Snorkelling Day Trip (out of Hopkins)
(advanced booking, cash on the day only)
We often use Lloyd Nunez, a Hopkins local, for our island/snorkelling trips. He has a small, open boat and will take 2 to 6 people out to a small private caye for the day with snorkel equipment (about an hour trip each way).
You need to provide whatever food and drink you require (and a bottle opener!) and your personal clothing/sunscreen etc and he will take care of the rest. We have a large cooler you can borrow.
He charges between $280US and $375US for the day depending on the time of year, gas prices, number of trippers and how long you want to stay out there. You will get extra love from Lloyd if you supply him with refreshments too.
You, your lunch and drinks need to get to Hopkins by a prearranged time: the earlier the better to take advantage of the morning calm seas.
Make sure you have the cash with you- there is no ATM in Hopkins.
Take sunscreen, a hat and a couple of towels each, plus a spare t-shirt to snorkel in (so easy to burn when you’re distracted by fish).
There’s a bathroom on the island, but take paper just in case.
The Famous Great Blue Hole
What is the Blue Hole?
It’s a specular sight from the air. From a boat… not so much
Where is it?
It is 50 mile boat ride away from the popular Cayes: 2hrs 30 mins from San Pedro and Caye Caulker
How to see it?
By Boat: You can take a small, bouncy boat—like I said, 2hrs 30 mins (50 miles out). Hang onto your butt! You won't see the signature Blue Hole ring of coral from the water though - that's a few feet below the water - you have to be above it to really see it.
Fly-overs: If you just want to say you went and take photographs, then take a flight. It only looks like those ‘Kodak Moment’ images if you’re above it. You can rent an entire Tropic Air plane and take a trip out for $750US or there are Tropic Air flights from Caye Caulker for $200US per person. Astrum Helicopters also do regular trips out, price on application
Kayak Trips: If you are a little afraid of getting down and dirty with the sharks, then take a kayak trip once you’re out there. At least you get to say you’ve ‘done’ the Blue Hole.
Can you snorkel the Blue Hole?
If you can dive, then you should dive. It’s a global top-ten Bucket-List trip. The snorkelling is mediocre at Blue Hole but way better in other locations that usually come as a combo trip, so if you’re up for a day out on a boat and you need to get that tick in the Great Blue Hole box, then just do it: you won't regret it!
Diving the Blue Hole
Everyone asks about the Blue Hole. Not the ‘Blue Hole’ 20 minutes down the Hummingbird Highway, but ‘The Great Blue Hole’ offshore.
This is one honest appraisal of the Blue Hole dive
The general recommendation is to combine it with the following adjacent sites:
What follows is a fabulous description of the three dive sites courtesy of a good friend and experienced local diver Gordon Kirkwood
Your Belize Bucket-List Diving Day
Great Blue Hole, Halfmoon Caye Wall and Long Caye Aquarium
By Gordon Kirkwood
The following 3 dives can be dived in one day trip, leaving early in the morning from Caye Caulker (44 miles), San Pedro (50 miles) and Placencia (77 miles)
The Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize
The Blue Hole Natural Monument is one of the 7 protected areas in Belize that make up the Belize Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been protected since 1996 and it is co-managed by the Belize Audubon Society.
The Great Blue Hole is a 400 foot deep sink hole formed many thousands of years ago and is renowned for its limestone structures. It is listed among the top 10 dive sites in the world. This dive site is located about 45 miles east south east of Belize City in the middle of Lighthouse Reef Atoll: one of the four Atolls in the Caribbean, three of which are in Belize.
In addition to the rock formations, divers can see some marine life here including Caribbean Reef Sharks, Midnight Parrotfish, large shoals of Bermuda Chub and Yellow Snappers.
After making their way to the Great Blue Hole, through gaps in the fringing coral reef rumoured to have been blasted by Jacques Cousteau, dive boats normally moor on the south side of the Hole. Divers then enter the water, first descending to a sandy ledge at 40 feet and then making the long descent to the gallery of Stalactites at 135 feet. Because this is a deep dive, the time that the divers spend at this depth is limited to about 5 minutes, and then the divers start the long ascent back to their dive boat, finishing with a safety stop over the sandy rim of the Blue Hole. This is mainly for experienced deep divers and some dive operators offer a shallower dive in the Great Blue Hole for less experienced divers.
Halfmoon Caye Wall, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize
Almost all of the Blue Hole dive boats make their second dive 8 miles south at Halfmoon Caye Wall which is also located on Lighthouse Reef Atoll. The Halfmoon Caye Wall dive site is located due south of Halfmoon Caye, in a Natural Monument protected area. The Halfmoon Caye Natural Monument is one of the 7 protected areas in Belize that make up the Belize Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been protected since 1996 and it is co-managed by the Belize Audubon Society.
At Halfmoon Caye Wall, divers are dropped off over the shallow (30ft) seagrass/sandy area south of the island. They swim south until they reach the reef wall which rises from the edge of the atoll like a set of teeth. The dive is on the outside of this wall, heading west with a maximum depth of 60 feet, finishing the dive by coming shallower on top of the reef or on the seagrass/sandy area.
This protected area has a great abundance of marine life, and many divers consider either Halfmoon Caye Wall or the Long Caye Aquarium – also described here - the best dives in Belize. Divers on Halfmoon Caye Wall normally encounter Caribbean Reef Sharks, Spotted Eagle Rays and a variety or Turtles as well as a plethora of other fish including Nassau Groupers, Barracudas, Midnight and Blue Parrotfish and shoals of smaller reef fish. There is also a great variety of fan and hard corals and several places to swim through the reef.
Lunch is usually on Halfmoon Caye, a very picturesque island fringed with coconut palms, seeing turtle nesting beaches and the wreck of the old British lighthouse (after which the Atoll is named), and visiting the Red-footed Boobies nesting site.
Long Caye Aquarium, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize
Almost all the dive boats that visit Lighthouse Reef Atoll make their third dive at Long Caye Aquarium. This is also located 5 miles west of Halfmoon Caye and 8 miles south west of the Great Blue Hole. The Long Caye Aquarium dive site is located on the west of Lighthouse Reef Atoll in front of Long Caye: one of the only three island on this Atoll.
As this is normally the third dive in a full day, dives are usually limited to 60 foot depth. It’s a drift dive with the dive boat sometime mooring up to drop the divers in the water at 30 feet over the reef, then divers swim west until they reach the wall and then they proceed south (normally with the current) along the wall until they come shallower and finish the dive over the reef again.
Although this is not a protected area there is abundant marine life at this dive site due to its remoteness from the shore and due to the north-south currents that seem to prevail in this area. Divers marvel at the black coral fans, colorful coral and sponges at this site and many divers consider either this site or Halfmoon Caye Wall – also described in this text – to be the best dive in Belize. Divers on Long Caye Aquarium are normally mobbed by Bermuda Chub on entering the water and these fish tend to follow the divers some way along the wall too. In addition to the normal diversity of reef fish you will also likely encounter Large Shoals of Creole Wrasse, Spotted Eagle Rays, Hawksbill Turtles, Tarpon sport fish and the occasional Caribbean Reef Shark.
And by the end of diving here you will probably feel like you have been diving in an Aquarium!
Recommended tour operators for diving
Dani Petersen, (501) 6102374, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Best dives from Caye Caulker are Turneffe North and Esmeralda/Tackle Box.
Both are full days diving
Ambergris Caye, (San Pedro)
White Sands dive shop email@example.com (501) 226-2405
Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) Amigos Del Mar, ‘Changa’ 226-2706
The Cayes in general (pronounced ‘keys’)
Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye’s quieter cousin, but even Caye Caulker now has a good amount of tourists on it most of the time. San Pedro has the more high-end restaurants and resorts and much more space to explore in your rented golf cart (an absolute must for at least one day) Caye Caulker is all about hammocks, and strolling and of course the Belikin Beer! If you want somewhere that feels more like a private Island, try Tobacco Caye.
Belize’s diving is not too challenging, but as with anywhere, the currents can be tricky and you want to get the best dive sites for your limited time and dollar. Always use a reputable dive company, check with two or three for advice on what it is you’re looking for in a dive and to get the best rates, and remember that it’s way cheaper to go through the company direct than via your hotel or resort
Ditto as for diving - Hol Chan is the ‘must do’ in terms of guaranteeing a look at some marine life, but if you're into natural experiences, don’t do it as there is bait feeding to get the sharks and rays to come close.
The best thing to do is find a bar, find a local and get the first-hand info. Say exactly what you’re looking for, and if nothing else they will be able to point you in the direction of a good dive company.