Belize is a favourite scuba diving destination for many people. However, it is a very diverse destination and there are many places that you could go to, each with very different diving opportunities. Some of these are suitable only for more advanced divers, so you do need to make sure that you remain safe. If you are wondering how safe Belize is, it really depends on where you choose to dive and what your experience and skill levels are.
How Safe is Belize - What Not to Do
Many people visit Belize on a cruise holiday and expect that they will be able to dive. However, the docking station for Belize is Belize City, which is not a good place for scuba diving. Many rivers mouth into the ocean there, making the waters brown and murky. You will need to travel at least an hour to reach a good diving destination with good visibility. Of course, cruise ships do try to cater for divers, but you will probably be left disappointed with the dive sites they offer. Many people say that they dived in Belize and were left very unimpressed, but this is because they only spent a day there and dove on sites offered by the cruise ship operators.
Belize Barrier Reef
One of the dive sites that is quite interesting in Belize is the Barrier Reef. The most well known sites here include:
- Caye Caulker
- Ambergris Caye
- St George's Caye
- Caye Chapel
Let's review these sites in a bit more detail.
Diving Belize - Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye
Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are two very popular islands for divers as there are other activities to do there as well. Diving here is quite challenging, so do make sure you have the right level of experience. The reef itself is fascinating. It runs the entire length of Belize, all 175 miles of it, and at times comes up to the surface. This means that it can be very difficult to get to the open sea for divers, who will need to take a boat. These boats need to negotiate Cuts - natural paths leading through the reef to the sea that are deep and wide enough for boats to pass. If you suffer from seasickness, this is probably not the best place for you to go. Particularly between December and April, the waves are really bad and you will feel the boat crashing down.
If you are able to dive in these areas, you will certainly increase your skill levels. It is an incredibly challenging dive. This does mean, however, that you will feel comfortable on all other dives from thereon, of course, as it can't get more difficult than this. Of course, another benefit of diving these areas is that there is much more on offer than just diving, including a vibrant nightlife, cave tubing, Mayan ruins and fantastic shops and restaurants. If you are planning a trip to Belize and and you would like to stay on Ambergris Caye we can recommend Portofino Resort. This resort run by Sandra en Sjoerd Jan Van Noord will make your trip even more special.
Diving Belize - The Belize Atolls
Atolls are bodies of water that are surrounded by a reef. There are four of these in the entire Western Hemisphere, and three of these four can be found in Belize. They are:
- Turneffe Atoll
- Glovers Reef Atoll
- Lighthouse Reef Atoll
The fourth atoll is the Chinchorro Banks, which is just south of Cancun, Mexico.
Atolls have reasonably calm waters, making them more suitable for less experienced divers. The visibility is fantastic and the underwater world itself is absolutely mesmerising. The downside is that there is little else to do but dive, so this is not a suitable location for a family holiday where only one party enjoys diving, for example. It is possible, however, to go on a daytrip to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll and the Turneffe Atoll from Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, so you may be able to combine the two. There are several lodges and resorts around the atolls, so you will be very comfortable.
Whale Shark Diving in Belize
It has been found that Whale Sharks migrate to Belize at the Gladden Split. This happens at the same time as the spawning season of the Snapper, between March and June each year. If you want to witness this fantastic feat of nature, try to go during a full moon, as you will be able to see the Snappers spawning. It is possible to get to this reef in around an hour by boat from many of the main resorts. Glover's reef is the favourite atoll of many because of this wonder of nature.
Be safe and enjoy, but don't go beyond your skill levels.
Photos courtesy of Canesaurus