Dive: Caye Caulker
Home to the second largest barrier reef in the world and with numerous small cayes just off the coast — Belize is a veritable aquarium under the surface swell. Eagle rays, reef sharks, dolphins, and moray eels and barracudas as big as your brother — it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed in these waters, in fact quite the opposite, I’m sure. Dive shops here don’t tend to be too competitive — all offer the same trips more or less for the same price. Finding one that suits your tastes is the best bet around here. However, if you came here with intentions of completing PADI courses, you may want to think twice. Citing increases in fuel prices and PADI course material, an Open Water Diver course on Caye Caulker now costs $450usd. Pretty unfathomable when you can complete the same course in Honduras for under $300usd.
There are more than a few shops to check out once on the island — Frenchie’s and Belize Diving Services being the two largest outfits, along with Big Fish and Scuba Sensations. Scuba Sensations is more or less a one-man show who does dives and courses on an as needed basis, for this the shop makes for great custom trips and a personalized experience.
The Blue Hole dive trip is the best deal you’ll get on the island. For $250usd you get three dives — one at the hole, one at Half Moon Caye and one at Long Caye. You’ll probably stop off at Half Moon Caye to have lunch and explore a bit. There is a red-footed booby and magnificent frigate bird sanctuary at one end and hermit crabs the size of your head throughout.
The Blue Hole dive, as you’ll surely hear from fellow divers along your journey, will likely not be the highlight of your SCUBA career, but the whole trip package is an undeniable pleasure (lunch and rum punch included). After the short, less than 30 minute, Blue Hole dive where you reach maximum depth of 40m you head over to the reef systems not far off. In the hole you can expect to see reef sharks gliding in and out of the deep dark abyss, some stalactite and cave formations and not much else. On the reefs you’ll see reef sharks and everything else. Halfmoon Caye has a great wall that drops off into depths that would shame the Blue Hole. Here there is a friendly neighborhood of barracudas, rays, sharks, large groupers and every little fish in between. The Long Caye site is equally impressive with all sorts of the marine life and incredible coral formations you were missing in the hole.
The boat ride from Caye Caulker to the hole is just around two hours and can be rough depending on the weather. And keep your eyes peeled for pods of dolphins in the deep blue — we were fortunate to be joined by a pod of somewhere near 100 dolphins frolicking in our wake on the ride home.
And if you don’t have the time, interest or money to devote to the Blue Hole dive, Esmeralda is another fantastic site to chalk up a couple fun dives in your logbook.