Belize’s Barrier Reef has been named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World and can be found on the World Heritage List.
There is a great variety of reef types and diving & snorkeling experiences in Belize. The Barrier Reef is 185 meandering miles (298 km) of unspoiled beauty. It varies from 8 to 16 miles (13-26 km) from the mainland to less than one mile (1.6 km) offshore from Ambergris Caye. Much of it is totally unexplored and all of it is easily accessible by boat. The reef is like a gigantic wall running parallel to the coast. Between the mainland and the reef are shallow, sandy waters with numerous mangrove-covered islands (cayes).
While much of the flora and fauna is similar throughout the reef system, there are individual differences to be found everywhere. A particular type of fish may be seen on almost every dive, but during mating season it may congregate in only one or two areas in great numbers. Hard corals, gorgonians, sea fans, tunicates, and shellfish of amazing variety populate Belize coastal waters, but the predominance of one in a particular stretch of reef may give that area its name. Similarly, there are areas where grouper are known to shoal, others where large stingray are prolific or where the diver may encounter a whale shark. The manta ray and spotted eagle ray are fairly common, and the diver and or snorkeler can reasonably expect to see one of these magnificent creatures during his visit. Hammerhead shark, Caribbean reef shark, Turtles and even the oceanic white tip shark are seen occasionally, but these lucky sightings are rare.
Ambergris Caye is justly the most popular attraction, destination to the tourists who come to Belize. The factor that most contributes to this is the unbelievably superb diving & snorkeling conditions. Accessibility to the dive sites, such as Lighthouse Reef, Turneffe Islands, as well as many excellent sites right off Ambergris Caye, combined with excellent weather conditions, clear warm water, the variety of dive and snorkeling sites and in the unlikely chance that a diving accident should occur, the hyperbaric chamber is minutes away from any of the dive sites.
Skin Diver magazine describes a typical dive area off San Pedro as an area outside the reef where “the corals gradually slope to about 50 feet along a bottom of scattered heads, sea fans, and gorgonians. From about 60 to 90 feet, the corals form immense spur and groove surge channels perpendicular to the shoreline. These high profile channels are adorned by yellow tube and azure vase sponges, large barrel sponges and a respectable amount of marine life.
Rays and schooling jacks are frequently seen, and the most common reef tropical’s such as groupers, coneys, angelfish and barracuda are almost sure to be seen. For a more interesting and convoluted bottom featuring caves full of copper sweepers and a resident school of horse-eyed jacks, the dive site Caverns, just outside the Mata Cut, is another local favorite.”
The 1/2 mile from the beach line to the reef line has an abundance of wonders! Portofino Beach Resort has its own Dive Shop on property, located on the dock. Our dive master will offer free Try-Dives in our pool to get acquainted with diving. When you are interested you can do a PADI or SDI certification which takes about three or four days. We also offer junior programs for kids 10 to 14.
Pictures taken by Terry Gruber from Gruber Photographers and when you would like to read more detailed information about Belize, please visit the BEST website about Ambergris Caye for more information about Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret!
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