27 April 2009 | Belize
After Kent dove the Blue Hole we did 6 dives (including a night dive) at Half Moon Cay and Long Cay, both of which are areas within Lighthouse Reef. Highlights included seeing nurse sharks, grand eagle rays, turtles, a HUGE 6' green moray eel , a school of dolphins, lobster, small cleaner shrimp, giant tarpin, groupers and of course a lot of small colorful reef fish. There were also lots of swim throughs along the walls to wiggle through. Huracan Diving, who we chose to dive with, is run by a fantastic young Belgium couple and they were absolutely wonderful hosts - we would recommend them to anyone who finds themselves out at Lighthouse Reef.
Another day we headed out with friends on their boat to Half Moon Cay, which is a protected park within Lighthouse Reef. On the small island is a frigate and booby bird rookery. We had only seen blue footed boobies in the Galapagos so it was wonderful to see the red footed ones here. I even got to have a domesticated one perch on my arm! The park is also home to large hermit crabs the size of baseballs which walk around with their colorful bodies protruding every which way from beautiful tan and black shells. The palm trees on the small island produce far too many coconuts, so the park actually encourages you to take some with you. We were a sight to see - 6 gringos trying to hack down a few coconuts to take back to our boats (see Photo Gallery). Kent successfully shimmied up the trunk of one and hacked down a few with a machete.
We also did some fishing that day to and from Half Moon Cay, outside the protected park limits of course. We caught a lot of barracuda, but we did not plan to eat them so we through them back. Since we did not catch dinner the boys also all went searching for conch (pronounced "conk"). Conch is a mollusk or sea snail but it takes a lot of work to dive down to collect from the ocean floor, then it is a challenge to remove them from their shell and then finally you have to tenderize/beat the meat before cooking. But prepared with a little butter and garlic it is really worth the work. There is a series of photos in the Photo Gallery showing the process of just separating the meat from the shell.
Lighthouse Reef has been pretty spectacular, there are few cruisers anchored in the large anchorage and with nothing ashore except the dive shop it is a wonderful location to just relax. The only downside is that mosquitoes decided to hatch while we were here so going ashore to get to Huracan Diving was always a ¼ mile of sprinting along a sand trail while swatting at swarms of biting and buzzing mosquitoes. We got devoured so badly the first day Kent would only set foot back on the island wearing fleece pants, a long sleeve shirt, work gloves and his Mexican wrestling mask to keep as much of him from being bit as possible. Mind you it is 85F outside. Using bug spray was useless so the rest of us made do with long sleeve shirts and pants and suffered from bites on the face, neck and hands. Guess we should have bought a few more wrestling masks while in Mexico.
We will stay here at Lighthouse until Tuesday or Wednesday when the weather looks good to head up to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Should be a 35-40 hour trip.
If you get a chance click on our position on the Google Map feature and you will be able to see just how amazing this reef system is at Lighthouse.
Hang tight! Photos from our time at Lighthouse will be posted when we get to Mexico as we do not have internet access right now to update the Photo Gallery.