Anna’s Favourite Warm Water Dive Destination #9 – Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize
GLOVER’S REEF MARINE RESERVE, BELIZE
Where is Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve?
As divers, we all appreciate the importance of marine reserves, and the privilege we have to be permitted to dive in them. Glover’s Reef is not only a Marine Reserve but is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What does this mean? Protection from fishing, overfishing, trawling, people in general, and a sense of remoteness that will definitely give you that “desert island’ vibe. Glover’s Reef Atoll is 32 km long and almost 50 km off the mainland and, whilst mostly water and a couple of little islands, features more than 850 patch reefs and pinnacles – great news for both marine fauna and us divers! Search Google Maps for my personal favourite place to stay and dive “Off The Wall Belize” and you’ll see the scope of your adventure playground. There are fish spawning areas, and the diversity is incredible!
The dive sites around here are only a 5-minute boat ride away, so maximum time under the water, not on the water. There’s a World Conservation Society research station on the neighbouring island and you can expect to see seriously unspoiled reef and soft and hard coral, turtles, grouper, boxfish, toadfish, batfish, parrotfish, shark… and all the other usual suspects.
Why go to Glover’s Reef Atoll and where to stay?
Of all my favourite dive destinations in Long Caye, Glover’s Reef is the most family friendly. The beach is superb, I would definitely stay with Kendra and Jim at Off The Wall Dive Centre – the accommodation’s simple and gorgeous, and the island itself very easy and safe to explore (go hunt their resident bunny rabbit….). Off the Wall has made great inroads into making their resort as gentle as possible on the environment and they’re passionate about everything they do. They’re a PADI resort and care about the standard of instruction and guiding.
Between dives you can snorkel (Glover’s Reef is right up there with the planet’s best snorkel sites according to “Islands” magazine), paddleboard, fly fish, sea kayak, just laze in your hammock breathing in the sea breeze, watch the ospreys, feed the pelican, do some yoga (mats provided) or learn all about the local cooking from the friendly staff.
When to go?
Between November and April/May is “tourist season”; do your homework on the “shoulder” season though for fewer visitors and better prices (October, June). There is a “hurricane season” which is June to August but that by no means rules out diving… or rules IN a hurricane or bad weather.
What to take?
Reef friendly sunscreen (Stream2Sea is great). Don’t forget your books/Kindle and your favourite music. Because the snorkeling here is so fabulous too, you can get away with a waterproof camera rated to 10 metres, and you don’t have to invest in a costly housing. Olympus, Nikon and FujiFilm all make affordable robust waterproof compact cameras, or invest in a Sealife iPhone housing (rated to 40m) for under, over and out of water photos (because you won’t want to visit Belize without exploring the stunning mainland).
Preparation, preparation, preparation!
If you (or the kids) aren’t yet divers but want to be, I highly recommend an Open Water referral. Do your theory and poolwork in the UK (Ocean Turtle Diving has courses monthly), then complete the course at the resort. You may even be tempted to do a night dive, your Fish ID course or a coral conservation course there.
You arrive into the country at Belize City, and I thoroughly recommend flying to Dangriga to meet the boat out to the Atoll. The short “puddle Jumper” flight takes you down the Belize Barrier Reef all the way along the coast – it’s a great way to get an overview of the country and the islands (and land on a teensy airstrip amongst the coconut groves). Having said that, do not miss out on visiting the mainland. If you have the time (3 weeks or so), try to get a taste of the Garifuna and Maya culture down south of Belize, and a feel for the natural beauty of the mountains inland.
Belize isn’t the cheapest country… but grab any and every opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions and you won’t regret it. From learning how to weave a hammock in a Maya community to cooking up a storm with a Garifuna chef, to visiting the numerous Maya cultural sites and temples, or learning how to pick a cacao pod and make your own chocolate bar… you will not be bored.
Ever wondered what the massive Fyffes ripening centre does in Basingstoke? In Belize you can visit the origins of bananas by touring a farm, then go on to the famous Marie Sharp’s factory to see and taste how they make their habanero hot sauce.