Mesoamerican Reef, Belize

Dec 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

School Daze in Belize's Coral reef system    Photo: Tony Rath/Belize Tourism

Many water-faring visitors to Belize bomb through coastal Belize City and beeline straight for the Blue Hole, the country's best-known diving-and-snorkeling attraction. Starting this winter, World Wildlife Fund is offering a brand-new snorkeling expedition that dives into many other wonders of the Mesoamerican Reef, the world's second-largest barrier reef and a WWF priority conservation zone that's home to more than 60 species of coral and more than 500 species of fish.

Traveling from Belize City aboard Le Levant—a 45-cabin expedition ship featuring a fleet of Zodiacs for land excursions, on-demand scuba gear, and lip-smacking French cuisine—the trip carves a counterclockwise loop through some of the most pristine and least visited expanses of the reef. Led by renowned marine biologist Joel Simon, guests will snorkel through far-flung spots like South Water Caye Marine Reserve, the habitat of choice for endangered manatees and rare longsnout seahorses, and the Turneffe Islands' soaring coral pinnacles. There's also landlubber adventure, with guided visits to red-footed booby reserves, secluded mangrove forests, an important grouper spawning ground at Glover's Reef atoll, and Carrie Bow Caye, a Smithsonian marine-research field station. A team of lecturers and naturalists complements the site visits with expert analysis and explanation. And don't worry: The ship even calls at the rightly renowned Blue Hole. Eight days from $4,390, all-inclusive; 888-993-8687, www.worldwildlife.org/travel