How to best experience Belize’s Reef

Diving the Belize Barrier Reef
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The Belize Barrier Reef is a hotspot for recreational activities such as fishing, diving, snorkeling, and sailing. Naturally, due to the abundance of marine plants and animals that are native to Belize’s Reef, the top thing to do to best experience the reef is to get up-close via scuba diving.

Related: Best Belize Diving Resorts

However, there are other ways to similarly enjoy the reef. Such as snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, where you can see fishes of every color imaginable. Or doing a scenic flight over the Great Blue Hole, which is perhaps Belize’s most “Instagramable” site. And how about beach camping at Half Moon Caye, where you can fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing against the barrier reef?

1. Great Blue Hole

Fly-over tour of the Belize Blue Hole

Lying near the center of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Belize Blue Hole is a giant marine sinkhole measuring 1000 feet across and approximately 412 feet deep. This UNESCO World Heritage site is believed to be the world’s largest blue hole and is stunning to see from above — via a plane or helicopter tour — and from below if you’re into cave diving. I mention cave diving since divers of the Blue Hole can expect to see giant stalactites, dripstone sheets, and larger-than-usual marine life, instead of beautiful corals and colorful fishes.

2. Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Coral Reefs at Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Of the many wonderful snorkeling opportunities available in Belize, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is considered the best experience. Before Hol Chan was made into a reserve, it was where fishermen cleaned their “catch of the day”, and nurse sharks, rays and other fishes would come to the area to feast. Today, a trip here will treat snorkelers (or divers) to pristine coral gardens and countless marine wildlife. Sea turtles, nurse sharks, stingrays, and all sorts of colorful fishes can be spotted on a regular basis.

3. Half Moon Caye

Half Moon Caye Wall at Light House Reef

Half Moon Caye is a pristine crescent-shaped island and natural monument that is as gorgeous from above as it is from underwater. The island is home to a nesting site of the rare Red-Footed Booby, and many consider its Wall Dive to be the best dive site in Belize. Turquoise waters and unbelievable visibility is the norm and many divers who have been all over the world claim that Half Moon Caye Wall is pretty much as good as it gets. This is possibly due to the sheer consistency of diverse wildlife encounters, beautiful corals, and gentle conditions.

4. South Water Caye Marine Reserve

Turtle nesting at Tobacco Caye in Belize

South Water Caye Marine Reserve is the largest marine reserve in Belize. It spans from north of Tobacco Caye to the Grand Channel, a cut five miles south of South Water Caye. This reserve is easily accessible from Hopkins and is perfect for snorkeling or diving. Colorful fishes, turtles, moray eels, barracuda, king mackerel, eagle rays, and southern stingrays are easily spotted. This area also includes the crown reserve of Man of War Caye, a nesting site for the brown booby and magnificent frigatebird.

5. Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve

whale shark swimming

Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve is a protected marine reserve covering approximately 25,980 acres lying 22 miles (36 km) off the coast of Placencia. This reserve is most famous for Whale Sharks since they visit the region every year during the months of March, April, May, and June. However, the Silk Cayes, a collection of three islands on the outer part of the southern reef also command authority as a pristine snorkeling destination, and it’s surely one of the best things to do when in Placencia. On a good day, visitors often witness an astonishing variety of marine wildlife, including sea turtles, rays, and sharks.

Question: If you could only do one of the adventures listed above, which would you do?



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