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Turneffe Reef Diving Holidays

Turneffe Island Tourist Information

An atoll island at Turneffe, Belize - photo courtesy of Turneffe Flats Resort

Around 450 hundred mangrove covered islands interspersed with creeks and picturesque lagoons make up Belize's largest atoll. Laying just a short boat ride east of Belize City, the islands of Turneffe that make up the atoll are 50 km long and 15 km across with only a few small resorts, each built on their own idyllic palm fringed island (caye).

Away from the crowds and with some of the Caribbean's best diving right on your doorstep, this unspoilt natural paradise is equally stunning both above and below its nutrient rich waters.

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How to Get There

All of our resorts at Turneffe Atoll supply free boat transfers from Belize City. It's a scenic 1 hr 30 minute journey, taking you through one of the cuts in the barrier reef and close to some of the cayes before meandering your way along the mangrove lined creeks to your resort. There is a small airstrip and Blackbird Caye Resort can arrange private air charters from Belize City.

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Sightseeing and Adventure

Along with superb diving at Turneffe Island, the flats fishing is well known amongst the angling community and the fly fisherman's "Grand Slam" of permit, tarpon and bonefish is regularly achieved here. The catch and release policy still allows you the opportunity of observing them later on the reef, though we doubt they'll be just as happy to see you.

Starfish at Turneffe Atoll - photo courtesy of Blackbird Caye Resort

Kayaking through the creeks and lagoons in the interior of the atoll is a great way to spend the afternoon and you may be fortunate to come across one of the American crocodiles that inhabit this area. But don't try touching them or you may find your gloves don't fit quite so well afterwards.

Bird watchers will have a long list to tick to tick off. Over 60 species have been recorded at Turneffe including ospreys, many species of heron, and the wonderfully named great breasted mango.

If you're not lucky enough to see them on your dives, then take a tour around the atoll looking for bottlenose and spotted dolphins, and the West Indian manatee. These huge, passive creatures, a close relative to the elephant, lumber around the lagoons and creeks searching for fresh sea grass to supply their massive appetite. Occassionally they visit the open water and then you might be lucky to see them whilst snorkelling.

There is an oceanic research station outpost on Blackbird Caye.

Warning: the mangroves are a natural breeding ground for mosquitos and doctor flies; sand flies are prevalent on some of the beaches. Bring plenty of bug lotion/cream in order to avoid being bitten. They are less of an annoyance when the climate is cooler and dryer from November to May.

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Dining Out & Nightlife

Your not going to find clubs or casinos here, so you pretty much have to make your own entertainment. All the resorts have their own bars and high quality restaurants to centre your evening around and maybe meet some like minded new friends.

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If you like to pay with cash, make sure you bring enough with you as there are no ATMs or banks on Turneffe. Most of the resorts will accept payment by credit card but check with us first to make sure.

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Archeological studies indicate that the Mayans inhabited Turneffe by 400 BE, establishing fishing villages here and trading with the mainland. In 1625 Spain charted the atoll and through the 17th century pirates, including Blackbeard, used Turneffe as a hideaway to ambush the Spanish ships and steal their gold and other treasures.

During the late 19th and early 20th century, the atoll was used as a reliable source for the collection of sponges and later became dominated by coconut plantations. This ended only with the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Hattie in 1961.

Commercial lobster catching has taken place on Turneffe since the 1930s, the atoll being one of the primary producers of spiny lobster in Belize. However, in recent years lobster populations have collpased due to overfishing. A similar story has marked the decline of conch populations too, once a staple food for Belizeans.

The good news though is that the whole atoll was declared the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve in November 2012. Now the marine life has been afforded some protection as the reserve is divided into no-take, restricted use and fishing zones.

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If you're keen to experience the rich waters of Turneffe Island Atoll, then click below to check your options now for:

Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! All of the resorts at the islands are quite small and can be fully occupied months in advance.

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