Greetings from California Sport Divers, Caribbean SubOffice.
Following our excellent trip to the Cayman Islands last year, we have this year come to Mexico, Belize and Honduras. We intended to visit Belize last year from the Cayman Islands but ran out of time. This year we came the other way; from Florida to Mexico and then to Belize.
There are, apparently, just four coral atolls outside the Pacific. So far we've visited three of them...
Chinchoro Bank belongs to Mexico and is about 100 miles south of Cozumel. We spent a week there. Snorkeling was excellent but we had trouble finding deep enough water (> 15 feet) for diving. It was typically too shallow inside the reef and too rough outside. But we did four very good dives there. We saw no commercial dive boats at all, in the area during our stay.
Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef and Glovers Reef belong to Belize. We have not yet dived Glovers in Southern Belize. We have also not yet dived the Belize barrier reef although I'm sure there's good diving to be found. Unfortunately, the Barrier Reef is always exposed to the easterly trades.
In our month in Belize, so far, we spent three weeks at Lighthouse Reef and did around 15 dives. The diving was excellent wall diving, similar to Little Cayman. The top of the wall is at 30-35 feet, there's excellent coral in the shallows and huge barrel sponges and sea fans down the wall.
Three liveaboards were there regularly (Nekton Pilot, Sun Dancer II and Belize Aggressor III). Also smaller day boats came there from the mainland, as well as from some resorts at both Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe. At San Pedro on Ambergris Caye all the local dive operators offer daily trips to Lighthouse Reef, which is about 40 miles away!
The liveaboards spend a day or two at Turneffe, on their way from Belize City, and most of their week at Lighthouse. We did three dives on the west side of Turneffe and found them good, but not as good as Lighthouse. The wall was more of a slope, making them deep coral garden dives.
The visibility has been good (80+') almost all the time and water temperatures have been high 70s (3mm wetsuit). Critters have included all the usual Caribbean suspects, although in recent years we've seen few sharks other than nurses.
At Lighthouse Reef we actually found a frog fish, for which we have been looking for four years. I took my camera down two days later and found him/her still in the same sponge. (Picture on our website.)
We've been outwitted by toad fish though. We hear them croaking loudly but have searched fruitlessly. After a night dive search, we stayed on the mooring overnight and could clearly hear them croaking, through the boat's hull !
Now, we're leaving for the Honduras Bay Islands. (It's better to leave from north Belize and head southeast, than to leave from south Belize and head east, if that makes sense.) We'll be back to Belize (by going west) on our way north in a couple of months, and then we'll check out Glovers Reef and the southern part of Belize.
Martin & Ginger
s/v Dos Gatos, San Pedro, Belize