Scuba diving Belize includes some of the most well-known sites in the world, such the Great Blue Hole and Lighthouse Reef. Hammerheads and bull sharks swim past limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Other inhabitants of this UNESCO World Heritage Site include manatees, crocodiles, turtles, octopuses and whale sharks.
Diving in Belize is a truly unique experience, being located between Mexico and Guatemala, the land of Mayan ruins and tropical rain forests, brings even more exploration under the water with the longest unbroken barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world. Belize scuba diving means adventure, relaxation and romance with more than 400 islands, sandy white beaches, 185 miles of coastline and dozens of dive sites. Diving in Belize offers guests sweeping landscapes of more than 70 types of hard coral, 500 or more species of fish, large schools, rays and plenty of sharks to keep your heart racing. Liveaboards are a great way to make the most of your time diving in Belize as professional divemasters can point out even the most hidden forms of marine life in tiny cracks and crevices as you enjoy up to 5 dive per day.
MARINE LIFE IN BELIZE
Go scuba diving in Belize and you'll encounter a variety of different types of reefs and marine life. One of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere, the daily habits of marine life are set against lush fringe reef, patch reef, faroe, barrier reef and coral atolls. Manatees, crocodiles, whale sharks, turtles and octopus inhabit the lengths of Belize's coastal waters and swamps. Barracuda, grouper, clown fish, mackerel, angelfish, tarpon and hundreds of sponge and coral species are now protected as part of a 1996 designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
BEST DIVE SITES IN BELIZE
BLUE HOLE At more than 300 meters/1000 feet across and 400 feet deep, the blue-green waters of the Great Blue Hole is one of the most photographed locations in the world, but these aerial shots don't begin to describe the rewards that scuba diving inside the hole can bring. Reef and bull sharks confidently swim past stalactite and stalagmite formations. Situated in the middle of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, coral sits at the very top of the rim of the hole in a nearly unbroken ring. Lack of sunlight prevents coral growth from anchoring to the walls at depth, but what the Blue Hole lacks in coral and fish, it makes up for in sharks and originality. Reef sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, black-tip and even hammerheads confidently greet divers among the famous stalagmites and stalactites. Few other forms of marine life are found here, so scuba diving in the Blue Hole offers a feeling of isolation. Advanced divers will find this eerie, unpredictable, cavernous water world to be unlike any other.
BELIZE BARRIER REEF has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996 and is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the western hemisphere, providing important habitats for a number of threatened species including manatees, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, loggerhead turtles among others. It's noted for it's wide variety of reef types in a relatively small region. The clear, shallow water inside the reef allows for excellent viewing of rainbow tinged tropical fish, sea fans and coral gardens. Scuba diving outside the reef, divers will find the seabed drops sharply in a series of plateaus - to thousands of feet. In these open blue waters swim countless game fish, scuba divers find mackerel, kingfish, wahoo, sailfish, tuna and marlin.
TURNEFFE ATOLL REEF is predominately made up of mangrove islands - a crucial part of the ecosystem serving as juvenile protection and adding to the overall biodiversity. Scuba diving in the Belize Turneffe Atoll promises big walls but also shallow sea gardens and sand flats. As you float past on these drift dives, it's common to see moray eels, rays and turtles among the big barrel sponges and grand coral formals. The Elbow, aptly named for its location at the convergence of several ocean currents, is one of Belize's most famous dive sites at the Turneffe Atoll, and as divers descend through huge schools of horse-eye jacks, snappers and Atlantic Spadefish, they quickly see why.
LIGHTHOUSE REEF Many scuba diving trips to Belize are centered around Turneffe and Lighthouse reefs situated on the northern cages of Belize - and justifiably so. World-class wall dives, drift dives and lush coral gardens at every dive site. This is also where divers will find the Great Blue Hole. The most easterly of Belize's three atolls, Lighthouse reef was a dive spot made famous by Jacques Cousteau. The best dive sites are along the walls of Half Moon Caye with its incredible shipwrecks and Long Caye, a lonely outpost with clam water and beautiful underwater landscapes.
HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE Hol Chan means "little blue channel", but scuba diving in this remarkable marine reserve is anything but little. Divers can be cautioned against currents, so its best to to take your divemasters word whether you are diving by Belize liveaboard or dive boat. The excellent visibility gives a clear show into the habits of eels, lobsters, spider crabs and nurse sharks. Established as a marine sanctuary in 1987, large numbers of Caribbean fish such as snappers and groupers, surgeonfish and parrotfish have since recovered in number at a dramatic rate. Hol Chan Marine Park is one of the few places along the Barrier Reef approved for nighttime scuba diving. See what the underwater night life holds in Belize and nocturnal species and spectacular plumage make their appearance.
BEST TIME TO DIVE IN BELIZE
Diving in Belize is pleasant year-round. The sub-tropical weather means warm weather with brisk sea breezes. Water temperatures sit near 30 degrees Celsius/85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 26 degrees Celsius/79 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Summer air temperatures range from 24-29 degrees Celsius or 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures range from about 21-27 degrees Celsius or 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. April to June is whale shark season along the souther barrier reef, though any time is a good time to go scuba diving in Belize.
EXPERIENCE LEVEL FOR DIVING IN BELIZE
Scuba diving in Belize is best enjoyed with prior experience with drift dives, wall drop offs and good buoyancy control as to not damage the delicate coral. Some dives can exceed the depth limit of an Open Water certification. While there are plenty of dives to make an unforgettable trip for divers of all levels, it's best to consult your liveaboard or dive boat divemaster before attempting to scuba dive certain areas of Belize.
HOW DO I GET TO BELIZE
The Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport is Belize's primary international port of entry with flights arriving from around the world. Immigration and customs are relatively straight forward and common. International flights may make a stop in the United States where direct service on American Airlines, Continental Airlines and some service on Delta Airlines is available. Many guests then will need to transfer to the Belize City Municipal Airport to catch a domestic flight to elsewhere in the country. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air are the local commuter airlines that take guests to their chosen islands or dive spots. If choosing a Belize liveaboard, the tour is likely to have transportation set up for you once you reach the country.