On the 18th August 2014, members of Cambridge University Officer Training Corps set off to Belize for a scuba-diving expedition with the aim of developing diving skills in a new, unique and often challenging environment. Expedition members were also given the opportunity to complete PADI courses and qualifications, instructed by Capt Lee Piper and Mr Andy Aspinall.
The expedition began with our arrival at Price Barracks where we were to spend the first night. After sorting out all our dive equipment, a brief was given about the program for the next ten days, which would start with us travelling to one of the three Atolls in Belize. The next morning we took a boat to Glovers Reef and set up camp on this beautiful island, although our tents had to be put up again the next day after a storm forced us to move camp into the bar overnight. We then started four days of diving around Glovers Reef where our training dives took place alongside spectacular marine life including rays, sharks and turtles. Southwall was the location for our two night dives – the first night dives for many expedition members. We continued in Glovers Reef with the program of depth progression dives which formed part of the Deep Diver Specialty Course which all members opted to complete. There was an impressive variety of marine life, from sharks and barracuda to rays and turtles, which alongside the spectacular reefs made every dive unforgettable.
Following the dives at Glovers Reef, we travelled back to the mainland and visited Belize Zoo, where we saw a huge variety of native animals including jaguars, pythons, panthers and tapirs. After spending the night at Price Barracks, we set out for Halfmoon Caye. On the way we dived on the third Atoll in Belize, Turneff Reef, which is a fantastic dive site for seeing bull sharks and eagle ray. Our boat journey then resumed and we arrived at Halfmoon Caye ready to complete the second dive of the day on Halfmoon Wall with a reef wall that extends down to over 70 metres. That night we slept in hammocks on the beach gazing up into the star-filled sky and listening to the waves; a true island paradise. The last day of diving then began at the world-renowned site, the Blue Hole. Many of the expedition members thought this was the dive of the expedition as we saw stalactites and sharks down at our maximum depth of 40 metres. After lunch we returned to Halfmoon Wall for our second dive of the day, followed by our final dive at the Aquarium which was teeming with marine life and was a fantastic way to finish our diving in Belize.
With only one day left of the expedition, we took the opportunity to visit the ancient Mayan caves. Led by a very knowledgeable guide we walked and swam deep into these sacred caves and learned about the Mayan rituals that shaped Belizean culture.
This expedition was a great success and was thoroughly enjoyed by all, with everyone saying that they cannot wait to go back to dive in Belize again. The improvement in the quality of diving skills by all expedition members was enormous as was the development of teamwork, confidence and organisation.
The opportunity for us to dive in this incredible country would not have been possible without the funding given to us by the Ulysses Trust and we greatly appreciate this.
OCdt Georgina Scarles (Expedition Leader)