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Snorkeling and Diving

Bacalar Chico is a hidden treasure with a pristine environment teeming with wildlife and a brilliant array of coral. By virtue of its location on Ambergris Caye, which borders Mexico, the twin sites of Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve are remote destinations suited for those who are looking for a less-traveled path and a unique adventure. Bacalar Chico was once an important trading site for the Maya people. They hand dug the canal that now separates Ambergris Caye from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and built many settlements, the evidence of which can still be seen today by taking a tour.

Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve encompasses 15,530 acres and is a fantastic spot for snorkeling and diving. This protected area is also a critical habitat and breeding ground for many animals, including fish such as Horse Eye Jacks and Black Groupers, three species of turtles, and marine and coastal birds.

A popular spot for hiking due to its remote setting and varied landscape, Bacalar Chico National Park has beautiful coastal forests, swamps, mudflats, savannahs, sinkholes, and lagoons. The 12,640-acre reserve has 11 miles (18 kilometers) of nature trails and is home to dozens of animals, including endangered pumas and jaguars.

On the northern-most part of the Belize Barrier Reef, Bacalar Chico can be accessed only via a boat ride, usually from San Pedro or Caye Caulker. Several tour operators offer trips to Bacalar Chico.

Deep channels coincide with dramatic rising pinnacles at the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve. The reserve is one of Belize’s three stunning atolls (one of four in the entire Caribbean), ring-shaped coral reefs that encircle pristine lagoons. One of the most spectacular locations for marine biodiversity, not only for Belize but in the region, the calm waters of the atoll’s lagoon are home to at least three species of sea turtles, eight species of sharks and rays, hundreds of species of fish, including the endangered Nassau Grouper, and many different types of coral. Glover’s Reef was originally inhabited by the Maya people, and Maya pottery has been found on the islands. Named after English pirates John and Rodger Glover, it is rumored that these seafaring brothers buried their treasures here.

The real treasure in Glover’s Reef is the outdoor adventure. This reserve is ideal for diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fly fishing, and sailing. Explore the thriving coral formations of this site, and you’ll see why it is known as a top diver’s spot!

Located in the southernmost region of Belize, Glover’s Reef is the most remote atoll in Belize. From Belize City, travel by road or domestic flight to Dangriga or Placencia. From there, Glover’s Reef is a 2.5-hour boat ride away. You can also reach the islands via helicopter. Resorts and tour operators along Belize’s southern coast offer day trips to visit the area, or visitors can stay in Glover’s Reef overnight in family-run accommodations.

Goff’s Caye is a 1-acre sand barrier island, situated north of the English Caye Channel. It is approximately 12 nautical miles east of Belize City. Its natural beauty; white sandy beach, and well-developed coral reef formation are considered to be the best in the central province.

Goff’s Caye has also been a major part of the Belizean culture and heritage for many years. During the Easter holidays, many Belizeans visit the island for a day of relaxation. This annual event has become a mainstay of Belizean culture.

The island, however, is very vulnerable to changing current and wind patterns. These phenomena cause the Caye to exhibit a dynamic landmass, with constantly changing boundaries.

The island is one of the major marine destinations for cruise ships and local visitors alike. This is because it is easily accessible and offers a unique mixture of sun, sand, and healthy reefs.

Because of its popularity, Goff’s Caye has the potential to become vulnerable to the negative impacts of overuse from a large number of visitors. However, Coastal Zone Management Authority and Insitute (CZMAI) has been managing the environs of Goff’s Caye since 2004, in which it has established a maximum carrying capacity of 150-200 visitors at any given time.

The Blue Hole Natural Monument comprises a gigantic underwater sinkhole surrounded by a ring of coral in the sparkling, shallow waters of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The Great Blue Hole, the monument’s principal attraction, is roughly 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and over 400 feet (120 meters) deep. It is the largest geological formation of its kind in the world. This collapsed cave system was likely formed above ground 10,000 years ago. You can still experience the vertical cliffs and over-hanging shelves supporting stalactites and stalagmites in the deep, blue water today, though it will take a scuba dive to experience it.

Made famous by world-renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, this remarkable site is on the bucket list of virtually every scuba diver in the world. Its vertical plunge, passing Caribbean Reef Sharks into the ancient cenote, eventually gives way to enormous stalactites and caves. If you aren’t a diver, you can still see the Great Blue Hole via aerial tours that depart daily. Even more captivating and photogenic when seen from the air, the Great Blue Hole is so large it can even be seen from space.

Located near the center of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole Natural Monument can be experienced by a day dive-boat trip, live-aboard dive vessel, or by air tour. Book a diving or snorkeling excursion with a sustainable, licensed tour operator or an Instagram-worthy sightseeing tour with a local airline.

Half Moon Caye Natural Monument is picturesque with its white-sandy beaches, unbelievably blue waters, and lush vegetation. One TripAdvisor user described it as “the most beautiful place I have ever been.” This park is more than just a scene from a postcard. It preserves several important ecosystems and is home to endangered species such as the Hawksbill Turtle and Nassau Grouper, as well as colonies of Red-Footed Booby Birds and endemic Leaf Toed Geckos. The first protected area in Belize, Half Moon Caye is also one of the few remaining spots to see a thriving old-growth littoral (coastal) forest.

Underwater, Half Moon Caye impresses with its dramatic reef wall that drops to over 3000 feet (910 meters). It’s a wall dive no sport diver will ever forget. Often overshadowed by its more famous sister site, the Blue Hole, the Half Moon Caye wall is considered by many to be the best dive site in Belize.

Full of pristine coral and abundant sea life, this Caye and its surroundings can be explored time and time again without ever seeing the same things twice.Spotted Eagle Rays, Nurse Sharks, and sea turtles are common. Schools of bonefish and permit are everywhere. This unique island is also a protected bird sanctuary (be sure to check out the treetop platform for the best bird-watching).

Located on the southeast corner of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Half Moon Caye is accessible by boat from the mainland and other islands. Some tour companies offer multi-day excursions with camping on the island. Live-aboard dive vessels offer diving in the area on their weeklong trips.

As translated in Maya as “Little Channel,” the Hol Chan Marine Reserve refers to the deep cut or “quebrada” in the barrier reef off Ambergris Caye. This protected zone encompasses a total of 13,632 acres of marine waters, which includes four (4) zones:

– Zone A: Coral Reef (640 acres)
– Zone B: Sea Grass Beds (5,376 acres)
– Zone C: Mangroves (6,336 acres)
– Zone D: Shark Ray Alley (1,280 acres)

Located approximately four (4) miles south of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, this top snorkeling zone is Belize’s first marine reserve legislated in July 1987.

Its popularity has been primarily centered on the schools of friendly docile nurse sharks, silver and colorful fishes. This snorkeler haven is also home to a few endangered species of marine life, such as: Loggerhead Turtle, Green Turtle, Nassau Grouper, Star Coral, Staghorn Coral and Elkhorn Coral.

The picture of relaxation, the unspoiled Laughing Bird Caye National Park, is where many Belizeans go to unplug and enjoy the wonders of the Belize Barrier Reef. This small national park got its name from the Laughing Gull, which used to breed on the caye. Though you won’t see actual laughing birds, you might encounter the Brown Pelican, Green Heron, and the Melodious Blackbird.

The island itself sits on an ancient faro reef shelf formation, contributing to both the abundance and variety of marine life and diverse coral habitats. Due to its rich environment, protected status, and no-take zones, which have allowed resident fish populations to flourish, Laughing Bird Caye is a snorkeling and diving paradise. Conch, Spiny Lobster, snapper, and other animals are also plentiful.

While built infrastructure doesn’t exist on the caye, the undeveloped nature adds to the experience and the beauty for those seeking a truly immersive experience. No overnight stays are allowed, but a day trip is just enough to relish in the peaceful beauty of the isle. After a refreshing day in the water, spread out under the coconut palms for a picnic. And best of all, you can return the following day for more of the same.

Laughing Bird Caye is 11 miles (18 kilometers) off the coast of Placencia. Take a day trip from Placencia with a licensed tour guide. The boat ride will take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the weather.

The southernmost marine reserve in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve offers many idyllic sand and mangrove islands in 38,594 acres. This secluded marine reserve with its coastal waters and scattered coral patches serve as a vital habitat for dozens of threatened species, including five kinds of coral, three marine turtle species, and numerous types of fish. It is considered one of the top sites to see the true biodiversity of corals throughout Belize and houses the biological hotspot, Cayman Crown.

Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve is also a world-class sportfishing destination (of the catch-and-release variety). It is well known for the Grand Slam: catches of bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Scuba diving and snorkeling here are also spectacular, with gentle slopes that are ideal for novice divers. The clear, shallow waters of this unique lettuce reef teem with fish such as jack, angelfish, snapper, spadefish, and parrotfish,as well as other underwater life.

You may also spot dolphins, manta rays, and even whale sharks. Explore the islands by kayak to see a variety of ecosystems. If you want to just relax, head to Hunting Caye, home to one of Belize’s most beautiful beaches. Underwater or above, these cayes are worth the trip.

The Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve is located along the southernmost tip of the Belize Barrier Reef, nearly 46 miles (75 kilometers) east of Punta Gorda Town. The reserve is a 2.5-hour boat ride from Punta Gorda, making it one of the more remote locales in the Belize Barrier Reef System. A guide can be booked in Punta Gorda. The islands can also be reached via helicopter or chartered sailboat.

Shark Ray Alley is located just one mile south of the Hol Chan cut and is listed as “Zone D” of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Once a place where fishermen would clean their catches, this 1,280-acre protected region, has evolved into a top snorkeling location!

Shark Ray Alley offers you the rare opportunity to snorkel beside stingrays, nurse sharks and turtles. Get your camera ready. This is going to be a photo op you’ll definitely want to take.

Lesser-known but just as spectacular is the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. It is one of the largest reserves in the Belize Barrier Reef System at nearly 117,875 acres. A ring of islands and mangrove forests make up the reserve and create a sheltered oasis for visitors and rare marine life. South Water Caye is known for its dense, red mangroves that thrive alongside coral outcrops and the rare diamond-shaped reefs known as faro. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, “the sheltered waters and mangrove systems of the Pelican Cayes in the southern area of the Marine Reserve have been identified as one of the most biodiverse marine systems within the western hemisphere, supporting several endemic species, and species new to science.” This reserve is also significant due to its variety of fish and abundance of Spiny Lobster and conch. If you are lucky, you might see local artisanal fishers in this area, towing dugout canoes attached to their waists and using traditional free-dive techniques to fish.

The dazzlingly clear, sheltered waters are also perfect for diving, snorkeling, fishing, and kayaking. Divers see dramatic and colorful coral spur and groove formations. If the beach is more your speed, the southern portion of the reserve is well known for its sandy beaches. Since the reef is only a short swim from the shore, you can swim to nature’s aquarium in between relaxing in your hammock.

The coastal towns of Placencia, Dangriga, and Hopkins are good starting points for South Water Caye visits.

Close to Belize City, Lighthouse and Glover’s Reef, Turneffe Atoll is a great base for exploring all of the atolls. Plus, with its steep drop-offs, Turneffe is one of the best spots for diving in the area and, because of its wall, Turneffe Atoll is perfect for all diving skill levels. The Elbow is a big attraction for more advanced divers, and it’s fairly common to see eagle rays. On the leeward side, the reef slopes a bit more, perfect for snorkeling and a beginner dive spot. Here, there are lots of tube sponges, soft corals and several species of fish.

Want to see a shipwreck? On the western side of the atoll rests the Sayonara, a small passenger and cargo boat that sank here in 1985. Great for exploring.

Turneffe (like all the atolls) also offers world-class fishing. Here, you can fly fish for bonefish and permit or the migratory tarpon, not to mention jack, barracuda, snappers, billfish, sailfish and just about any other fish that swims in the sea.

In 2021, Belize’s UNESCO-protected Turneffe Atoll became a part of history as hosting the country’s largest wreck dive and reef enhancement project. The wreck site is that of a 375-foot concrete ship named Wit Concrete, whose history is as astounding as its newest home.

The ship, which was sunken as part of the artificial reef project, has a history dating back to the 1940s, presumably built to transport supplies around the Gulf Coast during the second world war. It’s last task before being sunken was for storing molasses by the Belize Sugar Industries Ltd.

Now, “The Wit” as it is affectionately known, was gifted to the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA) in hopes to relieve stress on nearby natural reef habitats. This alternative wreck dive destination also hopes to provide a new source of income for the marine reserve and its stakeholders, as it will be placed at Blackbird Caye, within the Soldier Caye Conservation Zone in the Turneffe Atoll marine Reserve and entrance fees to the dive site will be required.

TASA and the Ministry of Blue Economy is certain the massive 375-foot ship will provide a unique diving experience while also increasing the marine biodiversity that is much needed during these times. Besides, wreck diving is an extremely popular activity among environmentally conscious divers, as the Executive Director of TASA shared.

The ship was thoroughly stripped of any hazardous material before being sunk, and access points were created for easier diving. In the long term, TASA aims to develop an impactful and exclusive experience where divers can directly participate in scientific monitoring, protection of the area and other new exciting opportunities.


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Don’t just see the wonder of Belize, Experience it! From zip-lining through the jungle to standing in ancient mayan ruins to relaxing on the beach, there is something for everyone in Belize.

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