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Panoramic view of the islands in Raja Ampat - coral triangle adventures

Raja Ampat Trip Report Nov 2018

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Hovering above a colorful reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

A kaleidoscope of colors

Wow. That short, three-letter word is probably the most apt term to describe our recent snorkeling in Raja Ampat. Just about perfect equatorial weather allowed us to sail on smooth seas and get up close and personal with the shallow reef life that dominates this remote region. No matter how many times one has been to Raja Ampat, it is easy to be dazzled by not only the biodiversity found here but also the overall health of the marine ecosystem.

One of the many beautiful islands in Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Another beautiful…

Our voyage began as we sailed from Sorong to the rugged limestone islands found in long ridges off the southeast coast of Misool. We snorkeled the extensive, shallow fringing reefs for three days, spotting hunting octopus, Banded sea kraits, schools of colorful planktivorous fish, and copious amounts of healthy, reef-building corals. Interestingly, the limestone islands of Misool harbor distinctive reefs from those found more to the north of Sorong. Many, if not all, marine species overlap in both areas, just about 100 miles apart, but the growth forms of the reefs are different.

Raja Ampat coral reef life - coral triangle adventures

Colorful corals

After departing Misool we sailed north to the island of Batanta where we were lucky to have some encounters with resident manta rays and observe a beautiful female Broadclub cuttlefish laying a clutch of eggs in just a meter of water. From there our route continued north to the island Penemu and then Alyui Bay on the westernmost tip of Waigeo. Penemu gave us a chance to visit a distinctive marine lake, check out an unusual coil of Diamondback squid eggs, watch Hawksbill turtles and, after a short walk on land, afforded us an impressive view of the rock islands in this area. Alyui Bay is one of those areas that just can’t be adequately described. It’s varied marine habitats offer both incredible biodiversity stuffed into every square inch of underwater substrate and glimpses of incredibly rare species like Halimeda, Robust, and Ornate ghost pipefish, Needle cuttlefish, and numerous Cockatoo waspfish.

A female cuttlefish places her eggs in coral in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

A female cuttlefish

From Alyui our group of enthusiastic snorkelers sailed southward to explore the reefs and blue-water mangroves found around the lush island of Gam. Gam became well-known due to it being one of Alfred Russell Wallace’s destinations on his long and arduous expedition around the Malay Archipelago. Nowhere else on Earth do corals grow in such abundance among clear-water mangrove forests and this unique setting made for perfect snorkeling. It was hard to get out of the water here since there was so much to see! Finally, we ended our trip at the island of Friwin, just south of Waigeo’s Kabui Bay. Drifting along Friwin’s limestone undercut allowed us to fly over soft corals, anemones, and massive gorgonians. We then ended this marathon snorkel in an exquisite coral garden dominated by tiered table corals with schools of parrotfish and surgeonfish swimming among them.

All in all, it was a trip after which there was nothing to say but “wow.” Spectacular weather, calm seas, healthy reefs, and an excellent group of travelers made this another perfect Coral Triangle Adventure. We are obviously excited to return to Raja Ampat again and again in 2019 and beyond.

Juvenile yellowtail coris photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

Komodo National Park 2018 Trip Report

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Two of my top five snorkel sites in the world, in terms of deliverability, are found on our Komodo National Park snorkeling tour. On our latest departure, I had one of the best snorkel sessions on each of these sites that I have ever had. Should I just stop here and show the pictures? And a bit of fluorescence and some of the eight mantas that we snorkeled with as well?

a juvenile yellow boxfish photographed in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

A juvenile yellow

A yellow seahorse in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

A yellow seahorse

juvenile rockmover wrasse photographed in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

Juvenile rockmover wrasse

a regal angelfish wth abnormal pattern photographed in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

Regal angelfish

Hairy red reef lobster in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

A hairy red

oriental sweetlips photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

A juvenile

peacock mantis shrimp photographed in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

Peacock mantis shrimp

manta ray and sunbeams photographed in komodo national park - coral triangle adventures

Manta ray

Manta ray photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

A manta ray

A leaf scorpionfish photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

Leaf scorpionfish

an ornate ghost pipefish photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

A male ornate ghost pipefish

Fluorescing acropora colony at night in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

Acropora colony

Acropora fluorescing in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

Acropora polyps

False clown anemonefish peeks out from its host in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

A false clown

Fimbrited moray eel photographed in Komodo National Park - Coral triangle adventures

A fimbriated moray eel

juvenile cuttlefish photographed in Komodo National Park - Coral triangle adventures

A tiny cuttlefish

Clown nudibranchs photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

Mating clown nudibranchs

blue devil photographed in Komodo National Park - coral triangle adventures

A female blue devil

Yeah, Komodo is just that good! We’ll be there twice next year in May and October

reef squid photographed in Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Belize 2018 Trip Report

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rough-tail stingray photographed in Belize, coral triangle adventures

A rough-tail ray

Coral Triangle Adventures’ second trip to Belize and the Caribbean Sea was another one to remember. Once again our group of snorkelers was stationed at the tranquil and remote Turneffe Island Resort, situated at the southernmost end of Turneffe Atoll, about 20 miles due east of Belize City. Though the trip began with a bit of windy weather, our locale on the Mesoamerican barrier reef quickly reverted to blue skies and calm seas. Throughout our time at Turneffe we were able to explore a number of different marine habitats during our snorkels including shallow, inner lagoon reefs, outer reef slopes with dramatic spur and groove channels, the world famous Blue Hole, as well as some mangrove and seagrass environments.

Purple sea fans photographed in Belize - coral triangle adventures

Sea fans…

Turneffe Atoll is fringed by an endless maze of lush, low mangrove forests with idyllic, sandy islands found on the windward edge. From our base at Turneffe Island Resort, most of our snorkeling sites, where we spent hours in the water, were only a few minutes away. This year we noticed a large number of elasmobranchs that were found on almost every snorkel. Large Southern stingrays, Roughtail stingrays, well-camouflaged Yellow stingrays, majestic Spotted eagle rays, sleepy Nurse sharks, and even a good-sized Lemon shark were seen. The stingrays were especially prevalent and everyone in our group was able to closely witness feeding behaviors of the Southern and Roughtail stingrays.

Our snorkel around the shallow edge of Blue Hole, located in the middle of the remote Lighthouse Reef, was as good as snorkeling gets in the Caribbean. The famed World Heritage Site is a perfectly round marine sink hole, fringed by vibrant sea fans, sea rods, sponges, and hard corals that grow just under the water line. Parrotfish, angelfish, barracuda, grunts, and countless other species meander along this colorful reef, making it a perfect snorkel site. We then had a picnic lunch on the idyllic National Monument of Half Moon Caye where Red-footed boobies and Magnificent frigatebirds nest in huge numbers. This entire area is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and is well worth the time to explore underwater.

snorkeling blue hole, Belize, coral triangle adventures

Colorful corals…

Another of our many highlights was having a few minutes of snorkeling with several playful Bottlenose dolphins in the midst of the lagoon. It looked as if we were in the presence of potential mating behavior as they were being quite rambunctious. Whatever behavioral event was happening it was fun to be there and witness it!

Overall, we had a fantastic group of enthusiastic snorkelers and a beautiful experience snorkeling the shallow coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangroves, and drop offs. We are certainly looking forward to future explorations of the Caribbean Sea.

Wakatobi dive resort - aerial photograph taken by lee goldman - coral triangle adventures

Wakatobi 2018 Trip Report

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Wakatobi is an acronym combining the first two letters in the names of the four main islands (Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko), that lie to the southeast of the island of Sulawesi. Aside from being a stunningly scenic series of islands created by uplifted oceanic crust and ancient limestone reefs, the area is known for its rich and colorful reefs. After our 10-day Coral Triangle Adventures snorkeling trip to Wakatobi Resort on Tomia, we can all say without question, that the area lives up to its reputation!Many of the reefs around Wakatobi Resort fringe from the rugged limestone islands where a snorkeler can transition from the shoreline, through lush fields of sea grass, over mixed coral and rubble, ultimately to the reef margin where dramatic walls form at the surface and drop off vertically, reminiscent of a true barrier reef.

Aerial of snorkelers on the house reef in Wakatobi

Snorkelers…

Our time in the sea grass gave us the chance to see a variety of marine life including colorful sea stars, sea snakes (two species!), sea horses, pipefishes, lots of juvenile reef fishes, and a blue-ring octopus! And among lush coral gardens we not only had the chance to see a huge diversity of fish, but six species of moray eels, lots of nudibranchs, and plenty of critters such as Halloween hermit crabs, octopus, and egg cowries.

But it was the reef margin and walls that drew the most applause. The walls along the reef margin were simply incredible. The diversity and abundance of reef fishes are some of the highest in the world. Red-tooth triggerfish, pyramid butterflyfish, blue-stripe fusiliers, anthias, dameslfishes, and schools of jacks, snapper, rabbitfishes, and unicornfishes could be seen at almost any points along the walls. It was wall of coral on one side and wall of fish on the other!

Of course, our snorkeling tour would not be complete without a couple (well, three :-), night snorkels, and what better place to do them but on the house reef. It was so intense and productive in terms of the critters we saw that we will address our amazing time at night in a separate blog.

splendid dottyback photographed in Wakatobi - coral triangle adventures

A colorful…

reefs in wakatobi - coral triangle adventures

Lush and colorful…

redtooth triggerfish photographed in wakatobi - coral triangle adventures

Up close and…

seahorse photographed in wakatobi - coral triangle adventures

A tiny seahorse…

Cuttlefish in Wakatobi - coral triangle adventures

A cuttlefish…

A golden mantis shrimp photographed in Wakatobi - coral triangle adventures

The spearing…

Our time at Wakatobi Resort was fantastic. Easily some of the consistently best food I have eaten at any resort I have ever been to. The facilities and friendliness of the staff was second to none and we look forward to coming back to snorkel the reefs of Wakatobi in 2019!

 

close up of anemonefish photographed in Alor, Indoneisa

Alor 2018 Trip Report

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Alor, Indonesia 2018 Trip Report

Anthias fishes photographed in Alor, Indonesia - Coral Triangle Adventures

Clouds of Anthias!

Wow. That one word is certainly an apt description of the coral reef environments surrounding Alor. Of all the regions within the Coral Triangle, this may be the overall healthiest in regards to its corals. That says a lot. Coral Triangle Adventures just concluded its third exploration of Alor and the nearby islands westward towards Flores. As always, CTA strives to offer snorkeling in as many different underwater habitats as we can in any locale and our Alor trip offers a range of perfect snorkel sites.

Magnificent dartfish photographed in Alor, Indonesia - coral triangle adventures

Magnificent dartfish

After flying from Bali to Maumere on Flores with our group of intrepid snorkelers, we boarded the Pindito, our wonderful home for this exploration. Our first snorkeling foray brought us to the wide strait between Andonara and Solor Islands where we observed mixtures of corals, volcanic sands, and many fish, including a few juvenile Pinnate spadefish, juvenile Yellow boxfish, and the fascinating juvenile Barramundi cod. Next, we headed to an incredible reef area along the massive island of Pantar. With a beautiful white sand beach to one side, we drifted along a fringing reef that has to be seen to be believed. Millions of vibrant anthias, along with a myriad of other multicolored fish, fluttered in the current. Subsequently, our itinerary brought our group to the fascinating Beang-beang Bay on the southeastern coast of Pantar. This unique area is a blend of volcanic rocks and boulders, soft corals, and black sand where just about any type of critter could be expected. We spotted plenty of scorpionfish, a Pegasus sea moth, octopus, lots of juvenile Oriental sweetlips, and were also rewarded with rarely found Painted and Giant frogfish.

Aerial view of Alor

Bird’s eye view of Alor

In the midst of our trip we took one morning off from the wonderful snorkels to visit the mountain tribe of Abui near Kalabahi on Alor. This unique cultural opportunity gave us insights into at least one of the small, local societies that continue to thrive in this remote area. Afterwards, the Pindito brought us into the narrow Pantar straight separating Alor and Pantar. Here, several dramatic volcanoes rise from the seascape and provide plenty of underwater surface area for corals, fish, and dolphins to thrive. We spent several days investigating the assorted soft and hard coral reefs, which were among the healthiest CTA has seen on Earth. Ribbon eels, four different species of lionfish, five different moray eel species, Peacock mantis shrimp, Blacktip reef sharks, turtles, and clouds upon clouds of planktivorous anthias and damselfish highlighted the reefs here.

Eventually our time began to dwindle, as it always does, and we began our westward journey back towards Flores. But, we had time to spend a couple of days, as well as one night, snorkeling in the shadow of the impressive Ile Api volcano. The bay near this living part of the Ring of Fire contains dramatic reef dropoffs, fringing reefs, black sand, seagrass meadows, and even extensive mangroves. The bay provided us with views of Reef octopus, Fire dartfish, Robust ghost pipefish, Shortfin lionfish, small reef sharks, baby barracuda, and even a few individuals of a rare sea snake that we have yet to identify.

All in all, we had a fantastic time exploring this exotic region of islands. In part, CTA trips are so successful due to the gorgeous environments that we travel to, but the success also comes from the wonderful travelers who snorkel with us. Thank you goes to both the top notch crew of the Pindito as well as our CTA guests who made this another superlative adventure that we can look back upon and think ‘wow.’

We visit Alor as part of our Coral Triangle snorkeling tour in 2019 as well as a dedicated departure in 2020!

manta rays gliding over reefs in Raja AMpat, photographed by coral triangle adventures

Raja Ampat, Feb 2018 Trip Report

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Aerial photographed in Wayag, Raja Ampat by coral triangleadventures

Aerial of Wayag

Do I begin with how awesome our group of snorkelers were or how fantabulous the actual snorkeling was during our latest venture in Raja Ampat? I guess it doesn’t matter as we, once again, had a wonderful exploration of the many islands found off the Bird’s Head Peninsula of Indonesia. As is well known, this equatorial region is often referred to as the “heart of the Coral Triangle” due to its incredible marine biodiversity – perhaps the greatest on Earth. Each of CTA’s trips through Raja Ampat aims to expose our guests to not only spectacular coral reefs but also other types of healthy marine habitats and this particular trip brought us to blue water mangroves, seagrass meadows, and various reef types that flourish throughout the islands.

colorful soft corals in raja ampat, indonesia, taken by coral triangle adventures

Soft corals in Raja Ampat

Our first itinerary of 2018 brought us from Sorong to the island of Batanta and then northwards along the western edge of Raja Ampat’s largest island, Waigeo. We subsequently sailed over the equator to the stunningly beautiful limestone islands of Wayag eventually turning southward, towards the Dampier Strait where swift water flow attracts massive schools of fish.

Split photography of reef in Raja Ampat taken by coral triangle adventures

Common reef scene…

The first half of any trip through Raja Ampat is often overwhelming in terms of how many species are found in the shallow water habitats. But once snorkelers get a handle on the area’s ‘usual suspects’ of innumerable nudibranchs, cuttlefish, butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, wrasse, etc., they begin noticing the more unusual species. A few remarkable animals we encountered included Solar-powered nudibranchs, Pygmy cuttlefish, Pewter angelfish, juvenile Six-banded angelfish and juvenile Regal angelfish, an ultra-rare Marble-mouth frogfish, and one of my favorites – a juvenile Pinnate batfish. As is par for the course in Raja Ampat, we came across a well-camouflaged Tasseled wobbegong and another carpet shark, what I believe was a Japanese wobbegong. Our group also had the opportunity to get close encounters with Hawksbill turtles and watch eight majestic manta rays being cleaned on a shallow reef-ridge.

manta rays in raja ampat, photographed by coral triangle adventures

Manta Rays…

Each time Coral Triangle Adventures runs a trip to Raja Ampat I am reminded of how special and unique this remote region truly is. Although the region is now in the public eye and is well known for its extraordinary amount of tropical marine life it still retains its magic and mystery of how it has become the home for so many colorful and bizarre organisms.

 

We visit Raja Ampat again in Jan 2019!

Choclate chip sea stars in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Raja Ampat, Nov 2017 Trip Report

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Table corals on a reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Table corals

Another superlative CTA excursion through the very heart of the Coral Triangle! We are just back from our latest journey through the islands of Raja Ampat and we’re still bathing in the afterglow of the experience. Our trip began with wonderful weather and though we had a bit of rain here and there during the course of the route that never took away from the area’s magnificent underwater backdrops. Raja Ampat covers a massive area with hundreds of islands so it could never be adequately covered during just one snorkeling trip. Thus, we decided to focus on the northern islands above Sorong and charted a unique route that took us through the area’s wide-ranging marine habitats.

Aerial view of Wayag northern Raja Ampat

Wayag Islands

Every one of CTA’s trips is an exclusively-crafted itinerary, specific to the locale, the weather, the marine life and the underwater conditions. From Sorong we headed into the blue waters along northern Batanta then sailed along western Waigeo and across the equator to the spectacular limestone islands of Wayag. Working our way back down towards the famed and fishy waters of the Dampier Strait we explored off-the-beaten-path reefs that offered up some unbelievable and unforgettable gems. A few of the numerous highlights from this adventure include watching an incredibly rare Hairy octopus’ escapades, finding a trio of minute Crinoid cuttlefish fight for the right to mate with a female, and watching the shy behaviors of one of the most extraordinary reef fish in these waters, a Picturesque dragonet.

Coral gardens in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Colorful coral garden

As always we were able to find a plethora of vibrant nudibranchs and other bizarrely-colored invertebrates but we also had some time to watch the behaviors of big fish, such as Bumphead parrotfish feeding, Tasseled wobbeong sharks camouflaging themselves on the seafloor, and huge resident manta rays visiting their cleaning stations.

Aerial view of Yangefo off the coast of Gam, Raja Ampat

Yangefo, Raja Ampat

It is not only the astonishing wildlife and delightful scenery we consistently get to observe, but the people who come with CTA who make our trips ones to remember. Our unfailingly passionate and inquisitive group of avid snorkelers create the best atmosphere one can imagine for exploring the shallow marine habitats of the Coral Triangle.

blue ring octopus photographed in the Banda Islands

Banda Islands Trip Report, Nov 2017

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colorful corals around Misool, Raja Ampat, photographed by Coral Triangle Adventures

Colorful reefs can be…

Admittedly, I am always excited to visit the Banda Islands for the historical content, but almost within the first moment that my facemask hits the water, I am reminded why I really love this place…the snorkeling! The reefs in the Banda Islands are still some of the most spectacular in the world. Every one of them, from Pulau Run to Pulau Hatta offers incredibly colorful and lush shallow reefs that seemed to be home to just about every species tropical fish in Indonesia! And each one of them is different enough to provide a unique backdrop to our activities.

bumphead parrotfish photographed in the Banda Islands - coral triangle adventures

Bumphead parrotfish

Pulau Run and Pulau Ai, the two westernmost islands in the cluster of 10 volcanic or limestone islands that make up the Banda Island group, have extensive fringing reefs that harbor an incredible diversity of both hard and soft corals. On Pulau Run we were visited several times by a large school of very large bumphead parrotfish as they made their way up and down the reef looking for a good coral head to graze upon. Pulau Ai had just enough current to allow us to drift down the reef and watch as reef life unfolded as we passed by.

Api volcano, Banda Niera, For Belgica aerial

Aerial view…

Moving eastward, we pulled into the historical harbor of Banda Niera and had the chance to visit Fort Belgica, one of the oldest standing forts built by the Dutch in the 17th century. But the highlight was our snorkel site called Lavaflow. In 1988, the volcano Api erupted spewing lava and lahar down the eastern flanks. The flow spilled into the water killing the vibrant reef that fringed from the shores. The story, however, has a great ending. The reefs that subsequently grew on top of the cooled and solidified magma are now as lush and diverse as they ever were! From huge stands of both hard and soft corals to the hundreds of species of reef fishes, this reef kept us entertained for hours and we only explored less than half of the total area!

mandarinfish photographed in Banda Islands - coral triangle adventures

Mandarinfish

Later that afternoon, we visited the shores along Banda Niera to find the colorful mandarinfish. Again, no disappointment here as the mandarinfish were plentiful (we saw over 20 individuals), shallow (about 2-3 feet), and active. Our time around Banda Besar, Pulau Pisang, and Pulau Hatta were equally exciting with highlights that included blue-ring octopus, sharks, large Napolean wrasses, and a variety of habitats to explore.

From the Bandas, we set course to Raja Ampat with a day’s stop at Koon, an island off the eastern coast of Ceram. Koon gave us glimpses of what reef life would be like in an undisturbed environment. Big fish, big corals, and plenty of both throughout the entire length of the reef.

micro-atolls photographed in Raja Ampat by Coral Triangle Adventures

Micro-atolls…

Most of our time in Raja Ampat was spent around Misool and Batanta. Both islands possess incredible reefs and are some of the most scenic in terms of tropical island settings. My favorite things to see around the limestone islands of Misool are the shallow reefs that have ‘micro-atolls’, or types of coral growth where a massive coral (usually a species of Porites), limited by the shallow water, grows laterally rather than upward with a center that is often colonized by other corals. Misool is also known for a huge diversity if fish and we sure did get to see that on just about every snorkel.

Batanta island offers snorkelers the chance to see protected fringing reefs with some of the highest diversity of corals in Raja Ampat. Along with the thousands of fish that converge around the reef margins, the protected habitats also support a variety of cryptic critters like scorpionfishes, seahorses, crab-eyed gobies, and cuttlefishes. The protected habitats also give us the chance to see a good number of juvenile reef fishes such as juvenile barramundi cod, javanese damselfish, and several species of sweetlips.

Did I mention the weather? During our entire time onboard, including the three major sailings each no less than 10 hours in open sea, we experienced no more than a ripple on the ocean’s surface. Add that to incredible sunsets and we just about lucked out with the best weather imaginable.

group photo for coral triangle adventures tour Raja Ampat and Banda Islands

Group photo!

As we finished our epic program, cruising over 500 nautical miles from Ambon via the Banda Islands to Raja Ampat, we reflected on what a great trip this was. The Pindito was about as perfect as you could ask for. A great boat with an equally great crew and we very much thank them for making this a special trip for all of us. We absolutely look forward to working witht hem again on another snorkeling tour to the Bandas. Next time, however, the Banda Islands are worthy of a longer stay and our program will focus squarely on this amazing little cluster of islands in the middle of the Banda Sea. Look for it in 2020!

Being Juvenile in Belize

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After being away from the Caribbean for 20 years, I was incredibly excited for the return. Ironically it would be to Belize, the last place I had been in the Caribbean prior to moving the Indo West Pacific. Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesomaerican Barrier Reef (or Mayan Barrier Reef). My personal goal for the trip was to see the variety of colorful and amazing juvenile reef fishes, especially from the angelfishes, damselfishes, and the highlight, a juvenile spotted drum that can be found in the Caribbean Sea.

It is not exactly clear as to why many juvenile reef fish possess gaudy colors, patterns, or shapes. Perhaps it is a form of aposematic coloration, where the bright colors serve as warning to all predators that the potential prey item may be toxic. Or it could be some sort of camouflage, or simply a phenotypic display as a function of some other type of genetic combination that codes for a specific behavior. No matter the case, the end result for us is the chance to see rarer and more colorful versions of common reef fishes that we are excited to see on any given Caribbean reef.

Adult spotted drum photographed in Belize

Spotted drums…

Juvenile spotted drum photographed in Belize

Juvenile spotted drums…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A colorful rock beauty photographed in Belize

Adult rock beauties…

Juvenile rock beauty photographed in Belize

Juvenile rock beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult blue tang photographed in Belize

Adult blue tangs…

Juvenile blue tang photographed in Belize

Juvenile blue tangs…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

yellowtail damselfish photographed in Belize

Adult yellowtail damselfish…

juvenile yellowtail damselfish photographed in Belize

Juvenile yellowtail…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

adult french angelfish photographed in Belize

Adult French angelfish

Semi-adult french angelifish photographed in Belize

Semi-adult french…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will be visiting Belize again in 2018! I am already excited to see many more of the juvenile fishes of the Caribbean.

Belize 2017 Trip Report

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Belize 2017 Trip Report

Sea stars photographed on the sands of Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Sea stars…

Coral Triangle Adventures has finally gone to a destination far beyond our namesake ‘ The Coral Triangle.’ For the first time ever we ventured into the Caribbean Sea and chose Belize as our home base for a week of reef explorations. Belize is one of the most beautiful and certainly historic Central American countries. It offers gorgeous tropical scenery with its many offshore islands as well as plenty of fascinating Mayan ruins in the interior. It is also an easy place to access from anywhere in the U.S.

Blue Hole, Turneffe Atoll, Belize

A colorful coral…

The CTA group met in Belize City and were quickly whisked out to Turneffe Island Resort which resides about 20 miles offshore in an idyllic setting. The resort is located at the southernmost tip of Turneffe Atoll where a variety of snorkel sites are located within just a few minutes boat ride. As usual, we try to include as many different types of marine habitats as we can throughout the course of the trip, including seagrass, sand, mangroves, inner lagoon reefs, outer reefs on both the leeward and windward sides of the atoll and of course the world famous Blue Hole located in the middle of Lighthouse Reef.

Colorful reef scene photographed in Belize

Colorful soft corals…

Throughout the week we were treated to calm seas and bright sunshine though a few thunderstorms passed in the distance. Our fantastic local guides brought us to sites that varied in their bottom composition and fish diversity. On the outer reefs where we snorkeled over spur and groove channels Tarpon glided by, Nurse sharks hid in shallow caves, and an occasional Spotted eagle ray flew around the group. Reefs in the lagoon were composed of large coral bommies surrounded by sand and seagrass and were home to schools of Blue tang, vibrant Queen angelfish, French and Gray angelfish, Rock Beauties, and innumerable parrotfish and grunts. At the base of the bommies were found Yellow stingrays and Spotted scorpionfish that perfectly blended in with their surroundings and much larger Southern stingrays hid themselves in sand patches just a few feet underwater. Large Barracuda and Green moray eels were found on most snorkels.

Of special note were the White-spotted toadfish that we found on at least three or four different sites. These bizarre fish rarely make themselves visible but everyone could hear their loud vocalizations clearly. Spotted drum were also discovered on a few sites and we were all able to get a good look at a tiny juvenile drum that was mesmerizing with its dramatic, elongated fins. We also had the incredible luck to observe an uber-rare Sharptail snake eel out hunting as well as a Caribbean octopus feed on a Queen conch in just four feet of water!

All in all, there were plenty of highlights during the very special week Coral Triangle Adventures explored the reefs of Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef. In fact, we had such a fantastic time in an area so vastly different than our normal haunts in the tropical western Pacific that we are planning on going back to Belize in September 2018. So if you need a dose of the best Caribbean snorkeling available while staying at a spectacular remote resort just let us know. We’d be happy to include you on our 2018 Belize adventure!