The Belize Barrier Reef, another hotspot for inveterate charterers the world over, has a treasure trove of biodiversity waiting to be explored. This 300-kilometer stretch of coral reef is the second largest, and the plethora of marine life make it one of the most sought after diving and snorkeling havens in the world.
Simply put: if you’re looking for the best diving destination, then the Belize Barrier Reef, with its incredibly diverse oceanic ecosystem, is perhaps the best place to go. All those diving enthusiasts who rank this UNESCO World Heritage Site as the best diving spot in the world—and there are many of them!—are simply not mistaken.
The Great Blue Hole
In the middle of Lighthouse Reef, a small coral atoll approximately 40 miles from the largest city in Belize, lies a giant marine cavern called the Great Blue Hole. The French naval officer and explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who dedicated his life to studying the sea, once brought his ship, The Calypso, atop the Great Blue Hole to chart its depths and uncover its secrets. He was, as can be expected, mesmerized by the marine wonder and declared it among the best diving sites in the world. Indeed, 50 years on and hundreds of miles of newly charted territory after, and Cousteau’s pronouncement about the Great Blue Hole still rings true.
The Great Blue hole is the largest sinkhole in the world and is one of the biggest reasons why many oceanophiles comes to the Belize Barrier Reef. It is easily one of the most fascinating places in the world, and if you’re a diver, the Great Blue Hole of the Belize Barrier Reef should be high on your bucket list.
The Hole Chan and Caye Caulker Marine Reserve
Being a top diving destination, Belize is also a great place to snorkel, and among all the places to go snorkeling in Belize, the two best places would be in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, near the Barrier Reef. You can, if you want to, visit each place at separate days—after all, there’ll be many things to explore—or take them both in one day. Whatever you decide, you are sure to get the best snorkeling experience. Just the bevy of marine life alone will keep you captivated for hours, and long after sundown.
Swim with Whale Sharks
At the Belize Barrier Reef, there’s even the possibility of swimming with whale sharks if you book a tour in the months of April and May—and, trust us, the experience of swimming with these friendly and inquisitive giants will be totally worthwhile. Just remember that booking a whale shark tour doesn’t assure you’ll be seeing one. Indeed, some divers have spent serious moolah to see whale sharks only to come home with nary a photo. They are regular visitors to Belize during the summer months, but your best bet will be to book a tour either in April or May when mutton and dog snappers (food for whale sharks) are proliferating at peak levels.
Explore Half Moon Caye
The palm-lined beaches of Half Moon Caye Island, south of Lighthouse Reef, are among the best in the world. Go there, camp out and have a picnic, or just remain anchored by the shore, enjoying the sunset and unique wildlife. This crescent-shaped island is filled with enchantments galore. Go snorkeling with the stingrays, eels, and nurse sharks. There are more than a few stellar dive sites around the island, including Silver Caves, West Point, and Tres Cocos. It’s even got… boobies! No not those kinds of boobies but red-footed booby birds, a type of large seabird that are found only on Half Moon Caye for 10 months in a year. These boobies start nesting in December and hatch the following March only to start flying off to the open sea.
Visit the South Water Caye Marine Reserve
This is the largest marine reserve in Belize, and it definitely deserves a spot in your itinerary. For divers and snorkelers, it doesn’t get any better than here on one of the most biodiverse areas in all of Belize. While for those looking for a more laid-back and leisurely island experience, there is Pelican Beach, named by National Geographic as one of the best beaches in the world. And, trust us, National Geographic, that bastion of science and exploration, had done so for good reasons, one of which being that Pelican Beach is the only place in Belize where one can swim safely to and fro the reef in a matter of minutes, amidst a stretch of colorful corals and marine life, all in less than approximately 20 feet of water. Unwind, snorkel, or kayak in and around this idyllic, palm-lined, and silvery-sanded island that sits atop the reef. It simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Best Time to Visit
Belize is a place that has great weather all-year-round, so, really, anytime is a great time to visit the Belize Barrier Reef. Indeed, any time of the year will be a great time to dive or snorkel in Belize. But, generally, there are two seasons in Belize and you might want to plan your trip on the basis of which between them you prefer.
November to April is typically the time when Belize will be at its driest. And these will be the months when tourism at Belize will be at its peak. There’ll be little to no rain in and around Belize, hence the name dry season. The water temperatures will be a little bit colder during these months, but the clear weather will assure fantastic visibility for divers and snorkelers.
May to October is Belize’s wet season. There’ll be fewer tourists around, and many who prefer a less crowded Belizean experience will like these months better. Also, there’ll be massive price drops during this season due to plunging tourist arrivals, so visiting Belize on these months will be more, how shall we say, friendly to your wallet.