My wife and I traveled to Belize recently (February, 2008) with our two children, ages 15 and 12. We stayed at the Turneffe Flats Lodge on the Turneffe Atoll, one of only four true coral atolls in the Caribbean (two of the other three atolls are also in Belize). We are not divers, although our whole family took the Discover Scuba course with Turneffe Flats' dive instructor and had an amazing experience. More on that later.
Turneffe Flats is primarily about fishing, specifically the saltwater trinity of bonefish, permit and tarpon. 80% of the guests were there for the challenge of finding, catching and releasing these fish on a fly rod. I love to fish but was looking for something that all of us would enjoy, so we signed up for the "Atoll Adventure" program offered by Turneffe Flats. This is basically exploring the 30-mile long atoll and learning about its rich animal, bird and marine life. We had a wonderful guide, a Mayan from southern Belize who was tremendously knowledgeable about the atoll and all of its life forms, patient, diplomatic and very articulate in English (not to mention Mayan and Spanish).
We snorkeled for 2 or 3 hours every morning at a variety of sites, all of which were in superb shape. The reefs on the atoll were the healthiest I've seen in many years of traveling all over the Caribbean, and had large numbers of fish of all species. Douglas Reef on the western side of the atoll was spectacular, an underwater enchanted forest of finger, staghorn, brain, and fire corals, and many more. We also saw spiny-tailed iguanas, crocodiles (for which we hunted at night), dolphins, sea turtles and many species of birds.
The Discover Scuba course was excellent. Alex is a knowledgeable and professional instructor, and after a short briefing the previous evening and a little time in shallow water learning basic skills, led the 4 of us on two dives in 35-40 feet of water. We saw large barracuda, an enormous spiny lobster, peacock flounder, a huge forest of garden eels, queen angelfish and more. I felt completely comfortable putting my family in his hands for this new and rewarding experience. The kids were thrilled and will remember the day forever. We were with two experienced divers who seemed to be enjoying their trip and told us about several of their dives including the famous Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef.
Karen and Craig and the entire staff at Turneffe Flats could not be nicer. The food was delicious, which is all the more impressive given the challenge of provisioning when you are 30 miles and 2 hours by boat from Belize City. I loved the remoteness of Turneffe Flats and the fact that we were without phone, TV and the internet for an entire week (there is a satellite connection at the main lodge if you have to check e-mail or retrieve a stock quote). This is not a typical resort, it's a bit Robinson Crusoe-esque which I thought was great, but not for those who want to hit the boutiques on their vacation. Turneffe Flats only takes about 30 guests and after a few days a real family atmosphere develops. It seems to me that divers at any level of experience would enjoy Turneffe Flats, and family members who are not diving would have lots to do if they signed up for an Atoll Adventure or fishing program. I'd love to go back.