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.
An 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.
The 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.
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?