Belize's close proximity to the largest and most prolific barrier reef in the hemisphere has put the country at the top of everybody's list when it comes to world-class dive destinations. A 15-minute boat ride from the coast of The Balam Escape and you could be ready to strap on a tank and dive into some of the earth's most unique geological formations, colors that are alive with layers of gorgonians, and an array of large sponges. Glide along, side by side with fish while exploring vertical walls with deep canyons and incredible caves that occasionally break the range of mountainous reef. Noted dive publications, such as "Sport Diver Magazine", are constantly writing about Belize. Rick Frehsee, a respected authority who spent 17 years traveling the Caribbean for "Skin Diver Magazine", described Belize this way: "Beneath the turquoise sea is a tapestry and range that exceeds every other Caribbean dive destination in diversity, size and scope."
The natural marine aquarium parallels the coast for more than 170 miles, beginning at Belize's northern boundary on Ambergris Caye, running south all the way to the small sandy islands east of Punta Gorda, and extending almost 50 miles offshore. The top of the reef is visible above water in many places. However, most of its body is below the surface with an immense span that encompasses every kind of coral reef known to nature.
Along the reef, crests can be found in mountains of coral separated by meandering sand channels. Huge protrusions of ancient reef are capped with a colorful fringe of hard corals, soft corals, and sponges. Walls and mid-reefs are decorated with a great assortments of sponges, visible in every conceivable color and shape - bulbous orange sponges, giant basket and barrel sponges, and rope sponges in vibrant colors sharing space with deepwater sea fans and "bushes" of black coral. Shallower reefs are a combination of striated formation and cluster or patches of corals protruding from a white-sand bottom, sometimes forming a natural route for divers to follow when returning from the wall. The coral gardens ensure encounters with an abundance of marine life, especially colorful tropical fish. It is said that Belize has more marine life per square foot than any place on earth.
The water temperature is soothing, and remains fairly constant year round. The pristine waters maintain excellent visibility, which is, at many times, seemingly endless. And even though the waters are rich with exotic dive sites, there are still plenty of locations for non-divers/snorkelers where they can have an equally rewarding experience in both spectacle and color.
Favorite Dive Locations Include
Hol Chan Marine Reserve - An underwater park with a 30-foot-deep channel and known for coral grottos and caves. Huge schools of fish can always be found there.
Shark-Ray Alley - One mile south of Hol Chan. Dive or snorkel with stingrays and nurse sharks.
Blue Hole - For an enhanced dive experience, be sure to head outside the reef and check out the famed Blue Hole, one of the most outstanding dive sites found anywhere in the world. Inside the hole, the water is 480 ft. deep, changing the color of the water from the shallower surroundings. Stalagmites, stalactites, and limestone formations mould its walls and become increasingly intricate the further down one goes. Jacques Cousteau made the sinkhole famous during his explorations in the late 1980's.
But more than just a world-class dive destination, the Great Barrier Reef acts as a natural breakwater, providing life and security to the entire country of Belize and its coastal Cayes. One of the most phenomenal aspects of The Balam Escape is that the entirety of its coastline is situated and protected directly behind Ambergris Caye, an island that only exist because of the reef's natural barrier. With the double shielding provided by the Great Barrier Reef, and reinforced by Ambergris Caye, it becomes apparent just how marvelously protected The Balam Escape is from the relentless Caribbean tides.