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. Stretching the entire length of the country from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Gulf of Honduras, more than 185 miles North to South, the Belize Barrier Reef system is the greatest expanse of coral in the Western Hemisphere. Underwater Belize is home to an extensive ecosystem comprising shimmering schools of fish, colorful sponges, coral of all shapes, dolphins, sharks, manatees and sea turtles. You’ll also find three of the Caribbean’s four atolls, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Turneffe Islands Atoll and Glovers Reef Atoll; together these enormous rings of coral, are as big as the Belize Barrier Reef!
Just offshore from Hopkins is the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, the largest marine reserve in the country, located on the Southern Barrier Reef. With the 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. You will find very few other divers on this pristine stretch of reef!
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. Glover’s 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.
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/660 m 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/300m diameter circle on the surface then plunges vertically to a depth of 412 feet/126m. At 130 feet/40m depth inside the hole are 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 Atolls.
Hamanasi offers a variety of adventures which take you the offshore atolls:
You really feel like you’re in paradise here, everything is easy so you really feel you’re on vacation – beach right here, scuba diving so accessible.Scott and Family, Highland Park