If you have dived in Belize before, please share your experiences: Dive spots you would recommend, which Dive Center you used, Fishes & Diving, Visibility, Currents, etc. Please post your comments in the section below, by doing so you will help fellow divers to plan their next trip
Scuba diving in Belize is simply oustanding. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The barrier reef is some 300-kilometer or 190 miles long and 40 kilometers (25 mi) at its greatest distance from shore but reaches to just 300 meters (980 ft) at its closest point. The atolls are out beyond the barrier reefs and offer outstanding dives.
The barrier reefs and their lagoons give divers a different dive experience than the atolls and closer to shore are the fringing reefs and numerous patch reefs. The Mesoamerican Reef, that divers love in Mexico, includes the Belize Barrier Reef. However, only the Belize portion of the Mesoamerican reef is a barrier reef.
Barrier reefs are unique in that they separate the land from deep waters, and provide a shallower lagoon that helps protects the shores. These deep waters bring nutrient rich waters to the top of the reefs enhancing the growth of corals and marine life. They also bring large pelagics such as the sharks and rays to the shallow for feeding. The naturalist Charles Darwin referred to the Belize Barrier Reef as “The Most Remarkable Reef in the West Indies”.
Most of the waters and land of the country of Belize is under some degree of protection. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The site is made up of seven marine reserves and covers about 12% of the total reef. There are other marine protected zones such as the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. This reserve is the only know aggregated spawning site for a number of species of grouper and snappers. This spawning activity draws a vast number of whale sharks of feed on the eggs. Whale shark dives in other countries are really snorkeling activities, but here divers descend into the waters to meet the whale sharks on their turf.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley at only 7.8 square kilometers is the smallest marine reserve in the world, but in water no deeper than 9 meters/ 27 feet it has one of the highest concentrations of sharks and rays in the world.
In this page you will find more detailed information about scuba diving in Belize.
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Belize offers a wide range of diving destinations. Overall it depends on what you are most interested in. Here are a few of the diving destinations within Belize:
- Blue Hole Natural Monument, Located on Lighthouse Atoll this protected area has one of the best known dive sites in the world, the Great Blue Hole of Belize. The Blue Hole is around 1,000 feet or 310 meters across and drops 135 meters or about 450 feet. Stalactites and stalagmites are found in caverns as you descend. Photographs taken from the air have been awing television viewers and nature magazine readers for decades. Jacques Cousteau introduced it to the world in March 1971 on his “Secrets of the Sunken Caves” episode of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” (1968–1976). Cousteau had frequently declared it one of the top ten dive sites in the world. The Great Blue Hole of Belize is located on Lighthouse Reef Atoll, which is one of only four true atolls outside the Indo-Pacific region. Glover’s Reef Atoll, and Turneffe Atoll are two other of these atolls and are also in Belize.
- Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, is also located on Lighthouse Atoll. The Half Moon Caye wall is one of the dive sites located here and it has been called the most colorful wall dive in the world. Mot dive operators will call here after diving the Blue Hole. The Caye itself is a bird sanctuary and dive operators will often offer guide hikes and lunch on the beach during the surface intervals.
- South Water Caye Marine Reserve. This reserve is located at the southern border of Belize and is the largest of the marine reserves. It also sits just 16 kilometers off the coast. Many diving experts consider this the best all around diving destination in the world. The 12 kilometer long sections of barrier reefs provide awesome wall dives. The deep waters means there are frequent pelagic interactions including sharks,tuna, barracuda and rays. During the grouper and snapper breeding season whale sharks are found in large numbers. The lagoon behind the barrier reefs is mostly shallow with very few sections deeper than 25 meters. Patch reefs, fringing reefs and small inlets and cayes provide fruitful conditions for reef fish, corals and sponges. Scuba Divers of all skill levels will find this a interesting place to dive.
How to dive Belize?
You could start a never ending debate on whether Belize is better as a liveaboard diving destination or a resort based destination. You could intensify that debate with the question of a resort based on the mainland, Caye or one of the remote atolls.
The liveaboards do have the ability to cover a wider area. So in that case you could dive South Water Caye Marine Reserve as well as the remote Blue Hole National Monument, and Glover’s Reef Atoll.
While a resort on one of the Atolls would not likely have trips to the South Water Caye, they would offer you hundreds of lightly dived sites as well as being at the Blue Hole and finished before the divers staying at the land or Caye based resorts arrived. The liveaboards would not likely offer you the chance to explore some of the ancient ruins that the land based resorts would do.
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Best time to dive in Belize
There is little difference in the quality of the diving year round. Most of the concern for Scuba divers is the water conditions and how many other people are visiting. While close to Cancun Mexico, the tourist season is different. Cancun gets busy during the American summer season and the “Spring Break” time. Belize gets more snow birds, that a term for people who travel to warm weather climates during their cold weather months.
- The peak season is during the months of November, December, January, February, March and April, which is also close to the dry season from November to June.
- Whale shark season is March to May, and many divers consider this as the best time overall for a visit.
- June until October is the wet season, also called the green season.
- During the green season, rain is not constant and seldom has consecutive days of rain. However, the seas can be rough and trips to remote areas might be canceled.
- Belize is outside of the traditional “hurricane belt” and has a short hurricane season just August and October.
Belize is an excellent destination for dive training. Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water and Drift diver are the most common courses taken, however, most courses are offered.
Scuba Diving conditions
Scuba Diving conditions in Belize are good year round with little difference in visibility or water temperature. June until October can bring rough sea condition which can make the trip to the Blue Hole and other remote locations questionable.
Snorkelling in Belize
Many of the most popular destinations have sites that are suitable for snorkelers. Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley is one of the best snorkeling sites that allows interaction with rays and sharks. Most of the resorts have house reefs that have snorkeling sites.
Fishes and Coral
The diversity of marine life in Belize is slightly better than other Caribbean destinations. Here is some highlights:
- 18 Ray and shark species including Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, Black tips, hammerheads, Bull sharks, nurse sharks, tiger sharks and whale sharks (March to June).
- 5 species of turtles, Leatherback, Loggerhead Green, Hawkbill, and Olive Ridley turtle
- Large Pelagic such as Jacks, Barracuda,Tuna, and Tarpon
- The largest aggregation of Groupers in the world during March to June
- and 500 species of reef fish
If you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to Belize, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this diving insurance as they offer worldwide coverage and focus on providing scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.
Belize is an excellent destination for a diver looking for a well rounded dive experience without higher risk dives. The mainland based and Caye based dive resorts also provide the diver the opportunity to explore the ancient Mayan culture that had once flourished in Belize.
Now that you know all about the underwater world, you might want to start planning your scuba holiday! Check out our Belize Travel Review for information about how to get there, activities and excursions, where to stay, and more.