Diving in Belize
With more than 180 miles of barrier reef, hundreds of square miles of shallow reefs and three offshore atolls, Belize has ample diving variety. To the north, the shores of Ambergris Caye are home to a number of first-class resorts that offer easy two-tank excursions to nearby sites on the reef line. Options include large spur-and-groove formations that resemble underwater canyons, deeper drops, stand-along coral heads and one wreck. Currents are generally mild to non-existent on these sites, and variable depths accommodate both novices and divers versed in multi-level computer profiles. Nearby is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where the steep-sided walls of a cut in the reef attract large schools of fish and support lush coral growth. This is one of the few sites where currents can be strong. Also in the reserve is Shark Ray Alley. Here, stingrays and nurse sharks accustomed to receiving bait scraps from fishermen will gather when boats arrive, and divers can immerse in the swirling mass with no fears for their safety.
The offshore atolls of Turneffe Island, Lighthouse Reef and Glover's Reef offer the most dramatic underwater topographies and consistently clearest waters. Steep outer walls feature tunnels, swim throughs and large projecting coral buttresses, and hold schools of jacks, permits and spadefish. Without a doubt, the best-known dive site in all of Belize is the Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef. This symmetrical, 412-foot deep hole was made famous by scuba pioneer Jacques Cousteau, who moored his Calypso in the hole's center. As divers drop deeper, the vertical walls of the hole receed, revealing huge stalactites. Recently, sharks have become more numerous at the site, adding an extra degree of adventure. Turneffe Island is the largest of the atolls, with interior shallows that shelter hundreds of small mangrove islands. These islands serve as fish nurseries and increase the area’s biodiversity. Equally diverse as the fish life is the range of dive sites, which include wrecks, novice-friendly shallow reefs and deep walls. Glover's Reef is too far from Ambergris Caye for day trips and therefore sees fewer visitors. Trips are best arranged from operations located on the cayes. Near the full moons of April to June, the spawning activities of cubera snapper and other fish attract whale sharks to Glovers Reef and to the section of the southern barrier reef known as Gladden Spit. Whale sharks are plankton eaters, and eggs released during spawning are an easy and abundant food source. The southern section of Belize's barrier reef sits farther from shore. This results in clearer waters, but also longer boat rides from shore-based resorts in areas such as Placencia. The reef becomes a more continuous ridge from Southwater Caye Marine Reserve south, and cuts in the reef become focal points for fish life. A favorite destination is Laughing Bird Caye National Park, which supports large stands of staghorn and elkhorn corals, along with thick growths of tunicates and anemones. On the sheltered inside of the reef, coral islands provide relaxing second dives.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A current passport, valid through your departure date, is required for entry
into Belize. Your passport needs to have at least 1 blank page for the entry stamp. Proof of onward or return flights may be required at entry as well. No visa is required for stays less than 30 days. Upon departure from Belize, there is a departure tax of approximately $40.00 U.S. which should be included on your international ticket.
Check the entry/exit requirements here.
There are no required immunizations for entry into Belize, although you should check with your doctor and reference the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations.
Culture and Customs
Belize is a true melting pot of cultures, stretching back to the stone cities of the ancient Maya, and the Arawak roots of the Garfunkel dialect that is still heard through the country. British settlers arrived in the 1600s, and English remains the nation's official language. But Spanish influences are equally prevalent, and Mennonite, Creole, Lebanese, Chinese, and East Indian immigrants have all left their mark on the collective consciousness. Today, they are all just Belizeans, and everyone gets along in a society that places a high value on civility and inclusion. This is a country that doesn't need an excuse to dance and throw a party. Weekends are reason enough for celebration, and dozens of festivals, carnivals and concerts are staged throughout the year. Head up country into the rainforest and wooded mountains of the interior and you are in the land of Indiana Jones where thatch-roofed eco lodges serve as base camps for jungle hikes and inner tube drifts through river caves. Head offshore and island times takes over when you land on the offshore cayes. On Ambergris Caye a flipflop and tank top vibe permeates the beach town of San Pedro, where beach bikes are the preferred mode of transportation, and packed-sand streets are fronted by colorfully painted wooden shops and taverns.
Ellectricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Belize electricity is 110 Volt/60 cycles and uses the same plug types as the U.S., so no converters are required.
Belize has a standardized seven-digit phone numbering system and a country code of 501.
Many hotels offer WiFi. Be sure to check with your mobile provider to see if International plans are available for phone and data usage while in Belize.
Bottled water is recommended in Belize and readily available for purchase and also supplied by some resorts.
Language & Currency
English is the official language, but Spanish is widely spoken. Other languages
spoken are Maya, Garifuna, and Creole.
The BelizeDdollar (BZD) is pegged to the US dollar at 2:1 - always verify whether
you are paying U.S. or Belize Dollars. It's easy to change U.S. dollars just about
ATMs are available in many cities and accept major cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, although cash will be dispensed in Belize Dollars.
Most businesses will accept U.S. cash without question. They usually give change
in Belizean Dollars, though they may return U.S. change if you ask.
Belize is on Central Standard Time, 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-6 GMT). Belize
does not observe daylight saving time.
Location, Size and Population
Belize is located on the Eastern coast of Central America, along the Caribbean Coast. It's capital city
Belize is bounded on the North by Mexico, South and West by Guatemala, and
the beautiful Caribbean Sea washes its 174 mile coastline to the East.
Belize has an area of 8,866 sq. miles including 266 sq. miles of islands.
The population of Belize is 367,177 (2016), while the island of Ambergris caye has an estimated 22,000, the area of Placencia approximately 1,500 and the area of Dangriga close to 10,000.