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Handling an urchin while snorkeling at Turneffe Flats

Turneffe Atoll Adventures

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Snorkeling Tours: In addition to the special snorkeling adventures described in more detail below, you will have the opportunity to experience World Class snorkeling around the Turneffe Atoll. Our Atoll Adventure Guide knows all of the best spots and you will enjoy a variety of different snorkeling sites depending upon the weather, wind direction and your wishes. You can plan to see a wide variety of tropical reef fishes, rays, sea turtles, lobsters, dolphins and possibly even a manatee. While snorkeling, you will always be accompanied by our Atoll Adventure Guide who is a master at helping even novice snorkelers feel comfortable in the water. He will make sure that you equipment fits and feels comfortable and will teach you the best snorkeling techniques. He knows where to find all of the interesting creatures and will ensure that you make the most of your snorkeling adventures.

Diving Options: Belize's Atolls consistently ranks among the World's top dive locations and Turneffe Flats is ideally located to take advantage of Belize's very best Scuba diving. Dive program offers 18 dives each week including a day of diving at Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole, weather permitting. Diving packages available at additional cost. Contact us for details.

Belizean Cooking Class: Spend part of a day in the kitchen with one of our cooks learning how to prepare Empanadas, Tamales or Garnaches the Belizean way. This is more than a cooking class; it is a culture class. You will go home with recipes and fond memories.

Manatee & Dolphin Tour: Take a boat ride around the Atoll in search of Bottlenose & possibly Spotted Dolphins. Pods of dolphins cruise the shallow water using their sonar system to hunt for fish & crustaceans buried in the sand. They are sometimes attracted by the sound of the engine and will suddenly pop up alongside the boat to have a look at you.

Turneffe is an important location for West Indian Manatees, which grow to 1,300 lbs and trundle along the sea grass beds browsing on vegetation. Their only living relative is the elephant and they still have toenails on their front flippers even though their back-end has evolved into a powerful spatulate tail. These shy creatures, usually a single male or a mother and her calf, can be seen in the creeks around the Atoll.

Flats Walking Tour: Just inside the fringe reef along the seaward side of the atoll are miles of shallow, gin clear flats. This is the area where fly fishing anglers search for bonefish and permit, and the "flats" are alive with sea creatures of all sorts. With a discerning eye and the aid of your guide, you will likely see schools of bonefish, permit, trunk (box) fish, barracudas, small rays, snappers and even small sharks. In the surf you can sometimes see large Parrot Fish or Trigger Fish with their backs half out of the water. The flats are covered with turtle grass, which is a key habitat for many species of juvenile fish, and the flats are also protecting the coral reef by acting as a sediment filter.

Turneffe Atoll Birding Tour: Approximately 60 species have been identified on the Turneffe Atoll. The following are fairly commonly seen are: The Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Clapper Rail, Mangrove Swallow, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Double-crested Cormorant, Osprey, Mangrove Warbler, Great tailed Grackle, Goldenfronted Woodpecker, Tropical Mockingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Great Breasted Mango, White Crowned Pigeon and Royal Tern. Seen on occasion are: The Belted Kingfisher, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Waterthrush, Barn Swallow, Perigrine Falcon, Merlin, Common Yellowthroat, Bay Breasted Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Palm Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Summer Tanager, Brown Booby, Yucatan Vireo, Hooded Oriole, American Redstart, Least Tern and the Roseate Term.

Sea Shell & Starfish Tour: In several sandy areas around the atoll, you can snorkel above huge Cushion Sea Stars, varying in color from pale yellow to burgundy red. If you wish to add to your seashell collection, there are opportunities to walk the shores of the many small cayes on the Atoll to search for a variety of shells that wash up with each tide. Conch fishing is a vital part of the commercial fishing economy at Turneffe and there are thousands of discarded Queen Conch shells to choose from. In addition, you may find exoskeletons of Long Spined Sea urchins and intact West Indian Sea Eggs.

The Maya and Turneffe: Your guide Abel, a Kekchi Maya, grew up in a Maya village in Southern Belize and will explain the history of the Maya in Belize as well as the traditions and beliefs of the Maya culture. His knowledge and ability to share it is something special.

Several Maya fishing villages have been identified on the Turneffe Atoll dating to 400 A.D. Turneffe was clearly part of the intricate trade routes of the Maya and artifacts from Turneffe indicate that they traded goods with peoples as far away as Guatemala.

Belize is thought to have been at the center of the Maya civilization, which was at its peak from 900 B.C. to 900 A.D. Today the Maya make up approximately 11% of the population of Belize with several villages still speaking one of the three Maya languages as their first language. Learn about the three Maya groups inhabiting Belize - the Yuctec, the Mopan & the Kekchi Maya. If you are lucky, you may run across a Maya artifact or two.

Sea Kayaking: Before or after your guided activities, take one of our sea kayaks out for a better look at the surroundings and enjoy the marine life close at hand. While getting some exercise, you can explore the creeks that wind amongst the mangrove islands, and the myriad of marine life inhabiting the "flats" including boxfish, stingrays and bonefish. Take your snorkeling gear with you and take a dip when you need to cool off or take a closer look at the marine life.

Mainland Tours: A mainland tour is optional. If you wish to do a mainland tour you will go to Belize City on our supply day (Tuesday or Wednesday), meet with one of the best tour guides in Belize and visit a Mayan Ruin, the Belize Zoo, or the rain forest. The mainland tour is an additional expense, which is paid directly to the tour operator. Costs depend upon the tour chosen.

Crocodile Tour: The Turneffe Atoll is one of the largest remaining nesting areas in the Caribbean for the docile and threatened American Crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus). Join our Adventure Guide for a leisurely boat ride around the mangrove islands for the opportunity to see these crocodiles in their natural habitat. You are likely to see crocs sunning themselves or swimming in isolated lagoons. Additionally, you will see crocodile nests and possibly baby crocodiles. Unlike the Australian and African Crocodiles, the American Crocodile eats mostly fish and is very timid. When approached while sunning on the shore, they run for the safety of the water and submerge. Your Adventure Leader will teach you about these fascinating creatures and help find as many as possible.

Lighthouse Atoll - Snorkeling & Birding Tour:
Conditions allowing, you will have an opportunity to spend the day at the southern end of the Lighthouse Atoll. Your first stop will be The Great Blue Hole ($40 per person entrance fee not included). This amazing structure was formed millions of years ago when the roof of an underground cave collapsed. Now, the cave is filled with seawater and forms a circular hole 1000ft in diameter and 480 ft deep. This is primarily a scuba diving attraction and if no divers are present during your week, the boat will not be going to Lighthouse Atoll.

Next, you will visit Half Moon Caye. This small caye was established as a Crown Reserve in 1928 and became the first Marine Reserve in Belize. Here a colony of Red-footed Booby birds nest in the tops of the Zericote trees. Whereas the Red-footed boobies in the Galapagos and other parts of the world have brown plumage, almost all of these 4000 birds display the rare white color phase.

The Magnificent Frigatebird, with a 7ft wingspan also shares this rookery. Since they cannot land on water, they mostly feed by harassing the returning boobies until they drop their catch. Some 98 other species of birds have been documented on the caye including Ospreys, Great Tailed Grackles, Cinnamon Hummingbirds and White-crowned pigeons.

After a picnic lunch under the shade of the palm trees we set off for Long Caye, to snorkel 'The Aquarium'. Here you watch from above as divers feed thousands of Bermuda Chub, Sergeant Majors and Yellowtail Snappers with leftover bread.

If we are lucky, a large pod of Common Dolphin or Spinner Dolphin will escort us part of the way back to Turneffe Flats.

Mangrove Snorkeling: Mangroves are the backbone of Turneffe, as well as all coastal marine habitats. They provide essential nursery habitat for a diverse community of fishes and are the nutritional backbone for the entire ecosystem. In addition, they provide a protective barrier for storms and help protect the coral reef. The predominant mangroves at Turneffe are the Red Mangroves but stands of Black and White Mangroves are present as well. Take a peek into this fascinating world by snorkeling amongst the juvenile snappers, grunts, lobsters and even nurse sharks & turtles. This will make you understand the vital nature of these plants to our coastal marine environment.

Turneffe Atoll Eco Tour:
To some extent, this is the culmination of several tours. Its combination of healthy coral reef, back reef flats, extensive sea grass beds and mangroves identify Turneffe as the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Caribbean.

The Turneffe Atoll is one of only three coral atolls in the Caribbean - two others (Lighthouse Atoll and Glover's Atoll) are located in Belize and the fourth is in Southern Mexico. Formation of these coral atolls was accomplished through years of coral buildup rather than by volcanic activity - the more common mechanism of atoll formation. The entire Atoll is surrounded by a fringe coral reef with waters inside the reef varying from less than a foot deep to 30 feet in depth. Ocean depths around the atoll are thought to reach 9000 feet.

Approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles across, Turneffe has evolved as a model coastal marine ecosystem. This involves the following intimately interrelated habitats; the coral reef, the back reef flats, the sea grass beds, the mangroves and the littoral forest. During your visit you will learn how all of these varied habitats are interrelated and interdependent. You will learn what is required to sustain healthy coral reefs, the functions of the back reef flats, the importance of healthy sea grass beds and the reasons that mangroves are vital to the entire ecosystem.

In the end, we hope that you will agree that the unique and special environment of the Turneffe Atoll warrants protection from the threats such as over-fishing, over-development and improper development which have decimated much of our coastal ecology.

Discover SCUBA Diving Course:
Have you ever wondered about SCUBA Diving? During your stay, you may wish to want to spend a couple of half days learning about and experiencing the excitement of SCUBA Diving. Our Dive Instructor offers this introductory course, which consists of basic SCUBA instruction followed by two shallow dives. There is an additional charge for this course.

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