Belize is notorious worldwide for its astonishing abundance of flora, fauna and aquatic life. In fact, despite its relatively small size, the country is home to the second largest Barrier reef system in the entire globe, spanning all the way from Mexico at the north to the south end of Guatemala. It spans 185 miles of Belize coastline over 7 key marine reserve zones and over 400 marine cayes. For this reason and many others, Belize is a bucket list destination for scuba divers. In this article, we look at five of Belize’s best dive sites.
Tackle Box Canyons
Typical Depth Range: 66-100 ft (20-30 meters)
Typical Current Conditions: None
Typical Visibility: 100 ft (30 meters)
If you want photographs of divers in tunnel mouths or descending through gaps in cavern roofs, Tackle Box Canyons is your dive site. This site features several deep, narrow canyons with vertical walls and can be accessed by boat about a mile offshore from downtown San Pedro. Marine life is generally good where horse-eye jacks may gather in the upper reaches of partially roofed-over caverns. Large plates of boulder coral, heads of brain, yellow pencil, mustard hill and isolated stands of elkhorn coral form the ridges.
Iridescent vase, basket and rope sponges adorn the coral formations. Bright red boring sponges, orange crinoids, green and red algae add color, while the usual range of tropical fish, eels and other mobile animals enliven the reef with movement.
Excellent visibility. You can almost always see all species of fish including jacks, groupers, snappers, parrot fish, angel fish, barracuda eels, spider crabs, lobster, and nurse sharks. Large canyon formations and just a few minutes from the dive shop. Lots of marine activity during turtle season. Recently, Reef Sharks are sighted on every dive at this area.
Typical Depth Range: 60-80ft
At this site the canyons of the reef are filled all the way up with sand, creating a great sandy flat, frequently interrupted by the coral tops of the canyons that will stick out. The area is known for plentiful nurse sharks and groupers acting like pets.
Visibility is Good ( 10 – 30m) although the maximum depth you can reach is 33m/109ft
This area features canyons over grown with corals. Only about 7 minutes by boat to great tunnel diving inside the great canyon formations. Excellent visibility. Plenty of fish, including jacks, groupers, snappers, parrot fish, angel fish, barracuda, eels, spider crabs, lobster, and nurse sharks. Grouper, Turtles, Morays and shoals of every variety. Tunnel at beginning of dive starting at 60 ft ending at 90 ft. The site is only accessible by boat and is suited or all type divers.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is Mayan for ‘little channel.” This sanctuary was officially established in 1987, and since then the return of all species of fish has been quite dramatic. The reserve covers approximately 27 square miles and is divided into four zones. Each one is clearly marked by buoys. The entire reserve focuses on a cut through the reef which is little more than 25 yards (23 m) wide and 30 feet (9 m) deep. This is a steep channel through the reef, with morays and all kinds of marine life.
Zone A includes the reef and is covered with almost every type of coral found in the Caribbean.
Zone B is an area of sea grass where turtle, conch and even the remarkable little sea horse are found.
Zone C comprises the mangroves. This serves as a nursery for juvenile marine life.
Zone D was added as a recreational area. Fishermen would clean their catch in this area and the Nurse Sharks and Rays got use to this. Presently, the sound of a motor is their dinner bell. This is the only area feeding is permitted by the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Belize Fishries Department.
Snorkeling and diving activities offered by the Belize Pro Dive Center only covers zone A & D.
Offshore Turneffe Atoll
Designated a marine reserve in 2012, Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most visually spectacular of Belize’s 3 atolls, unique in the Caribbean. The 400+ islets are mostly covered in dense mangroves interspersed with shallow lagoons, feeding the surrounding waters with a nutrient rich soup. Many of the dive sites act as spawning sites for reef fish as the lagoons and mangrove shallows offer good protection for juvenile fish. For this reason, the marine biodiversity is unmatched in this region.
Turneffe has dive sites suitable for every level of diver with shallow reefs and varied topography. Drop-offs and channels make for a good variety of sites and larger reef fish, turtles and spotted eagle rays are frequently sighted. The endemic white spotted toadfish is a delight to find for any diver. With over 70 known dive sites at Turneffe, there’s enough variety and big fish action to keep any diver happy. Caribbean reef sharks and the ever-present nurse sharks are occasionally joined by solitary hammerheads and blacktips. Dolphins also regularly hunt in these waters. Manatees and American saltwater crocodiles can sometimes be seen in the water away from their lagoon home. Turneffe is good for: large animals, visibility, wall diving, beginner and advance divers.
Now that you know all about the best dive sites of the Belize underwater world, you might want to start planning your diving holiday! Check out our partners at Belize Pro Dive Center for all your diving needs, excursions and gear rentals. Or reach out to us and book your tour in advance; Info@banyanbay.com