EPIC EXCURSIONS: The Elbow

by mikfein

Located at the southernmost point of Turneffe Atoll, The Elbow is regarded by many as one of the most diverse and exciting diving spots in the region.

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The largest and most diverse atoll

Turneffe Atoll — the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the western hemisphere — supports a wide range of diverse aquatic species such as the endemic white spotted toadfish and the white lined toadfish. Plentiful sponges and corals provide feeding grounds to endangered animals including the green sea turtle

Due to the location of The Elbow, several strong currents merge from both sides of Turneffe Atoll and meet at a precise location — attracting a huge array of aquatic wildlife, including massive schools of snapper, jacks, mackerels and eagle rays.

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Glowing range of colours

Divers are therefore able to swim right into the heart of these schools, becoming completely surrounded by thousands of glistening fish. Barracuda are also attracted to these waters. Their hunting technique is fascinating to observe as the predator lies in wait, suspended in the water before disappearing like a torpedo towards unsuspecting pray.

Sharks are also known to frequent The Elbos but don’t worry — fish are so abundant here divers are not on the menu. Other incredibly large species include the Goliath Grouper, which can grow up to 9 ft (3 meters) in length and weigh as much as 800 pounds (360 kg). These particular fish are no illegal to catch, due to overfishing in the past, and have been placed on the “critically endangered species” list.

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A divers paradise

The coral at The Elbow is also awe-inspiring. Gorgonians, a distant cousin of coral, can also be found at the site. These leafless, tree-like underwater bushes sway majestically with the current and as a result are also known as “sea fans” — glowing a range of colours from purple, red and yellow.

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Diving at Blackbird

by mikfein

Is the diving really that good at Blackbird?

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“The best vacation we ever had”

For those of you locked up in your office today, here is something to brighten your spirits, consider a trip the ecologically stunning turneffe atoll, the home of Blackbird Caye Resort.

Thinking about booking a holiday with Blackbird Caye Resort? Look no further than the positive reviews we have received on Tripadvisor:

“What a wonderful, different vacation this was for us. We had a smooth travel day flying into Belize and it was easy to find the guide who took us to the dock. Pleasant boat ride over to the island. This place is just gorgeous ~ very different trip from what we’re used to, but a good different.” — ketml

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A vacation to remember

‘Blackbird Caye Resort is the best vacation we have ever had. The dive masters and the absolute best, they can and are more than willing to answer any and all questions, offer tips to make your diving more enjoyable, nice and so fun.” — dogynini

“This was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken!. My new husband and I made our visit to Blackbird Caye the second part of our honeymoon and it exceeded all expectations.” — Nancy_Jan_McMillan

“It is more than the beauty and appeal of being so remote. The energy is amazing. This place is rustic and has a small capacity. Between the proximity of the dives and snorkelling, and the moonlight on the sea it is unforgettable. It is an experience, not just a vacation.” — Tripadvisor Member

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Hows the service?

“My husband and I spent 4 days at Blackbird and could not have asked for anything beyond what we experienced. The dive staff were very professional and we had the best dive experience of our lives…” — SusanB

 

 

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THROWBACK THURSDAYS: Blue Hole from space

by mikfein

Did you know you can see the Blue Hole from space? 5 facts on how this extraordinary geological anomaly was formed.

The Blue Hole is an incredible natural phenomenon and hosts an unparalleled array of fish and coral species. Viewable from space, the structure glows vividly like a turquoise pupil standing alone in the ocean.

Depths plummet 400ft
Depths plummet 400ft

Words cannot even begin to describe the structure’s diverse marine wildlife and divers are able to see all manner of creatures from hammerhead sharks to parrot fish. The coral and stalactites that cling to the walls of the hole merge to create a rich tapestry of bold and brilliant colours.

Here are a few facts that will make you want to pay the famous landmark a visit:

It is housed in the Mesoamerican Reef System — the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere — and located within the Lighthouse Atoll, 43 miles (70 km) off the coast of Belize. It is one of the world’s top ten dive sites as chosen by the great underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

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Largest natural formation

Formed as a limestone cave in the last Ice Age, the unique structure is thought to be over 153, 000 years old. This means that some of the very bases of the stalactites and stalagmites are hundreds of thousands of years old!

The Blue Hole is almost perfectly circular and her width reaches 1000 feet (300 meters) across and her depths plummet 400ft (120 meters) deep. She is the largest natural formation of this kind on our planet.

There are 11 underwater caves dotted around the circumference of the Blue Hole, each varying in size and in depth, and house some unbelievable formations within such as stalactites and stalagmites.

At The Blue Hole we take divers to a maximum depth 130 feet (40 meters) for around eight minutes — although the entire dive takes approximately half and hour. However, if there is a good deal of shark activity (which there usually is) — including bull sharks and Caribbean reef sharks — we will stay under for longer, so that guests catch a good glimpse of the underwater predators.

Over 500 rare forms of bacteria and plant life frequent the area that are found nowhere else in the world. You should also ask your tour guide about the Rattail fish found in 2011 when you are diving in Belize.

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Take a blue hole adventure

It is difficult to reach unless you possess a very fast speedboat and the local knowledge needed to navigate the seas. Luckily Blackbird has both in spades, so if diving the Blue Hole has ever been on your bucket list, we can take you there.

The Blue Hole Adventure Day leaves every Tuesday and costs US$200 + $40 (Marine Reserve Fee). A minimum of six people is required. Here at Blackbird, you won’t find a more safety conscious dive crew — as a remote resort our standards are incredibly high. We always go one step further to ensure your safety.

Training for the dive takes place on the Monday before to make sure you are fully prepared for the adventure that awaits. Check out the website for further information about

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CREATURE FEATURE: Barracuda … more than just a catchy 70s tune

by Blackbird Resort

“You lying so low in the weeds, I bet you gonna ambush me.” — as sung by Heart in the 70s hit “Barracuda.” And this is exactly how barracuda’s hunt for their prey, using stealth and speed.
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Barracudas are long, lean hunting machines with sleek bodies that allow them to slice through the water at high speeds (40mph), puncturing schools of unaware fish.

Turneffe Atoll — the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Western Hemisphere — is packed tight with the largest mangrove system in Belize, ideal for barracuda. The thick underwater fauna acts as a feeding ground for other wildlife, unawares of the barracuda’s presence.

Of the 27 varieties of barracudas there is one that stands out above the rest — the Great Barracuda, which can grow up to almost 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and weigh as much as 83 pounds (37 kg).

Add to this a jaw full of teeth that cut like razor blades and you have a fish that is highly evolved to rule the underwater depths. The fish has been around and honing its skills for some 50 million years.
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Strangely, humans have been known to fall ill after eating barracuda, people often become ill from ciguatera fish poisoning, perhaps because the reef fish that barracudas eat themselves consume algae that may contain high levels of the toxin.

Barracudas feed on an array of fish such as groupers, small tunas and grunts. They tend to be solitary but have been fond hunting in small groups and are common in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, not to mention large parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

The waters of Belize and particularly Turneffe Atoll are therefore a vital habitat for the barracuda and subsequently one of the best places to see the torpedo-like fish. Check out the website: http://www.blackbirdresort.com

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EPIC EXCURSIONS: Blue Hole (Lighthouse Reef Atoll)

by Blackbird Resort

Blackbird offers one of the most exciting dive excursions in the world – the famous Blue Hole Adventure Day. Departing every Tuesday, this visually stunning – below and above the water – adventure takes dive adventurers to some of the most spectacular underwater destinations on the planet: The Blue Hole, Half Moon Wall and The Aquarium.
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Operating from within Turneffe Atoll, located 24 miles (38 km) east of Belize City, Blackbird Caye Resort is situated only one and a half hours by boat from The Blue Hole, which means our guests are able to leave at 8am from Blackbird Resort and by 9:30am be in the water — that’s fast

In 1971 Jacques Cousteau, a famous undersea explorer, dubbed the Blue Hole as one of the world’s top ten scuba diving sites. This has caused the structure to become very popular among diving enthusiasts. Cousteau was famous for helping invent the first aqua-lung device that allowed humans to stay underwater for long periods of time. He also explored all five of Earth’s oceans for over thirty years.

We take divers to a max depth of 130 feet (40 meters) for around eight minutes to view an astonishing array of marine wildlife and coral in the clearest of waters. The entire dive takes roughly half an hour. Snorkelers are also able to explore the rim of the Blue Hole and will often see grey sharks up to 50 feet (16 meters) below.
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Half Moon Caye — an island within the Lighthouse Reef Atoll system — is the second stop. The trip is breath-taking as the boat glides over 10 ft (3 meters) of crystal-clear turquoise waters — in the middle of the ocean. You will catch a glimpse of the red-footed boobie — a rare bird that resides on the atoll, the largest nesting site in the world.

Not only is it a World Heritage Site, but the reef hosts a wide range of rare and endangered coral and fish species. Sharks of all shapes and sizes flock from far and wide to feed at this site. Eagle rays and turtles also frequent the area.

A barbeque also awaits hungry divers and snorkelers, lovingly prepared by our very own chef. Chicken, burgers, fruits and vegetables are slowly grilled to make sure you don’t go hungry following your underwater exploration. It’s not your usual packed lunch, everything is cooked on the island using wood and coal fire grill. Our secret Caribbean marinade is second to none.

After a mouth-watering feast, the third dive site awaits: The Aquarium. The dive site is located within the Lighthouse Atoll and lives true to its name: the area is bursting with aquatic life with an abundance of schooling fish from School Master Snappers, Creole Wrasse, Queen Angelfish, Banded Butterflyfish and Honeycomb Trunkfish.

Renowned for its crystal clear waters — with visibility up to 80 ft (24 meters) — the site plummets to depths of up to 50 feet (15 meters). The Aquarium is reachable by boat, 13 miles east of Turneffe Atoll, to the northeastern corner of Long Caye.
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Here at Blackbird, you won’t find a more safety conscious dive crew — as a remote resort our standards are incredibly high. We always go one step further to ensure your safety.

Large groups are welcome — the most people accommodated on one trip was 33, on top of nine crew.

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