On February 28, 1978 I walked in the El Centro Hotel Café, Belize and met Mike and Roxanne Denoyer, managers of LighthouseReef Expeditions. It was the beginning of a friendship that turned into 36 years of adventures beginning on the most beautiful tropic isle I have ever visited, Half Moon Cay. I camped with Mike and Rox, the rest of their crew and guest scuba divers from various parts of the US. The next year I came back for another three weeks. We camped, we dove, we snorkeled, and we took pictures of the nesting red-footed booby birds. Iguanas, softball size hermit crabs, huge land crabs, the bobbies and the frigate birds shared the island with us campers, the lighthouse keepers and three commercial fishermen.
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Half Moon Cay Lighthouse
I photographed 36 sunrises and sunsets at the island over the two years, dove the blue hole four times, once way deeper than I should have ever gone and returned home thinking it was the second best place I had ever spent time (the Atchafalaya Basin being first). In those two trips of 3 weeks each I saw one floatplane and one boat that was not with our group. It was paradise to us. In 1985 I sailed to Lighthouse reef from Belize City and spent a week anchor near half Moon Cay returning to the same dive sites of the 1970’s. Still wonderful, but it was discovered as a dive destination. We saw about 15 boats that week. Lighthouse Reef is 60 miles off the coast of Belize, so it’s a substantial trip over waters thousands of feet deep.
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Our dive boat was a Grand Canyon S-Rig
Just after this Christmas, I went back. This time I stayed at fishing and diving resort on Turneffe Atoll. Turneffe is a 45 square miles mangrove atoll. It is surround by deep water. It’s about half way from Belize City to Lighthouse Reef. Turneffe Island Resort is on a very small island, but is very comfortable with a great staff to take you fishing, diving or snorkeling. The highlight was going back to Lighthouse Reef. It was only an all day trip, but the memories flowed back like the swallows to Capistrano. After 30 years I recognized some of the same coral trenches and caves I swam in 1978 and 1985. The bobbies and frigates were nesting in the same zericote trees. The only difference was the number of day tripping boats. I saw 13 come in some with 20 divers, yet the island was still beautiful. It’s a refuge now, the Nature conservancy being one of the supporters. Some say you can never return to Shangri-La, I came close last week. The beauty and bounty of this island and reef ecosystems boggles the mind.
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Site of the old lighthouse