The Diver’s Guide to Belize in Covid Times

With daily flights from many North American cities, now is the time to enjoy world-famous dives and lush landscapes. Here’s our diver’s guide to Belize in Covid times.

With daily flights from many cities across North America, now is the time to enjoy Belize’s world-famous dives and forest-draped landscapes. Expect pristine coral reefs, mangroves, plunging walls, wrecks, and shark diving in warm, clear waters — all topped off with a generous helping of sunshine.

WHAT ARE THE COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY INTO BELIZE?

All travelers must provide an official vaccine card showing they have received a single or dual dose vaccine at least two weeks before arrival in Belize. If you cannot provide a vaccine card, you will need to show proof of an alternative negative test result. Details of acceptable COVID-19 tests are available on the Belize Tourism Board COVID-19 Update for Travelers.

If you don’t have proof of a negative test result, you will need to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. If you test positive at Belize international airport you will be placed in mandatory quarantine for a minimum of 14 days, at your expense.

WHAT ARE THE COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS FOR RE-ENTRY INTO THE USA?

Upon departure for the United States, all travelers (including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated travelers) are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before they board their flights to the U.S.

There are numerous Belize approved COVID-19 testing sites where you can get your pre-departure test done.

The CDC Belize guide outlines what to do after returning to the U.S., including when to self-isolate and when you may need a follow-up test.

WHAT IS THE COVID-19 SITUATION IN BELIZE?

Travelers are welcome in Belize, and you can move about freely so long as you comply with Belize’s COVID-19 safety measures.

According to Worldometer, Belize had 83 active cases as of May 24, 2021. According to the Reuters COVID-19 tracker as of the same day, there have been 12,764 infections and 323 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.

IS IT WORTH VISITING BELIZE? IS ANYTHING OPEN?

Belize in Covid times
Belize offers idyllic conditions topside and underwater (image courtesy Unsplash)

Yes! Businesses are open and Belize has created a new Tourism Gold Standard to keep you safe during your visit. This extensive program includes accommodations, tour operators, transport providers and more that are all certified and trained in enhanced health and safety measures. All of this means you can relax and enjoy exploring this gorgeous country.

WHAT YOU’LL SEE In BELIZE AND WHY IT’S WORTH IT

Belize in Covid times
Up close and personal in Belize (image courtesy Unsplash)

With over 400 idyllic islands and coral reefs stretching to the horizon, it’s no wonder Belize diving is so popular. This small destination packs a punch above and below the waterline for any adventurous traveler and has some of the most famous dive sites in the world.

With the longest unbroken barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and an abundance of dive destinations, there is something for every diver in Belize. New divers can enjoy shallow coral reefs while experienced divers get their thrills at the outer reefs and deeper dive sites. Take your pick from fringe, patch, and barrier reefs, plus coral atolls. Belize has it all and more.

One of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, Belize has no shortage of awesome marine life. Green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles are often cruise by divers, and the reefs are teeming with colorful reef fish, pelagics, and hundreds of coral and sponge species.

If you go diving in Belize around the full moons of December to March, you can also witness thousands of spawning Nassau groupers. These critically endangered fish are certainly an impressive sight, growing to over 3 feet (1 m) long and weighing up to 55 pounds (25 kilograms).

With consistently warm waters, diving in Belize is great year-round. But if you love whale sharks — and who doesn’t — make sure you visit Belize from April to June — especially at Gladden Spit, Placencia.

Ambergris Caye

 

diving Belize in Covid times
Ambergris Caye offers great diving and topside attractions (image courtesy Unsplash)

Diving in Ambergris Caye is a highlight of any dive trip to Belize and offers easy access to Belize’s world-famous dives. There are over 40 accessible dive sites dotted along the eastern side of the island, with lush coral gardens, deep canyons, swim-throughs and gently sloping sand flats.

It is also a perfect departure point to access the famous Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. 

Lighthouse Reef

Lighthouse Reef might be best-known for featuring the Great Blue Hole, but it is also an epic dive destination in its own right. There are numerous wrecks to explore, exciting walls and the popular Half Moon Caye. With crystal-clear waters, Caribbean reef sharks, stingrays and plenty of macro life, it is a great place to while away your days.

The Great Blue Hole
Belize Blue Hole
An aerial view of the Great Blue Hole

Belize blue hole diving is an experience not to be missed if you are an advanced diver. Just make sure you watch your gauges as you plunge into the seemingly endless depths.

At more than 1,000 feet (300 m) across and 400 feet (120 m) deep, you’ve got to see this dive site to believe it. As you descend into the depths, you’ll leave the coral-fringed rim behind and find yourself surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites.

A lack of light means there is little coral growth or fish to see at depth but the sharks appearing out of the dark more than make up for it.

Turneffe Atoll
diving Belize in Covid times
Expect abundant marine life (image courtesy Unsplash)

Turneffe Atoll is the most biodiverse of Belize’s outer islands and has over 200 cays with mangroves, lagoons and flats that host abundant fish life. There are big walls swathed in corals and the aptly named Aquarium dive site has numerous reef fish. If you love swift currents and big pelagics, don’t miss diving at The Elbow.

Whichever dive sites you choose at Turneffe Atoll, expect colorful reef life and passing sharks and sea turtles.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Another top Belize dive destination, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is packed with marine life and has interesting coral formations. It is one of the best places to go night diving in Belize and offers diving among beautiful coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests.

The Wreck dive site, a 30-foot-long (10 m) sunken barge, is great for rust fans and famous Shark Ray Alley is the place to go for swimming with numerous laidback nurse sharks.

Glover’s Reef

Make sure you leave time to dive at Glover’s Reef when you visit Belize. This unique dive destination has over 700 pristine patch reefs with an array of different dive sites. There are shallow areas perfect for new divers and an underwater cliff that plunges over 3,000 feet (900 m) at The Wall.

Gladden Spit, Placencia
diving Belize in Covid times
Whale sharks are seasonal visitors to Placencia (image courtesy Unsplash)

Gladden Spit hosts an unmissable wildlife phenomenon around the full moons of March to June each year. Thousands of fish spawn around Gladden Spit at those times, attracting numerous whale sharks to the area. It is one of the best places to go scuba diving with whale sharks in the Caribbean — don’t miss it!

Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.