THE BEST OF BELIZE DIVING | Top Dive Sites
With the longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, which is also the second longest in the world, plus some stunning outer atolls, it is no wonder that Belize offers some of the best diving in the Caribbean. Here's a selection of some of its top dives…
Lighthouse Reef: BLUE HOLE
Sitting right in the middle of Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the Blue Hole, made famous by Cousteau’s Calypso expedition and subsequent documentary. Around 300m in diameter, and 150m deep, the hole was once a cave above sea level – this has been established by the fact there are stalactites in the hole, which can only form as fresh water drips through limestone rock. These stalactites are now at 45m, and are the main draw for diving here. The hole itself doesn’t have a huge number of fish, but there are a group of grey nurse sharks that hang around, hoping for hand-outs from divers!
Max Depth 45m+ | intermediate | wall / technical dive | visibility 30m+
Glover's Atoll: OFF THE WALL
A classic wall dive, the drop-off at this site starts at 8m and bottoms out at nearly 2,000m. Currents – usually gentle – bring in plenty of nutrients for a thriving reef ecosystem. The good visibility at this site too means there’s the chance to see plenty of pelagic action, from jacks and snapper to eagle rays and, occasionally, manta rays as well. The little-explored Glover’s Atoll is protected as a marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other sites worth exploring on Glover’s Atoll are Octopus Alley, Manta Reef, Gorgonia Gallery and Dolphin Dance.
Max depth 50m+ | Intermediate to technical | Wall dive | visibility 30m+
Lighthouse Reef: AQUARIUM
Although the Blue Hole’s reputation can overshadow other dive sites at Lighthouse Reef, the atoll does, in fact, offer some of the best diving in Belize, particularly near Long Caye (it’s worth noting there’s also a Long Caye in Glover's Atoll). The area is made up of coral gardens at around 10m, on top of a drop-off. Aquarium is a wall dive with large fan corals, soft corals and big sponges. There are lots of gullies in the wall, and as the current can be moderate to strong here, you can hop between them seeking a bit of shelter. The main attraction at this site, as its name suggests, is the fish. Barracuda, eagle rays, snapper and jacks swim in the blue, as well as parrotfish, angelfish, boxfish, butterflyfish anddamselfishh close to the reef. Many species that are often hidden deep in the reef are easier to see here.
Max Depth 30m | beginner to intermediate | reef / wall | visibility up to 25m
Lighthouse Reef: HALF MOON WALL
A sandy, seagrass meadow sits on top of a steep drop off at this site. The seagrass is home to juvenile fish – look out for baby French angelfish, filefish and pufferfish – and is perfect for a final dive of the day or for a prolonged safety stop. There are many rays and garden eels here too. The coral is raised into a ridge before the reef drops away to deeper water, and the topography has a spur-and-groove formation – when swimming through these canyons, look out for all manner of reef fish that shelter here. Three species of turtles nest on nearby Half Moon Caye, so this is an excellent site for seeing loggerhead, hawksbills and green turtles.
Max Depth 30m | intermediate| reef/ wall | visibility 30m
Placencia: GLADDEN SPIT
The spawning of jacks and snapper off the coast of Palcencia are the catalyst for a whale shark aggregation. A few days after the full moons in April and May is the best time to see these massive sharks. There are some restrictions in place to minimise disturbance to the sharks: boats must have a permit to visit the site, and the numbers of divers/ snorkelers and the time you can spend in the water with the sharks are limited. The site has a sloping shelf to 40m, which then drops off sharply to around 2,000m. Large schools of snappers and jacks, and pods of dolphins are seen here too, but the stars of the show are the whale sharks.
Max depth 40m | intermediate | reef / blue water | visibility 30m
Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye: SHARK RAY ALLEY
This marine reserve is an example of a typical inner reef in Belize. Divers – and snorkelers – can encounter nurse sharks, many species of rays and schools of pelagic fish in shallow, sandy sea grass beds. This is a no-fishing zone, so large numbers of fish are found here: there’s barracuda, grouper, angelfish, and large numbers of blue striped grunts. Shark Ray Alley itself is a spot where local fishermen used to clean their catch – and this attracted lots of sharks and rays. Today, dive operators feed the fish too, meaning the normally shy nurse sharks are unafraid of people and get really close! An incredible encounter.
Max depth 12m | beginner | reef | visibility 20m
Spanish Lookout Caye: CANYONS
Close to Belize City, this site is also a chance to explore Belize’s inner reefs. In nooks and crannies in the reef you’ll see arrow crabs, shrimp and lobsters – and morays too. Eagle rays and grouper are some of the larger visitors to the reef. But there’s also the chance to explore mangroves here. A nursery for many species of fish and crustacean, look out for lobsters and molluscs.
Max depth 25m | beginner to intermediate | reef | visibility 15-20m
Turneffe Atoll: SAYONARA WRECK
There are few wrecks in Belize – the reefs are the stars of the show here. In fact, this wreck is pretty broken up, and the main attraction is the marine life flourishing around it. Purposely sunk in 1985, there’s little to be seen of this wooden-hulled vessel. But the reef – a sandy slope dotted with barrel sponges and sea plumes – draws lots of marine life including the rarely seen toadfish.
Max depth 40m (though the wreck is shallower) | intermediate | reef and wreck | visibility 25m
Turneffe Atoll: TUBULAR BARRELS
There is an absolute profusion of sponges at this shallowly sloping reef: vase sponges, barrel sponges and tube sponges in many colours. There are lots of smaller fish too, drawn in by a number of cleaning stations here. Occasionally a pod of dolphins visits this site as well, so listen out for whistles while you’re diving.
Max depth 22m | beginner to intermediate | reef | visibility 25m
Turneffe Atoll: RENDEZVOUS POINT
On the northwest point of the atoll, the wall at this site starts at 15m. It then slopes down to a series of canyons in the reef. These grooves are filled with glassfish, gobies and crustaceans. There’s also the chance to see some larger marine life, such as black tip reef sharks, eagle rays or turtles.
Max depth 21m | intermediate | reef | visibility 25m