Destination

Belize

Belize, a small country in Central America, bathed by the Caribbean Sea, is one of the region’s best snorkeling destinations. The country is in fact partly located on the vast Mesoamerican barrier reef system (the second biggest barrier reef in the world, after Australia’s, and the biggest in the northern hemisphere), which runs along 600 miles (1000km) of the coastline of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

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This barrier reef, which Charles Darwin described as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies”, has been listed since 1996 as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the variety of its ecosystems (atolls, hundreds of cayes, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and estuaries) and its biodiversity. It is estimated that 36 species of soft coral, 70 species of hard coral and nearly 500 species of fish inhabit Belize’s barrier reef. It is common to see sharks, rays, turtles or West Indian manatees.

Snorkeling Report Belize
The Split, nurse shark at Hol Chan Cut, pier at Ambergris Caye

The continental coasts of Belize, edged with tropical forests and mangroves, are not suited to snorkeling. You need to take a boat (or a plane) to the barrier reef, a few miles off the coast. The most accessible and popular area is Ambergris Caye (and its main town, San Pedro) and Caye Caulker, from where you can explore the wonderful snorkeling spot of Hol Chan Cut and the very famous Shark Ray Alley. The variety of snorkeling destinations, the clarity of the water and the accessibility of the islands mean that there is something for snorkelers of all levels. If it’s adventure you are after, the more distant atolls of Lighthouse Reef (which includes the Blue Hole National Monument), Turneffe Islands or Glovers Reef are exceptional spots, providing you have a big budget and you don’t mind spending several hours sailing in the open sea.
When to go to Belize?

You can go snorkeling all through the year in Belize, since the climate is tropical, and so constantly hot and humid. The rainy season, from June to November, can make outings tricky and reduce the clearness of the water. This is the hottest period (over 86°F/30°C). It is also the season when hurricanes may hit the Belize coasts. In the dry season, and particularly in December and January, the temperature rarely goes above 80°F/26°C during the day, and falls to less than 68°F/20°C at night. The water temperature is relatively constant, around 82°F/28°C, with variations between the coldest months (December-January) and the hottest (July-August). All through the year, the wind can come up for several days at a time and prevent boats from sailing.

CDC Belize EN

Where to spot them?

Nurse shark

You can't miss them at Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker Shark Ray Alleys. Common at Hol Chan Cut

Southern stingray

You can't miss them at Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker Shark Ray Alleys. Common at Hol Chan Cut

Green moray

Take your chance at Hol Chan Cut

French angelfish

On the spots located on the barrier reef (Hol Chan Cut, Coral Garden, South Channel)

Gray angelfish

On the spots located on the barrier reef (Hol Chan Cut, Coral Garden, South Channel)

Atlantic blue tang

On all spots

Queen triggerfish

On all spots, but uncommon

Bluestriped grunt

On the spots located on the barrier reef (Hol Chan Cut, Coral Garden, South Channel)

Horse-eye jack

In large schools at Hol Chan Cut, common on other spots

Banded butterflyfish

On all spots

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