Diving the Long Caye Aquarium never disappoints

long caye aquarium fishes

There is a dive site often overshadowed by the Great Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye, but it is seldom lacking in beauty or adventure. The Long Caye Aquarium is sometimes lost in all the hype that surrounds the Blue Hole, but I’ve been on many excursions where it was the highlight of the trip, the last stop, that has occasionally picked up the slack when the previous two were disappointing.

trumpetfishAn excursion to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, aka the Blue Hole trip, almost always includes a final stop at the Aquarium. Though you probably won’t see as many big marine life as seen at Half Moon Caye, what makes this dive site live up to its reputation is that it’s often teeming with schools of bermuda chubs, sergeant majors, creole wrasse, and the occasional trumpet fish. On a good day, from the moment you jump into the water, you’re surrounded by a swarm of yellow and black stripes, with blurs of blue and green darting around and popping out of coral crevices.

diver at the AquariumThe reef at the Aquarium is referred to as a table-top formation. At the shallower part of the dive site, near the mooring line, it is essentially a flat expanse covered with clusters of brain coral, purple fans, and groves of sea plumes. As your dive leader takes you deeper, there is a steep wall that drops suddenly at about 35’/ 11 M. Descending down this wall often makes me think that this is what it would be like to base-jump from the top of a cliff in slow motion. Divers usually don’t go deeper than 60’ / 18 M, but the wall continues far deeper, and in some areas, it drops until all you see is hard coral blending into a dark blue and violet abyss, with occasional silhouettes of unknown sea creatures swimming at the edge of your vision. In certain areas, the wall at the aquarium is even inverted, with black coral dangling from unusual angles, and overhangs that often play host to tiger groupers who scowl and hover in the shade, observing the passing schools.

The 90-degree walls are not the only features that make the aquarium an awesome dive. The wonderful thing about this dive is that even in the shallow areas, there is always a lush patch of coral to explore, or a cleaning station to observe. Tiny Petersen cleaner-shrimps are sometimes seen waving at passing barracudas or groupers for a chance to clean their mouths and gills while tiny cleaner gobies hover nearby, ready to spring into action to assist with the next cleaning job. Even the juvenile Spanish hogfish sometimes finds employment at these stations, darting back and forth between fish, they are occasionally seen quickly cleaning the creole wrasse that tend to arrive in groups and seem to prefer short pit stops rather than thorough deep cleans.

reef and coral at the aquarium

Overall, with remarkably consistent high visibility and a colorful reef, the Aquarium is almost always the perfect dive to finish a wonderful day at Lighthouse Reef. The dive time at this site, depending on who you chose to dive with, is usually about 50 minutes or more. Its relatively shallow dive profile, makes it an easy and enjoyable site, while the color and underwater serenity gives photographers and experience seekers a chance for some unforgettable moments. It is, if anyone cares for my personal opinion, one of the best Belize has to offer, and without a doubt one of the top five dive sites in Belize. So if you ever find yourself weighing the pros and cons of a Blue Hole trip, don’t forget about the Aquarium, because even if diving in an ancient cave and swimming through stalactites doesn’t sound appealing, it’s almost a guarantee that you can find something enjoyable at the Long Caye Aquarium.

 

What are you thoughts about this dive site?

 

About Ilya Rosado

ILya Rosado is a Caye Caulker native who fell in love with scuba diving as a teenager and ever since hasn't stopped diving. He is currently a dive instructor and works at Belize Diving Services. If you would like to plan a dive with ILya, you can email him at scubaninja.bz@outlook.com

3 Responses to Diving the Long Caye Aquarium never disappoints

  1. Huracan Diving January 29, 2015 at 8:39 PM #

    out there today…. a TON of eagle ray! I've counted at one point 67 – yes, sixty seven honeycomb trunkfish all in one huge school. Aquarium is an amazing dive, but don't forget the 15 others that stretch south along Long Caye wall all the way to the amazing Hat Caye from there…. !

  2. Caleb February 3, 2015 at 11:48 AM #

    Wow…I can only imagine what all you are able to see while you are diving.

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