Guatemala & Belize
Ruins, Rainforests and Reefs

Long Caye on Lighthouse Reef

We stayed a week at Itza Lodge, Long Caye on Lighthouse Reef, about 70km off the mainland coast. It’s about a 20 minute boat ride to the Blue Hole. Unfortunately, the first few days were heavy rain so most of the time was spent reading, however, we managed to walk on the island, to do a snorkel and kayak. The weather improved but it remained very windy. We snorkelled/dived the Blue Hole, the Aquarium and on two occasions we went to Half Moon Caye to visit the island and go snorkelling and diving. The aquarium as you would guess is teeming with fish. For divers there is a steep wall covered with clusters of brain coral, purple fans and sea plumes.  Half Moon Caye is surrounded by a reef full of coral and fish and on the island there is a reserve bird sanctuary to protect the habitat of the Red-footed booby. It is also home to the nesting frigate birds and sea turtles (Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and Green turtles).  In the beautiful, turquoise blue, clear waters we saw eagle rays, groupers, rainbow-hued parrotfish, black-and-yellow striped angelfish, creole wrasse, sergeant majors, and a host of other jewel- bright fish as well as barracudas, moral eels, stingrays, green sea turtles and Caribbean sharks. There is also an abundance of sponge and fan corals (especially purple fans) in excellent condition.


The Great Blue Hole

Originally the Great Blue Hole was a limestone cave that started to form about 150,000 years ago. Gradually the water level rose as the glacial period ended and the caves were flooded and its roof collapsed, thus forming this unique hole. Its deepest point is 124 metres. The hole has an almost perfect circular shape, about 300 metres wide. Snorkelling the rim is more beautiful than diving the hole. The abundant sponge and purple fan coral is excellent and in good condition. Snorkelers see the colourful coral then the sandy shelf of about 10metres before it drops into a dark hole. The Great Blue Hole was discovered by Jacques Cousteau in 1972, who sadly, used dynamite to blast a channel through the coral on the rim circumference so that his team could lower their research vessel, the Calypso, to investigate the depths of the sinkhole. The expedition found some submerged stalactites in the walls, and was able to conclude that the Blue Hole was formed before ocean levels rose. Jacques-Yves Cousteau declared it “one of the top ten dive sites in the world” so thousands of Scuba Divers flock here, but many are disappointed as it is not colourful coral reef diving. It is dark and overcast and the main point of interest is a cavern with stalactites (to see it you need to dive below 18 metres), and you may also be lucky to see some sharks circling the hole. (I saw the dull, uninteresting photos of fellow divers and felt relieved that I had made the right decision to snorkel the rim, rather than dive it).
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