This article is intended to provide the already qualified Scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of Belize, whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.
The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 meters (980 ft) offshore in the north and 40 kilometers (25 mi) in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometers (190 mi) long section of the 900 kilometers (560 mi) long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to Honduras making it one of the largest coral reef systems in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the New Caledonia Barrier Reef. It is Belize's top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. A large portion of the reef is protected by the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which includes seven marine reserves, 450 cays, and three atolls. It totals 960 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in area, including:
- 1 Glover's Reef Marine Reserve
- 2 Great Blue Hole
- 3 Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
- 4 Hol Chan Marine Reserve, close to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It covers approximately 18 km² (4,448 acres) of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel".
Cays include: Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Caye Chapel, St. George's Caye, English Caye, Rendezvous Caye, Gladden Caye, Ranguana Caye, Long Caye, Maho Caye, Blackbird Caye, Three Coner Caye, Northern Caye, Sandbore Caye.
Because of its exceptional natural beauty, significant on-going ecological and biological processes, and the fact that it contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, the Reserve System has been designated as a World Heritage Site since 1996.
Despite these protective measures, the reef is under threat from oceanic pollution as well as uncontrolled tourism, shipping, and fishing. The main threats are considered to be hurricanes along with global warming and the resulting increase in ocean temperatures which cause coral bleaching.
Caye Caulker is a popular dive destination for it's local dives as well as it's proximity to The Blue Hole (1.5 hour boat ride away). Prices from one dive shop to another are pretty consistent, but Belize Diving Services has the best amenities (boats, equipment, facilities with a shower) and has the option to pay less if you have your own equipment.