You want the beauty and peace of a deserted island but the comfort of good food, good company and good accommodations? Welcome to Turneffe Flats Lodge on Turneffe Atoll off the coast of Belize. Three hundred square mile Turneffe Atoll is the largest of only four coral atolls in the entire Western Hemisphere. The second largest reef in the world passes right by it, often within a stone’s throw of the shoreline.
The isolation, lack of any large scale development and the natural attributes of the atoll make it the most biologically diverse in the Caribbean. Sixty species of birds live or migrate through here. The water teems with dolphins and sharks and crocodiles.
Everything about Turneffe Flats Lodge (affectionately nicknamed T-Flats by the lodge’s many repeat guests) is designed to have the least possible impact on that environment. Gray water is collected and re-used for irrigation, glass is crushed and re-used on-site in building materials, rain water is collected in massive reservoirs and there’s an on-site water desalination and purification system.
Which is not to say that you’re roughing it castaway style. T-flats just completed stylish renovations on all eight waterfront cabanas and they’re planning to break ground for construction of a freshwater swimming pool soon. Meals are delicious and appropriately hearty preparation for the days’ adventures and a convivial nightly cocktail hour is the perfect place to swap fish tales.
But it’s the marine environment that guests come to enjoy. Fly fishermen have flocked to Turneffe Atoll for two decades in search of the “grand slam” – a dream trio of catches that includes bonefish, permit and tarpon which are all available in the mangroves and shallows around the atoll. Over the years Turneffe Flats Lodge has quietly developed a fanatical following of fly fishermen who return again and again and tell fellow fishermen about the atoll and the lodge in hushed reverential tones.
The lodge added a SCUBA diving program in 1994 and today their polished program includes a spacious, comfortable and easy to board 48 foot dive boat (the Miss Ellie) and an excellent staff of dive masters and captains including Eli Rodriquez and Alex Edwards, Belize’s Guide of the Year in 2007.
Unlike other dive operations that service the atoll, the staffers at Turneffe Flats Lodge are knowledgeable about and happy to take you to any of the more than 60 sites around the atoll. This means if the seas are rough on one side of the atoll, the dive masters simply choose an amazing site on the other side of the atoll where conditions are calmer.
And what dive sites! During my time on Turneffe Atoll I explored a dozen sites and spent almost 11 hours underwater. With visibility up to 100 feet in such a rich marine environment I was able to see spotted eagle rays slowly flapping by like underwater birds, loggerhead turtles, colorful and diverse coral formations, huge schools fish flashing by in a blur of color, tiny snapping shrimp (which really do snap), spotted toadfish, peppermint shrimp, dancing crabs and much more.
The world famous Great Blue Hole, part of the Belize Barrier Reef System which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also accessible at nearby Lighthouse Atoll. During an hour-long boat journey to the site the Miss Ellie was escorted part of the way by a pod of spinner dolphins.
With so much going for it you might reasonably think that divers would be flocking to Turneffe Flats Lodge. The extraordinary truth is that hardly anyone does. While other dive operations in the area run packed boats and toss large groups of divers into the water, a typical dive trip at Turneffe Flats Lodge includes two to six divers which means everyone can enjoy the space and comfort of the Miss Ellie and get the personal attention of Alex and Eli who provide live-aboard quality service.
Honestly, I toyed with the idea of keeping Turneffe Flats Lodge to myself as my own personal SCUBA secret, but it’s so good it has to be shared, especially now that lodge owners Craig and Karen Hayes have announced some incredible savings.
Now through Christmas you can book week-long all-inclusive angler packages at two-for-one prices (that’s $2,480 plus taxes per angler). And now through the end of October you can book week-long all-inclusive diver packages at two-for-one prices as well ($1,162.50 plus taxes per diver). To make reservations call (888) 512-8812 or email [email protected].
Our review of this lodge was originally published by iTraveliShop
Here’s more about travel in Belize