Photo of juvenile spotted trunkfish in Belize

Belize, September 2021 Trip Report

After what seemed like a lifetime, Coral Triangle Adventures conducted their first snorkeling trip since the Covd-19 lockdown in Feb 2019. Our tropical destination was the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system in Belize, and with great weather, warm seas, and colorful reefs, we could not have had a better time. Our host for our snorkeling adventures in Belize was a familiar favorite, Turneffe Island Resort, located on Turneffe atoll, about 20 miles south east from Belize City.

With a promise of plenty of sunshine, we spent our first day in shallow, clear water hovering over reefs teeming with life. I had been searching for years for a juvenile French or Grey angelfish and right on cue, we had one within the first 10 minutes of the snorkel. We had to pull our attention away from a reef octopus, but it was well worth it! We also had plenty of colorful reef fish like yellowtail damsels, blue-headed wrasses, fairy basslets, and the bright, contrasting colors of blue and yellow on the Spanish hogfish.

The next day we jumped to the outside of the spur-and-groove reef systems on the east side of the atoll where we had the chance to see larger reef fish, turtles, rays, and sharks. With great visibility we had several different species of rays, including large spotted eagle rays, southern sting rays, and even a Caribbean whiptail ray. Nurse sharks were spotted several times throughout the snorkel and we had several exciting encounters with reef squid, schools of blue tangs, and chances to see beautiful stands of elk horn coral.

Our ‘Blue Hole’ day followed a similar path with calm water and clear skies. The great Blue Hole is the world’s largest and deepest sinkhole and our snorkels in this amazing national treasure was and always have been one of the highlights of the trip. Purple sea fans line the shallow perimeter and the short coral wall that leads to the sandy drop-off harbors a wealth of Caribbean marine species. We spotted French, grey, and queen angelfishes, schools of midnight parrotfishes, several species of hamlets including black, barred, and indigo, arrow crabs, lobsters, and countless other types of amazing marine life. We even had a Caribbean reef shark come by for a quick look at the group! We spent our lunchtime on Half Moon Caye national Monument where we had the chance to see colonies of magnificent frigate birds and red-footed boobies. Along the path to the observation deck, we were greeted by several large iguanas, residents on the island.

The following four days included more of the same and we couldn’t be more happy with what we able to do and see in the water. Visiting sites along both sides of the atoll allowed us the chance to see different types of habitats as well as some of the special critters that dwell there. We even had a chance to see a hawksbill turtle in just a few feet of water. One of the special habitats we had the chance to snorkel was the mangroves and dock right in front of the resort. Mangroves are very important to many species of marine life and we swam with literally thousands of snapper, silversides, and other juvenile fishes that are found using the mangroves for protection, food, and development. The dock gave us the chance to see colorful sponges, different types of crabs and shrimp, and many more juvenile reef fish, including the seemingly common french anglefish.

Belize has always bee a special place in the Caribbean, and a special tour amongst our usual palette of Indo-Pacific destinations. It always holds our attention from start to finish and, as a result, we always look forward to the next time we can visit this remarkable place along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.