Beneath the turquoise sea of Belize is
an underwater world that exceeds every other Caribbean dive
destination in diversity, size and scope. The total diving
area is absolutely immense. More than 185 miles North to South,
the Belize Barrier reef system is the greatest stretch of
coral in the Western Hemisphere and encompasses a huge variety
of coral reef including walls, pinnacles, spur and groove,
swim-throughs and more. It gets even better because farther
offshore are three enormous rings of coral known as atolls
which provide hundreds of miles of additional reef dropping
off into the deep blue.
Reef Atoll, Turneffe Islands Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll together cover more than 400 square miles with
a total of 140 miles of drop-off walls. Incredibly, these
atolls comprise as much reef surface as the Belize barrier
reef itself! These Belizean atolls, unlike Pacific atolls
built on volcanoes, actually sit atop two parallel submarine
ridges close enough to the surface to allow the formation
of massive coral and sponge growths.
Hamanasi is ideally located and equipped
to access all three atolls by day trips with the added bonus
of having the pristine, Southern Barrier Reef in our front
yard. Dives on this section typically produce sightings of
spotted eagle rays, turtles, moray eels, southern stingrays,
large grouper, barracuda, king mackerel, dolphins and several
shark species, as well as almost every kind of smaller tropical
reef fish in regular profusion. These sites are typically
wall drift dives interspersed with sand channels and adorned
with multicolored sponges and gargonia corals.
In Southern Belize and directly offshore
from Hamanasi is Glover's Reef Atoll. Named after the 17th
century pirate John Glover, who used the remote islands as
the base for his raids against Spanish galleons heading to
and from the Bay Islands of Honduras, Glover's Reef is the
most remote island group in the country. Rising out of the
blue from a depth of well over 2,000 feet this well defined
oval shaped coral formation surrounds more than 700 patch
reefs inside its 100 square mile crystalline lagoon. Of the
three atolls Glover's Reef sees the least amount of human
contact and is largely unexplored. Come see for yourself why
this atoll was designated a National Marine Reserve
and, in 1997, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Turneffe Islands Atoll is the largest of the trio and
also the closest from the Belize coastline. Here you will
find an area dominated by purely mangrove islands. These mangrove
ranges, both offshore and coastal, make Belize diving so special
as they are the nurseries on which almost all marine life
depend to insure juvenile protection and biological productivity.
Although the atoll is best known for its walls, there are
many shallow sea gardens and bright sand flats inside the
reef excellent for scuba diving. Undoubtedly, the highlight
of Turneffe Islands diving is a spot called the Elbow located
at the extreme southern tip of the atoll. Here at the convergence
of several ocean currents you may dive through enormous schools
of permit, snappers, eagle rays, Atlantic spadefish, grouper
and jacks numbering at times in the thousands.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll is
known worldwide in SCUBA Diving circles for its spectacular
diving, but it is most famous for a site called the Great
Blue Hole. Originally, a cave whose roof collapsed thousands
of years ago and filled with water, the Blue Hole forms a
perfect 1,000 foot diameter circle on the surface then plunges
vertically to a depth of 430 feet. At 130 feet depth, one
can find the world's largest underwater dripstones, or stalactites,
ever found. Also at Lighthouse Reef, you will find Half Moon
Caye, a National Park managed by the Belize Audubon Society.
Half Moon Caye is home to a bird colony of rare Red Footed
Boobies that can be observed up close by visitors. This Atoll
is 50 miles out to sea and is the furthest out of the Belize
The Gladden Spit Marine Reserve is located
due south of Hamansi in the southern region of the barrier
reef. The site has a sloping shelf that drops off steeply
at about 130 ft to over 6,000 ft. Gladden Spit hosts over
25 species of reef fish that aggregate to spawn. During the
full moon of April, May and June, whalesharks congregate
in the area to feast on the fresh eggs and spawn. Large aggregations
of snappers and jacks and schools of dolphins are often seen
but the ultimate highlight of a Gladden Spit dive is a whaleshark
encounter. These majestic fish can grow up to 60 ft in length
and reaches sexual maturity at the age of 30.
Whale shark diving is not included in any of Hamanasi's packages and the
upgrade fee is currently USD $120 per person (subject to change). For non
package guests, Whale Shark Dives are USD $200 per person (subject to
change). All divers will be required to attend a short whale shark training
meeting and complete and sign Hamanasi's Whale Shark Liability Release.
2016 Whale Shark Season Dates
Hamanasi prides itself by our well-trained staff. All our divemasters and
captains have attended a two day course on Whale Shark Diving presented by
Friends of Nature, the organization managing the Gladden Spit Marine Park.
This course has given them a great appreciation for the gentle giants of the
ocean and an understanding of how to interact with the whale sharks.
We look forward to sharing with you this rare opportunity of diving with
Check out this video taken by Hamanasi guests during whale shark migration.