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Belize

Capital: Belmopan (pop 7,000)
Current: 110V, 60 Hz
Population: 280,000
Currency: Belize dollar
Departure Fees: $20.00 USD
Recompression chamber: Yes
Language: English (official), English Creole, Spanish, Maya and Garifuna

SUNBREEZE BEACH HOTEL

Starting at: $530/pp + taxes and air

RAMON'S VILLAGE RESORT

Starting at: $840/pp + taxes and air

Dive Sites

The Belize Barrier Reef
Spanning Belize's coastline for 185 miles is the Belize Barrier Reef with dive sites inside and outside of the reef. Just outside look for Spur and Grove formations - narrow canyons of corals are great for spotting grouper and the occasional eel.
Inside the reef, patch reefs are covered with hundreds of brightly coloured fish and coral species.
For something a little different, try snorkelling or diving near a mangrove coloured island "the nursery of the sea" where you are sure to find tiny barracuda, snapper and other fish whose parents you might have seen in deeper water.

Northern Belize
Mata Rocks
· Hol Chan - Belize's first marine reserve where the fish are huge and quite adapted to human presence.
· The Wall
· Shark Ray Alley
· Stingray Flats

Central Belize
· Goff's Caye
· Rendevous Caye

Southern Belize
· Tobacco Caye - great spur and grove formations just east of the island.
· South Water Caye Marine Reserve - Belize's largest marine reserve.
· Silk Cayes - home to the world's largest population of whale sharks during the months of February to May.
· Gladden Spit
· Laughingbird Caye - Belize's smallest marine reserve.
· Sapodilla Cayes

Coral Atolls
Belize boasts three offshore atolls: Turneffe, Glover's Reef and Lighthouse Reef. Together they easily provide over a hundred dive and snorkelling sites for the adventurous visitor.
· Turneffe Atoll, the largest of three atolls found in Belize, is 30 miles long. The water dept measures between 55 and 65 feet. Some dive sites in this atoll are Hollywood, Jill's Thrill, Cabbage Patch, the Elbow, The Coral, Gorgonian Bluff, the Secret Spot, Birthday Reef and Rendezvous Wall. Snorkelling areas are Bat Brook Shallows and Billy Bob's Shallows.
· Glover's Reef, which is most south of the three, is often overlooked. It has a diameter of some 40 miles with over 700 shallow patch reefs in its interior. Diving sites include Octopus Alley, Manta Reef, Hole in the Wall, Parrotfish Falls, Shark Point, Gorgonia Gallery, Long Caye Cut, Turtle Tavern and Dolphin Dance. With the numerous patch reefs this is a great place for snorkeling as well.
· Lighthouse Reef is the farthest from the mainland but unlike Glover's Reef gets plenty of visitors. Depth near the reef is around 9 feet. The great Blue Hole at the center of Lighthouse Reef is described as one of the best dive sites on Earth and a must for all advanced divers. It has a dept of 480 feet with stalagtites at 130 feet. Other diving sites are Manta Wall, the Zoo, Cathedral and Half Moon Wall.The waters off Hat Caye are great for snorkeling.

Other Information

Belize provides few wreck dive opportunities because many wrecked ships actually lodged atop the reef system above water. There is also little chance of finding valuables. Anything you find of value belongs to the state and cannot be kept.

A couple underwater wrecks are:
Sayonara in Turneffe Atoll - This was a transport boat sitting at 45 feet below the surface.
HMS Advice - Turneffe Atoll - This is the wreck of a British naval cutter which sunk to 16 feet on June 1, 1793.

Much of Belize's marine system, from north to south, is protected with many falling under the category of World Heritage Sites. This means that these areas and their inhabitants cannot be destroyed or harmed in any way. Care must be taken when on dives not to touch corals or increase sedimentation onto them.

Water Temperature - Water temperature usually remains constant around 70 to 75 F. Higher temperatures are 80 F.
Tides - Not usually a factor for dives because the range is small at 1 to 11/2 feet except in extreme conditions of tropical storms.
Winds - Northeast wind can produce huge swells, which can make diving difficult on exposed shores in the north, but this is usually steady at 5 to 15 knots.
Waves - Wave action minimal inside the reef or on the unexposed side of atolls.
Visibility - Maximum visibility of 165 feet or 50 meters. In case of storms the visibility reduced to 65 to 100 feet or 20 to 30 meters.

Various levels of dive courses include discover scuba programs, refresher courses, open water and advance open water courses. Certification is available for PADI, NAUII and in some areas NITROX diving.

Whether for the first time diver or the experienced diver; diving in Belize will be a great experience. If:
· you are already certified, be sure to bring your C card;
· you want to do your open water certification, be sure to bring the paperwork from your previous training;
· you want to be fully certified and have about a week, be prepared to read your manuals and do classes daily;
· you've never dove before and want to see what it's like ask about a Resort Course which will teach you to use the equipment in safe and supervised depths of no more than 20-30 feet.

In case of dive emergencies, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye has a Hyperbaric Chamber which is accessible to dive operators 24 hours a day. A $1 US per tank insurance fee is charged by most dive shops to cover the use of the chamber in the event of such an emergency. The medical staff has over 15 years experience.

Divers
Lightweight lycra dive suits or nylon "skins" work fine. They keep you warm on a night dive but for most dives, a swimsuit is adequate. If you need more insulation 1/16 inch suits should be the most you should need. Don't leave home without your dive certification card if you have one.

Snorkellers
There are thousands of snorkelling sites of varying depths. If you've never snorkelled before it is a good idea to try your equipment in water you can stand in first. If you're uncomfortable, try using a life jacket for added assurance. Just remember to breathe steadily through your mouth - once you get a glimpse of what lies beneath the waves it'll come naturally.

 
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