Belize has a reputation for being some of the best reefs the Caribbean can offer, especially around the Turneffe atoll. It goes without saying when I found out I would be leading the Turneffe tour, I was excited. Not only for snorkeling, but the opportunity to visit Mayan temples. Belize was a hub for the Mayan civilisation, leaving plenty of ruins and temples to observe. Altun Ha was a great example of the Mayan stonework and ancient ways. For those that have not been definitely a great experience. After a big lunch it was time to head out to the boats and meet the crew for Turneffe.
Turneffe atoll is famous for its marine biodiversity. With regular sightings of dolphins, sharks, and turtles (Even manatees and crocodiles) just to name a few. Not to mention the beautiful reef fish in abundance. With all this on the doorstep of the Turneffe island resort. Heading out with our infamous guide JV and crew we were in good hands and plenty of laughs to be had. Having always lived and worked in the Pacific you always feel very spoiled with how good our reefs are. I can only say that Belize was certainly living up to its reputation. Stunning soft corals everywhere with gigantic elk horn corals. It was incredible. Not only that, it was so colourful and pristine. The few times I had been to the Caribbean i was always “oh this is nice, but not amazing”. This was fantastic. Full of fish and soft fan corals waving in the motion of the ocean.
One day leaving the resort, within about two minutes the boat was being pursued by dolphins. With no hesitation the crew got us ready and we went. Normally interactions with dolphins are pretty fleeting. Here they kept coming back checking us out then disappearing. Was an exciting experience for the group and I. The dolphins then started to turn up pretty regularly. So I guess we were lucky. We had squadrons of eagle rays and plenty of southern rays to keep us entertained. It was so easy to get lost in the beauty cruising around all the reefs. When all of a sudden one of the group shouts “turtle”. Heading over there I realised this was not just an ordinary turtle. We had found a huge loggerhead turtle. Not my first loggerhead, but definitely the biggest I had ever seen. Was really not fussed at all and just slowly went about its business. Really spectacular encounters while over there.
On the previous trip the year before. My colleague and super guide Alex was lucky enough to encounter a great hammerhead. A shark I had wished to see for a long time, but just never in the right place at the right time I guess. Definitely very rare to see snorkeling in the shallows. So I was pretty jealous to say the least. I was joking with the crew saying I want a great hammerhead on this trip too and so on. They just laughed at me. Was going to be very unlikely to see one. While freediving down to take a photo of the reef, I turned around to check my surroundings before going up. There in front of me, five metres away was a great hammerhead. I could not believe my luck. In only a few metres of water was this three plus metre shark, with a huge dorsal fin checking me out. Though this may sound scary and took me by surprise, hammerheads have never harmed people and are just as curious about you as you are of them. As quick as we had looked at each other, it banked off and carried on its merry way. Caught up in the moment, I fortunately remembered to press the play button (for proof) and most of my group had seen it too. Was a great moment and absolutely one of my top snorkeling experiences.
One of the top attractions in Belize is the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole originally formed as a limestone cave during the last glacial period, a time when sea levels were much lower. As the ocean began to rise, the cave system flooded and eventually collapsed, creating a “vertical cave”. The nearly perfectly circular underwater sinkhole measures 300 metres across and 124 metres deep. Located an hour and a half boat ride away from Turneffe, the Great Blue Hole is in the centre of the Lighthouse Reef, a large coral colony measuring approximately 22 miles long. Yes we snorkel there and yes we snorkel inside the Blue Hole. A pretty fascinating ecosystem surrounded by beautiful fringing coral reefs. An absolute highlight and bucket lipstick for the trip. Without a shadow of a doubt Belize and Turneffe definitely lived up to the well deserved reputation.