Belize is well known to most divers, famous for Jacques Cousteau and the Blue Hole. But in reality, it is not a destination many UK divers visit. It tends to get passed over for some of the bigger name Caribbean options, such as the Caymans or Bahamas, or island locations with direct flights. So when the chance came to spend a week exploring, I jumped on the plane with no hesitation. What would diving the world’s second largest barrier reef really be like?
My trip was a little different to most, packing in 3 different resorts over the week. But the aim of our trip was to hit each of the big name highlights, and many of these sites could easily be reached too on a more relaxing paced liveaboard. Belize Aggressor IV has been recently renovated and from what we saw of her out at sea, she looks every inch as impressive in real life as she does in the pics. Whatever you chose – resort or liveaboard – one thing is for sure… you are guaranteed fabulous Caribbean reef diving and a genuinely warm welcome from the Belizean people. Oh… and enjoy the odd rum cocktail along the way
How to get there?
There are currently no direct flights to Belize. At the moment the best route is to go via the States (Miami, New York or Dallas) with an overnight en route on the way back. BA, AA and United Airlines are the main carriers. London flights tend to offer quicker connections, with fewer stops. Alternatively, you can fly via Mexico City with AeroMexico. Depending on the timings you may need a hotel night en route.
Once you land in Belize City, it is only a short drive to the Radisson Fort George hotel. This is where you can pick up a speedboat for Turneffe or embark your liveaboard. If you are taking a domestic flight internally, the connections are even easier. I loved flying on the small Maya Air flights. Not only are views from these low flying plans incredible, but the short flights added a real sense of adventure.
Where to dive?
Our dive adventure focused on 2 main areas, Turneffe & Lighthouse reefs (including Half Moon Cay) and the more remote, Glover’s Reef. Our homes for the trip were Blackbird Caye Resort (Turneffe), Isla Marisol Resort (Glover’s) and Ramon Village Resort (San Pedro). I am indebted to all the teams for making us so welcome.
Some Caribbean islands sit on a sandbank, but not Belize. Here the reefs were characterised more by the drop-offs. We enjoyed sloping reef walls or ledges and then it all gave away to beautiful blue water. Big schools of nappers and jacks balled up on the corners. Elbow Reef was one of my favourites here, with a gentle drift and reefs sharks patrolling. An eagle ray flew past. There’s something quite special for me about Caribbean reefs. The marine-scape is unlike a classic Red Sea scene. The gorgonian sea fans have a delicate purple hue and waft gently in the water. Enormous barrel sponges rise up from the sea bed, sheltering small fish and shrimps. Look under the coral bommies in the shallows and you find lobster peering back. On most dives, we found turtles and the green morays were actively hunting along the reef walls.
There’s plenty of variety and richness underwater to spend a week diving around Turneffe and Lighthouse reefs. But if you want to feel like you are well and truly off the grid, then make the journey to Glovers Reef. This is a flight and then boat transfer from Belize City. There’s no phone signal. Just you and a handful of fellow divers, exploring pristine sites. It was a little slice of diver heaven. Cornetfish, French angelfish and demoiselles float above the sponges and sea fans. From here you can also dive the famous Gladden Split. This dive is highly seasonal, and to see the whalesharks you need to have timed things perfectly, as well as have a sprinkling of luck. Sadly, we were a touch early for the whalesharks. But the 4 large bull sharks cruising deep beneath us more than made up for it for me!
Overall, the reefs were quiet and it was only at the famous Blue Hole that we met others divers. Here the guides work together to ensure each group can experience this unique dive site without crowds underwater. The Blue Hole is only for experienced divers, due to the max depths, but at the deepest part of the dive, we were rewarded with not only the huge stalactites but a pair of grey reef sharks on the drop-off. I’ve never dived anywhere quite like it!
If you want a location with more hustle and bustle, then San Pedro is the place to go. This island was a quick hop of a flight from Belize international and then you can feel the sand between your toes, whilst enjoying the many bars, restaurants, and the town itself. Ramon’s Village was the perfect place to stay and I was very impressed by the quality of the reefs and dive operation. I saw eagle rays, reef sharks, turtles and barracuda and that was just snorkelling! It’s the perfect place to start or end a liveaboard adventure.