Scuba diving in Belize was nothing short of amazing. We based ourselves in Caye Caulker for about a week to relax on the island and make a few trips out to the Belize Barrier Reef, which is another awesome natural World Heritage Site.
Getting Open Water Certification in Caye Caulker Belize
In order to see the Barrier Reef at a decent depth, we first had some work to do. Heather was not a certified SCUBA diver. I am PADI certified but had not been diving in 15+ years and my certification card went missing around then too. I first got my certification over 20 years ago, back in 1990 when Ice Ice Baby and Can’t Touch This topped the charts. This predated common use of the Internet by about a decade so I figured there was no hope in pulling up my records and I’d need to go through the four-day certification process again. But I gave the dive school my name and date of birth, they actually pulled up my records, and I was good to go!
Heather, however, was off to SCUBA school in order to get her Open Water Certification. There are a few places we want to dive during our trip, so this was necessary, and what better place to learn to dive than the second largest barrier reef in the world (after only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). Heather did a full day of online classroom training in Caye Caulker followed by a day of confined water training off of a dock in the back of the island. All went well, so it was time to hit the open water.
Scuba Diving Turneffe Atoll Belize
On day 3 we both boarded the same dive boat and set off for Turneffe Atoll, one of Belize’s three atolls. It was about an hour ride out into the Caribbean Sea. Then it was time to go under. Even though it was January, the water in Belize was still a warm 78 degrees. I thought it was very odd that everyone (including the dive instructors) all wore wetsuits. I was the only person on the boat to opt not to have wetsuit and was just fine.
So we embarked on two great dives in this area. Heather was required to learn and demonstrate diving skills during this time and then had a little bit of dive time at the end. I dove down with a separate group to simply tour the reefs.
The Turneffe Atoll North dives were pretty impressive. We first did a wall dive named the Vincente Wall, which started in about 50 feet of water but descended to about 100 feet. There was some remarkable coral all along the side of this massive underwater cliff. After a typical Belizean lunch of chicken, rice, and slaw aboard the boat, we set out for our second dive at Turneffe: Black Beauty.
As Heather was demonstrating skills such as regulator recovery, tired diver tow, and full mask floods, I was exploring the underwater wonderland.
The Belize reefs are known to be teaming with marine life, so although we saw a decent amount of schooling reef fish, lobsters, and other usual suspects; I was slightly let down in not seeing an overabundance of aquatic life and nothing too interesting like sharks, turtles, octopus at Turneffe North. Nonetheless, these were still great dives overall.
Scuba Diving Tackle Box: San Pedro Ambergris Caye Belize
On day 4 we went for two dives off of nearby San Pedro, which lies on Ambergris Caye. The area we dove is commonly referred to as Tackle Box. I found these dives to be spectacular and even better than the Turneffe Atoll Dives.
During the first scuba dive of the day, Tres Cocos, there were deep canyons throughout the reef, which you could glide right down on through. When diving through the canyons, our dive master took us through one slot that became a swim-through cave. It was a bit narrow and eerie but after a few minutes of swimming through, we came out on the other side. Now at nearly 90 feet depth, it was about twenty feet deeper than we had entered. My dive tank accidentally bumped the top of the swim-through at one point while trying to navigate its tight crevices. I hope I didn’t damage it. The swim-through was a very cool experience.
Next we dove Esmeralda. The reef was gorgeous and sea life was everywhere. When first descending into one of the ravines, a few friendly nurse sharks and a handful of curious eels cordially greeted me.
We also saw what I thought was big grouper at first but upon getting closer noticed it was a Cubara Snapper. It had to be well over 100 lbs, maybe even close to 150. I didn’t know snapper got that big! There were tons of colorful reef fish too and we also spotted a giant spider crab that had to be at least a few feet in diameter.
Heather successfully completed her diving course, despite having some issues with clearing her ears, and is now officially a certified SCUBA diver. This final day of diving involved more actual diving than instruction and drills, so she was also able to take in the marine life and beauty of reefs in a bit shallower depths. We both really enjoyed diving around the Belizean and can’t wait to come back.
Scuba Diving Belize Barrier Reef Video
Photos are a bit scarce in this post because I mostly took video while under the sea. Check out this video for some highlights of the dive, shot with a Gopro.
Side note: Many people come to scuba dive Belize for the Blue Hole. It looks amazing from the air and certainly seems worthy of a bucket list dive spot. Unfortunately we ran out of time and had already spent a lot of funds on our other dives, so we didn’t get a chance to do this epic dive. But I’m not too disappointed, because it gives us a great reason to return to Caye Caulker one day and scuba dive some more!