Blackbird Caye Resort is the gateway to the stunning Belize Barrier Reef, but so much more than a stopgap hitching post for scuba nerds. Stretched across two miles of palm-fringed beach on the windward side of the Turneffe Atoll, Blackbird is set against a backdrop of more than 4,000 acres of untrammeled jungle, mangrove forests, sprawling lagoons, and migratory bird habitats.
Many guests come to Blackbird to get under the water and at the reef – some of the best diving sites in Belize are a short five or ten minute boat ride from Blackbird's dock – though this isolated island paradise has plenty to offer visitors looking to stretch their land legs. 18 ocean-view cabanas, each with its own private balcony and hammock, hold dominion over the Caribbean Sea. The Poolside Bar is a great place to unwind after a hot day in the sun, while the gallant High Tide Bar, with at least two feet in the sea at any one time, offers an excellent happy hour and complimentary snacks, including island fare like lion fish fingers, ceviche, conch fritters, and fried grouper. One of the top dive resorts in the world and a postcard-perfect island paradise, Blackbird is at once home away from home, and your own secluded hideaway.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/7.1 | ISO-640 | Shutter 1/30 sec.
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Become a PADI Diver
If there’s a better place to become a certified PADI diver, it’s not on this planet. Maybe you’ve got a connection with a dive school on a polar cap in Mars, or maybe there’s a lake on the moon filled with phosphorescent jellyfish; otherwise, learning to dive in Belize is simply unparalleled.
Why? The Belize Barrier Reef is one reason. Depending on whom you ask, this is either the best or second best dive destination on the planet, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Marine life here is remarkable – sharks, rays, turtles, manatees, crocodiles and more call the ocean, mangroves, and lagoons home. Nary a day goes by that a diver doesn’t see something spectacular. The setting is also spectacular; Blackbird Caye Resort, on the stunning Turneffe Atoll, would be a perfect bit of tropical paradise even if it were not a dive resort. Still, the biggest reason to get certified as a diver in Belize is the level of education offered by the resort’s dive masters; instructor Dom Evans approaches each lesson with the verve and vigor of someone who loves what he does, and his excitement and energy is infectious. Blackbird’s team of local instructors and dive masters have years of experience on the Turneffe Atoll, and know both the terrestrial and undersea world like no one else.
Blackbird Caye offers PADI learning unparalleled.
GoPro Hero3+ Silver | SPL Water Housings GP4 5″ Dome Port | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-100 | Shutter 1/710 sec.
When embarking upon training in any new discipline, it is of paramount importance to find an instructor who can communicate to you the information necessary to achieve a certain level of training and proficiency, but it’s also important to find someone who can motivate, inspire, and lead.
PADI Instructor Dom Evans of the Blackbird Caye Resort is one of the most inspiration teachers I’ve ever met. Dom cut his teeth training burgeoning divers in Thailand, worked on live aboard ships as an instructor in the Red Sea, taught diving in Egypt, and now teaches beginners and advanced divers who come to Belize to explore the Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole. Part of what makes Dom a brilliant instructor is his passion for diving; after thousands of trips beneath the water, his passion is still fiercely evident. He makes his students want to work hard to complete their training so that they can experience what the ocean has to offer – and he helped activate a passion for diving within me that I didn’t know I had.
If you’re at all interested in becoming a diver, have a look at the PADI programs offered by Blackbird Caye Resort and their resident husband and wife dive duo, Dom and Lia Evans. They just may inspire you, too.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-3200 | Shutter 1/80 sec.
Not everyone who comes to Belize is a scuba diver. Diving deep, deep beneath the waves requires a certain level of nerve, and a penchant for adventure. Still, those folks who prefer to tread water near the surface are in luck; the turneffe Atoll is renowned for playing host to some of the finest snorkeling sites in the Caribbean.
Some of the best snorkeling in the area is located just off the shore from Blackbird Caye Resort. The Stingray Motel features spectacular coral formations, while Chinaman’s Wall is a great place to see marine life without having to dive too deep – the reef is close to shore, which means that people nervous about swimming in the open ocean can experience sea life without getting sea sick. Chinaman’s Island also happens to be one of the prettiest and most picturesque little bumps of sand in all of the Caribbean.
Blackbird Caye Resort is as much a playground for snorkel enthusiasts as it is for diving addicts; the resort offers specialty snorkel packages that visit the atoll’s top reef sites.
GoPro Hero3+ Silver | SPL Water Housings GP4 5″ Dome Port | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-100 | Shutter 1/590 sec.
You’ve been diving all day. Maybe you went out on three snorkeling expeditions. Perhaps you explored the central lagoon, or simply decided to spend eight hours curled up in a hammock with a good book. Whatever you’ve decided to do with your time at Blackbird Caye Resort, make sure you’re on time for Happy Hour in the High Tide Bar; snacks are served, drinks are doled out, and tales of adventure in the realm of the deep are shared. These big fish stories were my favorite part of happy hour, but I am also not ashamed to admit that I’ve enjoyed a frosty rum libation (or two) in my time.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/3.2 | ISO-1250 | Shutter 1/20 sec.
If you’ve come down south in search of your own private postcard-perfect paradise, look no further than your front porch. Each of the private cabanas at the Blackbird Caye Resort is outfitted with a hammock, while even larger bits of fabric are strung up between palm trees along the beach.
Translation; this is the perfect opportunity to unwind in an idyllic setting, and watch the clouds float by.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-500 | Shutter 1/60 sec.
I loved dining with the Blackbird culinary team. One night we’re snacking on delicate grouper fillet, the next it’s spiny lobster and plantains. No matter what popped up on the menu, we knew it was going to be fresh, local, and fished or farmed by local Belizean fisherfolk or farmers.
It was fantastic to see what the kitchen could produce, considering just how remote we were out on the Turneffe Atoll – there’s no running down to the supermarket if an ingredient is missing, after all. I could also appreciate how hard the team worked to accommodate guests with specific dietary requirements; while on island, we were joined by a videographer who happened to be vegan – and by all accounts, he did pretty well by way of his gastronomic adventures. Big win, Blackbird.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-2300 | Shutter 1/60 sec.
Skies lit by nothing but the stars and the moon? Check.
A spectacular stretch of sand, purpose built for night photography? Check.
All the time in the world to explore your own tropical paradise? Double check.
Don’t forget to pack your tripod for your visit to Blackbird Caye Resort, and don’t forget to go for a wander down the beach once the sun goes down; you might just be amazed at how the night comes alive for you.
Oh, but watch where you step – you don’t want to crush a hermit crab, or put your foot inside a crocodile’s mouth.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-2500 | Shutter 30 sec.
So, you're thinking of becoming a PADI Adventure Diver, are you?
Of course you are. You're a modern-day Don Quixote. The Adventure Diver course I worked through with Instructor Dom Evans was fantastic. Not only was this my introduction to new diving skills (we continued working on our mastery of neutral buoyancy, for one), this course served to get me really excited about underwater exploration. Adventure dives include everything from fish identification, underwater photography, night dives, sidemount dives, and more. This is the perfect course for anyone who has just completed their Open Water Diver certification, and is looking to test their mettle in wholly new and thrilling disciplines. And of course, the best part is that you get to call yourself an Adventure Diver when all is said and done. Groovy.
Nikon 1AW1 | 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens | Aperture f/5.6 | ISO-320 | Shutter 1/160 sec.
Belikin is the beer of choice throughout Belize. This local brew has a sweet malty kick with a smooth finish, and is characterized by notes of caramel and bread. It’s perfectly effervescent – just bubbly enough for hot days under the Caribbean sun.
Belikin brews a few different varieties of beer – including a wonderful stout. This little bit of black gold was my sundown companion each night at Blackbird Caye Resort. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a beer nerd, so I was thrilled to find out that this island paradise comes complete with fantastic brews.
Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 lens | Aperture f/2.8 | ISO-1000 | Shutter 1/125 sec.
Pictured here – behind the shark, in case you didn’t get any further than that – is Alex Ruiz. Alex is one of finest documentary videographers and underwater photographers working today, and I was lucky to get the chance to shoot side-by-side with him while in Belize.
I will be honest – I had a bit of a tough time keeping up.
A great way to get the most out of your time underwater is to take the PADI underwater photography course, and then supplement what you’ve learned in that intro session with an in-depth, one-on-one educational experience with Alex. Based in Cozumel, Mexico, Alex teaches his underwater photo and video courses about anywhere the water is salty.
You can even arrange to have Alex show you how to dance with sharks on the Belize Barrier Reef as part of a Blackbird Caye Resort holiday – which I can honestly say was one of the best travel experiences of my life.
Contact Alex via his site at Lupita Productions.
This is the face of triumph – my pal Shawn completing his PADI Open Water certification over top of the gorgeous Belize Barrier Reef. Our experience diving with the crew at Blackbird Caye Resort on the Turneffe Atoll was unlike any either of us has ever had – and I can say for both of us that we’re hooked, and can’t wait to get back to Belize and under the waves once again.
If you’re after the experience of a lifetime and keen on learning how to dive, look no further than PADI Instructor Dom Evans at Blackbird Caye – you’ll never look at the sea the same way again.
Nikon 1AW1 | 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens | Aperture f/5.6 | ISO-160 | Shutter 1/400 sec.
The distance from the soft, sandy beaches to the frontlines of the Belize Barrier Reef is measured not in nautical miles from the dock – but rather in feet from the shores of the Blackbird Caye Resort. You’ll find that the only things more inviting than the coral breaks just beyond the flats are the multi-colored vessels waiting to get you there.
Paddleboards are a great way to experience the depths of these crystal-clear waters from a standing position – often coupled with starfish sightings or the fleeting glimpse of a gliding stingray below. The convenience of a kayak with an on-board anchor system is unmatched when you have to indulge just one last snorkeling excursion before dinner.
Without question, the best way to enjoy all of the world-class diving Belize has to offer is with the hands-on guidance of a top notch PADI instruction crew – such as the team led by Dom Evans at the Blackbird Caye Resort.
For most of us, a journey to these waters is a trip of a lifetime, and Dom’s team appreciates what that experience means at every level – from the beginner who is just snorkeling for the first time to the master divers and underwater photographers among us – and can be counted on to ensure that each experience is tailor-made for your skill, and comfort level.
One of the few things better than a day spent exploring the wonders off the coast of Belize is an evening spent sharing those experiences with a couple companions over cocktails, drinking in the colors of a spectacular sunset from the over-water patio at Blackbird Caye Resort’s High Tide Bar.
Maybe it’s the creative coastal spirits on offer from the master mixologist, or a Belekin – the “Beer of Belize” – that keeps the conversation going through the night. Either way, you can be sure it’s going to pair perfectly with whatever hors d’oevres the chef has tapped for that evenings’ gathering.
You’ll find that the efforts to protect and conserve the biodiversity that define Belize as such a unique marine habitat don’t begin and end beneath the surface of the surrounding waters. The residents of the Turneffe Atoll consider this as much a priority as they do ensuring you have a safe and enjoyable diving experience. Examples of this can be found in abundance at Blackbird Caye Resort.
In addition to the myriad of colorful coral and creatures you’ll find offshore, it’s just as common to find yourself side-stepping hermit crabs on the beach, gazing upward in awe at the size and sheer numbers of birds flying overhead, or – for those who like a little adrenaline with their wildlife – venturing over to the central lagoon for a glimpse of one of the resident crocodiles. Whatever your pleasure, the crew does an incredible job of reinforcing the importance of respecting the habitat – even and especially when that means leading by example.
Surface intervals are as much a part of the diving experience as goggles and fins, but our friends at the Blackbird Caye Resort realize all too well that their guests don’t want to be out of the action any longer than they have to be. These are the times when your snorkel becomes your best friend, and what you find could offer a completely different perspective on what is already an incredible experience.
Most of the lagoons near Blackbird Caye Resort are lined with mangrove trees, which – especially for those taking their camera for a swim – offer a unique view of the extravagant root network and diversity of this ecosystem for those brave enough to venture under the surface. A snorkel trip through the mangroves is definitely not for the faint of heart, however. Crocodiles are common in these waters, so you’re going to want to keep one eye on the boat - lest you become the purse.
There’s something about the ritual of desalinating your gear after a day full of saltwater that might have you saying, “yeah – I could use a little of that myself.” When that sensation strikes, indulge it with a little downtime as you relax and reflect in Blackbird Caye Resort’s beachside pool.
Perfectly situated overlooking the dock and the dive shacks, the pool is an ideal retreat for reminiscing about the days adventure against a backdrop of color from the Caribbean sunset. Bring your favorite beverage and savor the smells of hors d’oevres coming from the bar or dinner from the patio. You’ll find yourself submerged in a million different pleasures all at once – each one lined with a promise of the best that Belize has to offer.