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    Steal Away to Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize Magical Manta Resort

    Text & Photography by Rick Frehsee

    The horizon is an all-blue panorama. A line, stretching to infinity, separates a cobalt blue sky from a turquoise sea. Behind the handsome 55 foot Pelagic, cruising at more than 20 knots, is a trail of white foam tracing our path from Belize City just two hours away. Ahead of us, at the edge of visibility, a sliver of creamy white topped by rows of green asterisks appears a sandy islet covered with coconut palms. Once we round the corner of the reef and enter the cut, the one islet becomes two separated by a channel leading to a shallow lagoon. The lagoon and the two little islets are pure magic. Through the crystal water we spot stingrays and Nurse Sharks lying on the sugar white sand bottom. A thatched palapa-style mainhouse is suspended over the lagoon. It is attached to the island by a wooden dock. Nestled in palms are a series of handsome wood bungalows stilt-mounted at the edge of the sea. We have arrived at Manta Resort, a place so visually stunning it will take your breath away. Here, we have the key to diving adventure on a far-flung atoll known as Glover's Reef.

    For seasoned divers seeking to regain a sense of past pleasures or for new divers who would like to see what Caribbean dive travel was like 20 years ago (without sacrificing modern comforts), this is the place to be. Among Belize's coral maze and hundreds of offshore islands, Manta Resort is perched at the outer edge of pristine dive adventure the only resort on a 17 by 12 mile coral atoll. For the next week you and a handful of guests will have more than 30 miles of walls and pinnacles and more than 700 patch reefs all to your own other than Manta's dive boats, there is seldom another vessel in sight.

    Before Manta Resort, Glover's Reef was Belize's 'mystery' atoll. Of the three true coral atolls that provide this Caribbean-facing, Central American country with considerable wilderness appeal, Glover's is the farthest from Belize City and therefore the least visited. With Manta Resort and its spacious and speedy transfer vessel, creature comforts and dive adventure are guaranteed.

    The coral atolls of Belize undoubtedly present the very best underwater visibility in the country and most probably the most pristine corals and greatest concentration of marine life. Glover's Reef Atoll (named after the English pirate John Glover), in addition to being a remote wilderness location, is exceptional because of the diversity of underwater landscape. Within a 3 to 30 minute boat ride are sites that display towering coral pinnacles (west), spectacular shallow and mid-depth reefs (south) and miles of vertical walls lined with exaggerated spurs and grooves (southeast). In addition, the actual location of the Manta Resort provides access to a shallow crystal lagoon sandwiched between two palm-studded islets and the encircling fringing reef. Snorkel or scuba excursions launched from the resort dive dock day or night will provide encounters with stingrays, Eagle Rays, Nurse Sharks, Permits, schools of Bonefish and more. The entire southern end of Glover's Reef Atoll has been designated a National Conservation zone to ensure future pristine conditions.

    The dive dock is the focus of a small dive shop, a guest wet storage locker, lagoon-entry platform and several mid-sized dive boats in the 26 to 36 foot range. Boat diving is done in a drop-off/pick-up style; there are no reef moorings on this wilderness atoll. There is normally little current at most sites so most dives are a casual swim along the reef or wall with a boat pickup at the end of the dive. Thirty distinctive dive sites are listed and identified on a wall map inside the palapa mainhouse and restaurant. The concentration of dive sites is toward the southern end of the atoll near the resort. Each quadrant around the atoll presents a noticeably different reef profile and provides a choice of leeside with changing wind direction.

    Elkhorn Crossing is a shallow coral garden of maximum diversity in the southern quadrant. Here are giant coral heads studded with Star, Starlet and Brain Corals topped by the spreading arms of Golden Elkhorn Coral. This is a perfect spot for snorkeling or scuba after a wall dive.

    A continuous wall topped by waving seafans and a forest of seawhips is found at Gorgonia's Gallery, also in the southern quadrant only minutes from the resort. Along this wall, where there is a minimum number of human intruders, you can expect to see dozens of sizeable groupers and huge Barracuda four to five feet long.

    On the eastern side of the atoll are several spots such as Pinnacles and Masada where giant reef mounds protrude from the sandy bottom one after the other. Common encounters here are with big Nurse Sharks lying in sandy enclaves beneath coral overhangs. If you are lucky, you might find the school of huge Manta Rays that frequently swims through this area.

    One of Manta's most spectacular dive sites is a series of coral spurs lining a southwestern wall known as Hole-in-the-Wall. This is an area known for maximum visibility, giant coral formations and an unending parade of marine life, including groupers, 'cudas and schools of assorted reef and pelagic fishes. Eagle Rays and sharks are frequently encountered.

    The meals at Manta Resort are fantastic a well-prepared array of seafood, continental specialties and local fruits, vegetables and island-style desserts graces the tables of the restaurant in the sea. Wine is served at evening meals. Non-diving hours are enjoyable walks along the beach, snorkel or swimming excursions in the lagoon, kayaking around the islands or lying in a hammock with a favorite book beneath palm trees. In addition to superb diving, Manta Resort is a place to rediscover the true Caribbean and recharge your spirit and soul.