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Belize
Belize, a stunning central American country, nestles between Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the West and Honduras to the South. A thin strip of a country of lush rainforest and rugged, pine-covered mountains. Rich in cultural heritage, Belize, like all Latin American countries that flank the Caribbean, is a million miles from your atypical Caribbean destination.

For over a thousand years the Maya built up civilisations of astounding beauty and intricacy among the forests and along the rivers of Belize; the magnificent temples of Altun Ha and Caracol are testament to the skills and artistry of these people. Today the descendants of this civilisation stand proudly as both Belizeans and as Maya.

The low-lying coastal plain of Belize is a maze of waterways and swamps resplendent with the cries of egrets and the chattering of insects; mangroves flank the shoreline near estuaries. Out from the coast the sea is studded with forested islands surrounded by pure white beaches. These islands mark the edge of the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest reef system in the Western Hemisphere. A broken stretch of reef runs down the entire length of Belize, starting at Ambergris Cay in the North and finishing at the Sapodilla Cays in the South.

Beyond the Barrier Reef lie 3 of only 4 true coral atolls in the Caribbean, Turneffe Island Reef, Glovers Reef and Lighthouse Reef. These oval reefs rise to the surface, exposed at low tide, with a central lagoon perhaps 50ft deep. The sandy lagoon floor, interspersed with coral heads, reflects the light upwards, giving the water a wonderful turquoise luminescence. Protected by the outer reefs, the lagoons offer calm protected waters. The outer walls of these atolls drop into the deep abyss of the Western Caribbean, sometimes vertically and sometimes in a stepped pattern, with sand gullies and tongue-and-groove formations providing ideal habitats for fish, corals and the occasional resting spot for a sleepy nurse shark! The finest diving in Belize is on these outer atolls, where optimum conditions for prolific coral growth can be found. The clear waters are teeming with wrasse, snapper, barracuda, French angelfish and the occasional eagle ray or manta rays swoops past the coral and sponge covered reefs.

For many the highlight of a trip to Belize is to dive the Great Blue Hole, in the centre of Lighthouse Reef's lagoon. At some point in the distant past the roof of a massive under ground cave collapsed, leaving behind an almost circular hole in the sea bed. At a depth of 80-120ft massive stalactites hang down, encrusted with algae and weed. The cool green water offers limited visibility compared with the clear reefs outside, and a torch is essential to see the stalactites in all their majesty. For us, the highlight is swimming and diving with Honey, an exceedingly friendly dolphin who is happy to tag along for an entire dive. Her playfulness is a delight, and she is very photogenic!

Because the best diving is on the remote reefs that are inaccessible from the mainland, another fine way to dive them is from a live-aboard dive vessel. We offer two, the Belize Aggressor III and the Sun Dancer. Each offers a similar 7-night itinerary from Saturday to Saturday, with approximately 5½ days diving on Belize's atolls. These boats allow access to Turneffe Island, Lighthouse Reef and, when the weather allows, Glover's Reef.

For those who enojy their diving from the comfort of a hotel we recommend Lighthouse Reef Resort, an exclusive property on Lighthouse Reef.


 
 

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