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.

I recently came across a great new video of Belize scuba diving. This dive was filmed near Southern Long Caye, which is not the same Long Caye that we own (there are about 8 Long Cayes in Belize.) However, the underwater ecosystem is the same, and the woman who created this video, Stacy Holbert, did a fantastic job splicing together wonderful clips from this one dive.

The coral is exactly the type we see off of our Long Caye at Glover’s Reef, including a shot of a gigantic pillar coral, which is somewhat rare in Belize. She also has great footage of nurse sharks, a spotted eagle ray, lobster, lionfish, and grey angelfish.

If you wish to get an idea of what you you will see while diving in Belize, this video gives a perfect overview.

snorkel belizeOne of our guests who is going on an upcoming trip just sent me a link to LeisurePro.com. They have the best deal I have ever seen on a full body dive skin: $26.95!!!!

It looks like a great skin. I computed the shipping and UPS ground to Moab would be $7.45. Really really a good deal. She also sent a report on it: “Just wanted to update you that the diveskins arrived today- (so fast!) and they are great- comfortable and fit perfectly!”

We recommend a full body skin for snorkeling or diving in Belize for 3 reasons: (1) sunburn (you don’t realize you are getting fried when snorkeling, Belize is at 17 degrees north of the equator, twice as close as the middle of the US) (2) warmth, even though the water is about 80 degrees, it’s not 98.6, and you do get cold eventually. We regularly snorkel for a hour or more. If you don’t have some kind of clothing on you won’t be able to snorkel that long (3) there are sometimes stinging creatures in the water and a tight skin protects you from that.

Our most common stinging creature is Pica-Pica, the larvae of the sea thimble jellyfish. They arrive unannounced in a swarm. There is no common schedule and no avoiding them once they show up. If you don’t have a skin on and don’t treat with vinegar if you do get stung, they created a very itchy rash that lasts for days.

So a shorty wetsuit is better than nothing, but full body coverage is even better. This is a GREAT deal!