The first thing you’ll notice here is the coral — an explosion of color as vivid as the splatters on a paintball bunker. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, spanning from the Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras, swings 25 miles offshore in some places. This buffer largely insulates the structure from the stresses of land, preserving these eye-popping species.
The second thing that will strike you — especially when diving the walls of the outlying atolls — is the sense that you’re not alone. Court the blue and stay silent. They will appear: incoming eagle rays, Caribbean reef sharks and massive sea turtles seeking the free meals provided at these ocean oases.
To swim with the country’s biggest visitors, study the lunar calendar. At Gladden Spit — a remote marine reserve off the coast of Placencia — whale sharks congregate in waters filled with their preferred meal, fish eggs; mutton, dog and cubera snapper, and grouper spawn three to five days after the full moons of April, May and June.
"Ambergris Caye’s most beautiful, secret beach walk is in protected Bacalar Chico at the northernmost end (15 miles north of town). Signs warn of turtle nests, jaguars and pumas. At Rocky Point, the barrier reef touches land, so bring snorkel gear." Rebecca Coutant, expat and sanpedroscoop.com blogger
"One of the four must-dive locations on this blue planet,” was how renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau described Belize. Considered one of Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secrets, Belize is home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world, and boasts three of only four coral atolls in the Caribbean. Divers encounter exceptionally diverse marine life and a kaleidoscope of color in locations spanning the length of the 185-mile Belize Barrier Reef. This includes coral gardens featuring over 70 types of hard corals, nearly 500 species of fish, the amazing Blue Hole and whale sharks. Some of Belize’s more popular dive spots include:
The Belize Barrier reef : The Belize Barrier Reef extends from northern Ambergris Caye to the Sapodilla Cayes in Belize’s southernmost regions. Some dive sites begin in only 45 feet of water, and drop to 90 feet or more and feature deep coral canyons and dramatic drop-offs.
The Blue hole: Originally a cave, the Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef was formed about 10,000 years ago when the roof collapsed. Visible from space, the Blue Hole is nearly a perfectly circular hole 1,000 feet in diameter and 412 feet deep, with stalactites suspended from the cavern’s ceiling at 130 feet. As you ascend, be on the lookout for reef and bull sharks.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve: Loosely translated from the Mayan as “Little Channel,” the Hol Chan Marine Reserve refers to the deep cut in the barrier reef off of Ambergris Caye. The depth is only about 30 feet with a strong current in the area; however, divers are rewarded with diverse schools of grouper, snapper and barracuda along the walls.
Gladden Spit: Due east of the charming fishing village of Placencia, Gladden Spit is known for the massive whale sharks found in this natural marine spawning ground located along the southern barrier reef. Whale shark sightings in this area are virtually guaranteed in April, May and June during full moons.
The Vibe: Thatched-roof cabanas, long stretches of white sand and countless tiny, private islands are belize staples. ambergris caye at the country’s northern edge buzzes with activity, with its waterfront bars, jewelry stands and day-tour operators. life on and near the atolls moves at a hermit crab’s pace; the majority of action happens in the morning, when diving and fishing boats depart; afternoons are the stuff of paperbacks and poolside cocktails.
Brag Worthy: Adrenaline rushes you’ll never forget. Head to the country’s jungle interior for a day trip or two with ian anderson’s caves branch adventure company. Opt for the black Hole Drop, where you’ll hike to the top ledge of a cave in the Maya Mountains, then rappel 300 feet into the rainforest canopy. With the Waterfall cave expedition, you’ll scale six waterfalls, cliff-jump into a series of pools, and then make a hike through the forest.
Accomodations: For information on accommodations, visit http://www.travelbelize. org/category/hot-deals.