Scuba Diving in Belize
Lighthouse Reef Atoll is one of only four atolls in the Western Hemisphere, and is the farthest offshore from mainland Belize. This isolation has protected the Atoll from pollution and coastal runoff - Lighthouse Reef offers some of the greatest underwater visibility in the Caribbean. Vibrant walls covered in reef structures and flooded with fish await!
The famous Great Blue Hole dive spot is a natural phenomenon, located in the middle of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll and less than 15 minutes from Itza Lodge. This site is world-renowned and draws thousands of divers to Lighthouse Reef every year. Some of the best wall scuba diving in the world is found just off of Long Caye, only minutes away from the lodge. There is so much to be explored!
Half Moon Wall
Half Moon Wall is an amazing dive spot, which includes the Half Moon Caye Natural Monument and UNESCO World Heritage site. The reefs here are magnificent and diverse. The site is located just south of Half Moon Caye. The coral structures form a thin rim at the border of the wall. There is also a sloping, desolate sand flat separating the reef rim from shallow reefs by the shore. Before or after your dive you can also visit the booby bird sanctuary on Half Moon Caye.
Half Moon Wall is an excellent dive spot for intermediate level divers. It has depths of 30+ feet, amazing 100 feet of visibility and low-level currents. When divers go 30 feet below, they see that the reef rim has a stunning development of spurs and grooves. There is both large and small marine life on the Half Moon Wall. You will see garden eels, conch, rays, flounder, star-eye hermit crab, tilefish, manta rays, groupers, yellowtail snappers, razor fish, toadfish, spotted eagle rays, turtles and black groupers as well as various other marine creatures.
The Great Blue Hole Dive Spot in Belize
The Great Blue Hole dive spot in Belize is one of the greatest dive sites in the world is located just six miles from Long Caye. It was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in his 1970 Calypso journey. In the last ice age, seawater was frozen in glaciers lowering the sea level more than 350 feet, exposing the limestone of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. As a result, larger subterranean caverns were created when fresh water flowed through the limestone deposits.
The Great Blue Hole is a round, deep depression in the center of more than 75 square miles of blue-green water, making up the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Its diameter is just over 1,000 feet, with a maximum depth of just over 400 feet. Besides two narrow passages on the eastern and northern rims, the Blue Hole is entirely surrounded by living coral. With 100 feet of visibility, no currents and depths of over 400 feet, the Blue Hole is an amazing site for advanced level divers.
Visitors may dive either the north or south side to depths of 100 to 150 feet where the closest caves may be seen. Divers can begin by snorkeling to the coral rim. A good way to keep your sense of direction while you are descending in the Blue Hole is to not get too far from the wall. There is an overhang that shapes a cave-like ceiling where stalactites hang with a width of more than three feet and up to 20 feet in length.
As you descend below the ceiling, the bottom of the cave has numerous detached stalactites. Often you may see sharks casually swimming by. Red algae, hydroids and gorgonians cover most of the corals. You may also find sharing brush, mermaid’s fan algae, elkhorn, club finger, shallow-water starlet corals, giant green anemones and aerious urchins. The most diverse and abundant marine life is found on the reefs that border the outside of the Blue Hole. Snorkelers will also enjoy observing the many life forms that surround the Blue Hole.
Hat Caye Drop-off
Hat Caye Is located along the central wall in the western part of Lighthouse Reef and has an alluring shallow reef. It is the southernmost site divers regularly go to in the atoll. There is a wide shallow reef, with a wide patch of sloping sand separating two reefs. One is very shallow and close to the island and the other is a narrow line that is on top of a drop-off. Dive boats usually anchor above the sloping sand areas near the wall, which provides a great dive with dramatic wide-angle photo opportunities. Also check out the sandy slope behind the reef against the wall. The visibility on this site is about 50 feet, with minimal currents, making this a good site for beginners.
Right at the perimeter of Hat Caye Drop-off there are massive basket sponges. Many divers try to climb into the basket sponge’s opening, but sponges take a long time to grow, and usually get damaged when divers do so. Damaged sponge tissue is vulnerable to disease, which eventually destroys the sponge. These sponges are also home to many other marine animals. A plethora of starfish may be seen. Also look for coral shrimp with their white antennae. Giant yellow tube sponges and deep-water lace coral, as well as many fish may also be seen at the Hat Caye Drop-off.
Tres Cocos was named from a group of three tall coconut palms, just east on Long Caye. This spot is about one mile north of the Hat Caye Drop-off. It is another marvelous dive site on the western side of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, right next to Long Caye. It has a shallow coral reef and wall with big overhangs.
With visibility of about 80 feet and depths starting at 30 feet with minimal to medium currents, this also a great site for beginners. While algae covers a lot of the shallow reef, there is plenty of other marine life to see. Coral shrimp, large spotted moray eels, lion’s paw sea cucumbers, urchins, arrow crabs and sea feathers are also found at Tres Cocos. There are many parrotfish, damselfish and blue tang feeding on the algae, and in the water above are many jacks and large black groupers. You may also see turtles, Spanish mackerels, and Creole and Black coral on the wall. Further north on the wall, you will see large sand flats that replace the reef and a wall with gorgeous coral arches below the surface. Rays, conch and peacock flounders can be seen here. Hanging from the wall and arches are tube sponges and soft corals.
Another grand dive site. Just ½ mile north of the Long Caye Ridge you will see Quebrada or “broken reef.” It has a fine ridge of corals rims and a crescent-shaped wall. As on other parts off the west side of Long Caye, the wall is vertical to slightly overhanging. You will see plentiful stacks of coral sprinkled across the sandy bottom.
The coral patches extend right up the wall, and just north, turns suddenly to the east. Depth range is 40+ feet, 80 feet of visibility and with minimal currents it is another great spot for new divers. As elsewhere off Long Caye, coral and sponge growth provide plenty of great photography subjects, with some of the best being the fish. Many dive boats have been feeding fish here for years. Schools of yellowtail snappers shadow divers on the reefs. Large black groupers, ocean triggerfish, spotted eagle rays and turtles can be seen at this site, allowing for spectacular photos.
Long Caye Ridge
The Long Caye Ridge is located on the western side of Long Caye. It is named from a ridge of reefs sticking out that form a small peninsula just north of Tres Cocos. Spur-and-groove formations can be found on the bottom leading to the wall and a drop-off of major proportions. The grooves are perpendicular to the wall and go directly into the sea. With depths of 40+ feet, 80 feet of visibility and minimal currents, the Long Caye Ridge is excellent for beginners.
The sponges, coral and fish here are similar to those at Hat Caye Drop-off. There are many large and colorful sponges and delicate gorgonians near the drop-off and all along the wall. Below the soft coral, vase and tube sponges are developments of finger and yellow pencil corals. You will also see coral niches for spotted crabs, lobsters, filefish and arrow blennies. This is also a great site for underwater photos.
Unlike other parts of the Long Caye reef system, those at Cathedral are profoundly segmented. The Cathedral Reef starts shallow with the wall cresting at 30 feet. Sculpted by and rising above the sand channels are coral formations, which is how it got the name Cathedral. The Cathedral’s depths are 30+ feet with 50 feet visibility and a light current making it great for intermediate skill level divers. Divers can see narrow passages and tunnels along with some fascinating and diverse marine life. Coral gardens decorate the reef top and red and orange sponges color parts of the coral stacks. There is also cactus coral to be seen and photographed.
The many and varied fish at this site are also an attraction. There are groupers, French angels, stoplight parrots, trumpets and yellowtail snappers. Past the reef, large sheet coral up to six feet across cover the wall with huge basket, rope and long yellow tube sponges. Wire coral, deepwater lace and other soft coral growths extend up to five feet. You will also find turtles, lobsters and eagle rays.
This site was named from the large schools of silversides that were usually inside the caves. The coral development sets this site apart from all the others. Massive coral formations create a structure full of cavities for marine animals to hide in. Another spot for intermediate divers, with depths of 40+feet, visibility of 80 feet with none to light current conditions. Several nocturnal animals, such as sea urchins and brittle starfish, can be seen at this dive site during the day. The sides and ceilings have red and orange sponges and mosses. Along the surfaces you may see basket starfish and unusual sponges in the shallow areas. Some divers have seen sclerosponges. They were thought to be extinct and were rediscovered within the last 20 years. These sponges are known to be located in caves in shallow water and help build reefs below 150 feet. They are rare, but can be seen at Silver Caves.
The Aquarium is located right off the northwestern side of Long Caye. Clear, long coral ridges and sandy canyons run perpendicular to the reef. The coral ridges here have many holes and grottos, providing a sanctuary for a variety of marine life. The Aquarium is breathtaking for intermediate level divers with depths of 30+ feet, visibility of 80 feet, with the possibility of strong currents. Moderate to strong currents flow across the reef here almost all the time. You may also find troublesome currents when exploring the north-facing wall of the point. These currents usually go across the reef from the east. To feel less of the current, go down to the reef surface. If you swim east at the beginning of the dive, you will have an easier trip back to the boat. Named for its wide-ranging invertebrate life, the Aquarium is where you will see the ordinary and extraordinary.
Many of the animals that are usually hidden deep in the reef at other dive sites are more visible at the Aquarium. A good place to check is next to the crest of the wall. By the top 50 feet of the wall, deep-water lace coral and black coral are also seen. All different types of parrotfish can be seen on the algae patches covering the reef top. The fish are definitely colorful and diverse at the Aquarium. Nurse Shark Lodge lies east of the Aquarium, on the same reef. It is a wall that drops into the deep all along this section north of Long Caye. Many visitors go there to see large marine life. Nurse Shark Lodge got its name from divers that have regular shark sightings. The Lodge part of its name comes from the shallow caves that fill the reefs and are where sharks may be sleeping. For intermediate level divers, the Nurse Shark Lodge has depths of 40+ feet, 80 feet of visibility and low currents.
Eagle Ray Wall
Eagle Ray Wall is located on the other side of a tidal cut through the north end of Long Caye and near Nurse Shark Lodge. Most of the time you can see eagle rays right off the wall. They are regularly seen about 40 feet below the surface. Great for snorkeling, this spot has an outstanding shallow reef and a colorful wall. The reef is not more than 35 to 40 feet and there are several long coral ridges separated by sand gullies. Snorkelers can follow these formations into shallow water and can go right to the reef crest, while divers are directed to the opposite. The wall drops considerably into the deep along this part of the reef, where it is full of corals and red cup sponges. This wall is also loaded with an assortment of fish and invertebrates. In addition to the eagle rays, there are many beautiful underwater highlights. For intermediate level divers, it has depths of 35+ feet, 80 feet of visibility and low currents.
The Southwest Cut has a wide channel on its edge and is open to lagoon water and sometimes ocean swells that go over the lagoon from the windward side. The Southwest Cut is great of intermediate level divers. It has depths of 40+ feet, 50 feet of visibility and at times strong currents. The Southwest Cut is unusual, with a lot of the reef tops covered with algae, soft coral and sand. The reef is cut by a wide sand passage that drops very deep. On the wall there may be a good chance to see shrimp, eels and other marine life. The diving here is great at night, as well as during the day. Sharptail eels, scorpion fish, tarpons, sail-finned blenny, yellow-banded coral, nudibranchs, manta rays, trunkfish, filefish and hogfish can all be seen at the Southwest Cut.
West Point I & II
On the northern side of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll are West Point I and II. To the south is West Point I and to the north is West Point II. Both reefs have a narrow perimeter next to a wall that drops to 125 feet. A range of sponges and corals cover the wall with many shapes and colors. Below 125 feet there is a narrow area covered with sand and a light cover of coral. The sloped area is the beginning of another deep wall.
Great for beginners, West Point I and II have depths of 25+ feet, 50 feet of visibility and moderate currents. The fish are plentiful. There are trunkfish, angelfish, parrotfish, yellowtail snapper, queen triggerfish, white spotted filefish, hogfish, barracudas, tiger groupers, butterfly fish, longsnout, creole wrasses, blennies, gobies, hamlets and spotted and green moray eels. The coral are just as varied here as at other sites.