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Diving in Belize

I've been to Belize 4 times and have spent roughly 6 months of my life on Caye Caulker. It is a great little island with about 5 dive shops, lots of different types of accommodation but only a couple of which are considered high-end hotels. It mostly draws a backpacker crowd that has money to spend, or tourists that prefer to avoid staying at resorts.


The dive shop I go to each time is called Belize Diving Services. I have done all my PADI courses there, Open Water through DiveMaster. While not everyone has had a happy experience with this shop, for the most part I like them and trust their crew. They have a cabinless boat that can carry about 12 divers along with 3-4 crew. This boat is not great for travelling long distances with large rolling waves(ie. outside the reef on a windy day).

Here are some of the dive sites, in order of proximity to Caye Caulker:

  1. In Front of Caye Caulker 15 minutes boat ride
    Canyons with the possibility of some interesting sea life. The coral tends to be pretty dead at 40 feet or shallower

  2. In front of Caye Chapel 20 minutes boat ride
    Big canyons and a slightly better, but similar, site than in front of caye caulker.

  3. Hol Chan 25 minutes boat ride
    Canyons and lots of marine life, groupers and sharks like to check out divers at many of the dive sites in Hol Chan. It's a good place to occasionally spot some large sea creatures like turtles, sharks, groupers and rays. There is also a long, tight swimthru at one dive, fun but a little scary.

  4. In front of San Pedro 35 minutes boat ride
    Tacklebox and other sites have big canyons, some easy swimthrus. The canyons are quite pretty, and it's close to San Pedro, making it a convenient place to stop for lunch.

  5. In front of St. George's Caye 45 minutes boat ride
    There is a wall here at about 50 feet, and is the closest wall to Caye Caulker. Dolphins are occasionally spotted here and on the way to dive site. The visibility can sometimes be a little low here due to sand and currents, but on a fairly clear day it can be a nice wall dive.

  6. Goff's Caye 1 hour boat ride
    This caye is visited by day-trippers, it is a tiny island with a little shelter and a few palm trees, right up against the coral reef. There is a shallow wall here, starting at 30 feet and going to about 50-60 feet. A great place to do a long wall dive, and not many dive shops bother to go here.

  7. North Turneffe Elbow 1 hour boat ride(sometimes a rough ride)
    Nice wall dives at north turneffe. The wall starts at about 40 feet and drops down to 90-100 feet. The visibility can be nice hear, so you can see the deep flat bottom in places. Sometimes there is a little current to carry you along on your dive, it is nice as long as the boat is not expecting you to swim back into it.

  8. South Turneffe Elbow 2 hour boat ride
    It's a long way to go but the coral and sea life can be a little richer out here, you may spot species of fish you don't normally see in the closer cayes. Usually there is a little current here, a deep wall and some shallow coral canyons. This site has always been a mixed experience for me.

  9. Blue Hole, Lighthouse Caye and the Aquarium 2 hour boat ride(sometimes a rough ride)
    The blue hole trip normally starts with a deep dive at the blue hole. This is a unique dive site, but not everyone is excited by it. The lip of the hole starts about 20-30 feet down, and from then on its a plain wall dive, with the wall sloping gently away from the center as you descend. There are normally some sharks to see in here, but they don't get too close and visibility is about 30-60 feet, depending on the day. The wall doesn't have a lot to see on it, at depth I saw a few stalactites once in a recession in the wall. I think this is a fun place to do a deep dive, but you will not be blown away by the things you will see at 120 feet, you may however enjoy a spooky feeling and nitrogen narcosis, if you're lucky.

    The dive by lighthouse caye has beautiful coral and a wall that goes deeper than you are capable of. The island is a nice place to enjoy lunch and check out boobies, the birds that is.

    The aquarium is a fun wall dive with nice coral and lots of sea life. There is sometimes a slight current here to draw you along. All in all the blue hole trip is a long and enjoyable day of diving, with each dive site giving you something different.


    Diving in Belize is fun and easy, and on a good day you will see plenty of cool creatures. The coral in some shallow waters looks dead, so it feels like you're diving in a coral cemetery, but it always gets better once you go deep enough. What you see and how much you see is a game of chance, but the outer cayes tend to have more of everything. The trade winds that blow from february through may(I think) can make for rough seas sometimes. Crossing the reef can be dangerous when there are big waves, but a good captain should be able to handle it. A trip to an outer caye on a rough day can be a stomach-churning experience, take pills to prevent nausea or just skip it if you're prone to sea-sickness or have a bad back.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
rahaeli
Dec. 23rd, 2005 02:38 am (UTC)
My ex-girlfriend spent her summers in Belize from the time she was about 16 or so, with the Maya Research Project, on archaeology digs (her dad helps run the project). I always wanted to go with her, but where they were was too far away from medical care in case I needed it -- I'm so environmentally sensitive and the littlest damn thing can trigger an asthma attack, and they were 3 hours away from the nearest hospital. I'd have had to bring my own oxygen. If the relationship had lasted, perhaps I would have ...

Which is my way of saying, take pictures :)
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