Liveaboard diving in Belize presents combination of diving possibilities from teeming reefs to brightly decorated, and abundantly populated, walls, caverns and cays.
Belize boasts the longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere and 3 out of 4 of the Carribeans atolls (Glovers, Turneffe and Lighthouse).
The Belize barrier reef is approximately 174 miles (280km) long and stretches from the Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras and creates a barrier between the ocean and the coast. Coral islands (known as cayes) are scattered long the length of the reef. The distance between the reef and the mainland ranges between 9 and 19 miles along the length of the reef.
The reef system was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
The atolls sit on top of 2 parallel underwater ridges, unlike the atolls of the Pacific, which are built on volcanoes. the atolls rise close enough to the surface to allow sunlight to encourage coral growth.
Turneffe Island Atoll
Turneffe Island Atoll is one of the most important biological systems in the caribbean with lush mangroves, littoral palm forests and pristine viral reefs where manatee and dolphins can be sighted regularly.
Turneffe Atoll covers 350sq km (135 sq. miles) of ocean and is populated with reefs and lagoons. Turneffe is the largest of 3 coral atolls in Belize and the only one with an extensive cover of mangrove.
There is diving at the southernmost point. Shallower dives, more suitable for novice divers, can be found on the western, more sheltered, shoreline. More challenging dives in tidal surge and currents are found on the southeast corner.
There is an artificial reef to the south of the shallower sites called the Sayonara. This former passenger and cargo boat was sunk in 1985 and sits at a maximum depth of 15m. Its wooden construction has deteriorated so exploring inside the wreck is not recommended.
Lighthouse Reef & The Blue Hole
Lighthouse Reef and the world famous Blue Hole lie 40 miles (65km) east of Belize City. Lighthouse reef was named after the lighthouse on Half Moon Caye. This atoll has a massive natural blue hole in the centre of the lagoon. The Blue Hole is 300m in diameter (1000ft) and drops to 124m (412ft). It was made famous by Jacques Cousteau during his Calyspo expedition in 1970. There are 2 narrow passageways through the very shallow surrounding reef. The shallowest of the internal caverns starts at 43m (140ft) dating to when the sea level was 105m (350ft) shallower during the last ice age around 15,000 years ago. The Blue Hole has a resident population of bull sharks.
Lighthouse reef has excellent stony and gorgonian coral growth, but they are in competition with the more vigourously growing algae and sponges.
For the more experienced diver there are fast moving currents along the outer atoll walls to gentle gentle inshore diving for less experienced divers.
The coral reefs are not as diverse as Indonesia but they do have some spectacular individual corals and sponges, some of which are more than 100 years old and span 2m (6 feet) in diameter.