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. On Sunday, the Royal couple spent time diving at South Water Caye and marveled at colorful colors, exotic reef fish, and even a friendly nurse shark as posted to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official Instagram account. The 15-acre coral island is found within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR), Belize’s second-largest marine reserve at 117,875 acres; the SWCMR is one-seventh of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, its UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cambridges got up close and personal to see, first-hand, Belize’s efforts towards marine conservation.
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In 2015, the Telegraph reported that the Duchess of Cambridge passed a qualifying test to become an Advanced Open Water Diver, the second-highest ranking a recreational diver can achieve. Prince William, an extensively experienced diver, became the third generation of the royal family to become president of the British Sub-Aqua Club eight years ago. At one point during the video, the royal couple gives each other the “OK” symbol as they swim side-by-side.
As reported by the Evening Standard, a Palace source said Kate and William were requested to go diving at the reef by the government of Belize, which was keen for them to see the marine conservation they are working on. Royal family photographer Matt Porteous, who was traveling with the couple, is a highly accomplished underwater photographer who says that his career began with a “yellow underwater Minolta”. Examples of his ocean-related work can be seen here.
“You are world leaders for protecting your natural heritage.”
While the effects of climate change are evident, the Government of Belize and communities across the country deserve huge recognition for their efforts to restore this incredible marine environment—with a commitment to protect 30% of it by 2030.
It was a privilege to see for ourselves the world-leading ocean conservation work being done here.
– Prince William during his speech at the Governor General’s Reception in Belize on March 21, 2022.
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As tempting as it is teeming, Belize’s underwater wonders are bathed in near year-round sunshine with plenty to boast: UNESCO-attested, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS) cuddles its 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 soon-to-be planned wreck dive, and you’ve barely scratched the surface of diving Belize’s reef system. Fit for British royalty, the Belize Barrier reef is a marvel to witness underwater.
Pulling out from the river mouth of Dangriga, the culturally rich fishing town on Belize’s Southern coast, the captain pulls the engine. The metallic percussion of punta rock from a dockside bar and shouts of fishermen cleaning their catch give way to a cottony silence as the Yamaha four-stroke outboard engine hums head-on into the channel. Dangriga’s unpainted cement buildings and beachside palapas slowly melt into the coast, putting 14 miles between it and South Water Caye. Sitting directly atop the reef in the country’s largest marine reserve, the island floats into view, as if corals had risen directly from the deep. Trailed by salt spray, it’s a feast for the eyes meant to be savored on island time: slowly.
William and Kate dived right into the festivities in Belize besides scuba diving, like training for jungle survival, conquering the climb of ancient Maya temples, sampling Mayan chocolate, and dancing to the beat of Garifuna drums. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are making the trip on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as she celebrates her historic Platinum Jubilee—70 years on the throne. In addition to meeting “a wide variety of people from each country,” the two will also promote “a number of themes that are close to Their Royal Highnesses’ heart[s],” including mental health and early childhood development, per the royal family’s Instagram.
Prince William and Kate left Belize on March 22, and are currently in Jamaica.