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May 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Turneffe Island Resort, Belize

concierge diving on a remote private island

from the May, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

The Oceanic Society claims Turneffe Atoll "is the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere." Tiny (20 room) Turneffe Island Resort sits on the atoll's southern end, on its own 16-acre sandy island. I arrived by resort boat just before dinner, and thanks to a nicely spiked rum punch made by Jorge, the affable resort bartender, I survived the choppy boat ride with a mild buzz.

The pot of complementary coffee quietly set outside my cabin revved me up the next morning. As a coffee lover, I requested strong coffee. My insulated carafe was labeled "strong coffee" and indeed contained it. But only minutes into my 9 a.m. checkout dive the next day, I felt more of a buzz, as in, "What the . . .?"

The Dive Shop at Turneffe Island ResortUnusually bright white, icicle-like fingers poked up from the substrate -- "stalagmites" with a tightly latticed surface. (My marine life mentor told me after the trip that it was a "white cone sponge" and "not in the book.") Ten minutes later, divemaster Marcel was letting a fearless little neck crab crawl over the back of his hand. On the rest of the dive, typical reef fish like queen angels, stoplight parrotfish, mutton snapper and squirrelfish were also easy to spot, though in somewhat sparse numbers (a puzzling exception was small sharp-nose puffers). Toward the end of the dive, a roughhead blenny posed for a macro shot. Except for my night dive, all were very mild drifts. Throughout the week, my divemaster was friendly Marcel McNab, a Belizean whose Gallic name set the mind on a journey of its own. After each dive, Marcel noted our depth and dive times. Our panga was driven by a Belizean whose English name was equally intriguing: Burley Bradley Garbutt. Both were family men in their 40s whose wives helped run the resort's kitchen. On my afternoon dive, Marcel offered a speared lionfish to a big green moray when a second large moray suddenly appeared. Instead of fighting for the fish, the two nuzzled, almost mugging for the camera like a pair of green goof-offs before one undulated away along the sandy bottom. Their antics had us all shaking our heads.

Our boat was the Osprey, a 25-foot open boat driven by a V6 200hp Yamaha four-stroke. A radio and safety gear were on board. She could hold 12 tanks but we never had more than five divers. I backrolled in, but the stern boarding ladder could not support me fully geared. Both Brad and Marcel carefully handled my bulky camera rig as coached, without a trace of a "we know, we know" attitude. I removed all my gear except my mask before boarding; Brad did the heavy lifting. This required timing when the winds whipped up two- and three-footers. Dive sites were only 5 to 15 minutes away. We returned to the resort to spend surface intervals to rinse off and use the bathroom. My camera was usually the only one soaking in the freshwater rinse tank. Reverse-osmosis-purified water throughout the resort was crystal clear, potable from all taps....

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