Belize is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean (only the Caribbean Sea to its east), and the only one in the region with English as its official language. With more than 400 islands, white sandy beaches, and the second-longest barrier reef in the world, Belize is definitely a world-class scuba diving destination!
The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 metres offshore in the north and 40 kilometres in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometres long section of the 900 kilometres long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to Honduras making it one of the largest coral reef systems in the world.
The marine life that inhabits the barrier reef is extraordinary and diverse, there are 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrate species. It includes everything from schools of tarpon, turtles and stingrays to a wide variety of tropical species, pelagic fish like tunas, schools of jacks and barracudas, and sometimes manta rays can be seen coming in from the blue. Of course, divers also will visit the famous Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is a collapsed freshwater cave system that is approximately 1000 feet across and over 400 feet deep. It was made world famous by ocean pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The subtropical weather in Belize means it is warm year-round, particularly along the coast. This make diving here can be all year around. Sea turtles nest on the sandy beaches from June to August. Whale sharks sightings are common from March to June along the southern barrier reef.
The water temperature is pleasantly warm during the summer at 30°C and a comfortable 26°C in winter. Off the barrier reef and atolls, visibility is often 30 metres or more year-round , it’s slightly less inside the reef.
Liveaboard trips are often runs for 8D/7N to the outer atolls past the barrier reef, throughout the week you will dive at Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef. Sheer walls like Painted Wall, Half Moon Caye Wall and Quebrada are adorned with huge crimson gorgonians and wandering, lilac rope sponges. Weather permitting; divers explore the mystical Blue Hole, a collapsed freshwater cave system.
Highlight of the Outer Reef (Liveaboard Diving Region)
The outer reef is home to three coral atolls: Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef and Turneffe Reef. These are three of only four of these remarkable atolls in the whole western hemisphere.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Lighthouse Reef Atoll is home to the most famous dive site of Belize, the Blue Hole! This natural phenomenon was one of the many sites to be made famous by Jacques Cousteau’s documentaries and is now a very hyped up dive site which divers across the world will travel to dive. The 150m deep hole is thought to be a cave that collapsed in the Ice Age and still has some very old 25m stalactites. Not a particularly interesting dive for marine life, although sometimes you might see some Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks or a dolphin in the blue, the Blue Hole is more an experience deep dive that you do to say you have dived the famous Great Blue Hole!
Glover’s and Turneffe Reef Atolls
Glover’s and Turneffe Reef Atolls have many less known but spectacular dive sites with a diverse marine life. Dive site "The Elbow" on Turneffe Reef is the areas ultimate wall dive, it often has strong currents, but it is these currents that bring the huge amount of marine life to the area with the chance to spot a large ray or Hammerhead shark out in the blue depths. There is a huge amount of other marine life on this atoll including turtles, nurse sharks, seahorses and the rare white spotted toadfish. The shallows and flats are also home to the manatee.