By Dustin Hart
The Cayes of Lighthouse Reef!
Belize boasts of three of the most unspoiled and pristine atoll reefs in the world - and the one which is farthest offshore is the teardrop shaped, Lighthouse Reef Atoll. A diving expedition to Lighthouse Reef starts from its northern shores, where the Sandbore Caye and Northern Two Cayes greet you at this gateway. Most of these Cayes have an internal lagoon, which also acts as a giant natural cooler.
For divers, the real action is in and around the "diving jewel" known as Long Caye, which is at southernmost tip of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Most divers travel by boat 2.5 hours in each direction, to and from Ambergis Caye to Long Caye - which is surrounded by eight of the finest diving sites in Belize....and perhaps even the Hemisphere. Long Caye is slowly becoming the most sought after diving destination in the Caribbean - leading to an unprecedented rush to get a piece of this Belize Real Estate.
It makes sense to have a modest beach house on Long Caye - particularly for seasoned divers who make frequent trips to and from Long Caye.
And, if you love the red footed booby bird, then you have Half Moon Caye, a natural monument of the Government of Belize awaiting you just less than three mile due east of Long Caye.
From Cayes to Diving Holes...
Black Corals, Orange Sponges, Frigates, White Pelican - It cannot get better than these, and particularly if you are a diver. One could not have asked for a better deal from Mother Nature - Almost 40 of the most untouched diving spots in the world...adorned and naturally manicured with 20 foot stalactites, coral reefs, mangroves and sublime internal lagoons. It's no wonder that the Real Estate in Belize is lapped up by the nature lovers from around the world. So, let's meander around some of the most famous diving spots in Belize and Lighthouse Reef Atoll...
The Great Blue Hole...
The Great Blue is 1,000 feet across 400 feet deep and the coral is visible right from the top. It is not only visited by diving aficionados but also by fish of every variety. And if you did not know, the Great Blue Hole is the largest ocean sinkhole in the world - large enough to be visible from outer space. This marine treasure boasts of red algae, hydroids and gorgonians cover most of the corals. You may also find sharing brush, mermaid's fan algae, elkhorm, club finger, shallow-water starlet corals, giant green anemones and various urchins.
Half Moon Caye and Wall...
At the southeast corner of the atoll, nature opens its full panorama for mankind - A densely populated bird sanctuary to the west and coconut palms to the east. If you are an ornithologist, this might tickle your curiosity - 98 recorded species of birds including frigate, red footed booby birds, pelicans, ospreys, egrets, gulls, storks, terns - just to name a few. And to top it all, you have a treetop bird watching platform...Can it get better than this?
The Wall is located south of Half Moon Caye. Divers can experience a depth of 30 feet and a visibility of 100 feet. The nature's aquarium at Half Moon contains garden eels, conch, rays, flounder, star-eye hermit crab, tilefish, manta rays, groupers, yellowtail snappers, razorfish, toadfish, spotted eagle rays, turtles and black groupers.
Hat Caye Drop
Visibility - 50 feet, Currents - minimal...This is for the beginners who come to Hat Caye Drop, very close to Long Caye. Marine life is exceptional and unique - basket sponge, coral shrimp with white antennas, giant yellow tube sponges and deep-water lace coral. The lack of current at Hat Caye makes it an absolute favorite for the beginners.
To the east on Long Caye stood a trio of tall palm trees - and that's the origin of Tres Cocos. It is almost one mile from Hat Caye Drop and boasts of a diving visibility of 80 feet and 30 foot depth - minimal to medium currents.
What comes along with Tres Cocos is a feast for the eyes - coral shrimp, large spotted moray eels, lion's paw sea cucumbers, urchins, arrow crabs and sea feathers, parrotfish, damselfish, blue tang, jacks, large black groupers and turtles.
Long Caye Ridge...
To the west of Long Caye is hidden the perfect diving spot for beginners - depths of 40 feet, 80 feet of visibility and minimal currents. For those of you who are itching for marine photography, you have - soft coral, vase and tube sponges, yellow pencil corals and you will also see coral niches for spotted crabs, lobsters, filefish and arrow blennies. West Point I & II is also a great diving spot for beginners.
Que Brada means "broken reef" - and its ½ mile north of Long Caye - 40 plus feet, 80 feet of visibility. The marine vista continues with schools of yellow tail snappers tailing divers on the reefs, large black groupers, ocean triggerfish, spotted eagle rays and turtles.
With mild undercurrent and 50 feet of visibility, Cathedral Reef is a great diving destination for intermediate divers.
Silver Caves, Nurse Shark Lodge, Eagle Ray Wall, Southwest Cut are other favorite destinations for beginner divers who travel to Long Caye.
To the northwest of Long Caye is the Aquarium - aptly named because of the multitude of marine flora and fauna that adorns the ridges and reef. The variety of invertebrates and exotic fauna at Aquarium is mesmerizing to say the least. The sheer brilliance of colored fish is dazzling for the divers.
The unforgettable mosaic of marine life and clusters of natural diving platforms entices the novice as well as professional divers time and again to Long Caye at Lighthouse Reef.
Because of the spurt of activity in the Belize Real Estate segment, the environmental conservation has become one of the top most priorities for the government and Belize Property developers.
Dustin Hart is not a quintessential writer - rather he is a back-packer who lives off his ultra-light folding bike. He lives (or tries to live) in the state of Washington - with his dog Toobs. He recently caught up with Larry Schneider of Eco Holdings Limited in relation to the ecofriendly tourism & real estate in Belize.