Scuba Diving The Belize Atolls
Turneffe, Lighthouse and Glover’s
And home to one of the most well known dive sites in the worlds, The Blue Hole.
Located outside the Belize barrier reef. The fringing reefs drop off to depths of more than 3,000 feet, and offer everything from shallow coral gardens to vertical walls and towering coral pinnacles full of canyons and swim-throughs.
Located outside the Belize barrier reef. They comprise three of the four true coral atolls found in the Western Hemisphere: Turneffe, Lighthouse and Glover’s. The fringing reefs drop off to depths of more than 3,000 feet, and offer everything from shallow coral gardens to vertical walls and towering coral pinnacles full of canyons and swim-throughs. Turneffe is the largest of the three atolls, and closest to the mainland. A fast boat can have you here from the mainland in less than an hour. Most diving takes place around the atoll’s southern tip and the signature dive is a dramatic twist in the reef called the Elbow. Lighthouse Reef is the farthest from the mainland and encircles a 30-mile-long lagoon that includes the famous Blue Hole. Glover’s Reef is the most remote and least visited atoll, but it offers more than 50 miles of fringing reef.
Turneffe Atoll – The largest of Belize’s three atolls at 30 miles long by 10 miles wide (48 km x 16 km), Turneffe Atoll is the closest atoll to the mainland and major cayes, being just 1 to 2 hours out of Amergris Caye, Caye Caulker and Belize City. Here you will find spectacular diving all around at a hundred spots or more, but about a dozen sites on it’s southern end area are the most-often visited. The western reef north of the elbow is shallow and, makes for great novice diving. The eastern side between The Elbow and Deadman’s Caye is extraordinary diving with all sorts of underwater terrain wrecks, and abounding marine life. There are walls and currents to deal with there, so it is a bit more challenging.
Lighthouse Reef – The most distant atoll in Belize is also the site of the Great Blue Hole, one of the best-known dive sites in the world. The famous Great Blue Hole is an awesome and endlessly interesting circular sinkhole right in the middle of this turquoise lagoon. Lighthouse reef also offers the best visibility in Belize, with stupendous walls and extensive reefs beginning at only 35 ft (11m) depth. Mostly concentrated on the southern end of the island.
Glover’s Reef – Named for English Pirate John Glover, who was paid by the British to plunder the Spaniards in the 1600’s. Pirate John based his operations here on this atoll. At 20 miles long by 7.5 miles wide (32 km x 12 km), Glover’s Reef is the smallest and most southern of the three big Belize Atolls. It is also the most distant and from Belize and Ambergris Caye, making it the least frequently visited. The reef entirely surrounds the lagoon, and the Glover’s Reef Lagoon itself has over 800 patches of reefs within it, each with it’s own population of fish, coral, sponges and invertebrates. Much of the reef here, inside and outside is virtually untouched, uncharted, and pristine. Dive trips take extra planning, but it’s worth it. The reef is a well known protected spawning ground of the Nassau Grouper. It is also a unique habitat and nursery for conchs, lobsters, and fin fish.
DIVING SEASON: Diving in the atolls is good all year-round. The best conditions for diving Belize are generally considered to be from March to December, although outside this period it is common to still find optimum conditions. The first few months of this period (March to June) are considered by some to represent the very best months.
VISIBILITY: Visibility remains constant year-round away from the mainland shore. You can expect the viz to run from 80 – 100′.
WATER TEMPERATURE: August to October tend to be the months with the warmest water temperatures at around 82 – 84º F (28 or 29° C). Even at the lower end of the annual water temperature range, Belize is very much a warm water destination. The temperature rarely dips below 77º F (26° C) even around the cooler months of January and February. Seldom would you need more than a shortie and many scuba divers choose not to use an exposure suit at all during the warmer months. Air temperatures remain relatively constant around the 80º F (27° C) mark.
WEATHER: Belize can be dived year round. February and March represent the driest months. March to June experiences occasional rainfall and August to October, “the wet season”, represents the more likely period for hurricanes.
DIVE ACCESS: For some, this choice is a straight one between live-aboards and resorts. Live-aboards have the obvious benefit of being able to visit a wider area and allow you to be on top of the sites rather than have to take boat rides from the resort. Some people prefer to be stationed on dry land and to dive the best sites within reach from a resort.
MARINE LIFE: October and November is when thousands of groupers mate and give birth to their young in the shallows of the cayes
More information on Belize
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