When many people think of places to scuba dive, they consider the Caribbean to be on the top of their list. However, few of them realise how close to the tropics Belize is, nor do they realise the potential it has to provide divers with a wonderful and unique diving experience. Belize is located in South America and has a variety of reefs and interesting dive sites for you to explore. Regardless of whether or not you are a novice or a fully fledged diving pro, you will be able to find something intriguing to look forward to.
Map of Belize
One of the best things about scuba diving in Belize is the huge variety available to people. If need be you could dive in shallow waters, or explore the two hundred feet of water at the Great Blue Hole. There are reef sites to dive in that are very good for novice divers to learn how to explore the underwater areas better. For slightly more experienced divers who are looking for something different, the Coral Atolls are perfect and are seen as the finest underwater coral structures in the Caribbean Sea. This diversity allows people to go to Belize and get the great diving experience that they are looking forward to.
Scuba Diving Wrecks in Belize
One wreck that can be found in Belize is known as Amigo's wreck. It was purposefully sunk to provide the area with an artificial reef. It is thirty feet long and is filled with a variety of marine life, many of them larger species. For example, you can find nurse sharks, black groupers, Nassau and Moray eels, all living in the area. The wreck is a wonderful diving experience and is a very highly recommended dive.
Another wreck to check out is on the Hal Chan reserve. This wreck is part of a diving experience that offers you the chance to see a school of nurse sharks who have claimed the wreck as their home.
Best Time of the Year to dive in Belize
The climate in Belize is subtropical, with an average low water temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you can easily dive there all year round without having to necessarily worry about a cold season. However, there is a rainy season in this climate, so it will be best if you try to avoid going during this time, which is traditionally from June to August. Historically the dryer months of the year are from February to May.
Notable Dive Sites in Belize
Tres Cocos is a dive site that is good for advanced and novice divers alike and the site is close enough to land that you do not have to worry about a long boat trip to get there. The name Tres Cocos means three coconuts in Spanish, and although there are no coconut trees underwater, this area does provide a large variety of marine life that you can see and experience. Just swimming near the boat you are likely to see up to fifty different types of marine life, including harlequin bass, dusky damselfish, porkfish, stoplight parrotfish, trumpetfish, French grunts, blue chromis, blushing star, bar jacks, and many, many other types that are abundant in this area.
Stingray at Tres Cocos Reef
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a dive site that is good for intermediate and advanced divers, although there are some sections of the park that can be investigated by novices. The name Hol Chan is Mayan for 'Little Blue Channel' and there are a variety of different types of marine life here to tweak a diver's interest. There are different types of dive sites in this reserve and these range from six to nine metres in depth with good visibility up to fifteen metres and mild current conditions. Hol Chan is also one of the very few places where you can go for a good night dive, which is highly recommended because there are some underwater fish and colors that are best observed at night.
Scuba Diving at Hol Chan Marine Reserve
If you are an advanced diver who is looking for something different and unique, you can check into the Punta Arena Canyons (sometimes also referred to as Small Cut), although you might have to have some special deep diving training before you go. This site has a depth range up to thirty meters (one hundred feet), and a visibility range of up to thirty metres. The site is a very short boat ride from the Belizean Hotel, and divers will find themselves being released on a deep caholcvern dive. The main reason that people chose to go to this site are the two canyons which lay just north of the entry area in the cavern system, and this triangular entrance can accommodate up to two divers at the same time if they swim side by side.
Another advanced deep dive can be found at Belize's most famous dive site, The Great Blue Hole. This site has a dive range of up to one hundred and twenty six meters (close to four hundred and fifteen feet). This formation began during the ice age of fifteen thousand years ago. Around this time there was a drop in sea level that was so dramatic that it exposed the limestone area around Lighthouse Reef. Then, when fresh water was introduced to the area through rains and ice melt, caverns formed throughout the limestone. Many years after this, the top of the limestone formation collapsed inward and formed the giant sinkhole that is now well-known as the Great Blue Hole. It can be very disorientating to descend through that much water, so it is recommended that you stay close to the wall as you go down and stay with a dive instructor who is experienced in the area to avoid any possible human error that may occur if you are on your own.
The Great Blue Hole
If you are a novice diver who is interested in going on a deep dive, then you should check out the Pillar Coral. This area has a depth up to twenty one metres (seventy feet), with excellent visibility and very low current conditions to worry about. This area is very similar to another in Belize known as the Sandbar; however, the coral growth is a great deal more interesting at the Pillars. Until recently this area was an open dive site, but now it has been incorporated into the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, so you will have to check with them in order to get permission to dive at this site.
Hat Caye Drop-Off is another wall dive that is possible to take in Belize. This one is located very close to a small island area that is also known as Hat Caye. There are some sandy spots and slopes around the area before the large drop off that offer some good diving possibilities as well. On the edge of the drop off area there are large basket sponges. The sponges are big enough for divers to go in between them, but this is not something that you should de because the sponges can get damaged and this can leave this marine organism in a precarious state as it will be more susceptible to diseases and further damage.
The Aquarium is a dive site that is found near Long Caye on the north-western corner, and this site is recommended for intermediate to advanced divers. There is a huge variety of marine life at this diving site (hence the name), and you are sure to see a wide range, from all the usual suspects to the extraordinary. The main reason that this dive is not considered too good for novice divers is the fact that moderate to strong currents run through the area almost constantly.
Types of Marine Life in Belize
There are more than five hundred different species of marine life that can be seen while scuba diving in Belize. While it would be impossible to list all of them, here is an example of what you might be able to see: Nurse sharks, crinoids (sea feathers), lace coral, black coral, parrotfish, turtles, lobster, grouper, manta rays, eagle rays, spotted filefish, crabs, arrow blennies, tube sponges, vase sponges, cowfish jackknife-fish, blue tang, damselfish, Creole wrasses, Spanish mackerels, harlequin bass, porkfish, trumpetfish, French grunts, blushing star, bar jacks, barracuda, butterflyfish, yellowtail snappers, longsnout, gobies, hamlets, angelfish, and many, many, more. Belize has the most diverse range of shark life anywhere in the world.
Sharks (No, they're not dangerous!)
Belize Diving Fact Sheet:
Average Air Temperature: 26C - 30C
Average Water Temperature: 24C - 28C
Recommended Exposure Protection: Wear a 3mm - 7mm suit.
Average Visibility: Anywhere from 6 to 31 metres.
Coldest Times: November to February
Hottest Times: March to October
Best Times to Dive: The climate in Belize is subtropical, with a low water temperature around 75F (24C). You can dive there year round without having to worry about the cold months.
Worst Times to Dive: There is a rainy season in Belize, so try to avoid going during this time (from June to August). The period from February to May is usually the driest.
Belize Diving Video