Helene concluded that her passion for diving had much deeper implications than just experiencing the beauty and wonder of life under the sea, so she asked the question “What if diving was to fill a deeper need for us?” Introspection led to her quest: Asking divers throughout her travels this question “What need does diving fill for you?” Answers were similar and included pleasure, freedom, ecological awareness, sociability, challenge, and wellness.
Diving can trigger meditation, offer serenity, a silent respite from a noisy world, and you may be surprised by the number of respondents calling their diving escapes “cheaper than therapy” and those that said, “my cell phone never rings underwater!” No matter what you glean from diving, rest assured there’s nothing like it in the world.
Does it matter where you dive or snorkel? You bet.
You may not know that Belize has become the top spot for both scuba enthusiasts and divers in the Western Hemisphere. Some say it’s the best on the planet! Further, wouldn’t you prefer a premier dive spot that’s a short plane ride away, where folks speak English and where legendary divers like Jacques Cousteau waxed poetic about the nation that’s home to so many natural dive spots? Belize is a diver’s mecca, but there are so many hot spots off the coast of Belize, you’ll need time to explore them all. Pick one. Make it a pilgrimage. The only thing stopping you from seeing everyone is the time!
The Best Places To Go Scuba Diving in Belize
1. The Blue Hole, located at Lighthouse Reef Atoll, is one of Belize’s most popular scuba diving spots but it attracts snorkelers, too. You’ll “run into” amazing creatures like nurse sharks and eagle rays in addition to exotic critters you may never heard of, like toadfish, an evolutionary throwback. In pursuit of these creatures, you’ll be treated to rock formations that formed during the Pleistocene Era that could take your breath away.
2. Caye Caulker was once a tranquil fishing village that drew so many tourists, it morphed into the go-to destination for snorkelers and divers who come to Belize on budgets while craving a full aquatic sporting adventure. If your idea of heaven is recreating all day and partying all night, Caye Caulker may well top your resource list.
3. Glovers Reef has one of the most exciting histories in the region because it was home to plundering pirates waging war on just about everything that sailed into its vicinity. The romance is still there and so is the wildlife, proliferating in abundance since it was declared a protected marine reserve in 1993. Come for the pirates. Stay for the steep underwater coral formations that are home to diverse species thriving in this area.
4. Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Declared protected territory in 1987, this area is known for its friendly marine life that seems to be more curious than its cousins hanging out at other offshore hot spots. Located south of Ambergris Caye, you’ll run into more than rays, barracudas, and sharks. You’ll also have an opportunity to check out an underwater shipwreck settled on a depth that’s shallow enough to be favored by snorkelers of all skill levels.
5. Lighthouse Reef Atoll is easily accessed from Belize City, and it too has been proclaimed a top dive site thanks in part to the legendary Blue Hole that offers challenges galore. Seek out groupers and rays as you navigate the waters around the Hole. They could be hiding in underwater tunnels so keen eyesight is helpful if you want to spot these magnificent creatures.
6. Mexico Rocks isn’t the place to go if you are stalking huge marine prey but if you’re just as happy to see fish, lobsters, elkhorn, starfish, and other undersea delights, you’re going to love Mexican Rocks. Snorkelers call this an ideal destination for beginning scuba divers because depths are shallow enough to navigate effortlessly while treating the eyes to a smorgasbord of delights.
7. Shark Ray Alley is often paired with descriptions of Hol Chan Marine Reserve because they’re in such proximity to each other, but if you’re craving a full-on shark experience you may wish to focus your visit on Zone D, where the water teems with nurse sharks, stingrays, turtles, and other exotic creatures that are so diverse, you’ll stick to what’s called “Zone D” for your fill of snorkeling adventures!
8. No Spanish skills are required to visit Spanish Lookout Caye (aka Spanish Bay), a reputed favorite of newbie reef divers. Many people come explicitly to see oddly-shaped corals like brain coral and mushroom look-alike corallimorpharian. Turtles, moray eels, stingrays, and nurse sharks hang out here, and since it’s near Turneffe Atoll, you’ll find accommodations nearby.
9. Turneffe Atoll is considered the most biodiverse dive site in Belize. Declared a national marine reserve in 2012, this atoll is home to so many species of fish, and diving and snorkeling here never disappoint. Spot rays, mega-groupers, manatees, lobsters, dolphins, sea turtles, and more reside within seagrasses and coral walls. Popularity has morphed Turneffe as the top pick for sailors, photographers, and scuba divers eager to learn why “the Elbow” gets rave reviews!
10. The Belize Barrier Reef. Why leave the reef for last when it’s the single most important destination for scuba and deep-sea diving? Because if your time in Belize is limited, you’ll want to make this the focus of your sojourn. The reef is classified as a double reef (the largest of only 6 on earth) and it’s 190 miles long. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, the reef is the jewel in Belize’s crown, so your adventure is likely to be the one that sticks with you, long after memories of previous experiences disappear.