Scuba Diving Belize

By: Chris Chew

Belize have the longest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere and offers a combination of gentle inshore scuba diving and some more adventurous oceanic dive sites for the experienced divers. Belize offers scuba divers with a heady concoction of reef, wall, cavern and cay diving experiences.

Belize had a history of swashbuckling buccaneering in days gone by. Back then, there were regular pirate attacks on Spanish treasure ships. Now, it is a peaceful little city on the Caribbean coast of Central America.

Belize is a popular diving destination because of its long barrier reef which offers an array of diving experiences for all levels of scuba diving proficiency, from the novice beginners to the experienced veteran divers.

The barrier reef is about 174 miles or 280 km long extending all the way along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsular in the north to Honduras in the south. In this way, the reef actually creates a true barrier between the ocean and the coast thus providing calm waters to scuba dive in.

There are also numerous islands dotting the reef which are called cays or cayes in this part of the world. In the south eastern part of the reef, there is a large depression in the ocean floor of the Caribbean Sea and this created 3 atolls called Glovers, Turneffe and Lighthouse. The atolls sit on two parallel ridges unlike the atolls of the Pacific, which grew out of volcanoes.

These atolls rise close enough to the surface to allow sunlight penetration causing massive coral and sponge growths. It is therefore not surprising the Belize barrier reef is declared as a world heritage and is the subject of intense conservation and protection.

Coral reefs in the Caribbean seas have a character of their own in that they do not have the very diverse system of the Indo Pacific reefs. However, they lay claim to beautiful individual corals and sponges. The sponges are some of the most colorful to be found anywhere in the world. Some of the sponges are more than a century old and can measure up to an awesome 6 ft or 2 m across.

Perhaps, the main attraction for scuba diving in Belize is the contrast of its marine habitats ranging from bustling coral communities on gentle sandy slopes to steep drop offs with huge pelagic fishes and sharks.

Scuba divers will find smaller coral communities in inshore reefs. These inshore reefs are home to about 500 species of fish including the 5 separate species of butterfly fish. It is here that encounters with larger marine animals such as the manatees, whale shark, jewfish, manta rays are common occurrences.

Do include Belize in your scuba diving itinerary.

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