Barrier Reef – Ambergris Caye, Belize

First-Class Diving Along the World’s Second Longest Barrier Reef

It is incongruous that along the coast of a little-known country the size of Massachusetts is a teeming barrier reef, the longest in the western hemisphere and second in area only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. More than 200 offshore islets and cays sit either directly on or just off the 185-mile-long reef, the two largest being Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.

The latter is the most popular, its charming laid- back town of San Pedro the reef’s most important jumping-off point for more than forty snorkeling and dive sites. Off the southern tip of Ambergris, the Hoi Chan Marine Reserve offers one of the best day or night dives for sheer variety of marine life, including forty kinds of grouper, a forest of coral, and sponge as dense and varied as the mainland’s jungle mantle. But if diving off Ambergris is great, then diving off the only three coral atolls in the Caribbean is unforgettable. Ringlike Lighthouse Reef is the most accessible, owing to a new airstrip built on the cay, and is nearest to two of the reefs most stellar dives: the fabled Blue Hole (in 1970 Jacques Cousteau called it “one of the four must-dive locations on this blue planet”) and Half Moon Caye National Park. Lighthouse Reef also has spectacular wall dives, with superlative visibility often reaching 200 feet. At Lighthouse Reef Resort, 90 percent of the guests come for the diving, the rest for the remoteness and serenity.

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