Goff’s Caye sits off the coast of Belize about five miles west of Turneffe Atoll, right on the edge of the spectacular Belize Barrier Reef. Waters to the south and east are 10 feet (3 m) deep or less. Goff’s Caye is registered as an archaeological site because during colonial times the island served as an important fishing camp, trade center and cemetery. Among those interred in the cemetery are crew members from the prolific sloop-of-war HMS Blossom who tragically died of yellow fever during a visit to the colony in August 1830.
Goff’s Caye is one of the few small islands in Belize that is not privately owned, and is instead managed by the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.
Getting to Goff’s Caye
Goff’s Caye is easily accessible from various spots in Belize. Some guests visit via excursions from weekly cruise ships that arrive at the port in Belize City. If you’re are staying on Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, however, it’s better to visit on a day when the cruise ships are not in port. Most cruise ships enter Belize City on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but make sure to research which days the ships will not be docking to get the full experience of this whimsical place without the tourist invasion.
If you are coming from Belize City, you can hop on a dive/snorkel boat for a brief 30-minute ride. If you are traveling from San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, the journey will take about an hour, heading out past Caye Caulker through the mangroves and beyond the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s an easy trip even on a windy day for the diver or snorkeler who may be prone to seasickness.
Diving on Goff’s Caye
The Belize Barrier Reef has many superb sites to choose from and Goff’s Caye is no exception. The caye is only about an acre large, so snorkeling the entire circumference of this tropical island makes for a perfect day. If you snorkel around this little gem, you’ll spot colorful parrotfish and abundant blue striped grunts. You may also see trumpetfish, queen angelfish, and barracudas passing by. While maneuvering in an out of the surrounding coral, you will most certainly come upon many live conch shells and empty sea biscuits.
The three-tank dive excursion just offshore from Goff’s Caye starts out with two morning dives. After lunch and a long surface interval, you’ll finish the day with one afternoon dive. Most dives take place in 30 to 60 feet (10 to 18 m). Once you reach depth, adjust your buoyancy and watch as a school of blue tang swim by. The spectacular purple, blue, red, green and orange coral gardens are breathtaking, so slow down and take it all in. You may be lucky enough to see a spotted scorpionfish, a rare find.
Once you make your way to the edge of the wall, it really doesn’t matter which way you turn — just stick with your buddy and take in the site. If you stay between 40-60 feet (12-18 m), watch for the petite spotted drum, swaying back and forth until he notices you and scoots up in the coral. If you look closely you may see a crab disguising himself under the coral as well. Plenty of beautiful turtles are roaming around looking for food as well. And finally, a gaze into the abyss may reward you with a magnificent spotted eagle ray.
Mark Cohn and guest author Beth Biersdorf founded Belize Happy Adventures in 2017 to help visitors easily plan Belize trips. For more information about diving and snorkeling, check out Seastar Belize. All images courtesy Beth Biersdorf.