With sparkling turquoise waters, colorful coral reefs, and an abundance of underwater activity, Belize is home to some of the world’s most famous scuba sites. Novice and experienced divers alike arrive from around the globe to experience first-hand what this perfect portion of the Caribbean Sea has to offer. San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye is particularly popular for its close proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef—second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
THE GREAT BLUE HOLE
Approximately two hours from San Pedro by boat, the Great Blue Hole is 300 meters across and 125 meters deep. Originally an open air cenote (a sinkhole connected to an underground river and/or cave system), this special spot become submerged in the sea as ocean levels rose over the years. As a result, divers can find not only magnificent marine life (like nurse, reef, or blacktip sharks, giant grouper, and an array of other fascinating fish), but also stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
Named for its arm-shaped promontory, the Elbow dive site is situated within the Turneffe Atolls—about an hour away from the San Pedro shores by boat. Here, the reef reverses direction, creating deep, widely exposed canyons that offer predatory fish like giant barracuda, jacks, snapper, mackerel, and jewfish the perfect place to hunt. Large ray schools can also be found here quite often. Because of the strong currents coming in from deeper waters, however, this excursion is often recommended as a drift dive, providing an excellent opportunity to see a large portion of the wall.
Located inside the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (protected from fishing since 1987), Seagrass Beds is a quick 15-minute cruise from Ambergris Caye. Stingrays, fish, and even an occasional manatee flock to this feeding ground to feast on the epiphytes growing in the grass. These beds are a truly tranquil and enchanting spot, so divers can relax and enjoy a slow swim or simply stay completely still and watch the camouflaged creatures come to life.
SHARK RAY ALLEY
Part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley is also about 15 minutes from the shore, and it’s an excellent place to connect with lots of local marine life. Nurse sharks and southern stingrays gather here to feed on fish offal and, although prohibited by the reserve, bait brought by humans. Sufficiently docile from years of human interaction, these incredible creatures enjoy entertaining people in their home and often open their mouths or swim circles around divers in anticipation of the tasty treats they sometimes receive.
BACALAR CHICO MARINE NATIONAL PARK & RESERVE
Established in 1996, the Bacalar Chico Marine National Park & Reserve is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. Home to at least 187 species of fish, plus a few loggerhead, green, and hawksbill sea turtles, this site is an extremely important spawning aggregation site. Located at the very northern tip of Ambergris Caye, the reserve includes 41 square miles of land, reef, and sea, making it easily accessible by boat or sometimes even directly from the shore.