Under a tropical sun and cloudless skies, slip beneath the vibrant waters of Belize’s Caribbean Sea to explore world-renowned reefs, wrecks and wildlife. This hushed underwater realm is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, so choosing what sites to explore can be a daunting task. From experienced divers to just-dipped-a-toe beginners, here are our top choices for submerging yourself in these warm paradisaical waters.
Great Blue Hole
Take a tour of the breath-taking atolls; Belize is home to three out of four of these incredible ring-shaped reefs found in the Western Hemisphere. Experienced divers can drop down into the depths of the most famous site, the Great Blue Hole in the Lighthouse Reef atoll. Credited by French explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau as one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world, the waters in this circular submarine sinkhole get clearer the deeper you go, revealing huge, otherworldly stalactites, stalagmites and limestone formations.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye – Christ of the Abyss
With arms outstretched to welcome his visitors, this underwater statue buried in the reef is referred to as Christ of the Abyss. This permanent underwater resident is in fact a local – as it’s actually a statue of St. Peter, the patron of San Pedro, an ever-popular beach town only 5 minutes away from this dive site. Part of Ambergris Caye, there’s a myriad of sights to explore here amidst the melange of Mexican, Caribbean and colonial English architecture.
Always wanted to swim with sharks? Another protected stretch of the reef, Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve is renowned as a unique site to dive with whale sharks. The area throngs with tropical fish which spawn around the full moon, enticing whale sharks for a monthly feast between March and June. The largest fish in the sea, whale sharks can reach 30 to 60 feet in length, and witnessing one of these gentle giants emerging from the blue is a memory you won’t forget in a hurry.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
With such a precious eco-system on their coastline, Belize works tirelessly to ensure the reef and wildlife are protected from the potentially devastating effects of tourism and fishing. Leading the way is Hol Can Marine Reserve. Once a depleted fishing area, the waters have re-generated since it was granted protected status, providing an exceptional diving and snorkelling experience for visitors, as well as a crucial sanctuary for marine life. Encompassing over 4,000 acres of coral reef, seagrass beds and mangrove forests, the jewel in the crown is Shark Ray Alley – clear shallow waters renowned for attracting curious nurse sharks and sting rays.