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Belize flag Advice on Scuba Diving in Ambergris Caye and Northern Belize, Belize




42 Dive Sites 25 Dive Shops

Part 1: Overview of Scuba Diving in Ambergris Caye and Northern Belize, (Belize)

Ambergris Caye is the northernmost island of Belize and the northernmost extent of the barrier reef in Belize. The reef follows closely offshore of the island, along its eastern shore, then extends north into Mexican waters. On the southern tip of Ambergis Caye is the town of San Pedro and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is a strictly protected part of Belize's barrier reef and where the reef has a natural deep cut offering an amazing habitat for marine life. The steep walls, canyons and crevasses, and abundant coral offer great scuba diving.

The preservation of the reef known as Hol Chan provided noticeable benefits to the health of the reef and its marine life, as well as to the tourism industry. Scuba diving off Ambergris has become very popular in the last few decades. There are many dive shops and dive sites on Ambergris and many dive excursions to Belize's many cayes and atolls launched from San Pedro. Most of the dive shops on Ambergris take divers to the famous Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef southeast of Ambergris Caye. Many boats also depart Ambergris to Turneffe Atoll to the south.

Caye Caulker is an island south of Ambergis that is about 1 mile wide and 5 miles long. It is a quieter, more off the beaten path destination compared to the more popular San Pedro area on Ambergris. The island is about midway between Belize City and Ambergris Caye. Caye Caulker is a scuba diving and snorkeling haven. Just 20 miles from Belize City, Caye Caulker is an easy boat trip after arriving in the city. For such a small island, there are over 30 hotels and many restaurants and shops. The island is famous for the limestone cave and overhangs that advanced divers explore.

Part 2: Dive Sites, Marine Life & Environment in Ambergris Caye and Northern Belize, (Belize)

The island of Ambergris hosts many dive sites along its eastern coastline. Hol Chan Marine Reserve off Ambergis Caye's southern coast is the most popular diving and snorkeling zone of the island. The protected park is in a natural cut in the reef, where the bottom is at just 20-35 feet deep. The park is not only protected ecologically but also from the currents that run off the reef walls. Just off the beach near the Marco Gonzales site area, there is a small 12-foot deep blue hole that snorkelers and scuba divers can explore. There is abundant coral and life in this little treasure hole and a tank of air can give you over an hour to really explore and let the life come out. This is a great dive for beginners.

Hol Chan is home to the famous site known as Shark Ray Alley. While not a scuba diving site, it is a famous attraction to snorkel and swim with abundant stingrays and Nurse sharks. The dive sites within Hol Chan Marine Reserve offer a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced dives- perfect for families. The strong currents are lessened by following close along the steep walls, the pay off for swimming the swift waters is the abundant thriving coral and sea fans you can see as you drift along. It is common to sight huge Nassau groupers, Mutton snappers, barracudas, and jack schools in the waters of Hol Chan.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve has one artificial reef on a small tugboat known as Amigo's Wreck. Purposely sunk in 1996, the wreck dive attracts Nurse sharks and Black groupers and many small reef fish. For night dives near Hol Chan, Tuffy Canyon is popular as you descend just outside the reef's border. Several San Pedro dive shops offer this dive.

There are many established dive sites off the reef-rimmed east coast of Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan is just one dive area found near the south of the island. The reef's visibility ranges from 60 to up to 100 feet of clear water. Many of the dive sites along the reef are within 30-100 feet of water. North of Hol Chan about mid-coast along Ambergris is the dive site known as Punta Arena Caverns, and just north of there, the popular Mexican Rocks. There are many canyons, tunnels and caverns in this area of interest to advanced scuba divers. Along the very northern tip of Ambergris, there are several canyons that experienced scuba divers frequently visit such as Francos Canyon and Rocky Point Canyon.

 

Part 3: Dive Shops, Airports & Logistics of Diving in Ambergris Caye and Northern Belize, (Belize)

Scuba divers wanting to explore Belize's northern waters should begin in San Pedro, the small town on the southern end of Belize's largest island Ambergris Caye. Once you have arrived into Belize City's International Airport, take a quick and cheap flight from Belize City to Ambergris Caye San Pedro Airport (SPR) near the town of San Pedro. Many of the flights to Ambergris run multiple times a day and do not require a prior reservation. Once in San Pedro you are in the heart of many dive shops and access many amazing dive sites. If you prefer to go by sea, there are boat excursions and water taxis available from the mainland.

There is an abundance of dive shops on Ambergris Caye. Ecologic Divers, out of San Pedro, specializes in trips to the Blue Hole. The dive shop has the “Blue Attitude”, a small dive boat that takes 8-12 scuba divers to the Blue Hole and Lighthouse Reef regularly. The shop also offers dive instruction and sunset catamaran trips around Ambergris Caye. White Sands Dive Shop is a small dive shop with one instructor that offers private dive excursions. Suya Tours is a dive shop that offers short boat rides to the many dive sites along the reef, which lies off Ambergris' eastern shore. Suya Tours also offers tours to Mayan ruins, and snorkeling and fishing expeditions.

For scuba divers looking for dive resorts on Ambergris, there is Ramons Village Resort. Ramons Village Divers is the resort's dive shop. Established in 1986, Ramons claims to be the oldest dive shop in Belize. The shop has several dive boats and offers beginner and advanced PADI certification scuba courses. Tranquility Bay Resort is another dive resort offering Ambergris scuba divers world-class dive trips. The resort is located on Tranquility Bay and is the only resort inside the Bacalar Chica National Marine Park and United Nations World Heritage Site. Tranquility Bay Resort offers dive excursions to the nearby reef, as well as world-class snorkeling and shore dives just outside your hotel door.

From Belize City you can water taxi to the small island of Caye Caulker for about $10. There are also water taxis from San Pedro if you are staying on Ambergris. There are no cars on Caye Caulker but you will find golf cart taxis, great food, cheap lodging, and small but amazing dive shops that provide amazing day trips for scuba divers. The dive shop known as Belize Diving Services Ltd. offers dive excursion off Caye Caulker. There are also great snorkeling and shore dives of the island for beginners or scuba divers looking to explore the beautiful shallows of Caye Caulker. 

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