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Turneffe Reef

One of Belize's Top Diving Destinations

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...Highlights: turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Turneffe Atoll's diving environment: healthy reefs, wall diving, beginner & advanced divers...

Designated a marine reserve in 2012 and considered by most to have the best resort-based diving in Belize, Turneffe Island is on all of the liveaboard routes and hosts a small number of picturesque dive resorts that allow scuba diving from your doorstep.

Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most visually spectacular of Belize's 3 atolls, unique in the Caribbean. The 400+ islets are mostly covered in dense mangroves interspersed with shallow lagoons, feeding the surrounding waters with a nutrient rich soup. Many of the dive sites act as spawning sites for reef fish as the lagoons and mangrove shallows offer good protection for juvenile fish. For this reason, the marine biodiversity is unmatched in this region. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions for Turneffe

Blackbird Caye - This mid-east coast section of Turneffe Atoll has a deep wall that starts at around 45 ft (15m) and drops down to the sea floor thousands of feet below. In some places the wall starts much deeper than this. Then on the top of wall there will be either a coral garden with sand chutes or a sandy floor area.

One of the best wall dives in the area is Chinaman's Wall. Typically, you'll descend down the wall to 70 to 80ft (20-25m). Here you'll see the wall adorned with vase and yellow tube sponges, sea fans, and crevices with lobsters, arrow crabs and goldentail morays. Eagle rays glide by in the blue, blacktip sharks roam the depths, dog and red snapper, Nassau and black grouper congregate in the recesses and ledges. Large barracuda often appear as if from nowhere in search of stray blue chromis or black durgeons that inhabit the zone close to the wall. Show more

How to Dive Turneffe Island

For more information on your diving options, and all the other travel information you might need to visit here, read our Turneffe Atoll dive resort or Belize liveaboard section.

Away from the tourist crowds of Ambergris Caye, the small and serene Turneffe dive resorts allow you to relax and unwind among a stunning natural setting with great diving just a short boat ride away. Alternatively, all of our high quality Belize liveaboards visit the atoll.

The east and west sides of Turneffe's islands, from north to south, each offer something different so there is plenty of variety to satisfy most visiting divers at the atoll. The east coast sites are dived when conditions allow, and the west coast sites are visited when the swells on the east and south coast pick up.

Turneffe Atoll Diving Season

From November through February, the northerly winds can blow in to Turneffe, bringing with them cooler weather. The stronger gusty periods can force divers to switch to the leeward south side and east coast of the atolls. Surge can also be present if the winds are particularly strong, but dives are very rarely cancelled as there are so many sites to choose from. Water temperatures drop to 78-80°F (26-27°C) during these months and visibility is around 80ft (25m).

From March through October the easterly trade winds blow, making the leeward west coasts of the atoll the favored diving locations when the winds are strong. Temperatures now average 84°F (29°C). During the dry season from March through May the visibility can reach 100+ft (30+m). From June through November (rainy season) the rains can at times force murky water out of the lagoons and visibility drops to 50ft (15m).

The Elbow is a favored spot for fish to spawn. Mar/April/May is the time for mutton snappers, January for black groupers and tiger groupers. Lots of these fish congregate off the wall during these times. In May/June/July horse eye jacks also use the Elbow, as well as Jo-Jo's and Chrissea, for spawning.

Jo-Jo's and Calabash Island are favored love spots for some reef fish species. In July, hundreds of ocean triggerfish take over the entire reef and they protect their nests from other reef fish. February/March sees the turn of blue tangs to spawn. You can see masses of them at the Calabash dive sites in the afternoons.

Over at Mid Point on the west coast, dog snapper spawn in May/June/July.

July/August is loggerhead turtle nesting time at Turneffe Island so will see more of them in the water during this time. Pilot whales and killer whales migrate through the area from March through June.

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Where is Turneffe Atoll and How Do I Get There?

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

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

Reef Summary

Depth: 16 - >130ft (5 - >40m)
Visibility: 50 - 130ft (15 - 40m)
Currents: None to gentle (The Elbow can be moderate)
Surface conditions: Calm on the west can be rough on the east
Water temperature: 79 - 84°F (26 - 29°C)
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~70
Distance: 19 miles (30 km) east of Belize City
Recommended length of stay: 1 week

Useful References

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