Belize named Leading Dive Destination by reputable World Travel Awards

by Carolee Chanona
diving shark belize Hamanasi guest- Lorenzo Ballarin

They say good things come in small packages, and the world knows it: Belize has just been named the Leading Dive Destination in the World Travel Awards! In its 29th year, the authoritative awards ceremony took place in Jamaica earlier this week at a reportedly rowdy ceremony where some of the travel industry’s leading figures celebrated the proposed upper echelon of travel right now, from leading hotels and airlines to hospitality experiences and cities themselves. South America, North America, Central America, and the Caribbean were each given their own categories, and Belize takes home the bragging rights for Central America & Mexico. This is no easy feat either: the World Travel Awards has long been known for having one of the most experienced (and hard-to-please) panels in the industry.

About Diving in Belize

Image via Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort

UNESCO-attested, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System cuddles the coast for 185 miles as the largest reef complex in the Atlantic-Caribbean region. Within, the seven protected areas constituting the BBRRS comprises 12% of the entire Reef Complex. For those that seek a slice of sunken magnetism—discovered on an oxygen tank—think heart-pumping drift sites, mind-blowing macro critter action, caves and caverns, a planned wreck dive, and you’ve barely scratched the surface of diving Belize’s atolls.

It’s also practically endorsed by royalty too—Prince William and Kate made a splash with their surprise video of scuba diving the Belize Barrier Reef while visiting the country on their first official visit to the Caribbean. During their visit to Belize in March 2022, Prince William shared, “It was a privilege to see for ourselves the world-leading ocean conservation work being done here.”

Where To Dive in Belize

Snorkeling Laughing Bird Caye with Splash Dive Center. Image courtesy Splash

Endowed with three of the Western Hemisphere’s four total atolls, Belize’s reef is a pillar of marine flora and fauna for the region. Not to mention, Belize also boasts the Great Blue Hole—a giant sinkhole filled with cobalt blue depths of up to 410 feet.

Turneffe Reef Atoll
diving belize turneffe atoll

Turneffe Reef Atoll. Photo by Duarte Dellarole

As the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Americas, the necklace of coral within Turneffe Reef Atoll (TRA) offers 131,690 (protected) hectares bursting with brilliantly giant coral sponges and natural nurseries of exotic tropical fish for one of Belize’s most lucrative dive spots.

Glover’s Reef Atoll
glovers reef atoll belize reopens

Aerial of islands inside Glover’s Reef Atoll. Photo by Our Travel Tips

Lying like a string of pearls in a blue sea, the southernmost Glover’s Reef Atoll (GRA) exemplifies pristine diving inside Belize’s best-formed atoll at 16 miles long and 7 miles wide. Find more than 700 pristine patch reefs brimming with the richest variety of marine life in the Caribbean—from the delicate fan coral and spiny urchin to the colorful stoplight parrotfish and elegant spotted eagle stingray by the score.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll
HMC aerial by Belize Audubon Society 5

Half Moon Caye and a glimpse of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Image by Belize Audubon Society

Further east, Lighthouse Reef Atoll (LHRA) is likely Belize’s most visited, thanks to the allure of the legendary Great Blue Hole and its (seemingly) bottomless abyss. Besides abundant critters and inquisitive Reef Sharks, LHRA’s steep dive walls—adorned with riotously colorful reef gardens—are a consistent favorite of both longtime divers and complete novices.

Great Blue Hole

Located within Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole Natural Monument is Belize’s most iconic image. Giant stalactites, dripstone sheets, and limestone columns (all scientific proof that the cavern formed above sea level) are now inhabited by inquisitive Caribbean Reef Sharks and Black Groupers. Descending through its thermocline is an expedition into darkness. The limestone wall is a calming reference as you slowly sink to the recreational diving limit of 130 feet. Here, an eerie hue of dusky cobalt illuminates greyscale columns carved by erosion during the last ice age. In just a few minutes of immersion, it becomes impossible not to be in awe of nature’s handiwork.

Who To Dive With

Dive in to a new experience with Belize. Image via Ray Caye

Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort – Hopkins

This locally-run, exclusively-priced resort also doubles as a PADI 5-Star Resort; besides, divers have prime access to a spectacular underwater world home to whale sharks, eagle rays, and manatees on the Southern Belize Barrier Reef.  

Splash Dive Center – Placencia

As the largest dive center in Southern Belize, Splash Dive Center is a PADI 5-Star Resort that boasts five boats and schedules multiple daily destinations from its base in Placencia Village.

Chuck & Robbie’s – Ambergris Caye 

Offering Scuba Diving instruction and certification through either SSI or PADI, Chuck & Robbie’s makes 20 years in service this year.

Frenchie’s Diving – Caye Caulker 

Frenchie’s Diving has been offering diving services in Belize since 1981 and is locally owned, with 3 Instructors and 7 dive masters on staff.

Sea Sports Belize – Belize City 

With over 25 years of experience, Sea Sports Belize is a great option for centrally based divers from their Belize City base.

Blue Marlin Beach Resort – South Water Caye Marine Reserve

The Blue Marlin Beach Resort operates as a full-service PADI dive resort (R-2354), conveniently located in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Belize—a diver’s ultimate playground.

Ray Caye – Offshore Placencia 

Ray Caye is one of the most accessible private islands off the mainland, so whether you intend to bring your own gear or borrow it from Ray Caye’s extensive inventory, you’re assured proper guidance, and sustenance on long outings, certification training, or lessons.

Header image: Hamanasi guest Lorenzo Ballarin dives with a nurse shark in Belize. Image via Lorenzo Ballarin/Hamanasi.

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