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Belize: Snorkeling and Coral Reef Ecology

Snorkel Belize's best reefs on this week-long guided snorkeling trip to beautiful Turneffe Atoll and the world famous Great Blue Hole.

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Overview

  • Explore the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere, and visit the legendary Great Blue Hole.
  • Gain special insight into reef ecology and learn about our marine research as you are guided by our expert naturalist.
  • Stay in beachfront accommodations on the eastern edge of Turneffe Atoll.

Explore the exquisite maze of coral reefs and turquoise waters of Turneffe Atoll, and visit the world famous Great Blue Hole on this land-based snorkel expedition. This expedition is one of the best ways for non-divers to discover Belize's spectacular coral reef systems.

Our trip begins with a 90-minute boat ride from Belize City to the eastern side of Turneffe Atoll. We stay at Turneffe Flats Lodge, which offers comfortable oceanside air-conditioned villas and cabanas with beautiful views of the surrounding sea. Turneffe Atoll is exceptional for its warm shallow water, which gives snorkelers easy access to an extraordinary underwater paradise. Magnificently adorned with huge yellow tube sponges and myriad tropical fish, the reef offers unmatched snorkeling opportunities.

Snorkeling sites include the coral rich reefs of The Canyons, Calabash Cut, and Soldier's Caye reef. Over 25 species of birds are found around the islands including the magnificent osprey, and we often spot dolphins en route to our snorkeling sites. Participants in this program will benefit from our decades of experience guiding travel programs in Belize, and gain special insight into the local ecology through the findings of our long-term research efforts.

Trip Dates & Cost

2017: Nov 4–11 SOLD OUT. $2,990 per person.* Group limit 12.

2018: Jan 20–27 | Mar 3–10. $2,990 per person.* Group limit 12.

* Trip prices do not include international airfare. There is a single supplement fee of $750. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Kathi Koontz is director of California Whale Rescue and Oceanic Society's former Bay Area Programs Manager. Her passion for the ocean includes work as a whales-in-distress responder through NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. Kathi is an avid diver, snorkeler, and advocate for marine wildlife. She has a degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and spends as much time as she can underwater.

Roger Harris is a long-time Oceanic Society naturalist with 30 years of experience working as a guide. In addition to working with Oceanic Society, Roger has frequently worked as a naturalist for Lindblad Expeditions and the National Audubon Society. As a naturalist he has led eco-tours in Honduras, Belize, Kenya, Great Barrier Reef, Galapagos, Baja California, and SE Alaska. Roger is also a professional conservation biologist specializing in endangered species, wetlands, and native habitat restoration. He earned a graduate degree in ornithology from U.C. Berkeley, and is both a NAUI diver and an expert world birder.

Itinerary

Optional Pre-Trip Extension to Mayan Ruins & Rainforest
For travelers who wish to explore Belize's outstanding terrestrial nature and cultural highlights, we offer 3 to 5 day pre- or post-trip extensions to the nearby rainforest (part of the Mesoamerican Forest Hotspot), including visits to Mayan ruins or hike-able caves.

Day 1: Belize City - Turneffe Atoll
If arriving on the start date of the program, there will be group transfers facilitated by a Turneffe Flats representative at the International Airport in Belize City. Depending on your arrival time, you will then be transferred to the Radisson Fort George Hotel or to the marina. Once all travelers have arrived, the group will depart at around 2:30 pm for the 90 minute boat ride to Blackbird Caye on the east side of Turneffe Atoll. After settling into your room at Turneffe Flats resort, there will be a welcome meeting, followed by dinner.

Day 2-7: Snorkeling in Turneffe Atoll & Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Each day, after breakfast and after lunch, you will embark on boat-based snorkeling excursions to explore the reefs, mangroves, and atoll habitats. You can expect to see a wide diversity of tropical reef fish, rays, sea turtles, invertebrates, and lobsters as you explore Belize's best snorkeling reefs. You may also come across groups of spinner dolphins and the occasional Antillean manatee. Participants should expect to spend 4-5 hours per day out on the water and snorkeling.

Weather permitting, one of the days will be spent visiting Great Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye in Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The Great Blue Hole was formed millions of years ago when an underground cave collapsed. Now, snorkelers can enjoy the protected blue-water “hole” that is 984 feet wide and 354 feet deep. Here it is possible to see nurse sharks, large parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and more. The perimeter coral reefs of the Blue Hole begin at depths of only 3-5 feet, and provide spectacular snorkeling in relatively shallow depths.

In the afternoon, we will spend time visiting Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, which was established as Belize's first marine reserve. Here, you will be able to see a large colony of nesting Red-footed Boobies (4,000+) and Magnificent Frigatebirds. There will also be opportunities to see Ospreys, Great-tailed Grackles, Cinnamon Hummingbirds, and White-crowned Pigeons, as well as hermit crabs and spiny tailed iguanas. If time allows, you will be able to snorkel from the beach, with a good chance to see nurse sharks and large schools of reef fish.

Day 8: Belize City - Home (or Optional Trip Extension)
After breakfast, you will be transferred back to Belize City (expect to be back by 9:30-10:00 am) and will have the option to take a group shuttle back to the airport, if leaving that day. If you prefer to depart later to the airport you can easily get a taxi.

Optional Post-Trip Extension to Mayan Ruins & Rainforest
For travelers who wish to explore Belize's outstanding terrestrial nature and cultural highlights, we offer 3 to 5 day pre- or post-trip extensions to the nearby rainforest (part of the Mesoamerican Forest Hotspot), including visits to Mayan ruins or hike-able caves.

Accommodations

Travelers stay in comfortable oceanside villas at the highly-rated Turneffe Flats. Each villa has three private rooms with queen-sized beds, ceiling fans, air conditioning, and private bath. The three rooms open out onto a common area including a living room with satellite television and a screened-in veranda. In rare instances when the villas are not available, guests may be accommodated in individual beachfront cabanas.

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