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Snorkeling on a Belize vacation

Diving at Hamanasi

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Beneath the turquoise sea of Belize is an underwater world that exceeds every other Caribbean dive destination in diversity, size and scope. The total diving area is absolutely immense. More than 185 miles North to South, the Belize Barrier reef system is the greatest stretch of coral in the Western Hemisphere and encompasses a huge variety of coral reef including walls, pinnacles, spur and groove, swim-throughs and more. It gets even better because farther offshore are three enormous rings of coral known as atolls which provide hundreds of miles of additional reef dropping off into the deep blue.

Lighthouse Reef, the Turneffe Island Atoll and Glover's Reef Atoll together cover more than 400 square miles with a total of 140 miles of drop-off walls. Incredibly, these atolls comprise as much reef surface as the Belize barrier reef itself! These Belizean atolls, unlike Pacific atolls built on volcanoes, actually sit atop two parallel submarine ridges close enough to the surface to allow the formation of massive coral and sponge growths.

Southern Barrier Reef 

Hamanasi is ideally located and equipped to access all three atolls by day trips with the added bonus of having the pristine, Southern Barrier Reef in our front yard. These sites are typically wall drift dives interspersed with sand channels and adorned with multicolored sponges and gargonia corals. The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark, also visits our area during the months from April to June.

These trips will explore areas from just north of Tobacco Caye to a cut five miles south of South Water Caye called Grand Channel. The trip out to the Barrier Reef is ten miles and it takes 30-40 minutes to get to the first dive site. The pristine southern section of the Barrier Reef sees few divers and is typically a wall dive that is interspersed with sand channels and spur and groove sections. With literally dozens of dive sites Hamanasi Divemasters will show you a wide variety of this area.

You will rarely dive the same site twice. We often see turtles, moray eels, barracuda, king mackerel, eagle rays, southern stingrays, as well as several shark species. Hamanasi divers have seen during Barrier Reef dives Manta Rays, Hammerhead Sharks, Jew Fish and Dolphins up close. Some of our common dive sites include Jason's Wall, the Aquarium, South Cut, Carrie Bow Ridges, South Water Wall, Trick Ridge, Hell Hole, Little Blue Hole and The Abyss. On these trips we often stop by a "postcard" coral isle, such as Tobacco Caye or South Water Caye, perched right on the Barrier Reef.

Glover's Reef Atoll

In Southern Belize and directly offshore from Hamanasi is Glover's Reef Atoll. Named after the 17th century pirate John Glover, who used the remote islands as the base for his raids against Spanish galleons heading to and from the Bay Islands of Honduras, Glover's Reef is the most remote island group in the country. Rising out of the blue from a depth of well over 2,000 feet this well defined oval shaped coral formation surrounds more than 700 patch reefs inside its 100 square mile crystalline lagoon. Of the three atolls Glover's Reef sees the least amount of human contact and is largely unexplored. Come see for yourself why this atoll was recently designated a National Marine Reserve and, in 1997, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Located due east of our dock this remote island group probably best represents the incredible diversity and pure diving potential that Belize has to offer. We motor out sixteen miles past the barrier reef which takes us just over one hour to the first dive site. If visibility is good we like to dive a site called "The Pinacales" which has big coral heads rising up 40 feet or more from the bottom. Our second and third dives are on the East side of the Atol where the water depth quickly drops off to more than 2000 feet and visibility is usually over 100 feet.

We dive several sites on this side of the Atoll and allways dive Long Caye Wall; a world class dive that is always memorable. We drop onto a big field of bright white sand at 40 feet, home to southern stingrays and garden eels. While descending you can spot eels slowly dropping into their holes. As you approach the wall running the length of the sandy area it looks like the coral is growing out of the sand bottom in big chunks. Just as you crest the wall the sand appears to be running like small rivers down through the coral into mini canyons. With the usual 100+ feet visibility the view down the wall gives the impression of limitless space. In reality, the wall is a 2000+ foot drop-off into the deep blue. We follow the top of the wall and explore the sand channels exploding with fish and marine life.

Turneffe Islands Atoll 

The Turneffe Islands Atoll is the largest of the trio and also the closest from the Belize coastline. Here you will find an area dominated by purely mangrove islands. These mangrove ranges, both offshore and coastal, make Belize diving so special as they are the nurseries on which almost all marine life depend to insure juvenile protection and biological productivity. Although the atoll is best known for its walls, there are many shallow sea gardens and bright sand flats inside the reef excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving. Undoubtedly, the highlight of Turneffe Islands diving is a spot called the Elbow located at the extreme southern tip of the atoll. Here at the convergence of several ocean currents you may dive through enormous schools of permit, snappers, eagle rays, Atlantic spadefish, grouper and jacks numbering at times in the thousands.

On the next two dives we experience sheer walls for which Turneffe is famous. It is common to see moray eels, turtles, rays, big barrel sponges and large coral formations while drifting along over the edge of the abyss. We usually end our trip with the shipwreck site Sayonara. It is a broken wreck sitting at less than 60 feet depth on top of a steep wall. This site has a proliferation of fish and big coral formations including swim-throughs.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll

Lighthouse Reef Atoll is known worldwide in SCUBA Diving circles for its spectacular diving, but it is most famous for a site called the Great Blue Hole. Originally, a cave whose roof collapsed thousands of years ago and filled with water, the Blue Hole forms a perfect 1,000 foot diameter circle on the surface then plunges vertically to a depth of 430 feet.  Also at Lighthouse Reef you will find Half Moon Caye, a National Park managed by the Belize Audubon Society. Half Moon Caye is home to a bird colony of rare Red Footed Boobies that can be observed up close by visitors. This Atoll is 50 miles out to sea and is the furthest out of the Belize Atolls. Hamanasi offers dive and snorkel day trips to Lighthouse Reef.

We start this trip bright and early and head 50 miles offshore to the Great Blue Hole, which takes approximately 2.5 hours. Once there you can go down 130 feet to view the largest underwater dripstones on the planet. We have two Blue Hole dive profiles. Only Advance Open Water Divers and well experienced, comfortable divers will be permitted to dive to 130 feet. Other divers will enjoy a comfortable, 60-foot Blue Hole dive.

Snorkelers can enjoy the rich shallow reef around the edges of the Blue Hole before we head a short distance to Half Moon Caye Bird Sanctuary. Located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef, Half Moon Caye has some of Belize's best snorkeling, clearest waters and finest beaches. This 45-acre island managed by the Belize Audubon Society was declared a natural monument in 1981, largely because of its Hawk's Bill and Loggerhead turtle nesting sites, as well as its 4,000 red footed boobies. These rare birds are a glistening white color with bright red webbed feet. The birds nest in the heavily wooded west end of the island where there is a viewing platform allowing visitors an unbelievable view of both the reefs and the trees covered with booby and frigate birds.

Our second dive explores the Half Moon Caye wall, a unique topography of swim-through channels. Immense coral buttresses are decorated with black corals, gargonia, sea whips and a variety of brightly colored sponges, as well as a profusion of reef fish and cruising pelagics. Divers then return to Half Moon Caye for a wonderful picnic lunch and a relaxing surface interval before heading out to Long Caye Wall for our 3rd and final dive and snorkeling site. Perched on the edge of the cobalt blue abyss Long Caye Wall starts in only 15-20 feet of water before plummeting downward. This site offers what is arguably some of Belize's most prolific and high energy diving. We then depart for our 2-hour journey home with the wind at our back and the sun setting over the Maya Mountains before us.

Whale Shark Trip

On the Southern Barrier reef just over one hour from Hamanasi is Gladden's Spit, where the largest fish in the sea, the whale sharks, come during the week of the full moon in April, May and June. This special place has a steep sandy bank pushing out into very deep sea. On an ordinary day one can see large schools of jacks or snappers and visibility is well over 100 feet. But during the full moon phases in April, May and June of each year Gladden's Spit has no ordinary days. Each year during the full moon Mutton and Cuberra snapper spawn here. The giant whale sharks come from far away to feed on the spawn and to mate. It is common on this dive to see schools of snapper in the thousands with whale sharks passing through them. Divers will likely see these majestic creatures very close but they are not allowed to chase, ride, touch or otherwise disturb the Whale Sharks. These dives are very popular. Book your vacation in advance to see Whale Sharks with Hamanasi!

Belize is one of the world's top dive destinations! With Hamanasi you will experience Belize's best diving combined with our personal service touch. Our professional, PADI certified staff will help you explore miles of the pristine Southern Barrier Reef, and three of the Caribbean's four Atolls. We dive Glover's Reef, Southern Reef walls, Turneffe Atoll, Lighthouse Reef, the Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye, the Elbow and more. Non-divers also can enjoy life on the water. We cater to fishing and snorkeling enthusiasts, too!

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