For our upcoming Snorkeling the Reefs of Belize program, we have chosen a region of Belize’s underwater environment that is as diverse as it is expansive. Protected shallow coral gardens, turtle grass meadows, and mangrove channels, each with its own distinct residents, are easily accessible from our resort. We also plan to drift snorkel where we will typically view squadrons of reef squid, schools of snappers, inquisitive gray angelfish, beautifully camouflaged seahorses and the massive southern stingray, which can be up to five feet wide.
We expect that a highlight of the program will be the opportunity to snorkel along the inner rim of the Great Blue Hole of Lighthouse Reef, the most easterly of Belize’s three atolls. The Blue Hole is famous for its perfectly circular shape, 984 feet in diameter, and its precipitous walls plunging 410 feet deep through clear water to a distant dark bottom. We plan to snorkel around its lip where we can closely observe one of the richest and most colorful shallow water coral communities found anywhere in the Caribbean. In my opinion, this area offers snorkelers the most prolific shallow sponges and sea fans found anywhere—providing panoramic vistas of brilliant reds, greens, yellows, and vibrant purples.
Belize is also blessed to have an outstanding archeological heritage. We are offering a program extension that will allow us to explore the Mayan archeological site of Xunantunich, a major ceremonial site during the Classic period (250-900 AD). In contrast to the solemn silence of the ruins, the lush rainforest encircling Xunantunich is alive with over 200 species of birds whose trills and chirps play counterpoint to the resonant bass roars of indigenous howler monkeys. We plan to complement our visit to the ruins with stops at an18 square mile howler monkey sanctuary and the Belize Zoo.
Belize Snorkeling Program
Although conceptually distant from the mainland, the coral island of Little Caye Bokel is geographically only about 1.5 hours by boat from Belize City. Here the Turneffe Island Resort lies on the southern elbow of the Turneffe Atoll in the Turneffe Island Group, a collection of small “remote” isles forming what many biologists consider one of the few coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere. This location is ideal, offering a variety of snorkeling opportunities just minutes away from the island, including a number of excellent shallow, protected patch reefs. For our daily excursions, we have reserved a boat exclusively for the use of our snorkeling group.
Weather-permitting, we plan to visit Lighthouse Reef and the Great Blue Hole, a grand cavern whose roof collapsed long ago. Although the Blue Hole is promoted principally as a dive destination, this thriving coral community also offers snorkelers the most prolific shallow sponges and sea fans found anywhere, providing panoramic vistas of brilliant reds, greens, yellows, and vibrant purples. We also plan to visit Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site. The island, one half endangered littoral forest and one half stunning palm-dotted beach, is host to a thriving bird population. We plan to complete our visit to the island with a snorkel from the inside of the barrier reef drifting west towards the island’s dock.
On our daily snorkeling excursions in a resort boat reserved exclusively for our group, we typically view vibrant coral gardens with abundant marine life including squadrons of reef squid, schools of snappers, inquisitive gray angelfish, midnight parrotfish, butterflyfish, well-camouflaged seahorses and the massive southern stingray, which can be up to five feet wide. A highlight of the program will be the opportunity to snorkel along the inner rim of the great Blue Hole of Lighthouse Reef, the most easterly of Belize’s three atolls. The Blue Hole is famous for its perfectly circular shape, 984 feet in diameter, and its precipitous walls plunging over 410 feet deep through clear water to a distant dark bottom. Although this grand cavern is promoted principally as a dive destination, its thriving coral community also offers snorkelers the most prolific shallow sponges and sea fans found anywhere, providing panoramic vistas of brilliant reds, greens, yellows, and vibrant purples. Here yellow and green tube sponges can extend several feet, and barrel sponges can be over three feet in diameter. Here we may see Pederson’s cleaning shrimp, neon gobies, angelfish, butterflyfish, hamlets, small groupers and some of the largest lobsters in Belize.
We will also visit Half Moon Caye, located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. One of the principal inhabitants of this small island is the Red-Footed booby with a population around 4,000 breeding birds. Half Moon Caye supports what is considered the only viable breeding red-footed booby colony in the western Caribbean. Onshore we can climb to the top of a sturdy observation tower that rises above the forest canopy with an unbelievable view of trees covered with perched booby birds in various stages of growth or mating. Other inhabitants include magnificent thieving frigate birds and iguanas crawling around in the branches. While the nesting birds are comprised mainly Frigate and Red-Footed Boobies, a total of 98 species have been recorded on the island, including pelican, osprey, egret, gulls, storks and terns. The waters surrounding Half Moon Caye also provide refuge for what is thought to be the healthiest grouper aggregation in Belize.
While Sea for Yourself programs feature snorkeling as the top priority, this particular occasion provides certified SCUBA divers with excellent diving opportunities. The resort offers a complete complement of tanks, weights, rental gear, and divemaster services. Fly fishing is also available.
After our daily snorkeling activities, evenings will be spent enjoying leisurely dinners and interpretive sessions.
Visit the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich, the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the Belize Zoo
For those continuing on to Xunantunich, we will begin the extension program with a visit to the Community Baboon Sanctuary. Founded in 1958 to protect the black howler monkey, known locally as the “baboon”, the 18 square mile sanctuary features easy walking trails and undisturbed natural habitat. During this visit we hope to hear the haunting howl of the monkey, audible up to a mile away through the thick jungle. Our adventure continues with an all-day guided tour that includes an exploration of the Mayan site of Xunantunich, a major ceremonial site during the Classic period. “El Castillo”, the pyramid, towers above the surrounding jungle and is elaborately carved with friezes showing monkeys and warrior masks. We also plan a visit to the Belize Zoo where mesh and wood enclosures mimicking the animals’ natural habitat allow us to closely appreciate over 150 birds, reptiles, and mammals (including tapir, jaguar, and howler monkeys). All species in this facility are indigenous to Belize, and a portion of our admission will be used to sponsor Belizian environmental projects.
Belize Snorkeling Program
Our program begins when we meet at the International Belize Airport where your flights should be scheduled to arrive by 3:00pm. From the airport, we transfer by either plane or boat (means of transport to be decided by the resort on the day of transfer depending on local conditions) to Blackbird Caye Resort, our home for the next 7 nights. Join fellow program members for light snacks, registration and a brief orientation followed by dinner.
Beyond the Belize Barrier Reef, and nestled within the Turneffe Atoll, is Little Caye Bokel and the 14-acre Turneffe Island Resort. Using the resort’s boat reserved exclusively for our group, we enjoy morning and afternoon visits to protected shallow reefs where “gardens” of hard and soft coral harbor many species of marine life.
We have also planned a one-day excursion to Lighthouse Reef, weather dependent. Only about a 1.5 hour boat ride from the Turnoff Island Resort, this reef houses the Great Blue Hole, a famous geologic structure that offers us some of the best snorkeling in the entire Caribbean. We have planned a picnic lunch on Half Moon Caye, now a National Monument dedicated to the preservation of the rare Red-Footed Booby and the Magnificent Frigate Bird. Administered by the Audubon Society, this sanctuary is easily toured on level, well-marked walking trails and features an elevated platform from which nesting birds are easily viewed.
The evenings are spent enjoying leisurely dinners and interpretive sessions led by your Sea for Yourself staff.
After breakfast, we transfer by boat back to Belize City and the Belize International Airport. Departing flights should be scheduled for no earlier than 11 a.m.
Optional Extension to the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich
For those continuing on to Xunantunich, we will have lunch and check into the Radisson Hotel, our home for the next 2 nights. This afternoon we visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary. Founded in 1958 to protect the black howler monkey, known locally as the “baboon”, the 18 square mile sanctuary features easy walking trails and undisturbed natural habitat. During this visit we hope to hear the haunting howl of the monkey, audible up to a mile away through the thick jungle. Dinner is at our hotel.
Today we will take an all-day guided tour that includes an exploration of the Mayan site of Xunantunich, a major ceremonial site during the Classic period. “El Castillo”, the pyramid, towers above the surrounding jungle and is elaborately carved with friezes showing monkeys and warrior masks. We also plan a visit to the Belize Zoo. Mesh and wood enclosures resemble the animals’ natural habitat and allow us to closely appreciate over 150 birds, reptiles, and mammals (including tapir, jaguar, and howler monkeys). All species in this facility are indigenous to Belize, and a portion of our admission is devoted to sponsoring Belizian environmental projects. This evening, we celebrate with farewell drinks and dinner.
Belize City to Home. After breakfast, we transfer to the Belize International Airport for our flights home.
This trip is limited to 20 participants, with a minimum of 12. Due to the limited space available for this tour, reservations will be accepted in the order deposits are received. You will be notified when your space is confirmed.
The cost for this program is $4290 per person, based on double occupancy. For those requesting a single room an additional supplement of $1250 will be added to the tour cost. Please be advised that single space is limited and subject to availability. If you wish to share a room, we will do our best to find a roommate for you. If, by the time of your final payment, a share cannot be found and space is available, you will be charged a single supplement.
Deposits & payments
A deposit of $850, plus a signed, completed reservation form confirms your registration for the trip. You will be notified when your space on the program is confirmed. Final payment, plus single supplement, if applicable, is due 120 days prior to departure.
The tour fee includes
Tour fee is based on land package only. It includes all bus and plane or boat transfers within Belize, meals as indicated in the itinerary, accommodations at the resort as specified, all snorkeling activities, guided cultural excursions, local taxes, group gratuities to hotel/resort staff, services of the trip leader including any needed snorkeling lessons, biology lectures, and explanations of Belize’s cultural and natural history.
The tour fee does not include
Optional Extension, Airfare to and from Belize, increases in international airfare rates, departure taxes, SCUBA activities, rental gear, fishing, medical immunizations, passport fees, accident/baggage/cancellation insurance, individual transfers, excess baggage charges, medical expenses, meals not specified in the itinerary, dishes and beverages not part of included meals, spa services, laundry, telephone, internet (aside from resort-provided Wi-Fi) or fax charges, room service, and other items of a purely personal nature.
International and/or domestic airfare
Sea for Yourself does not issue airline tickets. Trip participants are responsible for making their own air travel arrangements. Please do not purchase airline tickets until your reservation for the program has been confirmed and you have reviewed your travel schedule with our office.
This program will be enjoyed by all snorkelers, from novice to expert. Our tour leader will gladly provide any needed snorkeling instruction, from floating to free diving. Whenever possible we will seek out protected water for our snorkeling excursions, but at times the surface may be a bit choppy due to wind. Any “hiking” will be easy to moderate on well-marked trails.
Belize’s climate is mild, subtropical, with cooling Caribbean breezes. The average temperature of 79°F varies little throughout the year. The rainy season extends from July to January, and the remainder of the year is usually very dry. We have chosen a time that should give us suitable weather conditions, but please note that storms over North America can affect Belize and other areas of the Caribbean. And as with any tropical destination, there will always be a chance of rain, mosquitoes, and sand flies. Thermal tolerance obviously varies with each individual. As a guideline, many people wear a thin wet suit when in the water longer than 30 or 40 minutes. Please remember that some kind of covering (such as a Lycra suit or even pajamas!) when in the water is highly recommended as protection from sun, occasional stinging zooplankton, and to prevent coral abrasions. In the water individuals will best know their own “comfort zones” which can be extended with the use of a lightweight wetsuit which will help conserve body heat and add comfort and buoyancy while in the water. We wear wetsuits and recommend that you seriously consider wearing one as well.
After you have reserved space on a trip and the program is confirmed, you will receive information to help you prepare for departure, including airline information to arrange for your international and/or domestic flights, optional supplemental travel insurance information, a complete packing and a reading list and other useful information about our destination.
Sea for Yourself provides participants who are U.S. or Canadian citizens with limited medical, accident and evacuation coverage under our group travel insurance policy. We highly recommend the purchase of optional baggage and trip cancellation insurance; information will be sent to registrants. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions may be waived with the prompt purchase of travel insurance.