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Diving in Ambergris Caye

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...Highlights: turtles, non diving activities...
...Ambergris Caye's diving environment: beginner divers...

The biggest of the offshore cays, Ambergris Caye is a great place to stay if you wish to base yourself in a resort within easy reach of the dive sites of Belize's barrier reef - the second largest barrier reef in the world.

The reef runs for 25 miles (40 km) almost parallel to the shore at an average distance of about half a mile (1 km) out to sea. The whole of the east coast of Ambergris features 'spur and groove' reefs - long reef fingers that jut out on the ocean side of the main barrier reef, perpendicular to the coastline. These finger rolls create a profusion of gullies, canyons, ledges, tunnels and caverns that offer refuge for marine creatures and for scuba divers to explore. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions for Ambergris

Hol Chan (The Cut), Hol Chan Marine Reserve - This was the first area in Belize to be designated as a marine reserve. Since gaining this status in 1987, the once depleted fish stocks have returned in spectacular fashion. Located just 4 miles (6 km) southeast of San Pedro, this dive site, although very shallow, is not to be missed.

The marine reserve is 4 miles (6 km) south of San Pedro and encompasses an area of 5 miles² (16 km²) that includes the barrier reef, sea grass flats, mangrove areas and the center-piece cut in the barrier reef. An entry fee of BZ$ 5 helps cover maintenance and enforcement costs. Mooring buoys have been installed and rangers are always on hand to enforce the no-take policy resulting in a wonderful site for both scuba divers and snorkelers alike. Show more

How to Dive Ambergris

For information on your diving options, and all the other travel information you might need to visit Ambergris Caye in Belize, review our Ambergris Caye dive resort section.

Liveaboards do not visit this area and dive resorts on the atolls do not tend to travel inland to visit Ambergris Caye, so the best way of diving here is by staying in a nearby resort on Ambergris itself. You will be diving both on the barrier reef and on other local sites around the island. It is also possible to dive further out to sea at the atolls of Lighthouse and Turneffe when staying on Ambergris Caye but it is a long day trip. Most who stay here tend to limit themselves to diving locally.

Note that it is also possible to book your own accommodation and join day trips to all of these locations.

Ambergris Caye Diving Season

There is year round diving in Ambergris Caye, with the least chance of rain in February and March and the highest during August through October.

The dry season runs from December through May when the weather is mostly warm and sunny. Visibility is usually around 50 to 65ft (15-20m) and the sea's surface is likely calm with occasional chop.

June though November is the wet season which brings a stronger possibility of tropical storms and a remote possibility of a hurricane, especially in September/October. If a tropical storm does hit then diving will be cancelled for 2-3 days, but most often it's blue skies with light winds and occasional squalls and rain clouds. The rains do effect shallow water visibility but pretty soon the visibility will be back to 30 to 50 feet (10-15m). Storms do bring waves but mostly the sea will be calm or have a light chop.

Average water temperatures are fairly constant, ranging from a high of 84°F (29°C) in September to a low of 79°F (26°C) in February. There is very little current around Ambergris throughout the year.

Although each turtle season lasts for 3 months or so, May is the peak season for matings, August is the peak season for laying eggs, and October is the best time to see turtle hatchlings, after a 2 month incubation period, at Bacalar Chico in the north of the island.

October and November is the mating season for groupers. Divers can watch as the grouper move over the reef at the beginning of their short migration southwest to swarm in the thousands on the west coast of the caye.

Finally, May is the spawning time for thimble jellyfish. These jellies are irritating to scuba divers and snorkelers, and the best way to avoid getting stung is to wear a full length wetsuit (which you should rinse thoroughly after each use) and to use a waterproof and greasy cream on soft tissue parts of your exposed skin.

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Where is Ambergris Caye and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of Belize, showing the location of Ambergris. Here, you will find information on how to get to Ambergris Caye.

Map of Belize (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

Depth: 16 - 115ft (5 - 35m)
Visibility: 33 - 82ft (10 - 25m)
Currents: None to gentle
Surface conditions: Mostly calm but can be choppy further from shore
Water temperature: 77 - 84°F (25 - 29°C)
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: >30
Distance: 25 miles (40 km) north northeast of Belize City
Recommended length of stay: 1 week

Useful References

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