Scuba Diving in Belize
Belize is a small nation found on the eastern coast of Central America. It has a coastline towards the Caribbean Sea, and tourists – especially scuba diving tourists – are very important for the national economy. According to the Belize government, an impressive 60 percent of the country is either a natural park or protected area or to become one. Belize borders to Mexico and Guatemala, with Honduras no more than 75 km (47 miles) away. Belize used to be a British colony and still recognises Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign. It is however an independent nation since 1981. The currency is Belize Dollars. English is still the official language and most citizens speak some English or Creole English even if it is not their first language. The climate is tropical, with a rainy season stretching from May to November. Be aware that hurricanes sometimes plague the area during hurricane season.
At the Belizean coast you will find the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. It is actually the second longest in the whole world, only the Great Barrier Reef outside Australia is longer. In addition to the big islands in the Belize archipelago there are also hundreds of smaller ones and three big coral atolls.
The most popular offshore diving destination is Ambergris Caye, the largest and most northerly located of the cayes. There are more than 20 miles (32 km) of barrier reef running parallel to the island, with more than 40 well-reputed dive sites. This is where you find the Hol Chan Marine Park, Belize’s first marine sanctuary. Stingrays and nurse sharks thrive in the parks famous Shark-Ray Alley. The Amigo Ship was recently sunk right outside the park to form a new diving attraction, and has already started to attract marine life.
Belize most legendary dive site is the Great Blue Hole. It was discovered by Belize fishermen and Jacques Cousteau explored it during the 1970’s. Before the explorations nobody knew how deep the hole was, and the local folklore is filled with tales of the bottomless pit and the horrendous sea monsters who dwell there. We now know that the maximum depth is 412 feet (126 metres) and that the hole is filled with breathtakingly beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. No sea monsters have been encountered so far, except for some big sharks. The Blue Hole has an impressive history, dating back 15,000 years. This was the time of one of the great ice ages, and the glaciers in the north consisted of so much water that the sea level around what is today Belize was 350 feet (107 metres) lower than today. The limestone became exposed and freshwater began to flow through it. Limestone is a soft material and the freshwater created large, underground caverns. The Great Blue Hole is one of these ancient caverns, but unlike the others the Great Blue Hole is no longer hidden, since it collapsed at some point in history, creating a huge underwater sinkhole instead of a cavern. You can easy distinguish the Great Blue Hole if you fly over the area, since it looks like a perfectly circular deep blue spot in the otherwise aquamarine waters.
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