Sunday, 15 April 2012

Belize's Best Whale Shark Diving!!

In Belize’s extraordinarily clear waters of the reef lives an amazing world of colorful limestone corals and incredible variety of fish and sea mammals.  Coral cleaning Rainbow Parrotfish; bashful and brightly colored angel fish; territorial barracuda; lazy nurse sharks; inquisitive Nassau grouper; school of blue stripped grunt; and the ever graceful stingrays, eagle rays and manta rays are often seen. Bottle nosed dolphins, manatee, and sea turtles can also be seen by divers and snorkelers.  The resplendent underwater scenery attracts divers from around the globe to enjoy the multicolor scenery. Consider the following and you’ll understand why Belize is one of the most popular dive destinations – The Belize Barrier Reef, three magnificent atolls, 70 types of hard corals, nearly 500 species of fish and the celebrated Blue Hole.

In terms of diversity, diving far exceeds most destinations. Divers encounter marine life of all shapes, sizes and species.  Subterranean gardens, coral jungles, and encounters with dolphins, morays, turtles, graceful eagle rays and migrating whale sharks, make dive trips irresistible.  Southern Belize harbors whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea, during their migrations in the off-shore area often spotted in the Gladden Spit from March to June.  During these months the gentle giants of the ocean migrate to these corners of the world less than one hour boat ride from Placencia to feed on the spawn during full moon especially from mutton, cubera and dog snappers.

The reef parallels the coast for approximately 185 miles. Like an underwater range of mountains, some peaks rise to the surface.  This uneven range is blessed with almost every type of coral known. Hugging the eastern shore of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, the reef then snakes its way down through open water past Dangriga, Hopkins, Placencia, and north of Punta Gorda. Because of its size, the Belize BarrierReef Reserve System has been inscribed as a World Heritage Site. Lighthouse Reef Atoll encircles the celebrated Blue Hole, a 1,000-foot circular sinkhole 410 feet deep.  Explorer Jacques Cousteau called it “one of the four must-dive locations on this blue planet.”  All three atolls – Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, and Glover’s Reef – harbor more than 100 great dive and snorkeling sites.

In the shallows between mainland and the reef, boats reach hundreds of dive sites in a short time, including tiny islands. Coral patterns and patches decorate the sand like gardens in a yard. Outside the ridge, the reef slopes and reveals shallow corals and gorgonians.

Scuba divers need certification, but no such requirement applies to snorkelers, who can jump right in and witness the spectacle.  Protected Hol Chan Marine Reserve, between Ambergris and Caye Caulker, makes a popular spot both for snorkeling and for learning how to dive.  Beginners enjoy South Water Caye and Glover’s Reef Atoll because they offer beautiful sea life with minimal currents.

Scout as many dive and snorkel sites as possible, because no two are alike.  Vibrant fish and fragile coral still thrive at these sites because visitors help to protect them.  It is critical not to touch, bump, or kick sand on the reefs, because doing so could destroy them.  Call Splash Dive Center today and book your favorite whale shark tour or any combination of dive package available.

A Family Vacation in Placencia- Monkey River Tour

Choosing a fantastic vacation destination this year was a difficult decision for my family.  My two children Harry and Britney are turning 12 and 15 years respectively this year and we were all in agreement that a destination in the Caribbean and off the beaten path would be a good change from the usual yearly visits to well- known destinations.  After doing a bit of research, we found out about Belize and its many diverse offerings of reef and inland adventures in the tiny but lovely country of Belize which is literally in our backyard just two hours from our home state Florida. Little did we know then that we ever about to venture into of our best vacations ever while creating lifelong memories.
Our days were filled with dive and snorkeling visits to idyllic spots like the famous Blue Hole, Glover’s Atoll and countless inland tours as well as cultural experiences.

One particularly memorable trip was the Monkey River Tour.  This wildlife adventure started with an hour boat ride from Placencia Village on the Peninsula to the mouth of Monkey River where the excitement of the journey continues.  Our knowledgeable guide, a native to Monkey River Village, led our tour group through an interesting lesson on the history of Monkey River Village while he pointed out the surrounding abundant wildlife.
Cruising along Monkey River for approximately 30 minutes and relishing a short inland detour, our tour group was surely in for a real scenic treat in nature.  Lush tropical canopy dominated the river sides with occasional tall trees among the smaller plant life like mangroves, bamboo, palms and swamp cypresses.  The rich forest smell was invigorating and the view of the biologically diverse forest was breath taking. We were so pleased to learn that sixty percent of the country remains covered with such similar tropical ecosystems. Indeed the little Caribbean jewel appears to be serious about environmental protection.

Along the inland trail, Harry and Britney were intrigued by the exotic birds spotted such as the magnificent Osprey eagle, the enormous King Vulture, and even spotted the brilliantly colored Keel Billed Toucan hovering high above the tall empress palms as pointed out by our guide, James. Certainly a naturalist’s paradise, Monkey River was teeming with football-size turtles, crocodiles and many species of lizards such as the ‘Jesus Christ Lizard’ named locally for its ability to run across the water edges using its webbed hind feet. And just when we thought there was nothing more to see, our bodies cringed with goose bumps as a group of boisterous black howler monkeys swept pass a few feet above our heads howling and swinging.  The experience reminded me briefly of a scene in Indiana Jones shot in the depths of a mysterious neo-tropical rainforest. The setting was surely one to ignite the imagination. The path was filled with many exotic orchids in many sizes, shapes and colors.

My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip and Monkey River Village has certainly inspired us to appreciate nature in a differfleadent light. We are also thankful to our tour operator, Splash Dive Center for making all our tour arrangements and for contributing to us having a fabulous time in Belize!