In a country famous for its shipwrecks, steep drop-offs, clear water, and abundance of marine life, one of the standout dive sites in Belize is the Esmeralda Canyon.
This unique dive site is known for its large collection of giant black groupers, eels, and nurse sharks that inhabit the area. With an average depth of 60 feet and abundant visibility (averaging around 70 feet), divers step into a vast aquarium of sea turtles, fish, and shark species that thread their way through this section of spur and grove reefs. The Esmeralda Canyon is a natural valley, its colorful fauna making for a perfect backdrop on this unforgettable dive site.
Located approximately 30 minutes by boat from the island of Ambergris Caye, Esmeralda Canyon is located in the middle of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The clean water, bright sandy seafloor, and abundance of marine life make this a truly must-do dive in Belize.
Esmeralda Canyon is actually the name of several different canyons. The area is part of a protected marine zone, so buoys and mooring lines have been established to show where one dive site ends and another dive sit ebegins.
Most dive tours to Esmeralda Canyon include multiple dives in the various sections of this part of the reef with a brief 15-minute break between, giving participants a chance to experience all the best that Esmeralda Canyon has to offer during either a half-day or full-day tour.
The average dive at Esmeralda Canyon begins with a descent to around 43 feet (13 meters) at the end of a mooring line followed by a second descent to or near the bottom. Divers can expect to see sleeping nurse sharks, moral eels popping out of their dens, and other inquisitive animals.
Common wildlife found in Esmeralda Canyon:
Nurse sharks, Pederson shrimp, loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles, moray eels, grouper fish, spotted drums, cleaner shrimp, arrowhead crabs, southern stingrays, French angelfish, squid, and channel crabs.
Esmeralda Canyon is also home to a wide variety of fauna and coral, including:
Anemones, tube sponges, barrel sponges, brain coral, staghorn coral, Christmas Tree worms, tunicates, Spaghetti worms, corallimorphs, gorgonians, encrusting sponges, and Zoanthids.
On occasion, some divers have spotted nudibranch (molluscs), dolphins, reef sharks, and hammerhead sharks.
Esmeralda Canyon is rated for divers of all experience levels. The maximum depth of Esmeralda Canyon is 70 feet (21 meters). Most expeditions to Esmeralda Canyon depart from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.