Here at Road Warrior, we like to visit at least one new “warm-water” country each year so that we can scuba dive (yes, we have yet to dive with a dry suit!). Diving in Belize has been on our scuba diving site wish list for some time, given the fact that the Belize Barrier Reef is actually one of the largest in the world, second only to the world famous Great Barrier Reef in Australia!
Public Beach at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Belize is country that is located on the north east side of Central America, between Mexico to the north and Guatemala to both the south and west, with the Caribbean Sea to the east. Belize is the only country in Central America where the official language is English, due to its history of being a British colony. In fact, it was often referred to as “British Honduras”. Ironically, most of the citizens of this sparsely populated country (a 2011 census recorded a population of around 300,000!) speak Spanish.
Off the coast of Belize, there are various islands with the largest being Ambergris Caye — an island that is about 40 km long from north to south and around 1.6 miles wide. There is only one town on the island, San Pedro, but there are many resorts scattered across the island. Ambergris Caye has become a central base for tourism in Belize because of the surrounding beautiful white beaches and its access for divers who come here to dive the Belize Barrier Reef, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reef is 300 km in length (although it is only part of a larger 900 km long barrier reef system that stretches from Mexico to Honduras). In between the mainland and the reef is an offshore lagoon that in some places is only 2 or 3 meters in depth. One of the main diving attractions for divers is the Great Blue Hole (unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to visit this amazing site), a sinkhole that can be found around 70 km from the mainland. The hole is around 300m in diameter and approximately 125 m in depth. It was first made famous when Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.
We found the diving to be one of the better experiences we have had in the Caribbean (we have only dived in the Turks and Caicos, Honduras and Belize). We actually ended up doing our Advanced PADI Certification here, and found that there are many PADI certified dive shops with good reputations from which to choose. We spent 6 full days diving, and saw over 10 different dive sites. However, like all of our Caribbean diving experiences, we have found that the marine life has been much more sparse than compared to other areas of the world (such as the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, or the Pacific Islands). Bottom trawling has been completely banned by the Belize government, which will continue to help improve the local marine ecosystems, but this has only been a law that has existed for the past few years.
View of a resort on Ambergris Caye, Belize
Public beach at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
View of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, from the dive boat (amazing turquoise waters!)
Apres diving, there are many beautiful beaches to explore with some of the whitest sand and turquoise water to enjoy during your down time. The small town of San Pedro is also fun to explore. For food lovers, in San Pedro there are also a variety of food stalls that you must visit where you can find some delicious local fare for dirt cheap! Try visiting the area near the Palace Casino where there are some wooden food stands. We sampled some amazing Tamalitos, which are like Tamales, a delicious ground corn mixture wrapped in a corn husk that is sometimes filled with meat. We bought a piping hot Tamalito for only one USD! We also had some amazing home cooked tacos that were made some of the best flour tortillas we have ever tasted!
Tourist enjoying local food stall in San Pedro
Beautiful sunset to end a long day of diving in Ambergris Caye
Belize is truly a fantastic diving paradise in the northern hemisphere. We only saw just a small portion of one of the largest Barrier Reefs in the world and would definitely like to come back for some more (including the Great Blue Hole!). We would definitely recommend Belize, and Ambergris Caye, as a diving destination and hope that the region’s marine ecosystems will continue to improve over the years!
Until next time, we wish you Happy Travels from the Road Warrior!
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