Diving in Belize centers around the off-shore
islands of Ambergris Caye, and the atolls of Lighthouse Reef, Turneffe
Islands and Glover's Reef.
Ambergris Caye is protected by the largest
barrier reef in the western hemisphere. This gives the island lagoon-like
conditions between shore and the dive sites. Most sites are located
within a five minute boat ride from the Caye and are all marked
by mooring buoys. Around Ambergris you'll find spur and groove reefs,
canyons, walls, drop offs and wrecks. Marine life includes a variety
of turtles, parrotfish, angelfish, sharks, filefish, crabs, lobsters,
rays and much more. When diving from March to May you might even
be lucky enough to spot a whale shark.
Extremely popular with divers and snorkelers
is Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the first ever created in Belize. Shallow
reefs in the reserve are very colorful and make for a great night
dive. The newest dive site is Shark-Ray Alley, a very shallow dive
you can feed the tame nurse sharks and rays.
South of Ambergris Caye are located the three atolls of Lighthouse,
Turneffe and Glovers.
What is an atoll?
Belize has three of the four true atolls in
this hemisphere (the other being the Chinchorro Bank off southern
Mexico). Lighthouse Reef, Glover's Reef and the Turneffe Islands are all distinct anomalies in the Caribbean. An atoll, a ring of
coral, is different from an island which develops around subsiding
volcanoes. The ancient processes contributing to Belize's atoll
development may have begun as many as 70 million years ago. They
originated atop giant fault blocks; limestone covered ridges that
settled in steps, providing a series of offshore platforms for coral
growth. After the last ice age, with the slow rise of sea level,
coral growth continued upward, creating the outer walls and the
shallow inside lagoon that typifies these distinct formations. Many
drop-offs surrounding the Belize atolls are thousands of feet deep,
while depths in the shallow lagoons average 10 to 30 feet.
Lighthouse Reef is located closest to the
Blue Hole and many of the other top dive sites in Belize. The Blue
Hole is 412-foot deep and was created in pre-historic times. The
ring around the edge is actually a shallow coral reef and makes
for a great safety stop. Inside the hole, you'll dive around the
huge stalactites and incredible natural formations. It's a truly
unique dive. Nearby is Half Moon Caye Wall, one of the world's most
pristine reefs. Here, sheer vertical walls start at a depth of 35
feet and amazing swim-throughs lead you to the edge of the abyss.
And don't miss The Aquarium at Long Caye. The clear, blue water
has an abundance of colorful sponges, corals and marine life such
as reef sharks, dolphins and turtles.
Turneffe Atoll is Belize's
largest atoll (38 miles long and 8 miles wide) and is the closest
one to the mainland. At its northern tip at "Rendezvous Point"
are three great wall dives. The wall begins at 45 feet and gradually
slopes. You'll see a variety of sponges and pristine reefs. There
is a great chance of seeing black tip sharks, dolphins, eagle raysand turtles. "The Elbow" is Turneffe's most famous site.
Its a drift dive beginning at 60 feet and leveling off at 100. Huge
gorgonians create a beautiful backdrop to the marine life. It is
not uncommon to encounter reef sharks, huge game fish, an occasional
whale shark, mantas and a 14 foot hammerhead shark. And don't miss
"Majestic Point" with lots of tunnels and exciting swim-throughs.
As the canyon narrows, the corals combine to create a sheer cliff
in depths between 70 and 150 feet.