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Hat Caye Drop-off is one of the most southern dive sites regularly visited by dive boats in Lighthouse Reef.
|Name Dive Site:
|Hat Caye Drop-off
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A short distance west from a tiny island called Hat Caye is a reef drop-off that bears its name. Situated along the main wall in the western limb of Lighthouse Reef, it has an interesting shallow reef and is the southernmost site dive boats regularly visit on this atoll.
The shallow reef is wide, with an extensive patch of sloping sand separating two reefs: a very shallow reef near the island and a narrow line of reefs that hug the drop-off at 50 ft.
Dive boats typically anchor above the sloping sand areas close to the wall. Both the drop-off and adjoining reefs offer some exciting diving with dramatic wide-angle photographic possibilities, but the sandy slope behind the reef rimming the wall should not be ignored. It has some unique marine life.
Along the rim of Hat Caye Drop-off are some huge basket sponges, the largest quite capable of completely hiding a diver. In the midst of such grandeur, many divers feel the need to climb inside the cavernous sponge opening. However sponges, which take a long time to grow, invariably get damaged by fins, tanks, or hands during such maneuvers. Damaged sponge tissue is susceptible to disease, which can eventually kill the sponge.
Basket sponges are also home to many other animals and their rough exterior surface should be checked over carefully. Brittle starfish by the hundreds are quite common, but during the day most hide in the deep pits of the sponge. Often, only a few hairy starfish arms can be seen wrapped around the many knobby external sponge growths. Look here for white antennae that belong to the red and white coral shrimp.
The drop-off also has several other major marine life attractions, including an abundance of deep-water lace coral, giant yellow tube sponges and lots of fish. You may have to do several dives here to appreciate everything this site has to offer.
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