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BELIZE, CENTRAL AMERICA:
Atolls are sunken rims of huge ancient volcanoes that slowly wore down below sea level, around which beautiful rings of islands formed over ensuing centuries. In each of these three Belizian mega-atolls, the extinct volcanic caldera (bowl at the top) has formed a sandy bottom, shallow & gentle in most locales, & lush with colorful corals. There are scores of brightly-hued fish species everywhere. These Belize atolls are alive with sleek mantas & eagle rays, assorted skates, trumpetfish, coy little 'cudas, spectacular rainbow reef fish & the occasionally surprising dolphin pods, too. While not as kaleidoscopically brilliant as the reefs of Fiji or Papua New Guinea, the atoll life forms of the Belize Barrier Reef are worthy of a close silver medal. When you factor in that your air ticket from the USA, Canada or Europe is about half to one-third the cost of flying to Fiji or PNG -- then Belize is a superior bargain -- offering the choicest corals & marine life you will find anywhere in the Caribbean. Fully on a par with Little Cayman's Bloody Bay Wall & the outer pristine islands of the Turks & Caicos chain, Belize is as good as it gets in this hemisphere, amigos del mar. We are confident these Belize snorkeling trips & Belize scuba diving vacations will be a "C.P.B" for all our job-stressed city folks out there -- that is, a Calm Palm Balm to soothe your soul. So welcome funseekers, sunseekers & sundry ocean-lovers, you are entering a Tropidelic No-Hassle Zone for singles, couples, families & clubs. These resorts are the sine qua non of Belize snorkeling & Belize diving vacations.
BLACKBIRD CAYE RESORT -- WE ALWAYS OFFER the LOWEST PACKAGE PRICES (classic 7-night packages, all prices subject to possible change or seasonal specials. Call us at 952-953-4124 for wholesale specials. Normal seasonal rates follow these guidelines, if no specials are in effect:
MANTA RESORT WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, for expected upgrades.
Packages at Blackbird Caye Resort include: 7 nights
(double-occupancy) in a beautiful oceanside cabana on the most pristine
part of the Belize Barrier Reef + 3 great meals a day + 5 days of 3-tank
boat diving + 1 or 2 tanks on your last day (for higher safety margin) + 1 night dive
per week + speedboat transfers from Belize City, across the Belize Barrier
Reef & out to the island + basic sales tax paid. Nominal per-night
guest tax is payable on the islands, for all Belize dive vacations. Airport departure taxes are paid on your final day. Drinks & tips are extra, of course.
Packages at Manta Resort are the same, & all clients must arrive at BZE Airport no later than 2 pm Saturday, preferably before 12:30 pm if you can. The compelling reason for this timeline is that the walk-on ferry from Belize Tourism Village (near the Radisson Ft. George Hotel waterfront) departs that dock at 3 pm sharp, so our clients can always make it safely across the Belize Barrier Reef well before sunset, with time to spare. Clients MUST be at the ferry dock comfortably BEFORE 3 pm. That means an ideal arrival time at BZE International Airport would be before 1 pm, to be safe & sound. And please remember, this ferry to Blackbird Caye only sails Wed's & Sat's.
Blackbird Caye never has looked better in the last decade. And Manta Resort will soon become a full notch even better. Now, rightfully these two tropical island resorts can be called the class acts in Belize, the best tropical vacation destinations on the Belize Barrier Reef. Blackbird Caye Resort & Manta Resort passed our WHITE GLOVE TEST for all key criteria:
* QUALITY of MEALS -- delicious & filling, plenty of variety daily, fun surprises several times a week, seldom greasy or overly salted, delightful from soups to entrees to desserts; the servers are prompt & quick responding to special requests.
* QUALITY of CABANA AMENITIES -- the bathrooms are clean as a whistle; the beds are firm with spotless linens; the cabanas are dust & bug-free; & Blackbird Caye even installed small high-tech stereos inside your room so you can bring down your own vacation CDs.
* DIVE BOAT CLEANLINESS & REPAIR -- Their boats gleam; the engines rumble with well-oiled smoothness; the tanks & weights are safely stowed & always in ready-to-roll order; & the decks would make even Niles Crane crack a smile. The dive vessel & snorkeling boat crews take genuine pride in their work, & it shows from stem to stern.
* STAFF ATTITUDE & SERVICE ACUMEN -- impeccably polite, witty & warm, without becoming solicitous; friendly & laid back with plenty of cool workaday humor. Staffers are cheerful in catering even to nuance favors (such as knocking down a few green coconuts & placing them in a fridge for cool evening coco-tails, with a straw punched through one stem-eye...)
* DAILY TLC in the GROUNDSKEEPING & BEACH-SWEEPING Dept. -- no complaints here; the staff fogs for bugs daily & cleans the beachfront before you rise, & the lads eliminate all litter close to the cabanas. Have to concede there's a little flotsam & jetsam -- from plastic bottles to snack wrappers -- gathering half a mile south down the beach, due to the *&@#$% cruise ships, but that's pandemic in the western Caribbean. The beach boys work their tails off to keep things clean, so give 'em a good word.
You name it, these folks at Blackbird get it right. And they get it right on time. One prominent Belize mainland family owns both these properties & they keep their resorts running like fine Swiss watches. That's a delicate & perfect balance most resorts never reach: keeping staff discipline without getting stuffy; maintaining good humor without pandering. Blackbird's got a refreshing feel to it, never rushed. Plus you will never have to deal with crowds. Not a chance. Both resorts typically host from 24 to 34 clients at one time, no more, so the service in dining room, dive boat, dockside or on the beach is never strained.
If something is a bit off in your meal, for example, just huddle with the dining room steward for a moment & immediately your meal is modified next time around -- precisely as you wish -- never an eyebrow raised. Always with a sincere smile. The vibe is healthy & relaxed at these Belize island resorts. Never arms-length or pretentious, despite the parade of powerful & creative people who have blessed us with their patronage over the years. Here's one cool factoid, to show the laid-back ethos at Blackbird & Manta. The resort bars & beverage fridges are run on an honor system; so you simply check off a beer or soda next to your name each time you remove an item; then you tally it all up at week's end. Nobody cheats. That would feel like ripping off your granny's purse for gas money.
The staff at Blackbird Caye Resort is superbly trained, attentive without being obsequious & just plain fun to hang with on a hot day. They will play a kick-fanny game of volleyball with you about an hour before sunset when the air temps cool off. And they can really mash that ball, believe it ! These employees do their jobs with obvious relish. They offer you a daily can-do attitude, seldom the world-weariness you see in tourist-glutted destinations of the Yucutan, Jamaica, Roatan or the northern Bahamas. The dive staffs are well trained, efficient & mindful of client safety at every juncture, while never getting in your face with annoying mother-hen fussiness. If you demonstrate your dive skills are solid the first day, they leave you alone to explore the reefs at your own pace, so you can relish your day in an unfettered way.
Unlike that grating David Spade commercial -- where the phone rep delights in demonic "No! No! No's!" -- one virtually never hears that discouraging word spoken by a staffer at these Belize dive resorts. Unless, that is, one were to ask a bonehead question such as "May I please cut a Scythian swath through that fish school with my speargun?" or "How 'bout we dump these pop cans over the side so we can make more room for our dive gear?" or "Whattya say we flush that octopus from his lair with some Chlorox, so I can take him home for my kid's aquarium?" or "Would you please nestle six gold-foiled truffles on my scrambled egg plate tomorrow at 5 am?"
OK, lampoons aside, few are the clients who'd ever dream up such Neanderthal demands. So we wanted to make a point with some Jim Carey hyperbole. If you know you're a client who wants to hunt with a speargun, or trap little fishies for your aquarium, or corral a dolphin pod with a speedboat & splash over to the juvies while clutching your clunky U/W video housing, or if you're tempted to litter the waters in any way, or hassle the staff with pointy-headed demands a la Zsa Zsa Gabor on a 3-martini bender, then please do not bother booking with Blackbird Caye. Please & thank you. All the rest of you good folks, the other 99% of the world's sunseekers, welcome aboard the "Big Bird" island ferry & we look forward to serving you soon. We promise to do so with sea soul, plus a bit o' wit & wisdom earned by repping these Belize dive resorts for more than 2 decades now. We have served many hundreds of clients who've flown down to Belize & made friends for life.
HOW the PASSENGER FERRY WORKS for our BELIZE RESORTS: At Blackbird Caye, all bookings are Saturday to Saturday or Wednesday to Wednesday, or Sat-Wed combos only, because these are the only days when the passenger walk-on ferry makes transit to these isles. This ferry policy holds all year long. Therefore we only book 4-night, 7-night, 10-night, 11-night or 14-night packages at Blackbird Caye Resort in Belize.
FIRST TIME EVER -- CUSTOM AIR FERRY to BLACKBIRD !! We are enthused to report that in a few months the resort owners will offer a private air charter service to Blackbird Caye Resort. Call us for current price updates for these custom air charters, which will start round-trip at about USD $200 per client + tax & tariff.
IMPORTANT BOOKING RULES for our BELIZE DIVE RESORTS:
Blackbird Caye, Turneffe Atoll,
heart of the Belize Barrier Reef.
2 photos courtesy of Blackbird.
Aerial view of Blackbird Caye Resort, with long beach,
& hundreds of reef acres a quick boat jaunt from dock.
The island also offers eco-trails for great photo hiking.
Professional dive guides & photographers agree that the atolls of the Southern Belize Barrier Reef offer the Caribbean's cleanest waters, the most colorful corals & the most vivid array of marine life. Manta Resort & Blackbird Caye Resort have been acknowledged as the finest of Belize's premier dive resorts, for many years now. These private islands are world-class getaways, with dazzling dives, truly delicious cuisine & a refreshingly mellow staff. Belize diving just shines. And Manta Resort & Blackbird Caye Resort outshine the best of Belize's fine outer atoll vacation retreats. For many years now, travel writers & professional dive guides have placed both Manta Resort & Blackbird Caye Resort at the top of the 'A' List for Western Caribbean scuba Meccas. Belize diving is as good as it gets in the Caribbean. And we believe the bona fide soul of Belize diving is way south of the much-publicized & tourist-trampled Ambergris Caye, at Glover's Reef or Turneffe Atoll. Here are specific details about these nerve centers of serious Belize diving.
Meanwhile, Blackbird Caye Resort is located 32 miles east of Belize City, on the far eastern side of the Turneffe Atoll. Glover’s Reef & Turneffe Atoll are two of only three atolls in the entire Caribbean, which are fully ringed by an eliptical fringing reef. They are just the sort of exquisite diving islands you would find in the South Pacific or the Indo-Pacific. There are no other atolls anywhere in the greater Caribbean-Atlantic region, except those found along the Belize Barrier Reef. This makes Belize dive vacations a world-class adventure, we feel.
About 170 miles long, the Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest barrier reef on earth, right after Australia's renowned. The most remote & unspoiled of these three Belize atolls is Glover's Reef at the southern end of this magnificent coral perimeter. At the far southern end of Glover's Reef is a beautiful 12-acre isle, Manta Resort, that is the site of Belize's most exclusive resort for world-class scuba diving & snorkeling. Clients who prefer a less isolated island, yet still want the electric flavor of Belize ocean wilderness, like Blackbird Caye Resort a lot, because it is very close to outstanding reef diving, yet offers scads of good nature hiking as well. Blackbird Caye is further north & less isolated.
The shallow area near Blackbird Caye covers 210 square miles. Blackbird is only 18 miles away from Half Moon Caye. From there it's just a quick 8-mile jaunt to the world-famous Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is now the most world-famous dive site in Belize, & was discovered by Jacques Cousteau many years back on one of his many exploratory forays into the Caribbean Sea. The Blue Hole has become a must-see dive for many Caribbean dive travelers on a mission to see all the most famous sites on the Belize Barrier Reef. While not the most colorful dive site in Belize, the Blue Hole is worth a fun medium-long day trip from Turneffe Atoll. Yep, she's not the be-all-and-end-all of Belize dive vacations, but the ol' Blue Hole still packs 'em in.
Manta Resort is located about 57 miles southeast of Belize City, & about 28 miles east of Dangriga, Belize, right in the heart of the living Belize Barrier Reef. For additional bearings, Manta Resort is also about 78 miles west of Roatan Island in Honduras.
To get to Blackbird Caye Resort, or to Manta Resort, you board a stable fast yacht-ferry for a sensational ride (about 57 miles to Manta, & 32 miles to Blackbird). These speedy ferries depart from the Radisson Hotel or the beautiful new Belize Tourism Village on the waterfront park in Belize City, depending on the season. From the mainland, these super-fast vessels rocket across the Belize Barrier Reef and into the sheltered mangrove lagoon of Turneffe Island Atoll, or out to the wonderfully remote sandy atoll of Glover’s Reef. On the isle of Blackbird Caye Resort you can find 4,000+ acres of pristine tropical forests, as well as several fascinating miles of eco-trails. You can traipse across this enormous Turneffe Island atoll & explore the many wildlife & plant forms at your leisure. You see, leisure is all you have time for around here! That’s the law, amigo, on our Belize dive vacations.
Blackbird Caye Resort's co-owners, who also used to own Manta Resort, say they are dedicated to the preservation of diverse marine and wildlife in the Belize Barrier Reef. They call their resort at Blackbird Caye an ecologically-designed property, & it shows in the care given daily.
Dining palapa offers nice A/C, Blackbird Caye Resort.
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.
Dining steward Kenny Luk serves a bevy of cool "bev's."
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.
At Blackbird Caye Resort & its fringing isles, you can dive vertical walls just beyond the coral reef in front of your cabana. These lush & life-engulfed coral sectors extend for miles in both directions. They offer divers unlimited opportunities to experience large tubular sponges, enormous basket sponges, vivid purplish Gorgonia (sea fans), perky little reef fish, big barracuda, schools of permit and jellyfish, sea turtles, lobsters, snapper & crabs galore. Belize dive vacations = undersea critters 2 D Max.
For deep-sea or reef fishing, Turneffe Island & Glover’s Reef atolls are nirvana on a pole-tip. There are innumerable creeks, channels & tidal flats at Blackbird Caye, & the luxurious warm lagoon flats inside the atoll rim of Glover’s Reef, which offer species that won’t quit: permit, tarpon, bonefish, groupers, barracuda, snook, snappers. Beyond the outer reef rim you will find sailfish, huge marlin, kings & wahoo. Both resorts are equipped to handle all-day deep-sea fishing charters. Their Belizian fishing guides are skilled & they know the secret spots.
Super die-hard fly fishermen relish Blackbird Caye Resort because it’s close to excellent feeding grounds for bonefish, a translucent critter known for its rowdy fighting & wily ways. Blackbird Caye Resort also offers fly fishermen the rare & elusive golden bonefish.
Aerial view of Glover's Reef atoll &
Manta Resort's private lagoon.
Manta Resort offers 12 new mahogany
cabanas + owner's house, all w/ views.
A little further down the barrier reef, from the air, the Manta Resort island – named Southwest Caye -- looks like a living gem, with hundreds of meters of white sand rimming the main island, cabanas nestled under swaying palms, & a calm shallow greenish-blue lagoon right off the beaches -- perfect for safe family snorkeling. At the rim of the reef that girdles this island is a moderately shallow zone that glows with a vivid emerald-turquoise tint. This zone is loaded with fish-rich coralheads everywhere -- enough to get even the most jaded scuba diver's heart to quicken. The corals & sponges of Manta Resort’s waters are nearly South Pacific intensity. No place else in the Caribbean will you find this degree of underwater color. The atolls of Central Belize are the sine qua non of Caribbean scuba, pure & simple. Manta Resort is as good as it gets underwater in the greater Caribbean region, most of our professional dive colleagues, photographers & guides would agree. Belize dive vacations are set apart from the humdrum of tourist-infested Caribbean dive tour locales.
Outside that emerald-turquoise zone, the ancient volcano rim (safely extinct of course!), upon which Manta Resort's island formed eons ago, drops off steeply to a vast wall that starts first as iridescent royal blue then turns gradually dark blue then jet black. There is no end to the visual enchantment of this island, both topside & underwater. The true heart of Belize diving is found on these atolls of Manta Resort & Blackbird Caye Resort. And we feel that Belize diving is the real nerve center for the best of Caribbean diving. Photographers will whiz through film rolls like sugar sand through a sieve.
Manta Resort & Blackbird Caye Resort each have their own water desalination facility & luxury amenities with a rustic, almost South Pacific, feel to them. Manta Resort features 11 hand-crafted mahogany cabanas, each with 2 beds, a dresser, night stand & a fan. The bathrooms are very modern & equipped with hot showers. The cabanas are very rustic & old-fashioned, like a fishing resort or hunting lodge might be, not fancy, but very clean & they have a wonderful waterworld wilderness "feel" to them. Electricity is 110 volts -- just like the U.S. has. Each Manta Resort cabana offers a front porch hammock, where you can laze away in the cool breeze. This breeze, incidentally, also helps keep the bugs away many days, another plus about Belize diving.
One of the savviest seamen on the Belize resort diving
scene is our friend Oliver "Junior" Eiley, senior vessel
captain for Manta Resort's shuttle ferry & dive vessels.
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel Network.
At ease, a dockside "Big Bird" floats in soul-candy blue.
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel Network.
"Big Bird" ferry, sporting tough twin Diesel 420s,
can hit 22 knots on a calm day from Belize City.
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel Network.
The fast & stable snorkeling boat, "Parisia,"
whisks our snorkelers to reefs twice daily.
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel Network.
The transfer speedboat to Manta Resort only picks up clients on Saturdays, so all travelers must arrive in Belize City no later than 2 p.m. -- better yet before 1 pm to be safe & sound -- on their first day. Kids are always welcome at Manta Resort; & those under three stay free, while kids under 12 stay for half price. All kids 12 & older are considered on adult packages. Meals are huge, tasty & wonderful & you'll always have what you need. The Manta Resort menu varies from seafood to traditional Belizian to Continental style to Mexican style; & there are generous breakfast & lunch buffets every day. Be sure to wear a belt to this resort with a couple extra notches. You’ll need ‘em after those brilliant chefs get done with you ! Belize dive vacations also = mucha comida deliciosa.
Scuba divers at Manta Resort are pampered to a faretheewell. Nature
does the first part -- with amazing "viz" that often exceeds
100 - 120 feet during dry seasons. The resort features four 25' diving
skiffs, each of which carries only 12 divers -- no cattle boats here! There
are guides on all dives, which vary from 50 - 90 feet on many choice outer
wall sites. You'll never need to slog-swim a long haul back to the vessel,
since your skipper will always bring the boat up to meet you when you surface.
Your Manta Resort divemasters rinse all your gear each evening then set up your tanks every morning. No sweat, mon! Night dives are usually Tuesdays & Thursdays. Night dives are always contingent upon weather & currents being safe. They are not to be missed! At Manta Resort you will see what's likely the finest array of corals, sponges, large & small fish & assorted surprise critters from skates & harmless sharks to yes -- manta rays -- anywhere in the Western & Southern Caribbean. Belize dive vacations deliver. Always.
Remember, in Belize you'll need to pay several dollars per day per person for the government's hotel excise tax, nicknamed the "bed tax". You'll pay that either to Manta Resort or Blackbird Caye Resort, directly on the island, one small nuisance of Belize diving packages.
Another of Manta Resort's charms that draws clients from all over the world is the sport fishing, which is outstanding even on ordinary days. You can go fly fishing for bonefish in the flats, or blue-water trolling for snapper, grouper, barracuda, jacks & mackerel. Rare is the angler who gets skunked in a week on this fish-engulfed atoll. Bring your own rod & reel & tackle, of course, Manta Resort requests.
Belize dive vacations are relaxing, pure & simple. You'll find no phones, TVs, faxes or techno-trappings in your quiet, secluded, ultra-private cabanas at Manta Resort. However, in the unlikely event of a medical emergency, Manta Resort is linked by powerful radio to the mainland & urgent air evacuations are easy to do here, but so far never needed on our Belize diving tours.
The BEST EYE-CANDY, SOUL-STIRRING DIVE SITES
at BLACKBIRD CAYE RESORT:
At least 70 classic Belize diving & Belize snorkeling sites have been identified near Blackbird Caye Resort. Here are a few of the coolest atoll gems you will get to see here, starting with the obvious classic that has mesmerized divers for decades, since the now legendary Jacques Cousteau discovered it in the early days of Caribbean explorations. Here's the scoop on scuba diving on the Belize Barrier Reef:
FOR MORE INFORMATION or RESERVATIONS:
Contact: Susan & John Hessburg, Managers
U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network
PMB 307 / Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Avenue S.
St. Paul, MN, U.S.A. 55124-7047
Reservations Line: 952-953-4124
Nadia (pronounced NAY-dee-ah) Westby, the new
divemaster @ Blackbird Caye Resort, enjoys showing
guests the flora & fauna of Turneffe, by land & sea !
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.
IMPORTANT REMINDER about PRICES & TARIFFS:
All prices for Belize scuba diving & Belize snorkeling packages listed here are subject to possible change in this steadily evolving travel market. Lodging & diving prices are traditionally stable, while air prices can fluctuate daily. Until air tickets are issued, all airlines reserve the right to change airfares without notice -- an industry standard. We at U.S. Dive Travel will price-protect you to the utmost of our professional ability; & that has been our pledge for one decade now. Our tropical vacation experts normally secure wholesale discount air tickets for our clients who book early enough to secure limited seats in the best price categories. Remember please, the federal government has deregulated airlines, so only they control their pricing -- not any travel professionals. WE can hold the line on Belize scuba diving & Belize snorkeling packages, & when you book early enough we secure wholesale air tickets.
Unless specifically noted, these above Belize scuba diving & Belize snorkeling packages show prices for only the land-based portion of the dive resorts, in most cases reflecting double-occupancy rooms. At many Belize dive resorts, there will be no triple-occupancy rooms offered. Some exceptions will be noted. International & commuter "island-hopper" airfares are always extra above these land costs. Nominal service fees are also extra for air tickets & the vessel + side tour components. The baseline tariffs for all clients on our Belize dive vacations start at $55 per person for the land portion + $35 pp for the air tickets. Late-booking clients on all our Belize scuba diving & Belize snorkeling packages may receive slightly higher tariffs on the lodging + diving at many of our dive resorts. Solo clients on most of our Belize scuba diving & Belize snorkeling packages will always pay a single supplement to secure a private room -- normally 30% more.
For all our Belize scuba diving & Belize snorkeling packages the preferred payment mode for dive resorts & side tours is by cashier's check or wire transfer in U.S. dollars. All clients living outside the USA or Canada will need to pay for their dive vacations via direct wire transfer in U.S. dollars. No personal checks will be accepted for the land portion of any Belize diving vacation reservation. Thank you for your gracious understanding. Our service level is the highest & our prices the lowest in this industry, & thus we need to preserve a reasonable margin. For published-fare air ticket bookings, USDT always accepts Visa & Mastercard for all our Belize dive vacations.
Remember, all tropical vacation clients on these Belize diving vacations will be asked by local officials overseas, upon departing the airport on your final day, to pay a nominal government departure tax, usually between USD $40 - $50 per client. USDT cannot collect this tax beforehand, so you simply pay it down there, in your host country. Be sure to stash away a little cash for this final moment at the airport, so you'll get your exit visa stamped quickly with no fuss; & away you go. Best of luck with your Belize diving plans. We hope your Belize scuba diving vacation is a safe & satisfying adventure. Blessings & best wishes with ALL your Belize scuba vacations.
Best fishes too!
John Hessburg, General Manager
Susan Hessburg, Operations Manager
Founding Partners, U.S. Dive Travel Network.
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