Top 10 Belize Scuba Diving Hot Spots
How many dives have you taken? Not literally, of course. We’re talking about diving into investments, marriage, kids, jobs and a few dives you might like to forget. In the end, you learned more about yourself than you thought possible, because success and failure change people, and usually in positive ways. Now, it’s time to challenge yourself to a literal dive—a plunge into turquoise waters where an untold array of exotic marine life await your snorkeling mask, eyes, camera and senses. Research tour resources (www.scubadiving.com/travel/caribbeanatlantic/belize) before heading to Belize and prepare to dive right in.
1. Amergris Caye/San Pedro. Ambergris is designated a hot spot because it’s the most popular area for scuba diving in Belize and that reputation didn’t make itself. Ambergris Caye gets you closer to the Belize barrier reef than other spots and divers love the mix of eateries and entertainment when they’re not peering into the deep.
2. Atolls. Because the barrier reef is the star of the aquatic show in Belize, a few coral atolls (Glover’s, Lighthouse and Turneffe) can get short shrift in the fame game. But this hot spot is preferred by those given to quiet contemplation rather than rowdy partiers, and rewards are spectacular: canyons, vertical walls and gardens shaped entirely of coral. Turneffe is the largest and closest, so if you can see just one, this is it.
3. Barrier Reef. What is left to be said about the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere that hasn’t already been written? Dive operators guide new and experienced snorkelers through canyons of Elkhorn, Staghorn and Brain corals at both shallow and dramatic depths. This hot spot is home to the white-spotted toadfish, a species indigenous only to Belize and reason enough to see of you can spot one.
4. Blue Hole. From the air, this massive ocean cavern looks like it’s been crafted by Hollywood special effects designers. It’s a perfectly round circle that measures 1,000 feet in circumference and the hole’s interior drops 450 feet, so you’d need more than scuba gear to visit the bottom. Plan to descend to 130 feet where you can spend only eight minutes before returning to a more hospitable depth of around 50 feet to catch the show.
5. Dolphin Encounter. Is this a scuba diving hot spot? Somewhat–and it’s worth adding to this list. The Spanish Lookout Caye attraction (officially Hugh Parkey’s Belize Dolphin Experience) showcases trained dolphins doing tricks in a four-acre lagoon. There’s a mix of learning, observation and hands-on interaction and you’ll learn how trainers manage to keep these intelligent marine mammals entertained.
6. Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Technically, this reserve is part of the barrier reef off Ambergris but it deserves a hot spot designation for its biodiversity. The three-square-mile park is a snorkelers’ dream dive because so many species of marine life are just beneath the water at a maximum depth of around 30-feet. Prepare to spot massive schools of barracuda, grouper and snapper hanging out along the walls of this enclave.
7. Shark Ray Alley. For scuba divers who choose thrills over tranquility, this hot spot is unique. What attracts critters like nurse sharks and stingrays (hence the name)? Habit. Commercial divers used to dump fish scraps into the waters and sharks became conditioned to finding the chum. Each generation continues to return, so tourists are given priceless opportunities to take photos.
8. Southern Coast. This region is trending, which is why it belongs on our hot spot list. The southern barrier reef is becoming a tourist magnet because it’s unspoiled and has become known for welcoming the newest resorts in Belize. If you wish to scuba dive away from the madding crowd but don’t like isolation, this is your destination.
9. Towel off. Admittedly, this hot spot has nothing to do with scuba diving, but we snuck it in because you can’t dive every moment or your skin will prune and you’ll miss getting a taste of Belize’s other wonders. Popular Belize tours include Mayan ruins, river sailing, caving, wildlife habitats, jungles and hiking tours. Once you’ve had your fill, grab your scuba gear and stick your face back in the water.
10. Whale sharks. If barracudas and nurse sharks don’t intimidate you, giant whale sharks should, which is why this tops our hot spots list. From April to June, fish spawn in prodigious numbers at Gladden Spit and guess who shows up to cull the population? With such a short window of time to experience this phenomenon, don’t mess with your booking or you could miss your chance to swim close to Jaws and friends.