MESO-AMERICA REEF SYSTEM (MARS): Little Cousin

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The Great Barrier Reef’s little cousin, differences and similarities between the two.

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Over 2,900 individual reefs

The Mesoamerican Reef region lies within the Caribbean Sea and spans the coasts of Mexico, Belize Guatamala and Honduras. It is the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, stretching almost 700 miles (1125 km) from the northern point of Yucatan Peninsula right through to the Honduran Bay Islands — not to mention spanning Belize on its way.

The Great Barrier Reef is also known for its size — it is the largest coral reef system in the world made up of over 2,900 individual reefs. Like the Mesoamerican Reef’s famous Blue Hole, one of the top ten dive sites on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef can be viewed from outer space.

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Stretching almost 700 miles

Both reefs house a breathtaking array of wildlife and coral and organisations are working hard in the western and southern hemispheres to make sure these are protected against human activity. Many fish from the Mesoamerican and Great Barrier Reef are on the protected species list.

Given that the reefs support so much life and diversity, both have been made World Heritage Sites. Thousands of tourists therefore visit the sites every year to dive and snorkel amongst the awe-inspiring wildlife.

The Mesoamerican Reef is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusc and more than 500 species of fish. The Great Barrier Reef is made up of more than 400 species of coral and more than 1,500 species of fish.

No wonder the Mesoamerican Reef is called the Great Barrier Reef’s little cousin. Check out the Blackbird website for more information about dive sites in the region: http://blackbirdresort.com/

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EPIC EXCURSIONS: The Elbow

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The largest and most diverse atoll

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.

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.

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

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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

“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

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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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