diving in belize
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

belize turtleAs 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

blue hole belizeFor 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.

Ambergris Caye

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.

The Atolls

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.

Whale Sharks

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 MoresbyPat 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.

When you live out on an island for weeks and even months, you get obsessed by some pretty interesting stuff. This last March we met a Pygmy Octopus living just a few feet from our shore. I got to see him several times, but by far his best friend was Elora Kooistra, the island dive instructor. She became totally infatuated with him, she named him Egbert, and took hours and hours of high-quality videos of her interactions with him.

A couple of our guests first found Egbert when they were snorkeling right in front of our kayak beach. He was living in a conch shell about 20 feet out. They showed the rest of our guests and guides, and one whole afternoon about 15 people were out there watching him in about 6 feet of water. Our kitesurf instructor Lauren Bibby and our island manager trainee Kyle Lowis, who were best friends with Elora, went out the next day with Elora to see if he was still there. When I came along the three of them were taking turns holding their breath while snorkeling with a GoPro filming Egbert while one of them stood on the other person’s back so the camera-person could stay down while snorkeling to get long, uninterrupted shots.

Then Elora decided it made way more sense to do this with scuba gear, so she would weigh herself down with a bunch of dive weights and take a scuba tank and in this way she could hang out with Egbert as long as she wanted. This went on for weeks. Eventually Kyle and Lauren reached the end of their shift so they left the island, but Elora and I stayed on and Elora continued to visit Egbert every day. For a while she lost him when he moved to another shell, but she hunted until she found him again.

She would take raw fish to him. He would fight nearby Damselfish over the treat. He would also grab Elora’s hand, and he learned to open a jar with the fish in it, and other entertaining past times. Elora got it all on camera. Every night she would bring her phone down to our dining hall and show me the latest clips of Egbert. It was super fun.

Recently an animal-lovers website made a video using Elora’s clips and it has gone some-what viral! (3 million views!) Check it out.

This Woman And Octopus Are Best Friends

This woman is best friends with a wild octopus, and he gets so excited whenever she swims up to him 🐙💙

Posted by The Dodo on Saturday, September 1, 2018

Belize night diving at Glover's Reef
The other day I was listening to an excellent podcast about managing emotional stress. This was an interview between the host of the podcast, Eileen Laird, and Evan Brand, an author and functional medicine practitioner who specializes in stress management.

Near the end of the podcast, Eileen asks Evan for his top 5 methods of relieving stress in a particularly difficult situation. He only listed 3, but the 3rd one is the one that caught my attention (the first two were hiking in nature, and getting a massage). He then recommended a visit to a sensory deprivation tank (aka float tank).

I have heard of these, but don’t know anyone who has ever used one. Evan described them as a giant bathtub with very advanced filtration methods, 10” of water, and 1000 pounds of Epsom salts dissolved into the water. The water temperature is about 95 and the tank is usually in a spa setting. You float on your back in a zero-gravity environment in complete darkness. This removes about 95% of the input that is coming into your brain. You are no longer seeing or hearing anything, nor can you feel anything because there is no gravity tugging on your body.

Evan says that a session in a float tank is extreme rest therapy. The brain is able to relax during this lull in activity, and can finally process former inputs. He claims that if you are constantly scanning the environment for what is going on at the time, you are unable to fully process past events that need your attention. He further claimed that this is the preferred treatment for those with PTSD. He says you ” come out of the tank reborn.”

The reason this got my attention is because I went night diving once (yes even though I work on the island and have been night snorkeling many, many times, I have only been night diving one time), and I experienced sensory deprivation at that time. Instead of swimming close to the coral and looking at everything with my dive light, I felt compelled to just hang there in mid space, doing nothing. I did this for the whole dive, letting my dive light hang down, shining into the void. I felt a deep relaxation like I had never experienced before. Just like Evan described the tank to be, it was mostly dark, and with my wetsuit, probably felt about 95 degrees (our water off the island is about 80). Because I was diving with a BCD and weights, I experienced zero gravity just like you always do when diving. And also as always when diving, you can’t hear anything except the sound of your own breathing. This was years and years ago, but I still vividly remember the sensation. I remember thinking “Wow, this is not scary at all.” And afterwards back on shore I reported to our group that I had felt like I was in a sensory deprivation tank during the dive!

I looked it up online, and a 90-minute session in a sensory deprivation tanks runs between $80-100. At our dive shop, a 50 minute night dive costs $75. I go down to the island in a month, I am going to make sure that I go on another night dive! I think I need a tune up.