Author: Cindy M
Date of Trip: April 2008
This trip to Belize was definitely going to be different. As a diver, I am always listening for different, new offerings in this arena. One of my dive friends mentioned that the whale shark migration was something to look out for while in Belize. After quite a bit of research, I discovered that Placencia is the place to be for whale shark diving.
I flew into Belize City and caught a Maya Air flight to Placencia. The geography you can see from the plane is fascinating–from orange groves to shrimp farms. Placencia is south of Belize City and way different. I began to try and locate accommodations, as well as a scarce spot on a dive boat.
Dianni’s is very nice and clean. Cannot over emphasize the importance of clean. Be sure to book way ahead. Whale shark season is a huge deal here. There are more expensive accommodations, but this is right in town and accessible by taxi to get you to and from the airport. Many places are on the “boardwalk”–a small sidewalk which is great for walking, but not toting tons of dive gear.
I dove with Sea Horse Diving. I did one day of reef diving and one day of whale shark diving. The reef diving was typical Belize. Pristine reefs, sponges, fantastic fish.
Let me just say that I knew nothing about whale shark diving. Just heard that it was a neat thing to do. Here is the skinny. Find the full moon at the end of April. The caberra snapper migrate two days before the full moon and ten days after–a total of 13 dive days. The whale shark likes to hang around with the snapper.
Due to my husband’s fishing schedule, my whale shark dive was the very first “dive day” of the season. There are two dive shops that have licenses to operate whale shark dives. Each boat can have a maximum of 12 divers. The day I went out, Sea Horse took three boats. Two with divers/snorkelers and one with lunch and equipment. The divemaster’s first words of orientation were that this was going to be unlike any other dive any of us had ever done.
Well said. Using fish finding equipment, the captain found the gagillions of caberra snapper. By the time we got in the water (many slow divers) we had to swim like crazy to catch up with the snapper. The max depth for the diver is 80 feet to give the snapper some breathing room. The snapper were probably at about 110 or so feet. Ever watchful for the whale shark, two dolphin swam right by! Very fast. Later two bull sharks were spotted among the snapper. End of dive and time for lunch. We had an excellent lunch of “Stew Chicken”, rice and beans, and fresh vegetables. After an appropriate surface interval, back to the whale shark.
It took a while for the captain to find the snapper, but the divers were quicker and fewer for the 2nd dive. We found that the snapper had gone quite a bit deeper–probably to about 130 or so. One bull shark showed himself, but that was it.
I spoke to quite a few folks over the next two weeks and everyone who went AFTER the full moon saw a whale shark. I will incorporate this into my plans for next year.
Placencia is a beautiful little village, but growing quickly. There are many nice restaurants (Wendy’s, Gloria’s, Purple Space Monkey (not kidding)), really good bars (one on the ocean that has really cold Belikan on draft), and of course diving. My husband fished and had a great time, catching bone and permit.
Our party left Placencia, again via Maya Air for Belize City. Our destination was Municipal Airport, rather than International. We grabbed a cab to the Princess Hotel dock to meet the folks going with us on our adventure. The next destination of our trip was Turneffe Flats. (tflats.com) This is a fantastic place that offers unbelievable fishing, diving, and adventuring. Of course, my husband chose the fishing option. Again, the diving is pristine.
One of the things that makes Turneffe Flats extra special is the fact that you do not touch your dive gear after the first morning. No changing tanks. Nothing. They even have Nitrox! Everyday, there are three dives, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. The lunches on the boat are incredible. Fresh fruit, cookies, real lemonade.
The dive sites are all on the Turneffe Atoll. One day is spent at the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye. Again, untouched reefs and sponges, incredible fish. This trip, one of my friends took the Discovery Scuba class and we were able to dive together. On this dive, we saw an incredible spotted drum, a huge stone crab, many rays. Just unbelievable. The dive instructor was fantastic.
Another great dive site is called the Aquarium. The fish that are there are great. Sergeant Majors, angels of every type, grunts, permit, conch, spiny lobster.
Usually the dive boat arrives back at the dock around 4 or 4:30, giving ample time to clean up and get ready for appetizers at 6:15. The food at TFlats is incredible. Everything is homemade. Bread, rolls, you name it. And I haven’t even talked about desserts or the always full cookie jar in the dining room.
The accommodations are great. Large rooms, comfy beds, great porches to watch the ocean. Some incredible sunsets and sunrises. They have their own desalination plant, so fresh water is always available and tastes great. The reef area in front of the cottages is teeming with life. From conch to brittle stars to barracuda.
Sound like something you want to check out? It is a bit of heaven.
From TFlats, it was back to Belize City and home. I dive a lot and have yet to find anything that tops Belize.