Nassau Grouper by Chris Watt
When it comes to picturesque locations for diving, Belize is right up there. It’s the second least populated nation in Central America, found between Mexico and Guatemala. This little place has everything for the diver and for anyone who’s looking for more than just adventure under the water.
Full of exploration, adventure and relaxation, with its fair amount of romance above and below the water, Belize has a place in the top dive sites and destinations worldwide.
Belize is made up of over 400 islands and unbeknownst to some has the longest ‘unbroken’ barrier reef in the western hemisphere, with a coastline that is over 180 miles long of pristine white sandy beaches, you have plenty of options of where to relax after a long dive.
Belize itself was home to the Mayans, and there are many historical Mayan ruins to explore along with treks through the rainforests themselves and cave tubing to boot. So for divers and families, this is a bucket-list destination.
Top 7 Dive Sites on your Belize Bucket List
The Barrier Reef
As I mentioned above Belize is home to that enormous ‘unbroken’ barrier reef stretching the entire length of the countries coastline, giving divers a plethora of reef to explore.
Choose a tour company that can provide you with diving opportunities in the deep coral canyons. These consists of Brain, Staghorn and Elkhorn corals, simply stunning viewing.
It’s common to start from shallow water and descent to around 30 meters. The area is full of White Spotted Toadfish, widespread in these waters, also reef sharks, turtles and a plethora of tropical fish.
The Blue Hole
For divers around the world, this is the signature dive. And should already be on the bucket list. The hole itself spans over 300 meters in diameter and is around 140 meters deep of an almost perfectly round hole.
The journey out is not long from many of the cayes. Be prepared for a deep dive though, and follow your instructor or guide. Usually descending to 40 meters at the start, you’ll get to see and explore the stalactites on the cavern ceiling. Usually dive time is around eight minutes before you start to ascent up the wall into the transition of freshwater and salt water. This is where you’ll have company in the shape of reef and bull sharks enhancing the experience. Apart from the dive itself, helicopter rides are common and used by many tourists to get a bird’s eye view, quite breathtaking as you can see in the image.
With numerous dive locations throughout the country, Ambergris Caye is all about location. With it being the largest of the cayes on the coast, it’s just a short plane ride from Belize City and is closest to the Belize Barrier reef that you’ll get to.
From the dock it’s a short journey out to the Caye where you will dive into the deep coral formations which help to shelter the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
In the Mayan language, Hol Chan means ‘little channel’ referring to the crack in the reef, off of Ambergris Caye.
It is an ideal access point for the dive sites outside of the reef and in the reserve. The authorities do a good job in patrolling and protecting the marine park, and it flourishes due to this, with prevention of anchoring and fishing the numbers of marine life are plentiful.
You will be captivated by the Elkhorn Corals, this may only be small 10-meter deep crack, but it’s worth the visit. Something noteworthy is the strong currents lead to schools of grouper, also plentiful are barracuda, snapper and jacks in the area.
Shark Ray Alley
If you are in a group or with family that are non-divers, this is an ideal location to ditch the diving equipment and put on the fins and the snorkel.
The Alley is a sand plateau, pretty shallow, known where the fisherman generally clean their catch before taking it to market, so there’s plenty of guts and chum in the water which naturally attracts many species of fish and sharks to the area to feed. Stingrays and nurse sharks are plentiful and offer great photo opportunities.
Once you leave the reef you’ll hit Turneffe, Glover’s and Lighthouse, three of these being three out of four of the western hemisphere’s true coral atolls.
There a few dive lodges around on small pockets of dry land. If you’re looking for nothing but diving and no-one around then, these are the spots for you.
The drop-offs are stunning some as deep as 1000 meters into the abyss. There is everything on offer from shallow coral scenery to towering pinnacles all in the midst of canyons and vertical walls.
Turneffe is the largest and closest out of the Atolls to the mainland, journey time being less than an hour. On the southern tip of the Turneffe Atoll is one of Belize’s best dive sites, called the Elbow, due to the prominent twist in the coral, another Belize must-see.
The Lighthouse reef is further out than the others, encircling a 30-mile long lagoon which is inclusive of the above mentioned Blue Hole.
Glover’s is by far the most remote of the Atolls and subsequently is the least visited, which for some people may be the attraction as at least 40-50 miles of the fringe of the reef is untouched, so expect vivid coloured coral and plentiful marine life.
No, Whales Sharks are not the name of a dive location. However, you should try to add a whale shark experience to your itinerary while in Belize.
Getting to swim alongside the largest fish in the sea is a big thrill and attraction on the island. The best time to guarantee an encounter with these gentle giants is between April to June when they are plentiful in the area.
At this time of year around 25 other species of fish are in their spawning cycle and although we associate whale sharks as pure plankton feeders the eggs of the Cubera snapper are a tasty meal they can’t get enough of, providing them with an abundant food source. Gladden Spit is the location to get up and close to them, also great for a family experience as they are curious and often approach boats and divers alike.
Don’t Miss Diving Belize
In this tiny island in a remote part of the world await an all-around experience only matched by a handful of places on earth. For a diver, it is a must on your bucket-list and for those who never considered it you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wonder and beauty that awaits you in Belize. Enjoy.
Pat Moresby is a veteran blogger with a life-long love of global travel and adventure, and he has been Diving Whitsundays with Whitsundayssailingadventures and loves to share his experiences.