A snorkeling highlight maybe the opportunity to float along the inner rim of the great Blue Hole of Lighthouse Reef. Essentially a grand cavern whose roof collapsed long ago, the Blue Hole is famous for it's perfectly circular shape -- 1000 feet in diameter - and it's precipitous walls plunging over 400 feet deep through clear water to a distant dark bottom. Although the Blue Hole is promoted principally as a dive destination, the "fringing" lip of this geologic phenomena features one of the richest and most colorful shallow water coral communities found anywhere in the Caribbean. It's an exquisite snorkeling location - a protected habitat for myriad fish and invertebrate life, thriving just a few inches below the surface.
Day 1: Group flight from Belize City to Flores, Guatemala. Transfer to our resort, our home for the next 6 nights. Welcome drinks, orientation and dinner. Includes: (D).
Day 2: During this program our base will be the casual Blackbird Caye Resort. The resort features a variety of comfortable accommodations including 10 individual hardwood cabanas, and two larger buildings that have either 2 or 3 private rooms in each. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: All accommodations have individual private bathrooms. Blackbird Caye is situated 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. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Although conceptually distant from the mainland, geographically it's only about one hour by covered launch from Belize City. The resort spreads out along a palm-lined sandy beach, and has a sturdy wooden pier used for boarding the boats. The location is ideal because it offers a variety of snorkeling opportunities easily accessible from the resort. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: There are also a number of excellent shallow, protected patch reef areas within a short boat ride of the resort. In addition to the substantial coral heads, we typically view squadrons of reef squid, schools of snappers, inquisitive gray angelfish, and the massive southern stingray which can be up to five feet wide. For our group, the resort promises to reserve a boat to exclusively serve our snorkeling needs. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: While our programs consider snorkeling 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. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Our program concludes with a small taste of the Belizean mainland where we have the opportunity to visit the internationally respected Belize Zoo. After breakfast, we transfer to the airport in Flores (by A.C.-van) to depart on our international flight back home. Includes: (B).
- Mayan Ruins of Xuantunich (Optional post-program extension):
This year we are proud to offer you the opportunity to explore the archeological Mayan site of Xunantunich, also known as "Stone Woman", named for a ghost that is claimed to inhabit the site. Built on a limestone ridge overlooking the Mopan river, Xunantunich exudes mystery and majesty. Reached by crossing the river on a handcranked ferry, its peaceful surrounding and lack of crowds make it a magical place. The most prominent stucture at Xunantunich is the 130 foot "El Castillo" (The Castle) which provies a breathtaking panoramic view of the Macal, Mopan and Belize River valleys, as well as a vast area of the Guatemalan Peten District, a few miles away.
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). In addition to exploring Xunantunich and the Belize Zoo, we plan to visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary. Founded in 1958 to protect the black howler monkey, known locally as the "baboon", the sanctuary features easy walking trails amoung 18 square miles of 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.
While I'm fascinated by the history, and intrigued by the ancient culture, for me the appeal of Xunantunich is it's "magic". In contrast to the solemn silence of the ruins, the lush rainforest is alive with over 200 species of birds whose trills and chirps play counterpoint to the resonant bass roars of indigenous howler monkeys. Parts of the site remains cloaked by vines, ferns and Ceiba trees. In this setting, complemented by our local guide, Xunantunich promotes a classically romantic "sense of discovery."
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Central America and Caribbean Belize Outdoor: Water Drifter Snorkeling
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