When we dive at Glover’s Reef, the primary species of coral we see are:

280px-Staghorn-coral-1Staghorn Coral: They possess, like all corals, stinging nematocysts, but these can pack a bit of a sting if you touch them. Observed closely, their individual corallites can be seen; each bump on the branch is an individual coral animal.

 

 

Pillar-CoralPillar Coral: This coral is occasional-to-rare in our area. It is also one of the few that actively feeds during daylight hours. You can actually see it tentacles groping for food, which gives it a fuzzy appearance. Individual small colonies can be found in numerous patch reefs near Long Caye by the observant diver. One large colony was once spotted off Northeast Caye between the reef and the wall drop off, in about 30 feet of water.

 

Golfball_coralGolfball Coral: These can be spotted throughout the reefs near Long Caye; they are small, half spheres attached here and there on top of other dead corals. This is a Star Coral, and each corallite is easily distinguished from another.

 

 

 

gillian-douglas-brain-coralBrain Coral: There are many kinds of Brain Coral, and it is rewarding to begin to distinguish between different species. The most common one seen is Symmetrical Brain Coral. Another type often seen but just as often not recognized as a separate species is Grooved Brain Coral. A third, common species, that is very similar but still distinctive enough for the layman to distinguish is Boulder Brain Coral.

 

lettuce coralLettuce Coral: The prominent coral seen off the barrier reef of the atoll, north of Northeast Caye. A beautiful coral.

 

 

 

 

fire coralFire Coral: You should not touch any coral (it’s not good for them), but this one, you definitely do not want to touch it, because it’s not good for you.  Fire coral earned its name for a reason. The sting has been compared to feeling as if an ice pick has just been jabbed into your hand.

 

 

flower coralFlower Coral: This beautiful species has large, widely spaced polyps on long stalks, that appear to originate from a central core. Only found occasionally, sometimes only in groups of 4-5 polyps.

 

 

 

elkhornElkhorn Coral: Prefer shallow areas where wave action causes constant water movement. Branches orient parallel to surge direction. A rapidly growing coral, under optimum conditions can grow 5-6 inches a year.

Do you know which species is the largest fish? Why whale sharks, of course.

You’ll find out many amazing facts like that in a fascinating feature on the Mesoamerican Reef that ran in National Geographic Magazine in October. The article features some awe inspiring images like this one, shot by photographer Brian Skerry, off the coast of the Yucatan, just north of Belize.

Big Fish, Little Fish: Trapped under ice, lost at sea, chased by sharks, photographer Brian Skerry has had more than a few scares in 35 years of catching images of underwater wildlife. Despite appearances to the contrary, this close encounter with a whale shark was quite the opposite. Snorkeling off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, amid some 400 of the world’s biggest fish, Skerry spotted a massive maw coming at him with a remora darting around inside the giant filter feeder. “It’s not something the shark would eat,” notes Skerry of the suckerfish. Neither is he. Nonetheless, he quickly moved out of the way.

Photograph by Brian Skerry

Central America’s Mesoamerican Reef is half the length of its famous Australian counterpart but in many ways more remarkable. If you like coral reefs you’ll love this article.

The print edition of the article carried this wonderful map of the region (not available in the online version.) It highlights the coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea grass beds within the region. Check out where Adventure Island is!

belize-national-geographic

Will the conch season in Belize have to be shortened? Might we need to control the amount of conch that we eat year per year? These are a couple of questions that Belize, including other Caribbean nations, might have to consider as Caribbean ministers will come together to discuss a conch petition for CARICOM during Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2012 in Antigua and Barbuda.

A United States petition submitted this March to list the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) as a threatened or endangered species will be a priority item on the agenda of the upcoming 3rd Special Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).

Over fishing of the Queen Conch might be posing a problem to the survival of the species and such petition could limit our consumption of conch if the animal becomes labeled as threatened and endangered.

The Queen Conch is a delicacy in Belize and its meat is highly demanded in dishes which include ceviche, conch fritters, conch soup, conch chowder, conch burgers, conch steak, conch bits and BBQ conch. Even if it means eating a little less conch for the season, protecting the specie and extending the closed season for it to procreate, might be the best action to take in order for us to enjoy all things conch for years to come.

Have you ever been at the beach and seen people throwing bread in the water? The jetty in Waikiki is a prime spot for fish-feeding. But is fish feeding bad?

Overall yes, fish feeding should be avoided. It is harmful to the fish, the people in the water (whether it be snorkelers, swimmers, or divers), and to the ecosystem.

1. Hand-feeding fish and other marine life promotes a behavior called conditioning, where the animal learns to associate humans with food. And let’s face it, humans do not know how to give fish the right foods. Just like humans, fishes need important amino acids in their diets, of which they can only receive from their natural diet – not bread (or any other food humans give out). A fish’s natural diet is quite complicated and may be seasonal, daily, or temporal. When fish start to anticipate meal times with humans, it interferes with their natural feeding cycles.

2. Hand-fed fish are more vulnerable to predators. A healthy marine community relies on competition for habitat and food. Have you ever noticed that different species feed during different times of the day? Introducing an unnatural meal disturbs these competitive relationships and can lead to feeding frenzies.

3. Humans caught in a feeding frenzy, or in a location where fishes are regularly fed, may be injured. As a result of behavioral conditioning through fish feeding, unprovoked marine animals may attack (bite) humans thinking they will receive food or mistaking fingers and other body parts for food.

4. Hand-feeding fish takes a toll on the marine environment, too. The majority of reef fishes are grazers, meaning they only eat algae. They keep the growth of the algae on coral reefs under control so that the reefs aren’t smothered. When regularly introduced to unnatural food like bread, their bellies get too full to graze on algae, and the algae may become overgrown.

If fish feeding is so bad, why do people still do it? A lot of people may be misinformed, uninformed, uneducated, or just plain ignorant: they feel like they are helping the fish, doing them a favor; they are feeding the fish for their own entertainment; they see other people feeding fish and think it’s OK (follow by example).

We encourage you to be proactive and to do your research before you interact with the ocean, whether it be snorkeling, surfing, sailing, or diving. If we can all be responsible for our own actions, we can make our oceans healthier. And for your own safety, if you are in the water during a hand feeding fish frenzy, get away (fish have sharp teeth too).

On Long Caye, we’re blessed to have easy access to a long list of incredible sites for snorkel diving. One of our nearby favorites we call The Channel. Come on, slip out of your mental sea kayak for a minute and join us for a snorkeling adventure!

Below is a map of our top 10 snorkel sites. You can see how close they are to our adventure center. That kind of close proximity and variety is one of the many things that sets our resort apart from the rest.
Belize snorkel map

You can snorkel right from our shore by swimming to nearby snorkel spots, or use our kayaks to access even more areas. In the photo above, 10 spots that we explore each week are shown and listed here:

1. Practice Reef. This is where we conduct our snorkel orientations and where we also go night snorkeling. Our most accessible reef, you can walk or swim to it, and much of the surrounding sand at this patch reef is only about 3 feet deep, so you can stand up right next the coral whenever you need a break.

2. The Aquarium. Just a 1/2 mile paddle away, this is our favorite snorkel. A very shallow reef, you can stand up all around this beautiful patch reef. Most of the incredible snorkel images on this site are taken here.

3. Dado’s Reef. This reef is just a swim away. It is quite deep in places. One of the most beautiful snorkel spots you will ever see.

4. The Horseshoe. This nearby reef is accessed by kayak, although for a longer swim you can also swim there with a safety kayaker joining you. It is just over 1/2 mile from our island. This is usually our first paddle/snorkel, where you paddle to a patch, tie your boat up to the guide’s boat, and jump out WITHOUT tipping over (we teach you to do this.)

5. The Wall. When the conditions are right we swim to this famous Belize dive site. This entire snorkel is over your head, and conditions have to be calm. Here we can see huge loggerhead turtles swimming right in front of us!

6. The Cut. Here we swim from the southern end of the island along the barrier reef of the atoll from the inside. We cut through the boat channel, and return on the outside of the reef. A fantastic, long exploratory snorkel.

7. Snorkel Around the Island. We often swim almost all the way around, and the outside of the island is the best. We are not as far out as The Wall snorkel, the coral and parrot fish here are amazing!

8. The Channel. We paddle out to a deep patch reef between Long and Northeast Cayes. Huge schools of fish, black grouper and spotted eagle rays are seen almost every time!

9. Northeast Caye. There are several areas of reef over near this caye that we like to paddle to. A fairly deep snorkel, it’s nice to have your boat to hang on to if you need extra flotation. This is a gorgeous area.

10. Drift Snorkel. We swim out from the north end of our island, and then drift with the prevailing winds which takes us by three small patch reefs. Then we swim back in at the south end. A very aerobic swim!

Actor Ted Danson, (Cheers, Becker, Curb Your Enthusiasm) posted an informative article on the Huffington Post today detailing the struggle in Belize to save the Belize Barrier Reef (and offshore atolls like Glover’s Reef) from the potential dangers imposed by offshore drilling. Danson writes:

In Belize, thousands of citizens are in an uproar about the government’s determination to drill for offshore oil. The government, represented by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, was just narrowly re-elected – but despite a clear message from the people, it continues to ignore the significant outcry against offshore drilling.

A petition calling for a national referendum on the question collected 20,000 signatures, a full 10% of the voting population and a larger sampling than the law requires in order to trigger a vote. But the government disqualified 8,000 of the signatures and has continued to refuse to budge from its pro-offshore drilling stance. Danson concludes his piece by calling upon citizens everywhere to become involved:

The love and concern for Belize’s reef reaches far beyond the country lines. There are countless people from all over the world who have developed a special connection to this breathtaking country after swimming in its lovely waters or diving in its reef – all thanks to its pristine natural resources. We all hope the government, which loves Belize’s barrier reef like we do, will hear the concerns of the people in Belize and around the world and ban offshore oil drilling in Belize’s waters to help protect its barrier reef and its natural heritage.