With the first two groups of snorkelers happily on their way back to their respective homes after each enjoyed a full week of a quintessential Caribbean snorkeling holiday full of dolphin encounters, lush tropical reefs, and a magical private island resort Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield—the other Snorkel Venture tour leader running the trips with me—and I set off to meet our new group of guests aboard the Belize Aggressor III and the Belize Aggressor IV.
These two upscale liveaboard boats are iconic in Belize as they have been running snorkel and dive safaris around the Belize Barrier Reef for years now and are the only liveaboards in all of Belize! Duxy would be leading his merry band of snorkelers on the Belize Aggressor III while I would be running a Snorkeling Photography Workshop from the Aggressor IV. The two vessels would have similar itineraries but would remain on separate reefs so as not to overcrowd the area and give both groups plenty of space to snorkel in peace.
Our first stop was at the southern tip of the Turneffe Atoll, just around the corner from the Turneffe Island Resort. Even though Duxy and I had just been here, we were excited to be back as there was so much we wanted to show our new group of guests. In talking with Duxy later on that week it sounded like we both had very similar encounters in the Turneffe areas with nurse sharks, eagle rays, porcupine fish, schools of tangs and larger stingrays, and the very beautiful yellow stingray which has an intricate ornate pattern tattooed on it’s back. Both boats spent that day exploring the outer reefs, which would be a much different snorkeling experience from what we had planned for the following day around Lighthouse reef.
Lighthouse Reef & Half-Moon Quay
The following morning we woke up moored up off of a tiny little island called Half Moon Quay surrounded by crystal clear water. The water was so clear that despite the fact that we were in about thirty feet of water, we could see stingrays and the occasional eagle ray passing underneath the boat. This was just the night mooring though, we would soon be motoring into a very shallow patch reef system where we would be moored up for the entire morning with an “open deck”.
What’s an open deck? Well, it’s basically when we’re in a position where the reef is close enough to where the boat is mored up to so that guests can come and go as they please. With the snorkel guides in the water all morning and the added benefit of the tender shuttling of those people that did not want to swim to and from the boat, we had an amazing time snorkeling as we pleased!
The added convenience of snorkeling this way wasn’t what made this day so special though, that was nice, but what really made that morning extraordinarily was the beauty and diversity of that reef. On the swim out from the boat, we glided over a vast field of seagrass where we encountered meandering nurse sharks, great barracudas, peacock flounders, rough-tail stingrays, and the very cute trunkfish.
Upon arriving at the reef we were greeted by several large schools of tangs as they swarmed over the reef tops in search of food. The reefs came right up to the surface, which was so ideal for a snorkeling photo workshop as it brings all the great subjects and beautiful corals within arm’s reach. Not to mention all the creative photo options we can employ when we can play with the reef’s reflection on the water’s surface.
The Blue Hole & Booby Island
All I can say at the moment about this day of snorkeling around The Blue Hole followed by a light walk to visit a bird sanctuary and a lunch beneath swaying palms is that it was unanimously everyone’s favorite day of the trip. More to come on the next installment of this blog series.
The remainder of the tour went very similar to the previous two days, us enjoying 2-3 nice long snorkels each day full of beautiful reefs which never seemed to end, more stingrays, eagle rays, and all the Caribbean reef fish everyone came to see up close. We spent one more full day around the Lighthouse Reef area before heading back to Turneffe for another full day of snorkeling around this magnificent atoll.
What complimented the time in the water though and helped make the trip the complete package, was the time spent on board. The Belize Aggressor III & IV are so well set up to accommodate groups of guests that you never really have to worry about being crammed together with the way many people expect the living situations to be onboard. There’s so much space and so much to do onboard.
On the top deck you have a large sun-bathing area with plenty of sun loungers, the Belize Aggressor III even has a large hot tub. Both boats also have a covered area that features a bar with the country’s best and only beer on tap, Beliken! Both boats have large dining areas below, as well as a sort of living room area where you can lounge around on sofas, flip through the fish ID books, or watch movies from their expansive media library. You can also just take a nap in your cozy cabin as most people did after lunch. Finally, the large dive platforms afford everyone their own storage areas to keep and hang their wet snorkeling gear.
Something we Snorkel Venture guides like to do in the evenings to provide a little added entertainment is to do presentations. I know I will usually do one or two on the topic of Indonesia as a snorkeling destination since it’s where I live and also an area where we generally get a lot of questions about given that we offer a ton of different snorkeling safari’s to this massive island nation. On this particular trip though, I was running an underwater photo workshop so all my evening presentations were photography oriented, which I know Duxy was as well as he had a bunch of photo enthusiasts. Regardless of what people were doing on board, it was a great time all around. People instantly clicked with one another and it wasn’t soon after that all the jokes and good-natured banter began and continued throughout the trip!