EPIC EXCURSIONS: Lighthouse Reef

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Lighthouse Reef  — a small atoll 70km from mainland — hosts many dive sites but perhaps the most awe-inspiring in the famous Blue Hole: a collapsed cave risen from the ocean’s floor, leaving a deep geological mystery bursting with aquatic wildlife.

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A geological mystery

Other sites include Silver Caves. Long Caye Wall, Coral Gardens and the aptly named Oasis —where huge black coral sponges grow from vertical cliffs.

The trip begins in early morning (Tuesday) after a hearty breakfast. First Blackbird will transport guests out to Turneffe Atoll, the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Western Hemisphere.  After diving/snorkelling the wonders of Turneffe, guests are whisked off to Light House Reef Atoll.

The Blue Hole — one of the top ten dive sites in the world — lies near the center of the Lighthouse Reef. The hole is circular in shape, over 984 ft (300 meters) across and 407 feet (124 meters) deep and has been declared one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world!

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Caribbean reef shark

Scuba divers are lured by the opportunity to dive in the crystal-clear water meet several species of fish, including Midnight Parrotfish, Caribbean reef shark, and other juvenile fish species.

Other species of sharks, such as the bull shark and hammerheads, have been reported there, but are not regularly sighted.

Check out the Blackbird website for more information: http://blackbirdresort.com/

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CREATURE FEATURE: American Crocodile

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5 things we can do to help the endangered American Crocodile.

The American Crocodile was officially discovered and documented in 1807 and named Crocodylus acutus. However, many thought the species to be an alligator — after much deliberation it was finally categorized as a crocodile 1822.

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Off the endangered species list

Although the American Crocodile was officially taken off of the endangered list in 2007, and downgraded to a “threatened” species, it remains protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  Therefore, it is still illegal to “harass, poach or kill” them.

For those of you with a passion for conservationism, ask the people in charge of the Belize resort that you are staying at to direct you to a local chapter of organizations listed below, that are dedicated to helping the American Crocodile remain off of the endangered list.

The crocodiles are in their element within Turneffe Atoll’s thick foliage. As the largest atoll in the western hemisphere, Turneffe comprises nearly 150 islands and is covered in the largest mangrove system in Belize — perfect for the American crocodile.

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Adopt your own Croc

Below, are some exciting activities you can participate in, in order to help this animal while you are in Belize.

1.   Sponsor a crocodile:  By sending a donation of as little as $10/month, you will be helping a rescued, injured and/or abused American Crocodile with first-class vet care such as food, vitamins and medical follow-ups, as well as the maintenance of its natural habitat.
2.   “Adopt-A-Croc”:  For as little as $100 yearly, you are able to adopt your own American Crocodile. You will receive your personalized Adoption Certificate in conjunction with quarterly updates regarding the progress of your crocodile.  You will automatically receive the title of “Croc-Crusader” and receive email updates concerning the latest research available and being conducted, plus information related to your “child”.
3.   The “Rouge-Croc “Benefactor:  Your donation of 5K, or more will provide you with the opportunity to have a habitats/sanctuaries named after you, with your name denoted on a plaque.  Also, you will get to enjoy your very own “Croc Day”, where you may take family and friends for them to become familiarized with the work being performed within your habitat.  For additional benefits refer to ACES, below.
4.   Immediately report to the local authorities anyone that you come across poaching an animal, or if you come across a dead crocodile
5.   Immediately report to the local authorities anyone you come across that is selling the skull, teeth or any other parts of an American Crocodile.

Lastly, you may contact any of the organizations, listed below, to donate money.  Note that all financial donations are tax deductible.

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Known as the Crocodylus acutus

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI):

A Florida-based non-profit organization, which is primarily involved with the conservation and assistance of the American Crocodile in Florida.  Contact them and find out how you may help out American Crocodiles in Belize. http://myfwc.com

Belize Wildlife Conservation Network (BWNC):

This organization assists in the rehabilitation of crocodiles and release of the American Crocodile which have been harmed, hurt or mistreated, as well as with other animals.  It is a non-profit organization which is able to do great work with financial support via membership fees, sponsorships, grants and fundraisings. http://www.wildlifebelize.com

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EPIC EXCURSIONS: Half Moon Caye Natural Monument

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Halfmoon Caye Natural Monument is an island within the Lighthouse Reef Atoll system, 13 miles (20 km) east of Turneffe Atoll and therefore incredibly isolated.

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The most diverse atoll

Before reaching Halfmoon Caye, Blackbird guests will be able to experience the wonders of Turneffe Atoll — the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the western hemisphere.

The trip begins in early morning (Tuesday) after a hearty breakfast. First Blackbird will transport guests out to Turneffe Atoll. After diving/snorkelling the wonders of this site, which was officially declared a marine reserve in 2012 by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, guests are whisked off to Light House Reef Atoll.

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 Halfmoon Caye and The Blue Hole have ever been on your bucket list, we can take you there.

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Shallow and deep waters

Half Moon Caye Natural Monument was made part of the Crown Reserve in 1928, making it the Belize’s oldest protected wildlife site.

The island is completely isolated — miles from the nearest land — and sits just 4.5 miles (7 km) of reef bursting with marine life.

Because there are both shallow and deep waters, it is possible to snorkel and dive.

Different species of fish reside within varying depths of water so either way, there is a plethora of underwater wildlife to view.

After experiencing Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, Blackbird takes guests to The Blue Hole — one of the top ten dives sites in the world.

A mysterious underwater structure plummeting depths of up to 410 ft (124 meters) lying approximately 60 miles (96 km) off the coast of Belize

Book a holiday now with finest dive resorts in Belize: Blackbird Caye Resort

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TURNEFFE ATOLL SYSTEM: 5 Facts

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5 interesting facts about Turneffe Atoll system.

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The largest atoll in Belize

The Turneffe Atoll is located just over 24 miles (39 km) east of Belize City and is surrounded by intensely coloured waters, which glisten vivid blue, green and turquoise. An atoll is a ring-shaped reef, island or chain of islands formed of coral.

There are only four atolls in the Caribbean and Turneffe is the largest and most biologically diverse of these. In total it comprises of nearly 150 islands covered in the largest mangrove system in Belize. In addition to mangroves, the islands posses large areas of tropical savannas and forest.

At approximately 30 miles (48 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide it is the largest atoll in Belize. Turneffe Atoll is made up of a series of mangrove islands, cays, lagoons and lush grassland marine robes — all of which are surrounded and protected by a ring of vibrant and unique coral species.

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Surrounded by wildlife

The atoll was officially declared a marine reserve in 2013 by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development.

It is the most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere. The islands  — some of which are larger than 2020 hectares (5,000 acres) — are covered by more than 77 different varieties of vegetation. Interspersed with lagoons, mangrove forests cover almost all low-lying areas of the atoll.

Turneffe Atoll’s reef 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.

Belize’s largest American saltwater crocodile population also resides within the atoll, approximately 200-300 individuals. It is also the only offshore stretch of water designated for the endangered Antillean manatee.

Giant marine toads, green tree snakes and other reptiles and amphibians use the littoral forests and brackish lagoons at their home.

Blackbird Caye Resort can take you there. Check out the website for more information: http://blackbirdresort.com/

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