Belize Trip Report 2022 - Bluewater Dive Travel
Belize Trip Report 2022

Belize Trip Report 2022

 Belize underwater photo & GoPro video workshop

Trip Report, April 2022

Exploring Belize’s New 1500 Sq. Mile Shark Sanctuary

Photo Workshop and Trip Recap Text & Images by Mike Chiado

Video Recap by Todd Kortte

Watch Todd Kortte's Video recap Here:

Bluewater Travel's inaugural combined GoPro Video Workshop and Photo Workshop was a huge success! Read on to learn about the fantastic diving and the many skills that our guests picked up during a week exploring Belize.

Day 1: Saturday, April 2, 2022

Guests that arrived in Belize before the boarding time of 3 pm greeted each other at the Hotel Fort George bar and lobby areas.  All guests boarded the Belize Aggressor IV (BAIV) before dinner despite many flight delays.  Between trip co-leaders, Todd Kortte stationed at the airport, and Mike Chiado at the hotel, no one was lost! The last of the guests on later flights were on the boat by 5:30 pm. 

Belize Trip Report 2022

Immediately upon boarding, guests were assigned dive deck stations and staterooms. The dive stations remained theirs for the entire trip. The stations included a dedicated tank holder, seating bench, and storage basket under the seat.  Additionally, plenty of hangers in two wet suit drying areas adjacent. 

The boat’s captain, Captain Shea, gave an introduction to the boat and staff before dinner. The Captain explained that the daily dive plan would start with two morning dives at one site. The boat would move to a different site for the afternoon/night dives. The schedule would be consistent each day with a dive bell 15 minutes before each splash time for the five dives of 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, 4:30 pm, and 7:30 pm. 

The meal timing was also announced: Breakfast would be served before the first dive; Lunch between the second and third dives; Dinner between the fourth and fifth dives; Snacks during the other surface intervals. 

Todd and Mike then spoke about the workshops and image/video reviews for the coming week. Sunday and Tuesday nights would be used for formal presentations of photo and video concepts, post-processing, and Lightroom. Additionally, an advanced Lightroom workshop and three photo reviews would fit in between dives.  

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

Guests finished setting up cameras and dive gear before retiring. Camera tables were on the dive deck along with charging stations. Two camera tables with three shelves each provided enough for this photo/video load. The charging stations, while outside, were protected from water and provided plenty of outlets. The night was spent at the marina with plans to depart the next morning at 5 am. 


Day 2: Sunday, April 3, 2022

After leaving the Fort George Marina at 5 am, the boat arrived in time for the first dive of the trip at the Amber Head North site on Turneffe Reef.  The dive site has permanent mooring so boats don’t drop anchors, potentially destroying the delicate reef systems. The mooring is in a sandy area in about 35’ of water. The gentle currents aligned the BAIV just off a shallow reef and above a sloping wall.  

Water entry from the BAIV is directly off the dive platform, a couple of steps down from the dive deck, where each diver had their assigned station. In the water for the first time, divers checked buoyancy, adjusting weights if necessary, before descending to the wall directly below. 

The dive plan was to follow the wall just below the boat into the current at about 60’, and then return with the current on top of the reef in 30’ to 40’ of water. Since returning was quicker with the current at our backs, there was plenty of time to explore reefs and coral heads situated in the beautiful white Belizean sand under the bow of the boat’s mooring line.

We were treated to beautiful sponges, large groupers, playful jawfish, slow-moving stingrays feeding in the sand patches, angel and butterfly fish gliding around the coral outcroppings, goatfish pushing around the sand with their whiskers, lobsters and moray eels out and about during the day, oodles of colorful reef fish, and even a shy little sea horse!  The water temperature was 82 degrees, with visibility of at least 100’, and minimal current. Absolutely perfect conditions, abundant sea life, and a great start to the week.

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

The dive decks’ two hot showers provide ample water to rinse gear, wetsuits, and ourselves. Reef-safe shampoo was provided to complete the process before the crew wrapped us in dry towels. Captain Shea even provided an enjoyable little shoulder massage if you were lucky enough to have him provide your towel!

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022


Belize Trip Report 2022

Mike led a photo workshop during the next transit, covering creatures we expect to see, photography and color science basics, camera care, light filtration in seawater, artificial light sources, manual camera set up, ‘jump’ camera settings, strobe positioning, composition, and the advantage of raw workflow.  

The next dive was at Amber Head North. The bell was rung to alert everyone of the time to suit up. With sunset at 6:06 pm, the dive was twilight/night. This was the first night dive for three guests, and the site was perfect since everyone had been over the same territory on the first dive. However, instead of diving the wall, it was suggested that everyone explore the coral outcroppings in the shallower sandy area with a depth of 30’ to 40’. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 

After the dive, dinner was served followed by Todd's GoPro Video workshop.  Todd discussed video resolution, frame rates, ambient light, video light, loss of color, and how to approach marine life.  He also covered types of video shots that not only capture and hold the viewers' attention but are also easy videos to edit.  They include 3D, Aquarium, Fly-Thru, Slow Motion, and Leave Your Camera Behind shots.  

 At 9:30 pm, BAIV started a two-hour crossing from Turneffe Reef Atoll to Lighthouse Reef.


Day 3: Monday, April 4, 2022

At Lighthouse Reef we started the typical five-dive day pattern spread across two different sites.  

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

The first two dives were at Dos Chichas with the shallow mooring and the boat’s stern at the edge of the reef’s wall. The dive profile of going to 60’-70’ along the wall into the current, and returning on top of the reef with the current.  This profile always left time for exploring the coral heads in the shallows. 

Dos Chichas provided an amazing assortment of massive sponges, moray eels, giant lobsters resting in barrel sponges, gray and french angelfish, tarpons, schools of chubs and grunts, hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks, barracudas, indigo hamlets, three varieties of parrotfish, blennies, fairy basslets, gobies, squirrelfish, hogfish, damselfish, and many more! Once again, perfect conditions with 100’+ visibility, 83-degree water, and minimal current. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

Between the first and second dives, we reviewed images from the first day of diving. Guests were eager to show off their pictures with 37 images submitted.  Praise and suggestions were provided, especially with camera settings and composition. 

The second dive site was Painted Wall. We experienced more current on this dive. Painted Wall provided most of the sightings from early dives, plus introduced some larger fish—tarpons and reef sharks. The tarpons and sharks were curious and always circling the divers. It is safe to say the sharks stole the show and many other creatures were ignored. There were also schools of blue tangs rushing by in formation, cowfish, trumpetfish, rock beauties, blue angelfish, more varieties of groupers, spotted drums, queen triggerfish, and the ever-present damsels with an attitude.

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 

With the current kicked up at Painted Wall, the BAIV moved back to the morning’s location, Dos Chichas, for the night dive. The Captain made sure we never had a night dive in an area that we hadn’t previously seen during the daylight. The tarpons accompanied divers trying to hunt in their lights. Other night creatures were spotted including octopus and hermit crabs carrying large conch shells.


Day 4: Tuesday, April 5, 2022

As usual, people started wandering into the Salon for the continental breakfast offered at 6:30am. Hot breakfast orders started at 7:00am for eggs, omelets, pancakes, or French toast depending on the day. The food from the kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and between dive snacks was always very good. The three vegan guests were also happy with the creations from Chef Carlos. 

The morning dives were at Half Moon Caye. Once again, a wall dive against the current to start and a return with the current above the reef. Crew member John explained that the mooring today was different. Instead of the stern being over the wall, the whole boat would be in a shallow sandy area with a depth of 30’. 

During the dives, reef sharks and massive groupers were always close.  Once again, the sharks stole the attention of the others on the reef. Nonetheless, turtles cruised through the dive area and were not shy about approaching us. One even smacked the lens of Mike’s camera. Maybe wanting more attention than the sharks? Of course, the usual cast of wildlife mentioned previously populated the reef area. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 

The afternoon dives moved to Tarpon Cave just a short motor away. The mooring at the afternoon site was similar to other days with the bow tied to a permanent buoy in the shallows and the stern swinging over the wall. 

The shallow area was covered with grassy-like plants that giant blue parrotfish grazed. It was really a thrill to see so many of these rare parrotfish in one area. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

During the dives, reef sharks and massive groupers were always close. The groupers were so used to divers that they would lay on the sandy bottom allowing photographers to get nose-to-nose with them. A very special interaction!

To allow time for workshops, only four dives were scheduled for the day. Todd continued with the GoPro video workshop, and Mike a Lightroom overview starting with the basics as requested by guests. 

Mike’s Lightroom overview covered differences between Lightroom(CC), Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop, the concepts of Catalog and Collections, photo storage locations, and backups. After covering these basics, Lightroom workflow of Import, Organize, Process, and Export was covered. A review of camera raw workflow was revisited from the first workshop, a walk through the Lightroom interface, and then basic photo adjustments and processing. 

Todd led round 2 of video workshops discussing more on the editing side of video.  He demonstrated how to adjust colors, exposure, and basic corrections on shots we took this week.  He also demonstrated how to slow down the 120-per-second video to 30 frames per second on bubble shots and diver entry shots we took this week.  Todd explained bitrates, output settings, showed the boundaries of digital zoom, adjusting composition, social media resolutions, and one of the more popular discussing points with the to submit your videos to viral video companies and make money on your videos!


Day 5: Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The morning dives following the hot breakfast were at the Aquarium. The site lived up to its name with healthy and abundant plant and animal life.  Lots of parrotfish, angels, and damsels. The dive conditions were the now usual near-perfect with good visibility, warm water, and minimal currents. 

The afternoon and night dive site was the Cathedral. Similar setup to other dives with mooring in shallow water, the stern swinging with the winds, and current over the wall and deeper water. Many photographers spent time focusing on the fields of jawfish nests the sandy area provided. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022


Day 6: Thursday, April 7, 2022

The dive scheduled for the Blue Hole was skipped due to weather conditions - too windy for the large BAIV to navigate the entrance channel. The BAIV has only 4' clearance per side in the channel.  No guests expressed disappointment with missing the Blue Hole, and many said they were happy because we picked up another dive. The reason is the Blue Hole is too deep to use Nitrox, and being a deep regular air dive, additional surface interval is needed. Instead, the last full day of diving moved to Chain Wall for the morning set, and Long Caye Wall for the afternoon and night dives. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

At these two dive sites the big tarpon, reef sharks, barracudas, and groupers were part of the fun again. Of course, all the other creatures previously mentioned were around, joined by schools of creole wrasses.  Also, really massive sponges were everywhere with some over 6’ in height. A school of yellowtail jacks enjoyed the area beneath the boat, potentially using it for protection. 

The BAIV left Lighthouse Reef and motored over to Turneffe to start the trip back to Belize City.


Day 6: Friday, April 8, 2022

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

Friday started earlier than usual with a wake-up call at 5:30 am. A continental breakfast awaited those who signed up for the 6 am dive at Amber Head South. The dives started early so that everyone would have 24 hours before flying to return home on Saturday. 

Amber Head South presented easy dive conditions with great visibility, warm water, and no current. All the wildlife we had come to expect was present.  

Mike had another lucky encounter. This time with a nurse shark that was cruising around the coral heads. The shark stopped resting next to an outcropping. Mike laid on the sand for a profile shot some distance away. The nurse shark crawled along the sand right up to the camera lens for an extreme close-up. 

Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022

While motoring back to Belize City lunch was served.

Arriving in Belize City just after noon, the medical team boarded and tested all guests that had requested Covid tests. Happily, everyone tested negative. During the afternoon some guests elected to take side trips to Mayan Ruins or the Belize Zoo (really a rescue sanctuary).

Those left on board were offered personalized Lightroom, video editing, and a PTSD workshop by the guest Alan, who is a trauma therapist and author of Crisis to Calm.

When everyone returned to the boat, a cocktail party was hosted by the BAIV crew. During the party, the winners of the photo contest were announced. The categories were wide-angle, portrait, and Captain’s choice. There were 37 entries, with the photographer of each image unknown to the judges.  Lee Duckwall won both the wide and portrait categories and Kevin Hurst won Captain’s Choice.  For the video contest, Hank Kratzer was the winner of "Best Video of the Week."  And Rob Himmelstern as "Most Improved Videographer."

Belize Trip Report 2022



Belize Trip Report 2022


Belize Trip Report 2022 Belize Trip Report 2022



Belize Trip Report 2022



Belize Trip Report 2022



Belize Trip Report 2022


Belize Trip Report 2022




Belize Trip Report 2022



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