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The coral you see snorkel diving in Belize

When we dive at Glover’s Reef, the primary species of coral we see are:

280px-Staghorn-coral-1Staghorn Coral: They possess, like all corals, stinging nematocysts, but these can pack a bit of a sting if you touch them. Observed closely, their individual corallites can be seen; each bump on the branch is an individual coral animal.



Pillar-CoralPillar Coral: This coral is occasional-to-rare in our area. It is also one of the few that actively feeds during daylight hours. You can actually see it tentacles groping for food, which gives it a fuzzy appearance. Individual small colonies can be found in numerous patch reefs near Long Caye by the observant diver. One large colony was once spotted off Northeast Caye between the reef and the wall drop off, in about 30 feet of water.


Golfball_coralGolfball Coral: These can be spotted throughout the reefs near Long Caye; they are small, half spheres attached here and there on top of other dead corals. This is a Star Coral, and each corallite is easily distinguished from another.




gillian-douglas-brain-coralBrain Coral: There are many kinds of Brain Coral, and it is rewarding to begin to distinguish between different species. The most common one seen is Symmetrical Brain Coral. Another type often seen but just as often not recognized as a separate species is Grooved Brain Coral. A third, common species, that is very similar but still distinctive enough for the layman to distinguish is Boulder Brain Coral.


lettuce coralLettuce Coral: The prominent coral seen off the barrier reef of the atoll, north of Northeast Caye. A beautiful coral.





fire coralFire Coral: You should not touch any coral (it’s not good for them), but this one, you definitely do not want to touch it, because it’s not good for you.  Fire coral earned its name for a reason. The sting has been compared to feeling as if an ice pick has just been jabbed into your hand.



flower coralFlower Coral: This beautiful species has large, widely spaced polyps on long stalks, that appear to originate from a central core. Only found occasionally, sometimes only in groups of 4-5 polyps.




elkhornElkhorn Coral: Prefer shallow areas where wave action causes constant water movement. Branches orient parallel to surge direction. A rapidly growing coral, under optimum conditions can grow 5-6 inches a year.

Can a jellyfish unlock the secret of immortality?

This article in the New York Times highlights recent discovers about a particularly unique jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii, more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish. Even though we don’t see this species down in Belize, we do see two varieties at Glover’s Reef, the Upside Down Jellyfish and the Sea Thimble Jellyfish. They are discussed in this post following the brief excerpt from the NYTimes article.

Sommer was baffled by this development but didn’t immediately grasp its significance. (It was nearly a decade before the word “immortal” was first used to describe the species.) But several biologists in Genoa, fascinated by Sommer’s finding, continued to study the species, and in 1996 they published a paper called “Reversing the Life Cycle.” The scientists described how the species — at any stage of its development — could transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” This finding appeared to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die. (read the full article here…)

The two jellyfish we see most often on Adventure Island are the Sea Thimble and the Upside Down. Jellyfish are not always present in the waters of Glover’s Reef but they do drift through regularly and unpredictably. Therefore, we advise all our guests to wear dive skins (light weight skin protection and thin thermal insulation) whenever they enter the water. These dive skins help prolong your diving time and also protect the skin against rashes caused by proximity to a cloud of jellyfish.

Sea Thimble Jellyfish — This marine animal is a small jellyfish resembling a thimble that measures about 1″ in diameter and is conspicuosly mottled with dark brown markings. This Jellyfish, together with corals, seaanemones, hydeoids and hydras are included in a group of animals without skeletons named cnidarians. One characteristic of this important group is that they have numerous stinging cells called nematocystswhich act as microscopic syringes to inject toxins when touched.

Along the Mexican Caribbean coast dense aggregations of the Thimble Jellyfish appear everyyear from late January to early June. The jellyfish occur in three swimmming stages as juveniles or ephrae, as adults and as larvae or planulae. They are transported by winds and currents to other areas on the time scale of a few hours to a few days.

Upside-down jellyfish is a genus of true jellyfish and the only members of the family Cassiopeidae. They are found in warmer coastal regions around the world, including shallow mangrove swamps, mudflats, and turtle grass flats in Florida. The medusa usually lives upside-down on the bottom, which has earned them the common name. Where found, there may be numerous individuals with varying shades of white, blue, green and brown.

They have a mild sting since they are primarily photosynthetic, but sensitive individuals may have a stronger reaction. The photosynthesis occurs because, like most corals, they host zooxanthellae in their tissues. The stinging cells are excreted in a mucus; swimming over these jellies (especially using swim fins) may cause transparent, essentially invisible, sheets of this mucus to be lifted up into the water column, where they are then encountered by unsuspecting swimmers. The stings, appearing in the form of a red rash-like skin irritation, are notorious for being extraordinarily itchy. Sometimes this jellyfish is picked up by the crab Dorippe frascone(family Dorippidae) and carried on its back. The crab uses the jellyfish to defend itself against possible predators.

Five Places to Scuba Dive in the Caribbean

While many people go to the Caribbean for nothing more than sitting in the sun with a cocktail in hand, there’s more that the Caribbean has to offer. For one, not just a couple seasons of warmth, but pleasant weather year-round. With such clear waters to go with that, the Caribbean is one of the top diving destinations in the world. Here, courtesy of Cheap Air’s blog, is a list of a few of the best destinations to scuba dive in the Caribbean:

Aruba: If you’re less into marine life and more into wrecking diving, then put Aruba at the top of the list. Many cite Aruba as one of the top wreck diving destinations in the world, with opportunities for both experienced and novice divers. One of the most notable wrecks is the Antilla, a 400-foot German freighter. Since the location of the ship has such little current, it’s accessible by divers of varying skill levels.

Belize: For a full diving experience, head to the waters just off the shores of Belize. Belize isn’t in fact an island, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer some of the best diving waters in the world. The Belize Barrier Reef helps make up the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. However, no diving trip to Belize is complete without a visit to Glover’s Reef.

Turks and Caicos: The Turks and Caicos are often overlooked as a diving destination, making the diving spots often a lot less explored than many other destinations. It offers a good mix of marine life and wrecks. Not far off from Turks and Caicos are drop-off spots, where the elevation can drop off thousands of feet below sea level. This is recommended for the more experienced divers.

Cayman Islands: The Cayman Islands make their way onto this list because it offers great opportunities for divers of all levels. There are tons of diving operators, many of which make it easy and cheap to get your diving certification. I recommend the Cayman Islands for the person just getting started who is more interested in the experience and a first-hand look at Caribbean marine life.

Grenada: Grenada is another destination that often gets overlooked by travelers. However, for the diving enthusiast, this is another destination that should be at the top of your lists for its wreck diving. Some of the more notable wreck sites in Grenada include the Titanic of the Caribbean, a 600-foot cruise ship, and the Isle of Wrecks. Many of these wrecks are recommended for more experienced divers since currents can be strong.