by Jennifer A. Roberts
While there is certainly a lot to see and do on the mainland of Belize, the highlight of a trip to this Central American gem for many is the outstanding marine life. Swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers will discover an underwater paradise along the barrier reef of Belize, the second largest in the world. When you tire of life at sea, you can enjoy Belize’s gorgeous tropical rain forests, exotic birds, and historical Mayan ruins, but the deep blue will keep calling you back for more.
Belize is a great place to dive because conditions are good year round. Water temperatures range from the upper 70s from December through April to the lower 80s from May through November. Underwater visibility is generally very good, at 40-80 feet all year. Home to typical Caribbean sea life such as nurse sharks, eagle rays, barracudas, and grouper, you’ll also see endemic toad fish and slipper lobsters here. Belize is also one of the few places in the world where you can dive with whale sharks.
Probably one of the most famous dive sites in the world, Belize is home to the Blue Hole. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this dive site, a popular one, isn’t a typical reef dive. This is a deep dive into a sunken cavern, where you’ll see stalactites and the remains of the cave structure, as well as some reef sharks, but not much else. If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime dive, though, the Blue Hole has you covered.
If you are looking for a good home base in Belize, Ambergris Caye, close to San Pedro, is a good place to land. This area encompasses the northern reefs of Belize and is home to many resorts. There is a lot of good diving in this area and from here, you can easily do longer, full-day dive trips to the Turneffe atoll area.
Turneffe Atoll is one of the best dive areas in Belize. This large, offshore atoll reef has a wide variety of dive sites, including top sites like The Elbow and Lighthouse Reef. This area is abundant with life, including creatures both large and small.
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is Belize’s first and oldest of its kind. With four zones to explore, The Reef, The Mangroves, Shark Ray Alley, and The Seagrass Beds, there is something for every type of diver. If you enjoy night diving, The Reef is the place to be.
If you are interested in a chance to see a whale shark, then you’ll need to venture down to Placencia, in southern Belize. This area is home to the Gladden Spit, where whale sharks are known to swim. The Placencia area offers fewer crowds than the Ambergris Caye area as well as great opportunities for topside wildlife viewing and close proximity to some of the great Mayan ruins.
If you are not a certified diver yet, you can earn your certification while vacationing in Belize. There are several dive shops and dive resorts that provide instruction, and the best part is you’ll be diving in Belize while you are learning!
Jennifer A. Roberts lives a location-independent lifestyle with her husband, Chris, in their RV. They currently work and travel throughout North America, combining their passion for travel with a minimalistic life and freelance work. Jennifer is a former educator, an avid home cook, and an aspiring writer.