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#425916 12/22/11 08:34 AM
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Belize belongs on every avid diver's bucket list. Turneffe Island Resort is a terrific place to check it out and check it off. Located on the southern tip of Turneffe Reef, thirty-five miles southeast of Belize City, the resort is a simple jump, hop, and a skiff away from home. After arriving at the airport a van awaits to drive guests to the docks where one can enjoy the catch of the day and catchy local sayings at Calypso. Perched pelicans and Caribbean crooning create a calm vista where stress ebbs away and time transforms from a calculation to a concept.

Once luggage is stowed and stomachs are settled guests board Miss Bella, a boat quite familiar after the ninety-minute ride to the island. Those weak of stomach don't be weak of heart. Miss Bella has a sturdy base that keeps one's head from rolling with the waves. For those who relish the ride, the upper deck offers the added entertainment of flying fish frolicking in the foam forming in Miss Bella's wake. To keep the heat away icy mint towels and beverages (fruit punch or ones with more of a punch) are readily supplied.

After enduring the undulating ocean one encounters more waves at the resort docks. Raised flags, amiable staff, ferociously sweet guard dogs, and fourteen acres of vacation are certainly welcoming.

One does not have to pay much attention to realize that attention to detail and service is a priority at Turneffe Island Resort. The delightfully cool air-conditioned cabanas are tended to daily. Coffee and hot chocolate are delivered to screened porches to sip with the sunrise. Accompanying the beverages is a daily forecast detailing the weather, lunch, and various other informative tidbits. When one is ready to turn in one will find the bed turned down with a poem tucked in the covers that acts a lyrical lullaby.

Between the coffee and the cocktails are three unspeakably appetizing meals announced by an energetic bell. Breakfast brings fresh fruit, baked goods, and eggs any style asked. Lunch and supper are never the same except that they are always full of flavor, exceptionally good, and very filling. The kitchen staff is wonderful and willing to cater to dietary needs. The food is served family style in the centrally located main building, which encourages intermingling and inevitable story swapping.

Service is further evident in the valet diving. Guests are only responsible for their mask, snorkel, fins, and wetsuit. The rest of the gear is set up and set to go. All diving is done from one boat and the sites are never more than ten minutes away. Because the resort is so remote there is little competition for prime spots, which also helps maintain the pristine and superior quality of the diving. The easy pace of two to three dives a day keeps one wanting more.

The beauty of the reef and abundance of marine life are difficult to rival. Belize has it all from big animals like sharks, rays, turtles, tarpon, octopi, barracuda, and eels to smaller creatures like arrow crabs, cleaner shrimp, starfish, yellow headed jawfish, drumfish, the unfortunate lionfish�the list goes on. In Belize everything seems to come in two's or twenties. Such massive schools are seen very few other places in the Caribbean.

During surface intervals one can lounge by the pool, enjoy beverages from the outside bar, kayak, sail, volleyball it on the beach, walk the island, or snooze on the sand. The island is remote and as such one will not find a television remote, Wi-Fi hotspot or cellular service. However, one will find plenty of space to unplug and unwind.

The trip to the Blue Hole on Tuesdays is an iconic opportunity. A whole day is devoted to the ninety-minute trek to the four hundred and twelve foot abyss, a picnic lunch at Half Moon Caye, and the following dives at Lighthouse Reef. Descending to the recreational diving limit of one hundred and thirty feet is a unique mission. Submerged in the dark blue depths it feels as if oneself is lost and all that exists is the surrounding expanse. As one descends at the edge of the basin, the only perception guideline is the plummeting wall of coral, one's depth gauge, and the experienced dive master. If fortunate, one can make out shadows of Caribbean reef sharks or a school of amberjack in the distance. Nearing the one hundred and thirty foot marker, sizeable stalactites enter sight. This provides a slightly eerie swim through to occupy the short bottom time of about seven minutes. The limited time and limited visibility contribute greatly to the mystique of the experience. Before the dive has really begun, it is over. However, the memory lasts.

Lunch at the Caye is enjoyable and gives one the chance to check out the Booby bird Conservancy, nearly on par with the Blue Hole. Following the footpath through the tropical growth one stumbles upon an observation tower with a vantage point breaking through the canopy of leaves. Usually, there are birds in the nearby vicinity. Hopefully, the Booby birds. After that short hike it's back to the boat and off to Lighthouse Reef, a dive site that shines above the rest. There, is the epitome of incredible Belizean diving. The coral and creatures are beyond compare. The reef is made of such interesting architecture it seems to have been designed by a mastermind: expanding fans, rolling brain coral, color dappled arches, rivers of wrasse, swim-throughs shimmering with tiny glittering silver sides can simply be summed as magical.

During a one-week stay a night dive is offered. At Turneffe Island Resort dinner is served before the dive. The boat leaves after dark but the captain speeds through the mangroves as confidently as in the daylight. Night dives, as all dives through the resort, are quite easy. The knowledgeable dive master serves as guide and a sharp set of eyes. As active as the ocean life is during the day in Belize, it is surprising to find that there is not much nightlife beyond the bar. However, if the moon is slender, beware the bloodworms. Attracted to flashlights, the worms will swarm like aquatic mosquitos. Although an unpleasant sight, they will not bite. Revenge belongs to the diver who finds a polyp to feed off the pesky critters. Emerging from the night dive is an experience of its own. Below the surface of the water the photo plankton are aglow; above the stars are bright and just as numerous. If the ambiance or the cool atmosphere creates chills, a cup of hot chocolate is sure to bring back the warmth as the boat skims to shore and to something sweet.

After a week of excitement, one can kick back at the Friday beach barbeque. Simmering food at sunset is a satisfying start to the end of a great vacation. After the meal it's on to the races. Hermit crab races. Pick a winner, make a distinguishing mark on its shell, and its on the mark, get set, go! Watch them scuttle the sand to the proverbial finish line. (The winner is open for interpretation and an open bar is the prize for the winner.)

At the end of the week one envies the crabs, to crawl inside a piece of Belize and carry it around wherever one goes. However, Belize is burned into the brain (hopefully not into the skin) and checked off the bucket list.

Some Images:


Joined: Oct 1999
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VIDEO: Diving Turneffe, Dolphins Welcome Papa Changa

Three tank dive, day trip from San Pedro, Amigos Del Mar.

Joined: Oct 1999
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Exploring Turneffe's Marine Biodiversity with Dr. Sylvia Earle

Turneffe is Truly a Treasure of Belize --Dr. Sylvia Earle. On a recent trip to Tunreffe Atoll, The Oceanic Society Advior Dr. Sylvia Earle exploring the most biodiverse system of it kind the western hemisphere.

Diving Turneffe Atoll, Belize (2017.May)

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Golden Arrow Technical Divers "Exploring The Elbow" Turneffe Marine Reserve

Featuring Golden Arrow Technical Divers our guest from Dominican Republic, Brazil and Panama. Join as we explore 'The Elbow" Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, Belize. Central America. "Denis, It was a pleasure diving with you all and we look forward to your return."

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iDive Belize Turneffe Atoll Series

ALL IN A DAYS WORK- Three Dives, What You See is What You Get. NO STOCK IMAGES- All marine life images were obtained on this single day trip based from Blackbird Caye within The Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve.

Marty #490784 05/12/14 04:57 AM
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Diving The Elbow with Big Current...The Best of The Best!

Put "The Elbow at Turneffe" on Your To Do List! It's the best of the best when it comes to the large schools of fish that appear with the current found at The Elbow. Awesome, don't fight it, ride it!

Diving in Belize, Turneffe North: Black Coral Wall & Amber Head

The Best diving at Belize Turneffe North.


Special Edition- This is how we roll with our San Pedro Crew Captained by Tony Lara~~ Featuring Guest Divers Joe Rich, Carson Rich, Chowder, Carson Black and Eric Thomas~~ Day Trip from San Pedro Exploring Turneffe Atoll- 3 Dives and visit to Jack Sparrow Fish Camp for Surface Interval BBQ cook out.


Special Edition featuring Guest Divers Joe Rich, Carson Rich, Chowder, Carson Black and Eric Thomas~~ Day Trip from San Pedro Exploring Turneffe Atoll- 3 Dives and here's a look at our surface interval visit to Jack Sparrow Camp"Private Island" for a cook out.

Marty #508962 11/08/15 05:23 AM
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Had the great pleasure to explore Turneffe with Sylvia, listen as she speaks about Turneffe Atoll , July 2013. Watch her documentary on Netflix Mission Blue

Marty #521699 02/17/17 12:23 AM
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Diving the Turneffe Atoll in Belize with Turneffe Flats

Please enjoy some of my favorite captures while diving the Turneffe Atoll in Belize with Turneffe Flats.

Marty #535567 03/26/19 11:18 AM
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How could climate change affect Turneffe Atoll?

Climate change is already affecting the world, some areas have seen a greater impact than others. Some examples are stronger storms, rise in sea level due to rising sea temperatures, and melting of glaciers. Love news spoke with Executive Director, Valdemar Andrade of the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), who said that they are currently conducting research to determine how climate change is affecting the Turneffe Atoll.

More on LOVEFM

Marty #535573 03/27/19 05:46 AM
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Turneffe, Challenges Aplenty

Last night, we showed you small snippet of our story on this weekend's trip that the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association organized for the press.

They are trying to show the general public what they do as co-managers of Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve to try and preserve this marine protected area from overfishing and the pollution sometimes associated with cruise tourism.

It was a 2-day trip, and, today, we finally had time to fully unpack the event. Here's that full story now:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
On Friday morning, journalists from various media houses departed from the Princess Pier in Belize City, same as if they were reporting for a shift as one of TASA's rangers.

After the short journey by boat to the Reserve, the co-managers wasted no time, and launched into a briefing on the reasons for the trip, who they are, and what they do.

Valdemar Andrade - Executive Director, TASA
"The Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association is basically an association made up of the stakeholders of Turneffe. And so, our membership is made up of fishers, which includes the Belize Federation of Fishers, the Belize Fishers Cooperative Association, the University of Belize who have a research station here, the private sector, the tourism industry, the Belize Tourism Board, the Fisheries Department, and we also have a person with natural resources background on the board as well. So, those are the members of TASA. Those people are the ones who make a decision on what management we implement here."

"Turneffe is the largest Marine Reserve in Belize. We're talking about a reserve that's 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, and so, our main mandate is the conserve Turneffe."

"85% of the area you can fish, under certain regulations. We have certain conservation zones, which you can only fish certain species. We have some complete no-take zones, which includes a manatee preservation area."

So, to best utilize their financial resources for enforcement activities, TASA has set up 3 strategic locations within the Turneffe Atoll, which provides quick response capabilities.

Valdemar Andrade
"We have 3 conservation posts at key locations where the pressure points are for the reserve. We have one at Mauger Caye, which is at the far north of Turneffe, where we have a conch conservation site, and also a spawning aggregation site. We have this central here at Calabash, which is a central area we can deploy both north and south to be able to cover the entire reserve And, we have one at Caye Bokel, which is way at the south at the Caye Bokel Conservation point, which is also a pressure point for us. That's also a spawning aggregation site, a multi species fin-fish spawning aggregation site."

TASA says that they work closely with the Coast Guard and the Fisheries Department to police the reserve against illegal and harmful fishing practices.

Valdemar Andrade
"The difference Between marine protected areas and terrestrial protected areas is that under the Fisheries Act, our officers are official fisheries officers. The Minister gives them that ability. So, we send a list to fisheries. Fisheries sends that list up to the Ministry. The Minister basically passes that official rights on to them. So, they are able to warn, issue summons, prosecute and build case files, and then Fisheries prosecutes on our behalf."

"Both of us, Fisheries and TASA sit on the Maritime Security Committee, because out here, it's not only about fishing. You all know that other activities happen out here as well. I can tell you that Coast Guard is on about 75% of our patrols. So, if you'll see, most of the pictures you see of us on patrol, you will see a Coast Guard [officer] because we don't carry weapons, but they do, the same thing with fisheries. Fisheries also carries weapons."

Hampton Gamboa - Fisheries Compliance Officer
"Enforcement itself is a team effort. It's something that you try to do a lot of joint operations, and collaborations with other agencies. Because, as police would always tell you, enforcement is expensive. And of course, we being the government entity, we basically are running on fumes."

Lt. Junior Grade Noe Hernandez - Commander, Calabash Observation Post
"Our primary role is to do search and rescue, and also that military roll. But also, one of our objectives is to work with our NGO's, our partner neighbors."

"We conduct constant patrols with them, not only to provide security, but also to enforce, 1., fisheries regulations, 2., to deter any illegal activities, and to conduct proper board and search on any suspected vessel in the EOR."

Valdemar Andrade - Executive Director, TASA
"Out here, you have to work in true partnership to survive."

So, how do the TASA rangers work to reduce illegal activities at Turneffe? Well, they conduct joint boat patrols, informed by intelligence on where the highest level of illegal activities are take place.

Valdemar Andrade
"The main thing is sustainability. You look at our fuel cost. We're probably spending around $75,000 a year in fuel, to do 25.5 patrols days for the month."

To reduce their operational costs, TASA rangers employ technology that has become standard in the conservation community. They fly drones for reconnaissance, and they use the Spatial Management and Reporting Tool or SMART technologies in the field to record all their enforcement information for every search that they conduct on fishermen they encounter inside the reserve.

Jayron Young - Chief Conservation Officer, TASA
"The system works in 2 ways. You have an app that collects the information. It's usually via a device. We have CT5's that we use to collect these information. The information is collected on an app called cyber tracker. It has forms that collect information on the vessel being used, the team going out, the time, any patrols of port, any information we collect in terms of fishers encountered, their license, what product they had, what was the state of the product, where we found them."

"Whenever we get through with the day, we bring the devices back. We download the data to the laptop, into the SMART sim, which is the actual system that manages the data."

The data is almost real-time in that, it runs on a server that is hosted outside of Belize. So, whenever we come back, we synchronize that. The information goes up to the server. Whatever device has that SMART System, as soon as they synchronize, that information is available to everyone right away.

Valdemar Andrade
"With that, we know how much hours each officer spends on the water, how many patrols they do for the month, because that's also a deliverable on their job description. We know how many arrests they have made, how many case files they've created, and we also know where they are collecting data."

But, for TASA, it's not always about being the stern, no-nonsense guardians of the Turneffe Atoll. They also engage in public education campaigns in the hopes that the fisher-folk they encounter in the marine reserve will not need to be prosecuted because they are following the rules:

Valdemar Andrade
"The other challenges are the pressures from the fishers that use the area, the people who do illegal activities, because they actually off-set what fishers who are doing legal activities do. And so, we have to look at how do we educate those - and also, in some cases, how do we ween out people who are doing these practices over and over again."

"Our main users are Chunox, Copperbank, Sarteneja, and so they are communities that are not close to Turneffe. So, we have to go and do outreach in those communities. We also employ boat to boat, where we go and share information with them boat to boat."

Of note is that while TASA, Coast Guard, and Fisheries were out on joint patrol with the press, they encountered 2 minors who were engaging in illegal fishing practices in the marine reserve. Those persons will now be facing charges, and their parents will have to show up with them to court to answer to the offenses.

Channel 7

The Importance of Turneff Atoll, TASA

News Five joined other members of the media on an overnight trip to Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, the largest marine reserve in this part of the world. The visit one of the most spectacular sites under protection was coordinated by the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, an N.G.O. formed in 2013 with the aim to promote sustainability and conservation as it relates to the reserve. News Five's Hipolito Novelo was on the trip and files the following report.

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Located some twenty miles off the coast of Belize, Turneffe Atoll is the 'largest and most biologically diverse marine reserve in the Western Hemisphere. The reserve is thirty miles in length and ten miles in breadth. It encompasses lagoons and creeks which run through more than one hundred and fifty mangrove islands and several cayes.

Valdemar Andrade, Executive Director, T.A.S.A.

"Out here we have a myriad of wildlife, whether it includes the American saltwater crocodile, manatees, dolphins, turtles, a high conch population, a high lobster population, finfish of all species."�

Valdemar Andrade is the Executive Director of Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, TASA, a non-governmental association formed in 2013. TASA's primary purpose is to work with stakeholders to promote the sustainable use and conservation of the marine reserve. TASA is guided by the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve Management Plan which focuses on natural resource management, data collection, outreach, and education initiatives and infrastructure.

Valdemar Andrade

"Turneffe is a marine reserve so it is a fisheries management tool. So our main mandate is to work with the stakeholders to ensure their sustainability. So we can see how they can continue to make their living off Turneffe, whether it is the seven hundred and six fishers, the resorts that work out here and about six to eight tourism operations from Caye Caulker, San Pedro, Belize City that come out here on a regular basis."

And in order to sustain the reserve's marine biodiversity without negatively impacting the livelihoods of some seven hundred plus fishers, fisheries regulations are being implemented and enforced.

Valdemar Andrade

"So we work with them on harvest rules, how they participate out there. Eighty-five percent of the area you can fish and there are certain regulations. We have certain conservation zones in which you can only fish certain species. We have some complete no-take zone which includes a manatee preservation area. We look at what harvest rules they use, what kind of gear types that they use, how much of it they deploy and where they deploy them. We also work with them on best practices and how they actually do their fishing or tourism. We prepare guideless for the developers so that they understand that you can develop but kind of guidelines you use for the marine reserve."

Consistent networking between TASA, the Belize Coast Guard and Fisheries Department is key for the N.G.O. to carry out its mandate, especially where enforcement is concerned. Marine rangers conduct daily patrol, at least twenty-five patrols per month.

Jayron Young, Chief Conservation Officer, T.A.S.A.

"When we do patrol we look out for fisheries enforcement the users of the atoll, ensuring that they are following the rules and regulations as well as for developments going on on the atoll. "How we manage that is by using the three key strategic locations that we have bases on the atoll. So we have a base on Mauger Caye, one at Calabash and one at Caye Bokel. So each base has a jurisdiction that they are allowed to patrol."

News Five joined the coast guard officials, fisheries officers and TASA rangers on patrol. We encountered several vessels with fishermen primarily from northern villages such as Copper Bank and Chunox. In one vessel, the older fishermen were hiding two minors, relatives of theirs. The discovery was made after a TASA officer realized that there was an extra bucket filled with clothes which belonged to none of the fishermen who had identified themselves. The two boys, one age fifteen and the other seventeen, revealed themselves. The captain is seen worrying because having a minor on board a vessel licensed for commercial fishing is an offense.

Hampton Gamboa, Compliance Officer, Belize Fisheries Department

"By law we are not allowed to license anyone under the age of eighteen. The two minors which we encountered yesterday, of course, we had to document the first and foremost as it relates to the age, their names and do the basic data gathering from them. It is illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen to be engaged in commercial fishing of course without a valid license because we don't issue a license to them. In this case what we will be doing moving forward is that we have to, in order to prosecute the kids we have to take them to juvenile court. There is a lot of red tapes because, for one of the kids, both his mom and his dad are no longer in his life. The one who is seventeen, we have met him on a number of occasions before. One thing I can tell you is that the captain will be charged for aiding and abetting charges for the kids."

The captain is facing charges for employing an individual without a valid fisherfolk license. The minors were escorted back to Belize City. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

Channel 5

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