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June 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 37, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Itza Resort: Lighthouse Reef, Belize

fine diving at the end of the Maya World

from the June, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Reader:

I'm always searching for small, isolated places with healthy reefs, as I found six years ago at Itza Resort on Long Caye, 50 miles off the Belize Coast, at Lighthouse Reef (see April 2016 Undercurrent). So I returned in February, eager to see if it was still a pleasant place with good fishy reefs.

The bar and restaurant at Itza ResortAt the edge of the world's second-longest barrier reef, Itza picks up guests in Belize City on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the long boat ride out, the comfort of which depends upon the weather. In my case, the seas were calm, and two hours later, the resort staff handed me a drink and led me to the same comfortable second-floor ocean view room I had previously.

I had made reservations for myself and six other friends several weeks before our trip. As a condition of coming, I wanted the assurance that we would dive together and without others. Elvis Solis, the manager, dive shop owner, guide, and jack of all trades, went one better. Since no one else was scheduled, he said he would take no other guests. We could have the whole place to ourselves. And the first afternoon, when I joined my friends for Elvis' briefing in the comfortable lounge, with sofas, books, and a giant floor map of Lighthouse Reef, he went one further. While our package included 17 dives, we could dive as much as we wanted. I ended up doing sixteen, and only once did our group do four dives.

The next day, the wind and rain made me wonder how many dives I would want to make after we were limited to a 30-foot dive to a protected site as the only dive of the day. While I was happy to get back in the water, this was an ordinary dive at best, with mainly juvenile reef fish and nothing more unique than a saddled blenny and a sharptail eel. I had no way to know whether the diving would measure up to six years ago. Fingers crossed.

The next dive day, fingers uncrossed. After a 10-minute boat ride to Half Moon Caye, we dived Roller Coaster and then Half Moon Caye Wall, both with a good dose of reef sharks and friendly Nassau grouper. At the wall, I passed chubs and schoolmasters hovering under the boat as I descended to the sand. I kicked along the fishy crest down to 75 feet, spooking a turtle. Reef sharks patrolled in the blue, showing off their muscular builds, some shadowed by bar jacks. Husky tiger and black groupers hide in the cracks. After 35 minutes, Elvis motioned us to the reef top to burn off nitrogen and swim with parrots, chalk bass, goldspot and bridled blennies, and barred hamlets. My partner showed me five Peterson shrimp in a corkscrew anemone, and soon, a southern stingray sailed by, chasing garden eels back into their holes, and leaving just their eyeballs showing. A saucer-eye porgy joined a mixed school of striped and spotted goatfish as it was time to head up....

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