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Lighthouse Reef is an upscale, all-inclusive Belize dive resort set in the heart of Belize's Barrier Reef. Operating Saturday to Saturday, Lighthouse Reef Resort's program includes round-trip air transfer from the Belize City airport to the resort, seven nights lodging, six days of three-tank diving (with the exception of Friday when only two divers are offered), and all meals. Every Wednesday, weather permitting, divers are treated to a trip to the famous Belize's Blue Hole. The style of the lodging and the quality of the cuisine, as well as the fact that the transfer is via air rather than a long boat ride, recommend Lighthouse Reef Resort as Belize's finest out-island diver's resort.
Belize City, on the mainland, hosts Belize's international airport. While it is the gateway to the offshore scuba diving islands and/or the inland jungle touring, Belize City itself is not recommended as a tourist area. In fact, safety in Belize City is a concern because of its problem with petty crime, and tourists are advised to be very careful when walking the streets there. In most cases, visitors to Belize need see only the international airport, and there is no reason to include overnights in Belize City as part of your Belize travel plans.
Belize has remained the best kept secret in the Caribbean. Belize lies 700 miles south of Miami on the east coast of Central America in the heart of the Caribbean Basin, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to the north, bordering Guatemala to the west and south, and flanked by the Caribbean Sea to the east. Its greatest length is 174 miles and its greatest width is 68 miles. Of great interest to scuba divers is that offshore lies the second largest barrier reef in the world, which extends over 185 miles. Also there is the world's largest and most renowned Belize's Blue Hole, first explored by Jacques Cousteau. Inside the barrier reef there are 450 emerald green cayes, of which only a few are inhabited.
Diving Highlights: Although visibility along the Barrier Reef can get poor (20-30 feet) during high winds, diving on the leeward side of the atolls usually guarantees visibility in excess of 100 feet. You'll see jacks, tarpon, and barracuda.
Belize Weather: November to January are traditionally the coolest months, May to September are the warmest. Mountain temperatures are several degrees cooler than at the coast.
Belize's Air Temperature:
Day: 79° F Night: 68° F
Belize Water Temperature:
79° - 84° F
Most Belize dive resorts operate all year round. The driest season, and that with the best water visibility, is March through May. June can be a relatively rainier month, while July through November, barring a hurricane, should offer flat seas and easy scuba diving. Winter may make for rougher sea conditions if a winter storm pushes down from the north.
Established in 1987, Hol Chan Marine Reserve encompasses a three square mile area of reef located of the southeast tip of the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize. There is a cut in the reef that allows transit between the shallow inshore area, and the deeper water beyond the barrier reef. Fish, everything from small fry to nurse sharks, congregate around this Hol Chan cut. Because the marine life is protected from fishing pressure, Hol Chan has become an increasingly popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving in Belize.
Located just south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Belize is geographically part of Central America. But English is the official language, and the country's British colonial heritage is clearly reflected in Belize's culture and infrastructure. Scuba diving in Belize is done from Ambergris Caye, from the out islands of Turneffe Atoll, Lighthouse Reef, and Glover's Atoll, and from a few dive resorts on the mainland in the south of the country. Due to the diversity of scuba diving areas, Belize is also a prime destination for live aboard diving.
Belize's Caribbean waters are said to have the world's second longest barrier reef. Only Australia's Great Barrier Reef is longer. Belize's barrier reef is not particularly close to the mainland, and can be as much as 60 miles offshore in places. Belize's outer islands are along this barrier reef and, as a result, the out island resorts such as Lighthouse Reef Resort and Turneffe Island Lodge offer very good scuba diving in Belize and marine life opportunities.
Made famous by an early Jacques Cousteau Calypso expedition, Belize's Blue Hole is located in a remote region of the Barrier Reef 60 miles offshore. A unique geological formation created when the roof of a limestone cave system fell in, Belize's Blue Hole is almost perfectly round, 1000 feet across, and more than 400 feet deep. A typical scuba dive in the Blue Hole goes to a depth of 130 feet, where a gallery of stalactites creates an otherworldly tableau. Bottom is necessarily short, but the experience is one every serious diver would like to have under their weight belt.
The weather in Belize is subtropical, providing warm weather year round. The coast, cayes and atolls enjoy brisk prevailing tradewinds from the Caribbean Sea. The annual mean temperature is 79 degrees Fahrenheit and the average humidity is 85 percent.
Belize Scuba Diving Levels
There is a wide range of diving levels in Belize, from shore diving Belize to Belize's Blue Hole at over 200 feet deep.
Belize Water Temperature
The water temperature in Belize is fairly constant throughout the year and is generally in the mid to high 70's Fahrenheit, but can reach the low 80's in Summer.
Because it is not affected by river outflow and rain runoff, visibility often reaches 100 or more feet on the barrier reef and around the outer atolls. Inside the reef, visibility ranges from 50 to 75 feet. During the winter months cold fronts known as "northers" may reduce visibility for days at a time.
Currents, Tides, Winds
In the western Caribbean, surface currents tend in a northerly direction. This northerly current creates a then southerly counter current directly in front of the barrier reef and around the atolls of Belize.
Between the barrier reef and the mainland, the currents tend in a southerly direction. The emptying of the coastal rivers and the push of the Tradewinds create a head of water which funneled to the south and out the southern edge of the reef.
On average the tide range is only 1 to 1 1/2 feet. Despite the small tidal range, the numerous cuts through the barrier reef can restrict the flow of water and cause strong local and temporal currents of up to 1.5 knots.
The wind is steady from the northeast at 5 to 15 knows, except in the south where southeast winds are frequent.
The island of Ambergris Caye in Belize is located 35 miles offshore from its mainland. It is reached via a 20-minute commuter aircraft flight forward from Belize City. Ambergris Caye's airstrip is the only paved road on the island. The streets through the laid-back little town of San Pedro are just packed with sand. There are relatively few cars on Ambergris Caye, with walking, bicycles and golf carts providing most of the mobility. Many North Americans have purchased land on Ambergris Caye and they have opened numerous small Belize hotels and lodges catering to scuba divers and fishermen.
Located five miles south of the town of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye in Belize, Shark and Ray Alley is Belize's answer to Grand Cayman's Stingray City. As its name implies, this is an area where nurse sharks and Southern string rays congregate to be fed and petted by the local divemasters. It's safe and exciting to experience, and makes for a truly memorable scuba dive or snorkel experience. In 1999, Shark and Ray Alley was incorporated into, and afforded the protection of, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Due to the geographical placement and relative remoteness of the best scuba diving areas, the country is a prime spot to do Belize live aboard diving. Sailing from Belize City, the weeklong cruise trips offer greater quantity and variety of scuba diving than can be done from any one dive resort, and enable divers to visit virtually all the best dive spots in the region. Both Aggressor Fleet and Peter Hughes Diving have top quality dive cruises sailing weekly.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|