0

Basket

25 Dive Centres in Belize

Belize

Belize is a small Caribbean nation whose entire coastline is situated on the Caribbean Sea, and despite its relatively small size, it has the reputation as the best scuba diving destination in the region, and rightfully so. Its picturesque atolls, mangrove covered cays, and postcard worthy white sandy beaches only paint half of the picture. Belize is home to the longest continuous coral reef in the western hemisphere, and the Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world – after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It boasts among the highest biodiversity in the Caribbean, and its varied dive sites cater for scuba divers of every level.

Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea, Mexico, and Guatamala, Belize has a surprising amount to offer for a country that only occupies a total land area of 23,000 square kilometres.

It has a population of only 335,000 people – barely more than Iceland -, however despite having such a small population, it is a melting pot of different cultures, with Belizean ancestral roots coming from Creole, Maya, Spanish, English, Lebanese, Garifuna, Mestizo, and more.

It is considered among the safest Central American countries to visit, with a relatively stable political climate, racial harmony, and religious tolerance. This combination, plus friendly locals, makes Belize an easy place to explore without having to worry too much about what is going on around you.

Currency:

The currency of Belize is the Belize dollar, which is abbreviated with the $ symbol, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollars. It is conveniently pegged with the United States dollar, with 1 US$ always being 2 BZ$.

Banknotes are available in the following denominations - $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100, and ATMs are found throughout all major towns and cities. Currency exchanges are found in all cities and tourist destinations, however those in tourist hotspots tend to give a lower rate than those in the cities.

Many merchants, hotels and tourist oriented companies will also accept USD, and it is not uncommon to pay for things in a mixture of the two currencies. Note that prices will always be written with only the $ symbol, and this is done mostly to confuse American tourists into paying double and not expecting change.

Language:

Being a former British colony, Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English.

English is the primary language for education, media and government purposes, so British visitors should have no problems communicating. Roughly 50% of the population speak an English based creole language known as Belizean Creole, however this is mostly used for informal purposes.

Around 30% of Belizeans speak Spanish as a native language, and over half the population is multi lingual. During the British colonial days, Spanish was banned in schools, however today it is taught in almost all schools as a second language.

Belize is also home to three Mayan languages, including one that is considered endangered. Interestingly, there are just under 7,000 Mennonites in Belize who speak Plautdietsch, and a minority of these people speak Pennsylvanian German.

Religion:

Like many other Central American countries, Belize is a majority Christian country, however there are many different factions of Christianity followed. Roughly 75% of the country follow Christianity, with around 40% of the country being Roman Catholic, 30% Protestant, and the remaining 5% being split between Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, or Mennonite.

Around 10% of the population follow other religions, including local traditional religions, and the remaining 15% consider themselves non religious. Belize is a very open country regarding religion, and the majority of people have no problems disguising their religion and are very open minded to people of other religions.

Visa Requirements:

British or EU nationals do not require a visa to enter Belize. Upon arrival, you will be allowed to stay for up to 30 days without having to pay anything, however if you want to stay for longer you must apply for an extension of stay from within Belize.

Upon completing the free 30 days, each month will cost BZ$50 for the first six months, and after that each month will cost BZ$100.

You can find more information regarding Belize visa requirements from the UK foreign travel advice website for Belize.

 

Best Things to do in Belize (Non-Diving)

Discover Mayan History

While southern Mexico may be the most famous country for Mayan sites, this advanced historic empire also spread into what is now Belize and Guatamala, with the two latter countries offering a number or important sites, but without the crowds.

This impressive civilisation is notable for its fully developed writing systems, mathematics, art and astronomy, and reached its peak while Europe was still in the dark ages. Although the empire all but disappeared around a thousand years ago, there are still a number or incredible cities and temples still standing today. Top Mayan sites in Belize include Xunantunich, Caracol, Lubaantun, and Altun Ha, and because the country is not particularly big, you can easily fit a visit to many of them during a single holiday.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

No animal perfectly sums up the wildness of Central Americas dense jungles more than the Jaguar, and Belize is home to one of the most important jaguar reserves in the world.

The reserve is home to many semi-wild jaguars, and guided walks along some of the countless trails throughout the sanctuary offer numerous opportunities to spot them – although Belize’s largest cats are notoriously skittish so sightings can never be guaranteed.

Besides being home to numerous jaguars, the reserve is also protects the headwaters of two major river systems and all the wildlife that calls these forests home. Belize is particularly good for birdwatching, so make sure you bring your binoculars!

There is a $10 entrance fee to enter the reserve, and it is possible to stay within the sanctuaries boundaries. A night in a dorm will cost $20 per night, per person, and a private cabin will set you back around $50 a night. Those who are more adventurous can opt to camp instead, which costs $5 per person, per night. You can bring your own tents and cooking equipment, or rent from the ranger office, however you must bring your own food and water with you.

Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave

Located in the area known as the Mountain Tapir Reserve, the ATM cave offers the perfect blend of adventure, archaeology, history, and education. It is considered one of the best caves in the world that is easily accessible, and because of its rich Mayan history, it is believed to be the most important religious or sacred cave system in the world.

It is an important Mayan archaeological site, and the artefacts inside are almost exactly as they were when they were left more than 1000 years ago. By taking one of the guided cave tours, you can expect to find ancient pots and jars which would have been used for food offerings, stone tools, and the remains of those who were scarified or died in this underground labyrinth.

It is only accessible when there has been no rainfall, and prepare for a long and difficult hike to get to the deepest chambers. Due to a tourist dropping their camera and smashing a priceless human skull, cameras are forbidden unless you have a permit, and shoes must be removed before entering certain chambers as recently a tourist stepped on another skull and shattered it.

 

Scuba Diving in Belize

Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the most isolated of Belize’s three atolls, and with a total length of around 80 kilometres, it is the smallest.

Being so far from shore, it is the least protected atoll too, so when the wind picks up the conditions can be unfavourable, and some sites may even become unaccessable although there are normally alternative sites that are fine to dive during rough seas. Although the seascape can occasionally get rough, the diving is relatively easy as currents are usually slow and predictable, making Lighthouse Reef a good destination for all levels of diver.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll is home to the most famous dive site in Belize, and perhaps one of the most iconic dive sites in the world – The Great Blue Hole. This picturesque perfectly circular sinkhole is the result of a collapsed sea cave, and at its deepest point it is a whopping 150 metres deep surrounded by turquoise shallow waters. While the Great Blue Hole is an iconic dive site made famous by the legendary Jacques Cousteau, it is important to remember that this is a cave, and not to get your hopes up about encountering large amounts of marine life during your dive.

Outside of the Great Blue Hole, the region is home to vast amounts of shallow reef gardens which are teeming with life. You can expect to encounter a huge amount of reef fish playing in the shallows, and common big encounters include groupers, barracuda, jacks, and tarpon. The area is also very good for critters, with many spiny lobsters, reef octopus, decorator crabs, and much more waiting for any diver with a keen eye.

Turneffe Reef Atoll

Considered by most divers as the best land based diving Belize has to offer, Turneffe Reef Atoll was designated a marine reserve back in 2012, and ever since the marine ecosystem has been flourishing.

With over 400 islets covered in dense mangroves and plenty of shallow lagoons with fringing reefs, Turneffe is the largest of Belize’s three atolls, and has something to offer every level of diver. Novice divers will enjoy the shallow reefs and sheltered lagoons, which are home to numerous spawning sites and nurseries, while the more experienced divers will enjoy the deep drop-off's, wrecks and island channels further from shore.

There are over 70 world class dive sites in the region, and at any moment you could encounter turtles, large schools of snappers, eagles rays, nurse, reef and hammerhead sharks, and occasionally you might even bump into manatees who have strayed away from their lagoon homes. A must see critter is the whitespotted toadfish, which is endemic to the region.

Ambergis Caye

Ambergis Caye is the largest of Belize’s offshore cayes, and a perfect destination for those who prefer resorts over liveaboards, but also want easy access to beautiful dive sites.

The reef runs parallel to shore at an average distance of a kilometre from the island, making it a great spot for those who would rather spend less time travelling on boats, and more time in the water. To the south of the island is a serious of small cays and reefs which offer very protected spots and shallow reefs. One of the sites found here – Shark Ray Alley – is considered one of the best animal spotting sites in the entire Caribbean, and as the name implies, shark encounters are extremely common here.

There are many marine protected areas surrounding Ambergis Caye, which means there are strict no fishing rules, so pelagic species are prolific. While the caye does offer many interesting dive sites, experienced divers may find the island’s dive sites to be a little bit repetitive, so Ambergis Caye is more recommended to beginner divers or those who are looking to make only a few dives on their holiday, rather than diving four or five times a day.

Placenia

While most divers visiting Belize will make their way to the Atolls or Cayes, there are other options available too – with the most remarkable and one of the least visited being Placecia, towards the south of the Belize Barrier Reef.

While the average diving may not be as spectacular as the more well known destinations around Belize, the region is much quieter, and the calm inner reefs are great for beginner divers looking to get certified or practise their skills, while the outer reef has beautiful drop off’s which are perfect for more advanced divers.

Here you can find “Laughing Bird Caye”, which is a national park on the souther section of the barrier reef, and is home to a large amount of rays. The thing that really makes Placencia stick out however, is the huge numbers of whale sharks that visit Gladden Spit between April and June. Snorkelling trips are offered by many companies during these months, and encounters with these gentle giants are almost guaranteed.

 

When to Visit Belize?

Belize is a year round diving destination, however just like any other Caribbean tropical nation, it does have two distinct seasons – “the wet season” and “the dry season”. What is fairly unusual however, is that the seasons have very little effect on the diving, and visibility remains fairly constant throughout the year.

July through to October tend to be the warmest months, with the water temperature averaging around 28°C. This is also the “wet season”, and regular heavy downpours can be expected during these months. The wet season also coincides with the Caribbean hurricane season, however Belize is far more protected from these storms than neighbouring countries, although you should still listen out for storm warnings during these months and follow all storm safety instructions.

The driest months are February and March, where rainfall is rare, and April until June is also relatively dry, although occasional rains are expected. The dry season is also when water temperatures are the coldest, although water temperature rarely dips below 26°C. For most divers, March until June offers the best conditions that Belize has to offer, and in Placencia in the south, this is the time when you have the best opportunity to spot whale sharks.

Read More

Andorra Heading

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using…