Vol 7 No. 12 - December 13, 2006

The edge of the earth: Turneffe Atoll

An angler shows a barracuda he caught at the Truneffe Atoll east of Belize City.

By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer

There are some extraordinary places in the world where you feel like you're on the edge of the earth and the natural world envelopes you with a silence that is deafeningly sublime. The Turneffe Atoll, a 30-mile long, 10-mile wide circular necklace of stunning coral reefs fits into this rare category. The atoll lies 25 miles due east of Belize City in Belize, an English speaking country sandwiched between Mexico and Guatemala on the eastern coast of Central America. Easily accessible from the United States (especially Florida), the Turneffe Atoll is home to one of the world's finest adventure destinations, The Turneffe Flats Lodge.

I traveled to Turneffe Flats last October on a fly fishing assignment. It was my second trip there, and the lodge had impressed me with its comfortable amenities. I arrived this time to find that they had added new decks and steps, a stand alone central residence and an exercise room. The cuisine had also been upgraded with sumptuous meals featuring fresh local fruits, produce and seafood, served with eye-appealing settings. In addition to outstanding fishing, the lodge features some of the best diving on the planet, as well as access to the biological and archeological treasures on the mainland.

While my main focus on this trip was capturing images of barracuda for an upcoming article, I also fished the shallow coral fringe reef and explored the inner lagoons and mangrove islands for bonefish and permit. The fishing opportunities are diverse and the surroundings incomparable. Although the barracuda proved challenging, the bonefish were willing and eager to take a well placed fly. I had a number of shots at permit during my limited time fishing for them but didn't land one on this trip. A group of fly anglers from the St. Pete's Fly Shop in Ft. Collins, Colo. spent their whole trip chasing permit and everyone in the group managed multiple fish.

On several mornings I was on the reef early in the day to capture images and chase the vast schools of bonefish that roam the clear shallow flats. The complete solitude, cool morning breezes, and the hundreds of tailing bonefish spread out over the coral flat were among the highlights of my trip.

At the end of each day, anglers and divers are served drinks and delicious hors d'oeuvres, including fresh conch cervichi. After dinner, and before turning in for the evening, I would enjoy the awe inspiring night sky. With the absence of the moon, the Milky Way spreads out from horizon to horizon and planets float in the inky velvet darkness.

If eight hours of fishing a day aren't enough, anglers have only to step out their front door to wade the flats for tailing bonefish. The lodge is perched right on the edge of the reef and a number of bonefish were landed within a stone's throw of shore. I also enjoyed snorkeling right off the Turneffe Flats dock in the afternoon. The bottom is lined with live coral, and a multitude of colored fish, sea fans and anemones decorate the sea floor.

I consider the Turneffe Atoll and the Turneffe Flats Lodge one of my favorite destinations. I've fished there on two occasions, but on my next trip I plan on exploring the diving opportunities. During my stay the lodge hosted several guests who travel the world in search of the finest diving destinations. They consistently rated Turneffe as one of the top four locations in the world. For information and to make reservations contact the lodge at www.tflats.com or call 1-(888) 512-8812.


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