SCUBA Diving | Caye Caulker, Belize

SCUBA Diving trips have two distinct phases of enjoyment. First, being the obvious time spent in the water, surrounded by blue ocean and vibrant coral reefs. The second part happens at home when you are digging through the photos and videos, reliving the adventure, but more importantly, getting to really see all the sea-life in the images you captured. Inevitably, you find so much more in those photos than the original reason you snapped the image in the first place! Plus, you can spend as much time staring without worrying about losing your group or running out of air. Which has never been more true than our trip to Caye Caulker in Belize!

For this trip, rather than bouncing around to new places every few days, we decided to spend the entire time on the island of Caye Caulker at our AirBnb. From the rental, we could walk into town, along the path next to the water, to Frenchie’s Dive Shop that sits over the water, boasting the big dive flag painted on the southern wall. After squaring away our gear onto one of their dive boats, Courtney, her dad Jim, and I were ready for the next adventure under the surface. Over the week we booked 6 dives, but was only able to go on 5 because the night dive was canceled. But 5 dives was still plenty to really fall in love with a place and their beautiful reefs.

Our first half day trip was out to the reef 2 miles from the shoreline of Caye Caulker for a 2 tank dive. The two drift dives were located at the sites called Rock Beauty and Caye Caulker Canyon, which are situated right outside the local reef that protects Caye Caulker. As we dropped in with our small group, 5 of us plus the dive master, Ricky, I was shocked by how warm the water was. Wearing only a 2mm wetsuit top, I was perfectly comfortable all day in the 86 degree water. And once we dropped down to the sea floor, I was surprised to see what kind of life and reef I’d find. With the visibility around 60 feet, and nothing but blue water surrounding us, we were sure to be fascinated by the world below the water here in Belize.

The reefs here were filled with life, split between sea fans, soft corals, and hard corals. Most of the fish were on the smaller scale, with the largest being the Queen Parrot fish that would swim by to chomp on the hard corals under us. Though the group’s swimming pace was a bit fast for my liking, we were able to see so much of the two dive sites. The first dive was highlighted by seeing a Stone Fish camouflaged so well into the top of a coral head that without the dive guide’s attention to detail, we all would have missed it. But the first dive lacked, was quickly made up for at Caye Caulker Canyon. All at the very beginning of the dive, we saw a puffer fish come swimming down the channel we were moving through, followed by the largest loggerhead turtle I’ve ever seen, crossing perpendicular to our path. The girth of that turtle was astounding, easily weighing over 300lbs. Quickly after the sight of those two beauties, we saw a spotted eagle ray gracefully glide through and even found a nurse shark snoozing under a rock. It’s dives like this that really have a boat buzzing when everyone gets topside.

The next dives, a few days later, were going to be a full day to Turneffe Atoll for a 3 tank dive! A one hour boat ride that had us staying on the inside of the reefs in protected waters for most of it because of how big the seas were due to the high winds we had all week. Once we reached our more protected dive sites, we mored up and were able to dive at three separate sites called: Black Coral Wall, Sandy Lane, and Mini Elbow. Setting out again, with a small group of 5 of us, plus our dive master, Louie, we were in for some of the best diving experiences ever. That’s not just coming from me, with my measly 35 lifetime dives, but also from my wife Courtney, who has over 75, and her dad, who has thousands of recorded dives. Louie, was by far the best underwater guide we’ve ever had not only because of his slow pace, but his unbelievable attention to detail when it came to all the macro life on the reef that 99% of us would have missed.

The reef was teeming with life, all over, especially at our dive depths of ~60feet. But the reef dropped off way further into the depths that I would’ve love to explore even more, but there was no shortage throughout the three dive sites. We saw more on this dive than I would normally get to on 10 dives combined, all thanks to Louie. We were pointed into the smallest cracks, crevasses, and holes within the reef to find Bristle Worms, Nudibranches, Arrow Crabs, a very large crab, Lobsters, and even some of the smallest critters that I didn’t know the names. The ability for these animals to blend into their surrounds and hide is quite literally like a “Where’s Waldo” book. On the larger side of things, we witnessed two large squid swimming away from us as we dropped in off the boat, Nurse Sharks under rock caves, and Moray Eels actually swimming around the reef, not just hiding in their holes. On the second dive, we saw a massive Barracuda suspended in the water column, so large, it was not worried about any other predator. Bellow the barracuda, another large puffer fish cruised down one of the ravines of the reef, hiding from the divers above it. And last but not least, we were visited one last time by another Spotted Eagle Ray just before heading up for our last safety stop.

With the dive sites so close to shore, and specifically the boats at Frenchie’s Dive shop, I cannot recommend diving in Belize enough. Sure, the visibility could have been better, but the high winds really stirred up the ocean leaving us with a mere 50 feet of visibility (read sarcastically). I’m sure the other dive outfits on Caye Caulker are great, but Frenchies really went above all expectations. The dive boat was large, but only had about 20 divers on it. Some getting certified for their check-out dives, and others like us just excited to see the beautiful reefs of Belize. They even prepared a traditional rice & chicken dish for our all-day dive at Turneffe Atoll. Better still, Courtney’s mom was able to join us at Turneffe where she was able to go snorkeling above the divers at all 3 of our dive sites and still have a great time. Needless to say, it’s right up there with Thailand and Tahiti with amazing diving that I would recommend to anyone!

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