Scuba Diving Placencia Reef, The South Coast and Laughing Bird Caye National Park
Placencia and The South Coast is home to some of the country’s best beaches, but is now better known as the closest jumping-off point for whale shark encounters at Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes.
The South Coast of Belize is growing in popularity; new resorts are opening in that area every year. Some of the newest resorts are popping up in and around the southern coastal town of Hopkins, which is also conveniently within fast boat range of Glover’s Reef, the Blue Hole and Gladden Spit. Farther south, Placencia is home to some of the country’s best beaches, but is now better known as the closest jumping-off point for whale shark encounters at Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes. Whale shark encounters are virtually guaranteed from April to June at a portion of the southern barrier reef known as Gladden Spit. The migration of whale sharks through the area coincides with the spawning cycle of 25 different species of fish.
The South Coast – You’ll find a mix of Garífuna, Creole and Mayan cultures. There is a stunning coastline with mangrove forests, rainforest and spectacular white sand beaches. The town of Placencia is the most important town on the south coast. Other towns in the region are Hopkins, a Garifuna fishing town, and Dangriga with its special musical centre. A trip on the Monkey River is definitely a must in this region. You’ll sail through mangrove forests where you can see beautiful tropical birds and other animals. There is also a special reserve for the protection of the jaguar. For lovers of the Maya culture there’s the ruins of Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit.
Placencia – is a gorgeous peninsula in southern Belize with 16 miles of sandy beaches. The Caribbean sea is to the east and the charming Placencia lagoon lies to west looking to the mountains on the mainland. Placencia is divided into two parts: south of the airstrip and north of the airstrip. The peninsula can be easily navigated on a beach cruiser bike. The busy part of Placencia lies in the south where visitors will find a concentration of coffee shops, bistros, internet cafes, the harbor, guest houses, taxi and bus stations, banks and local restaurants.
The northern portion of Placencia includes the Garifuna village of Seine Bight. It is less populated and has many of the more luxurious resorts. Because of its distance from the reef , it also has moderate surf. The water is clean and clear; the trade winds gentle and cooling. There are few sights more calming than a Belizean sunset on a deserted Plaencia beach.
Laughing Bird Caye National Park – This long, narrow island jewel 11 miles off the coast from Palencia is the southernmost island in the central lagoon of Belize Barrier Reef. This isle is the above-water part of an elongated ridge reef called a faro, or shell atoll. The Laughing Bird faro is separated from the mainland and grove systems with deep channels all around, full of coral habitats and marine life. There are spur and groove systems, droop-offs and patch reefs for all levels of divers. The Caye gets its name form the Laughing Gull, but this bird now only breed on undisturbed cayes as this has become too popular with people. The Caye was declared a protected area in 1981; a national Park in 1991, and a World Heritage site in 1996, along with the entire Belize Reef Reserve System.
SCUBA DIVING PLACENCIA REEF, THE SOUTH COAST AND LAUGHING BIRD CAYE NATIONAL PARK
Most people come to Belize to dive the Blue Hole or sites in the north. If you have some time then it’s well worth the trip south to spend a few days diving the reefs here. There is a great selection of dive centres to choose from in town, with trips out to the Southern Barrier Reef’s inner reef which is great for beginners due to the calm and protected waters, or the outer reef for some amazing wall and canyon diving. The inner reef is home to fantastic macro life such as small shrimps, crabs and juvenile fish like the spotted drum. The outer reef is great for big pelagic fish, rays, turtles, eels, sharks and huge coral formations.
Inner reef diving is usually around the small cayes such as Robert’s Caye with lots of tropical fish and colourful corals or Laughing Bird Caye National Park with many different species of rays, at times the manta ray. The macro life here will excite photography enthusiasts. The outer reef is vertical walls, great for deep diving. Search for sharks along the sandy canyons, look into the blue for passing rays or for the eels and lobsters hiding in the wall’s nooks and crannies.
One of the most exciting dives from Placencia is the whaleshark dive at Gladden Split. It’s not often you get to dive with these magnificent creatures, you can get up close and personal with the gentle giants on your dive. This area is full of sea life, big schools of fish, many species of sharks and you may even encounter a pod of dolphins or whales!
Plecencia Reef, South Coast and Laughing Bird Caye Highlight Dive Sites
DIVING SEASON: Diving in Belize 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.
MARINE LIFE: April to June is whale shark season in Placencia, in the south of the country. 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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