Scuba Diving Belize
If you are looking for a little more action than Caye Caulker offers but still want access to the same dive sites , Ambergris Belize may be for you.
Similar to what I said in my write-up about scuba diving in Caye Caulker, while Ambergris has beaches, I wouldn't come here if what you want to do all day is hang out on a beautiful beach. Similar to Caye Caulker, the beaches are not all that great, IMHO. There are much nicer beaches in the Caribbean if that is what you are looking for.
There are 8-10,000 or so Belizeans living on Ambergris. More and more foreigners are buying places here so the gringo population increases the count while they are in residence.
The town on Amergris Caye is San Pedro. San Pedro lies near the southern tip and most of the population lives in or near town.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye has 3 main roads that run parallel to the beach and reef. They have more tourist oriented names now but many of the locals still call them by their old names. The 3 main streets are Barrier Reef Drive (Front Street), Pescador Drive (Middle Street) and Angel Coral Drive (Back Street).
To get a satellite overview and see the island, take a look at our Ambergris Caye maps.
When we first went scuba diving Belize Ambergris Caye it was all packed sand roads. On our last visit they were laying down paving stones on the main roads and are probably done by now. I guess some would call it progress.
The barrier reef lies just offshore from Ambergris. It is about a half mile east from the shore so boat rides to most dive sites are short.
Ambergris Caye is located about 35 miles northeast of Belize City and 11 miles north of Caye Caulker.
There is airport on the island with several flights a day from Belize City (Maya Island Air and Tropic Air). The flight is short, about 20 minutes, but beautiful. You can also reach Ambergris via water taxi from Belize City (or Caye Caulker). This is how we went. The ride from Belize City is about 75 minutes and is a fun way to get the island.
(You might want to check out our #1 tip for cheap airfare to the Caribbean as well as our other tips for cheap airfare to help make your trip more affordable. You may also find our discussion on different types of scuba dive vacations helpful also if you plan on scuba diving Belize Ambergris Caye.)
Since it is only 11 miles from Caye Caulker, the 2 islands have the same weather pattern.
The average daytime temperature during the summer months is typically around the mid to high 80's F with temperatures in the 90's F not that uncommon. Things cool off a bit in the winter months with average temperatures closer to around 80F.
Belize and Ambergris Caye have a rainy season from June to November with the most rainfall occurring in the September-November timeframe. The island does get hit by hurricanes during the hurricane season (June-November also).
According to hurricanecity.com the island is affected about every 4 years on average. Direct hits are about once every 15 years or so. So not as bad as some other Caribbean islands.
It warms up a bit starting around April-May with temperatures from May-October in the 80-85F degree range. So if you go to dive Belize, you should be pretty comfortable underwater.
My husband and I don't tend to get cold easily so many times we will just wear a skin when we dive Belize. If you tend to get cold 2mm shorties or 3mm full scuba diving wetsuits should be more than sufficient depending on your comfort level. Scuba diving Belize Ambergris Caye - no drysuits needed here!
However, there are many places to go scuba diving in Belize. To the east of the barrier reef, there are 3 atolls which are popular spots for diving. These are the Lighthouse Reef, Glovers Reef and Turneffe Reef.
If you go just out to the reef, some dive sites are less than a 10 minute ride away. One of the most popular spots for scuba diving Belize Ambergris Caye is within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve which lies less than 5 miles from San Pedro.
Dive shops on Ambergris Caye also offer scuba diving trips out to Turneffe Reef and the Blue Hole. These are much further out (and, accordingly, cost more) and entail a longer ride. Our ride to Turneffe Reef took about an hour over some rough seas. A bumpy, rainy, uncomfortable ride. If you go, hopefully you will have better weather.
Well, I hate to say it, but we have been scuba diving in Belize off of both Ambergris and Caye Caulker and have not yet dove the Blue Hole. We signed up for it 3 times while we were in Caye Caulker but it kept getting canceled because not enough people were signed up to go. We even tried one day to go with a dive shop from Ambergris but noone was going out that day.
You know what happened, of course. The day we were leaving Caye Caulker was the day there was enough people to go to the Blue Hole. Guess we just have to go back.
If you do dive the Blue Hole, which is located in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, expect a boat ride of about 2 hours.
While we were there we did many type of scuba diving - reef dives, wall dives, a wreck dive. There are lots of canyons that form great swim thrus. We saw a large variety of marine life during our diving. Sharks were a common sighting on a few of the dives. We also saw octopus, shrimp, lobster, eels, rays and much more.
The visibility is typically in the 50-100 foot range. During out last trip there (in March) our average visibility was about 70 feet.
All in all, I would rate diving here as good+ to very good. Considering the variety of diving you can do, the short boat rides, the marine life encountered and the topside atmosphere, a dive trip to Ambergris is something I will definitely do again.
But Ambergris does have shopping and nightlife, especially compared to its more laid back sister island of Caye Caulker. So you can wander the streets and shops during your off hours. Don't expect Fifth Avenue, but you take what you can get.
After we finished our scuba diving on Ambergris and were waiting to fly, we took a day tour. You go by boat and go up a river on the mainland and then are transported to Altun Ha, a Mayan ruin site. On the way back we stopped at a jungle spa for some lunch and massages. A great way to end a scuba diving trip.
Here are some books you might want to take a look at to help plan your Belize vacation. The Belize Survivor book is a little different but looks fascinating and gets rave reviews. I'll be ordering it:
Photos by Jon Wiley and Geoff and Ana-Maria. Thanks!
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