Belize is a small country in Central America with hundreds of offshore islands strung along the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Amongst these islands is the Turneffe Atoll, one of just three atolls found outside of the Atlantic Ocean, and the largest coral atoll in the Western Hemisphere.
The Turneffe Atoll is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) offshore from Belize City and measures 30 miles (48 km) from north to south and 10 miles (16 km) from east to west. A protected marine reserve, the Turneffe Atoll is one of the most spectacular dive sites in the country.
Surrounded and protected by the Turneffe Islands, the atoll is home to more than 500 species of fish, 65 species of coral, sea turtles, seabirds, manatees, dolphins, and a colorful array of marine fauna. The 400+ tiny islets that surround the atoll make Turneffe one of the most visually spectacular locations in the country, and the dense mangrove forests serve as a nursery and feeding ground for the diverse forms of wildlife that inhabit the area.
With so much amazing underwater terrain to explore, diving Turneffe is an all-day affair. Divers can explore sandy ledges, sheer walls, and spur-and-groove formations that offer challenges to divers of every skill level. Water levels in the lagoons are very shallow with crystal clear water before sloping down to shelves at a depth of around 60 feet. Nutrient outflow from the mangrove forests cause huge schools of fish to congregate.
Perhaps the most famous dive site in Turneffe is known as “The Elbow.” This area is used by hundreds of fish species as a nursery, including black grouper, tiger grouper, mutton snapper, splendid toadfish, and horse eye jacks. Other species seen in abundance in the area include cleaner shrimp, southern sting rays, channel crabs, French angelfish, nurse sharks, moray eels, and three different species of endangered sea turtles.
The Turneffe Atoll was once used as a base of operations by the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. In the 18th century, Blackbeard and his crew captured several ships in the area and used the islands to launch operations throughout the Caribbean.
Chabil Mar is a luxury resort located on the Placencia Peninsula, the gateway to the Belize Barrier Reef and the Turneffe Atolls. Chabil Mar offers unique scuba diving vacation packages that include trips out to the Turneffe Atolls.