Monday, May 4, 2009

Lighthouse Reef, Long Caye

BLUE SHOESBlue shoes

It's thirty miles from the mainland to Lighthouse Reef, and no reason to expect anything more than reef and scrubby cayes. Just another strip of mangrove with a few palm trees, was my initial impression of the largest of the four cayes out at Lighthouse.But, as usual, there’s more to the story. Someone tried to develop the island as an 'eco-village'– may in fact still be trying.Long Caye lot map

The north end is platted out into nearly 500 small lots lining substantial boardwalks and paths cut through the mangrove and littoral forest. A resort was built, maybe 40 rooms, but apparently it failed within its first month of operations, four or five years ago.
Long Caye lot 398Long Caye street

LONG CAYE BOARDWALK
But it’s still there, in pretty good shape, with a big kitchen and a bar still with full liquor bottles. Out back there’s a hospital bed. A caretaker keeps the decks swept and the paths raked. He was going out to spray for mosquitoes the day we met him, but he was a little late!
Long Caye lot 398

We made a big splurge day of three tank dives off Half Moon Caye. This site is along a wall with a drop of hundreds of feet, of which we saw the top eighty or so. The coral looked pretty healthy and it was wonderful to swim through the ‘valleys’ out into the deep blue sea. Of course ‘the weather’s usually better than this’ – the whole time we were there it was windy and squally, but not underwater! I imagine it’s really spectacular in the bright sun. The developments's ‘community center’ has been sold to a very nice young Belgian couple, Ruth and Karel, (from Zeebrugen) who are living basically by themselves out there and running a new dive operation and B&B, huracandiving.com.
With a mainly reliable satellite internet connection they make their business arrangements and order their groceries. Frenchy the boat driver and second divemaster can make the trip out from The Big Smoke in his 43’ footer with 2x200 hp Yamaha outboards in something over 2 hours. Sounds like the big problem out here is iguanas wanting to eat the vegetable garden. And maybe yachties wanting to hang out and eat the other groceries that are so carefully apportioned!

The other national park in the area is the famous Blue Hole. The two parks at Lighthouse Atoll are run by the Belize Audubon Society and are apparently the money generators for the entire Belize park system. Half Moon Caye costs $10 and Blue Hole is a whopping $30 USD park fee if you get in the water.
Blue Hole Scan
So of course we didn’t do the dive there, but did ride out with the dive boat for our 'been there' credentials. The Blue Hole is a limestone sinkhole 1000’ feet across, about 450’ deep, that once was well above sea level. The dive, a brief, dark one, goes down about 140-150 feet to see stalactites that are angled from being formed during ?Pleistocene? tectonic plate activity. The second dive is to look for sharks which are about the most notable life form in the Hole. But I must say, if you’re not in an airplane, it would be pretty hard to know when you’d found (The Blue Hole) IT!
Leaf toed gecko on screen
Possibly, a 'special' leaf-toed gecko found only on Lighthouse and Half Moon.

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