Belize is home to some of the Caribbean’s best snorkeling sites, without a doubt. With the second largest barrier reef system in the world starting just 1,000 feet of the country’s shoreline and extending for over 190 miles—the entire length of Belize, it should come as no surprise.
Belize City is the main port for the country, despite not being the capital city. This coastal city hosts the country’s primary airport, Philip SW Goldson International Airport, (BZE), and is also the jumping-off point for all snorkeling excursions to the great Belize Barrier Reef. While there are many smaller atolls, cays, and hundreds of islands within this massive reef system, there are three large atolls that sit just east of the main barrier reef where nearly all the snorkeling will take place. Liveaboard snorkeling safaris will primarily concentrate their time around the Glovers and Turneffe Atoll, while resort snorkeling safaris will spend their time around Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef. Lighthouse reef is where the famous Blue Hole is located.
Snorkeling in Belize
Snorkeling in Belize, regardless of the Atoll you are on, is the quintessential Caribbean snorkeling experience. Clear warm water with patches of pristine white sand intricately framing and wrapping around an undulating network of shelves, plateaus, slopes, and valleys plastered with brightly colored corals, fans, and sponges. Not to mention plenty of critters and schools of fish to gawk at as you float above this surreal landscape.
The coral is absolutely exquisite in Belize, and at low tide parts of it will even breach the surface. Some reefs will be largely made up of expansive fields of hard coral colonies where the famous brain corals and elk-horn coral can be seen all over the place. Other reefs will be dominated by sea fans and sponges. The sheer abundance and color variation of the sea fans in Belize is particularly astonishing as the landscape is almost entirely made up of layers upon layers of these beautiful sea fans. Then, of course there are those reefs that have a healthy mixture of both hard corals as well as the brilliant sea fans and sponges. To have such a collection of vibrant and healthy reefs at depths ranging from a few inches to several feet really makes Belize one of the world’s top snorkeling destinations.
Currents really aren’t something snorkelers need to worry about around Belize. Even around the full or new moon—when currents are typically their strongest, the current is still very manageable and will make for a gentle drift snorkel at the very most. On all of our snorkeling safaris we always make sure to give the snorkeling guests a full briefing about the site and which way the current is running, if any. We always snorkel with the current, never against it.
The Belize Barrier Reef is an area rich with life big and small. In the very shallows around the coral heads you’re likely to see a variety of the smaller tropical Caribbean reef fish like yellowtail damsels, barred hamlets, and a couple different species of juvenile angelfish. A bit deeper, hiding beneath the coral heads you’re likely to find large lobsters, adult angelfish, schools of grunts, and nurse sharks.
Many of the reefs have patches of sand or a sandy fringe where larger southern stingrays and their smaller more ornate cousins—the yellow stingray can be found resting. This is also a great place to find spotted eagle rays as they hunt for crustaceans and mollusks living under the sand. At night it’s a completely different story, species that were typically hiding in the day like moray eels, octopus, nudibranchs, giant crabs & lobsters, and toadfish come out to hunt.
Likely Marine Life Encounters
Other Likely Encounters
Grey Angelfish • Queen Angelfish • Peacock Flounder • Green Moray Eel • Spotted Drum • Smooth Trunkfish • Spotted Scorpionfish • Trumpetfish • Southern Stingray • Yellow Stingray • Barjacks • Porcupinefish • Great Barracuda
Belize Snorkeling Season
While Belize can technically be snorkeled year-round, the best snorkeling and most predicable weather occur during the area’s dry season—from February until May. Winds are milder during these times, and rain is seldom. Air temperatures during the peak season are generally around 83f (28c) in the day and mid to lower seventies at night. Water temperatures are typically around 80f at this time of year.
Marine life encounters really don’t change too much throughout the year as most of the inhabitants aren’t a migratory species, ensuring us snorkelers the best chances for outstanding marine life interactions. On any one of our Belize snorkeling safaris you can expect to have beautiful reefs, lots of colorful reef fish, some schools of larger fish, eagle rays, turtles, nurse sharks, octopus, and so much more.
Snorkeling Holiday Examples
Logistically, Belize is a very easy place to run snorkeling safaris. Direct flights from the southern hubs in the United States are around 4 hours a the very longest, and the airport in Belize City is just twenty minutes from the pier where all the boats will depart from. The pier actually starts at a very nice hotel, the Radisson Fort George, which makes it very easy and comfortable for those guests arriving a day or more early to check-in and relax before the snorkeling excitement begins.
We offer two different types of snorkeling safaris to Belize, one option is to be based at a resort for the duration of the snorkeling safari, the other is via liveaboard—which we charter exclusively for Snorkel Venture guests. These are all group snorkeling safaris led by one of our experienced Snorkel Venture snorkeling guides. We do also offer a photo-centric tour via liveaboard where the Snorkel Venture guide is also an award-winning underwater photographer and will conduct daily seminars on underwater photography.
The liveaboard snorkeling safaris we run in Belize are one week long, and for the duration of that week we will be based on a beautiful and very reputable liveaboard, the Belize Aggressor III or Belize Aggressor IV. As with all of our liveaboard snorkeling safaris we charter the full boat just for us. In that week we will explore the areas around Glovers and Turneffe Atoll with at least three daily snorkeling sessions. We do usually end up offering four snorkels each day as many guests can’t get enough of the night snorkels! On the final day of the tour we only offer two snorkel sessions as we need time for our kit to dry and pack. As with just about all our snorkeling safaris, all meals, snorkeling, accommodation, and land excursions are included. On the Aggressor boats the beer, wine, and soft drinks are also included.
Our resort-based snorkeling safari with Turneffe Island Resort runs similar to the liveaboard safari, only now we are based on a tropical island in a very nice resort. Every day after breakfast we’ll jump on our own private snorkel boat complete with guides and head out for at least three different snorkels on three different sites. Night snorkels will also be offered. With this particular tour, we won’t be visiting Glover’s reef as it’s just too far to reach conveniently, however, we will spend a day snorkeling around the famous Lighthouse Reef as well as visiting the Blue Hole. The majority of the time spent snorkeling will be around the expansive Turneffe Atoll.