 50 feet for 40 minutes. Again, we cruise along the outside here at Long Caye. The bottom of the wall here is again a mindboggling 3000 feet. The divemaster again reminds us not to touch the bottom.
Tired but happy, we head back home. After an absolutely amazing day we return to the island. Tired... but happy and fulfilled!!
For more information on diving in the area, with pictures and further details, click here.
For more information on the Great Blue Hole, with pictures and further details, click here.
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