Where the Sun is Born
Early birds at Blackbird Caye witness one of the great cosmic events of the day: the rising of the sun over the sparkling Caribbean Sea. On those not-so-rare, calm, cloudless mornings, the sun emerges from the cobalt horizon; an event that, according to ancient Mayan thought, recalls the journey of the Jaguar Night Sun through the Underworld and its moment of transformation into Ah Kin, the Great Sun of the Day. The sun's warm rays alight on an endless strand of beach and reef. A cluster of Robinson Crusoe-like bungalows nestled at the edge of the sea allow lovers to wake up to the sound of the ocean and be footsteps away from paradise. Snorkelers and divers can explore a world-class underwater environment in the waters surrounding Blackbird Caye, a large island on the eastern side of Turneffe Atoll, off Belize. Turneffe Islands diving is packed with marine life. The species count is higher here than anywhere else off Belize due to the size of the atoll and the enormous mangrove nursery that surrounds the chain of islands and reefs.
Several areas nearby feature huge mounds of Star and Starlet corals, often capped by majestic Elkhorn formations. Meandering through the maze of coral are clusters of reef fish and impressive schools of Blue Tangs, Creole Wrasse, snappers and grunts. Bouquets of Orange Elephant Ear Sponges, Strawberry Vase Sponges (they appear brown in natural light), and huge Black Coral "trees" cling to the sides and undercuts along the wall.
Moon-lit night diving often reveals indigenous Striped Toadfish nestled in stony clefts along the reef. Pugnacious and solitary, their presence is often declared by loud croaking sounds.
After a day underwater, divers can take a nap on a hammock-for-two beneath a palm tree. Or for those who crave a day topside, kayaking and boating from shore can be followed by a hand-in-hand stroll on the beach. Ashore, under a framework of fringing palms and a deep blue sky, good food and fine wine await lovers. Diving and dining are the ingredients of a romantic adventure at Blackbird Caye. Here the reefs and romance are as intertwined as the journeys of the Jaguar Night Sun and the Great Sun of the Day.
Islands in the Dream
Glover's Atoll, Belize
Once the private hideout of the English pirate John Glover, Glover's Atoll, off Belize, has long had a reputation for shipwrecks and tales of unfound sunken treasure. It's a perfect getaway for lovers who want to follow Glover's lead and hide from civilization.
This hidden treasure is so off the beaten path, the reefs are nearly untouched. Diving is performed by drifting, with the boat picking up divers after they surface. Most established dive sites (a total of 30) are at the southern end of the atoll, close to the resort.
Each quadrant presents a distinct reef profile. The inside lagoon is deep and studded with hundreds of patch reefs. Sites include shallow gardens like Elkhorn Crossing, mid-depth sites such as Pinnacles, and sites along the outer wall, such as Gorgonia's Gallery. Plentiful marine life, including big grouper, huge barracuda and Nurse Sharks, are found in abundance. Visibility averages 100 feet or better, depending upon tides.
One of the special sites is an extensive area collectively known as Hole in the Wall. This is a Grand Canyon of continuous giant coral spurs lining a sharp drop-off.
Snorkeling in the lagoon is almost as exciting as the dives. During the day, bonefish, Yellowtail Snapper, Nurse Sharks and stingrays cruise the flats. At night, a dozen or so Spotted Eagle Rays often swarm under the lights at the dock.
Back on land, dinners are always punctuated by romantic sunsets that even a hardened pirate such as John Glover would have paused to admire (probably wishing his ship was coed). After dinner, steal away to your island hideout or spend time walking on the beach under the inspiring night sky. Later, influenced by the cooling breeze and soft hush of the surf, you will realize that escape is possible and that romance simply inevitable.