If you’re looking for a picturesque diving location, then Belize is the place for you. Located between Guatemala and Mexico, Belize is the second smallest and least populated nation found throughout Central America. Packed with adventure, exploration, relaxation, and romance both on land and under the surface, this location has definitely earned its place within this ‘top diving sites’ series.
Comprised of over 400 islands and home to the longest, unbroken barrier reef within the western hemisphere, you definitely won’t fall short of things to do and things to see. Belize has a staggering 185-mile coastline of white sandy beaches, so there are plenty of places to relax, when not diving. When you’re not diving at world-renowned dive sites, or relaxing, you can visit the numerous historical Mayan ruins or explore the rainforests, hike and even go cave tubing. Belize is for divers and non-divers alike, so if you’re planning a holiday this year, make sure Belize is on your list.
Top 7 Dive Sites In Belize
The Barrier Reef
As we mentioned before, Belize is home to the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. This huge barrier reef stretches the length of Belize’s coastline and provides ample opportunities for divers to explore. If you choose to dive with diving centers located in Belize City and the Cayes, they specialize in diving within the deep coral canyons, which have been created by the phenomenal Elkhorn, Staghorn, and Brain corals. When diving the Barrier Reef, most divers start in the shallows and descend around 30 meters. The kind of marine life that you’ll find within this area are white spotted toadfish, which is a species endemic to Belize, tiny tropical fish, reef sharks and turtles.
With all the incredible diving locations found throughout Belize, Ambergris Caye is known for its location. The largest out of the 200 cayes that are spotted around the coastline, Ambergris Caye is just a short plane journey away from Belize City. It is also the closest you can get to the Belize Barrier Reef. If you choose to dive with any of the many dive centers located around the dock, it will take you only a few minutes to reach this Caye taking you to an amazing dive on the deep spur-and-groove coral formations, which shelter the island or the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which we will talk about next.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan is Mayan for ‘little channel’ and refers to the crack in the barrier reef, off Ambergris Caye. It is used as an access point to the dive sites located outside of the barrier reef and is located in the center of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. This marine park is extremely well protected and patrolled in order to prevent anchoring, touching the coral and fishing. By having this level of protection, the barrier reef if flourishing with unbelievable numbers of marine life and towering stands of Elkhorn corals, which are definitely a site to see. Even though this crack in the coral is a mere 10 meters deep, if you’re traveling to Belize, it is definitely a must-see. It’s important to remember at this location, there are strong currents, but what comes with strong currents are incredible schools of grouper, snapper, barracuda, and jacks found along the walls.
The Blue Hole
If you’re a diver, The Blue Hole in Belize is one of the dive sites that are on your bucket list. This is the signature dive of Belize and spans more than 300 meters across and is approximately 140 meters deep and is almost perfectly round. This round, blue hole is located centrally and is only a short boat ride from most of the cayes. However, be prepared as this is a deep dive. Following your dive guide, you almost immediately descend to around 40 meters and only have a mere 8 minutes to explore the row of stalactites which are suspended from the cavern ceiling. Once you are coming to the end of your 8 minutes, you will begin to walk up the wall to 15 meters, which is where the freshwater transitions to the upper layer of salt water. As you walk, you are usually accompanied by reef and bull sharks, which makes for an incredible experience. If you do get a chance to visit this site, not only should you experience it underwater, but if you can, go up in a helicopter and see it from a Birdseye view, it is beyond imagination and pictures just don’t do it justice.
Shark Ray Alley
If you’re traveling with a non-diver, then this is a great location to leave your diving equipment behind and grab your snorkel. Shark Ray Alley is shallow, a plateau of sand and is where fisherman would clean their catches. After cleaning, they would discard their chum and consequently attract huge numbers of sharks and other marine life. If you go with a dive guide, they will usually bring fish scraps with them to lure the nurse sharks and stingrays to the area for amazing photo opportunities.
Once leaving the barrier reef, you will find Turneffe, Lighthouse and Glover’s, which are three out of the four true coral atolls found in the western hemisphere. The Atolls are circular versions of the barrier reef with enough dry land surrounding them to fit a dive lodge or two. If you want a place where there are little people and where you can be surrounded by all things diving, then these are the perfect locations for you. The reefs surrounding these small island-like areas drop off to nearly 1000 meters into the deep. These atolls have everything from shallow coral gardens, towering coral pinnacles which are covered in canyons and swim-through gaps, as well as vertical walls.
Out of these three Atolls, Turneffe is the largest and the closest to the mainland, with less than an hour’s journey time. One of the best dive sites throughout Belize is found at the Turneffe atoll at the southern tip. Known as the Elbow, it is a large twist in the coral, which is an incredible site to see.
Lighthouse Reef is the furthest from mainland Belize and encircles a 30-mile long lagoon that includes the infamous Blue Hole.
Glover’s Reef is the most remote out of the three atolls and is the least visited. This is usually a benefit for divers as the 50 miles of the fringing reef has hardly been touched and is home to incredible marine life and an explosion of color.
I know this isn’t a dive location as such, however, a whale shark experience has to be included in this post. Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a huge attraction for divers in this area. If you’re planning a trip to Belize from the months of April to June, encounters with these incredible creatures is practically guaranteed. The migration of whale sharks through this area coincides with the spawning cycle of over 25 different species of fish. Even though the whale sharks main diet consists of plankton, the larger eggs of the fish Cubera Snapper provide another abundant food source. Around this time, the well-fed whale sharks are calm and playful, regularly approaching boats and divers, providing ample opportunities for photographs with the giants of the ocean. Gladden Spit is the place to go if you are looking for this incredible experience of a lifetime.
What are your favorite dive sites in Belize? Let us know in the comments below.