Belize Aggressor III
Diving in the Close,
Text And Photography by Al Hornsby, Jun. 1997
You awaken to a quiet morning with the sea glassy flat and the sun just peeking over the horizon, washing everything in pale rose and lemon. It feels a million miles from civilization; the only sounds are the gentle lapping of water on the ship's hull and the cries of the boobies and frigates nesting on nearby Half Moon Caye.
Beneath the boat, just off the swimstep, is a sheer wall, part of the world's second largest barrier reef. It is encrusted with huge sponges and gorgonians and swarming with reef tropicals and schooling Horse-eye Jacks.
Your memory is still full from last night's dive at Tarpon Caves. Here, at the edge of the wall in just 45 feet of water, huge, silvery Tarpon slashed in and out of schools of baitfish gathered around the ship's underwater lights; the entire scene illuminated like some eerie, science fiction movie set.
That's enough to break your reverie and propel you out of bed for another incredible day of diving from the Belize Aggressor III.
This new Aggressor, less than a year old, is nothing less than a floating luxury hotel that has as its playground the pristine, untouched reefs off the coast of Belize.
In Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala, Belize is a lush, jungled land blessed by Mother Nature with a wonderful richness of vegetation and wildlife. The coastal flatlands are lined with mangrove estuaries, the breeding places for the reef's amazing diversity of marine life.
The interior rises to form 3,000 foot mountains, covered with rain forests that are home to jaguars, ocelots, tapirs and majestic birds of incredible variety. The land is also a seat of ancient history; massive Maya ruins still stand, solemn relics of a civilization trampled but not forgotten by the march of time.
For all its remote, unspoiled nature, Belize is surprisingly accessible and easy to visit. Only a few hours' direct flight from either Miami or Houston, its status as a British colony and its close ties with North America have resulted in an English-speaking culture that accepts U.S. dollars as readily as it does its own. Its restaurants and hotels offer the standard 110 volt electrical current that Americans are used to and have a quality and style that make U.S. visitors feel comfortable and at home.
Without doubt, the Belize Aggressor III provides an unmatched way to discover the pleasures of diving the wonderful life-filled reefs that meander for hundreds of miles along the Belize coastline.
The newest Aggressor to serve the area, the Aggressor III is a 110 foot long, 22 foot wide, 1,000 hp diesel powered ship with an incredible 1,600 mile cruising range. Its onboard watermaking capacity is 1,800 gallons per day. Completely air-conditioned with full length keel and stabilizer system, it provides calm, cool comfort for up to 18 divers in nine staterooms, each with private bath, individual climate control and tv/vcr.
Meals are served in the dining area, there is a separate entertainment salon. Slides can be viewed here on built-in light boxes (E-6 processing is available). Outdoors, there's a large sundeck and hottub.
Meals are served in the salon and are something special indeed. There's an early morning snack just before the first dive of the day. Then, there's a hot, full breakfast, a hot lunch, a late afternoon snack and a sumptuous dinner. Choices are healthy and plentiful, with lots of fresh vegetables, pastas, chicken and fish, cooked in a combination of styles, including American, European and local Creole.
As a diving support vehicle, the Belize Aggressor III is laid out perfectly. Each diver has a personal, below seat storage space for gear and wetsuit drying is just above. The crew fills; with air or EANx (nitrox), dependent upon the individual diver's preference and qualifications; and maintains scuba systems to be ready at anytime. Divers can simply slip into their gear, step off the twin ladder dive platform and be in the water in moments. Camera prep tables are centrally located near dive gear and a large camera/rinse bin sits at the top of the dive platform.
If you're Atlantis 1 rebreather certified, you'll be please to hear the Belize Aggressor III has units for rental. You can also take a course and learn how to use them.
Best of all is the diving itself. Aggressor III's crew has years of experience diving the complex system of cayes and reeflines that run along Belize's long coastline and the ship's charter schedule (Saturday to Saturday), provides five and a half days of unlimited diving, with night dives available almost every evening. Most diving is done off Lighthouse Reef, with other dives near the Turneffe Islands and Glover's Reef.
The most popular dive in the Turneffe Islands is a wall known as The Elbow. It starts in about 60 feet of water and, because it is on the extreme southern tip of the reef, where there are often currents, life is profuse. On the craggy wall are sponges and seafans that feed in the moving water. Fish are everywhere, with schools of grunts, spadefish, snappers and jacks usually seen.
On Lighthouse Reef, perhaps Belize's favorite dive area, there are many different sites, some 33 different ones on the Aggressor's list. One of the best is Half Moon Caye Wall, just a couple hundred yards off the Half Moon Caye bird sanctuary. The wall drops off in only 45 feet of water and is marked with many canyons, overhangs and prominences. On the landward side is a pure white sand flat that becomes a huge eel grass bed. Schools of Horse-eye Jacks congregate along the wall face and Southern Stingrays lie in the sand. In the grass bed are many Hog Snappers and French Angels. Eagle Rays cruise the entire area.
In front of the pier at Half Moon Caye is an interesting snorkel site. In a mixed coral, sand and grass covered area, in only a few feet of water, large numbers of Nurse Sharks and Southern Stingrays congregate.
Perhaps the area's most fascinating dive is at the nearby Blue Hole. On the top of the reef flat, this huge hole sinks straight down hundreds of feet. On a guided deep dive, divers drop down the sides past 100 feet. Along the walls, huge stalactites hang down in the soft, blue light.
For a chance to dive some of the most exotic waters in the Caribbean, put the Belize Aggressor III on your 'must do' list. It's a fascinating venture in comfortable surroundings; surprisingly close to home. For more information or reservations, contact the Aggressor Fleet at P.O. Box 1470, Morgan City, LA 70381-1470; (800) 348-2628, (504) 385-2628, fax (504) 384-0817. You can e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web site at www.aggressor.com.