Discover the delights of Belize
Prepare for an exotic blend of tropical Caribbean beauty, fascinating Mayan culture, and warm Creole hospitality on your trip to Belize. South of Mexico and bordering Guatemala, this charming nation in eastern Central America is often referred to as the “Adventure Coast” for yachting. Indeed, this moniker also encompasses the abundance of underwater treasures found in the vast marine protected areas of Belize. Inland, to the west, discover dense jungles secreting precious clusters of Mayan ruins, while to the east, the magnificent Caribbean coastline is dotted with hundreds of islands at sea level, teeming with marine life. Only ten percent of the 400+ cays off Belize’s coast are inhabited, which means discovering by yacht allows you to experience a new desert island fantasy every day! Whether you are a history buff, beach lover or intrepid explorer, Belize offers an extraordinary experience to enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.
Crowned by the 350 nm long Mesoamerican Reef, the second longest continuous barrier reef in the world, it is no wonder that one finds here a fabulous snorkeling among 50 different species of corals and countless tropical fish. Described by Charles Darwin in 1842 as the most remarkable reef in the West Indies, it’s easy to see why this UNESCO World Heritage site is so beloved. Stretching from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the Belizean coast, it is one of the world’s major living reef ecosystems, flourishing with healthy hard and soft corals where whale sharks and manatees alike. of disappearances are frequent visitors. In the deeper offshore waters, you can find schools of yellowtail flounder, mangrove and sheep snappers, jacks and blue marlins that thrive here. Thanks to this vast reef system, miles of calm and protected sailing areas follow, blessed by gentle easterly trade winds that are ideal for water sports such as windsurfing, kite surfing and dinghy sailing. A charter itinerary in Belize with short passages, miles of pretty islets and palm-fringed beaches gives a taste of some of the wonders of this sensational destination.
Explore South Water Caye, named by fishermen after freshwater wells found on the island. Part of the Belize Marine Preserve, this idyllic coral escape covers just 15 acres and is located on the north side of the narrow South Water Pass. Enjoy some of the best snorkeling and diving on the east side, where the reef drop off is close to the beach. Designed for those seeking solace in the face of a crowd, this caye is ideal for disconnecting from the outside world and indulging in outdoor activities. Launch the water sports toys from your rental yacht and enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, and recreational fishing in the warm waters.
Often referred to as ‘isla bonita’, Ambergris Caye is the largest and most popular of the group of islands, with the hustle and bustle of San Pedro as its only town. For centuries this cay was a hub for the region’s maritime trade for fish, coconuts and chicle, but today the island is renowned for scuba diving, stunning beaches and its booming ecotourism. Twenty-five miles long, it is separated from the tip of the Mexican Yucatan peninsula only by a small canal dug by the first Mayan inhabitants. Many historical artefacts have been unearthed in this cay, with the fascinating site of ruins of Marco Gonzalez dating from around 200 BC, once considered a prosperous Mayan city and commercial center. Exuding a relaxed vibe, there’s also plenty to do with adventurous scuba diving, superb dining, bird watching, and luxury spa treatments on the schedule. The diverse mix of cultures, languages and ethnicities along with the many festivals and events celebrated in San Pedro create a truly inviting atmosphere on this bustling cay.
Half Moon Caye is a historic national park and boating paradise, located on the southwest corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll and renowned for its exceptional dives. Offering explorers the chance for an epic wall dive reaching enormous depths, the crystal-clear waters provide superb visibility to observe hordes of protected marine life, such as loggerhead turtles, rays, barracudas and eels swimming in the water. amidst the spectacular growth of corals. Crescent shaped, the cay is divided into two ecosystems, in the west dense vegetation thrives on the rich soil, while in the east coconut palms flourish. The beaches are heavenly, with soft white sand which attracts many and visiting turtles come here to nest safely. The forest provides a sanctuary for flora and fauna, including a viable breeding area for the Red-footed Booby, while the hike to the bird watching tower is worth the detour. Look out for the endemic Leaf Island gecko on your way.
Acclaimed for its spectacular dives and attracting diving enthusiasts from all over the world, Lighthouse Reef Atoll is famous for the Great Blue Hole. Originally a cave whose roof collapsed thousands of years ago and filled with water; The Blue Hole is a perfectly formed 300m diameter circle that plunges vertically to an unimaginable depth of 126m. At 15m, divers see the water sparkle as they pass the invisible halocline dividing salt and fresh water, then at 40m are underwater stalactites, the largest ever discovered. Southern Stingrays and Eagle Rays travel in squadron-style formations, with divers often getting up close with wing-tipped manta rays in mid-flight. Experienced adventurers can go up to 40m, while others can enjoy a comfortable dive to 18m. Close to Long Caye is the Aquarium, a cobalt-blue abyss that plumes down and offers some of Belize’s most energetic dives.
Located northeast of beautiful Lark Caye which has a natural pool and powder beaches, some of the best fishing spots can be found at Whipray Caye. Ashore, a popular eco-lodge offers visitors the opportunity to relax in hammocks with stunning views after a day of fly fishing on the saltwater plains. Covering just three acres, this palm-strewn island sits just 11 miles from the mainland and attracts those looking to take advantage of serious fishing opportunities. Expert anglers can spend time with the yacht’s deck crew on tender snapper, tarpon, bonefish, and grouper, ready for your dedicated chef to create mouth-watering dishes. No wonder Whipray is known as the “paradise surrounded by fish”!
Peaceful, relaxed and traffic-free except for cyclists or golf carts on the trails, Caye Caulker has a unique island feel. Here, the azure waters of the marine reserve are on your doorstep, making it an idyllic yacht stopover to soak up the laid-back vibe. With a reef rich in marine life, including colorful sponges, angelfish, Christmas tree worms and yellow sea fans, there is also a turtle grass lagoon adjacent to the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve. . Enjoy a local guided snorkeling or diving tour where you can also observe manatees and turtles.
Surrounded by deep ocean waters and perfect for cruising, Turneffe Atoll is a chain of small cays, declared a National Marine Reserve in 2012. This largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in Belize forms a network of apartments, coves and lagoons, dotted with over 150 mangrove islands and higher cays dotted with savannah and forest. An exceptional saltwater destination for fly fishing, especially tarpon and bonefish, there is also an array of other species to discover such as crocodiles, lobster and conch. Wall diving and bird watching are also popular activities in Turneffe, where several luxury resorts offer beautiful white sand beaches overlooking the pristine reef system. It was recently claimed that Neverland, featured in Peter Pan, was located on Turneffe Atoll – but the exact location of the Fountain of Youth is yet to be determined!
Enjoy the adventurous lifestyle, fabulous beaches, and friendly locals while cruising around this tropical yachting destination. Take note of the often posted sign “no shirt, no shoes…. no problem “- it’s island time, Belize style.
Nicholas Dean is Managing Partner of Ocean Independence. Ocean Independence is a world leader in luxury yachting, offering a tailor-made experience through yacht charter, sale and management.
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