Visitors travel from around the globe to experience the underwater world of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-longest reef system in the world and the largest reef system in the Western Hemisphere.
The key draw of any reef structure is scuba diving, and with portions of the reef coming within 2 miles of Ambergris Caye, this Belize island has developed into a top destination for both new and experienced divers alike.
Sea Life of the Reef System
Like most other tropical reefs, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to some of the most unique and rare species in the world. Among the hard corals and shellfish, you can expect to see groupers, angelfish, blue tangs, trumpet fish and thousands more species spread throughout the reef system.
Diving on Ambergris Caye provides some of the best viewing opportunities for whale sharks, large stingrays, manta rays and spotted eagle rays. The area is also known for the occasional sighting of hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip shark and Caribbean reef sharks.
Visit the Marine Reserve
One of the most popular areas for scuba divers near Ambergris Caye is Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Located only 4 miles from the city of San Pedro, the Hol Chan Reserve is a marine sanctuary that was established in 1987 to help protect the unique sea life in the area as well as help rebound the dwindling population of endangered aquatic species in the area.
Under this protection, the area has exploded with life over an area of 3 square miles, creating the perfect conditions for both deep-sea diving and snorkeling. The reserve is based around a large cut in the reef measuring about 25 to 35-feet deep called the Hol Chan. The environment created by this cut is prime for spotting unique fish species such as royal fairy basslets, and it provides a home for one of the most expansive populations of large moray eels, some of which are as long as 6 feet.
Getting to the Reef
Much of the reef system is easily accessible by boat from Ambergris Caye. To reach the Hol Chan Reserve, you will most likely need to book a tour or guide boat to reach the dive area. Boats and guides can be hired either out of San Pedro or Caye Caulker. Costs vary based on factors like the services provided by the guides and your level of diving experience. The San Pedro Hol Chan visitor center on Caribena Street is an additional, excellent resource for learning about the reef system and how to explore its many wonders.