The Placencia Peninsula in southern Belize is one of the most popular places to visit for individuals interested in enjoying some of the world-class diving available on the nearby Belize Barrier Reef. Measuring more than 240 miles in length and home to hundreds of islands, the Belize Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here are some of the best places to enjoy scuba diving near Placencia:
Laughing Bird Caye National Park
A tiny island set in the middle of a protected marine environment, Laughing Bird Caye is just 11 miles offshore from Placencia. The island got its name because at one time, laughing gulls used it for a breeding site, but now it is a popular dive site because it sits on a reef formation called a faro. Faros have steep drop-offs and a central lagoon, making them an ideal place for scuba diving.
Popular dive sites in Laughing Bird National Park include Laughing Bird Caye North (a slope that goes from 25 to 90 feet down), Long Coco Split (ideal for spotting moray eels), Laughing Bird Caye South (home to a fish nursery), the Coral Garden (home to lobsters, shrimp, and crabs), and the Wreck (a tug named Miss Panda that was intentionally scuttled here in 2002).
Located a bit further offshore, Gladden Spit’s most famous visitors are schools of whale sharks that stop off in Belize between March and June. Whale sharks arise from the depths to feed on huge swarms of plankton each spring, allowing divers to get close to the largest non-mammalian species in the world’s oceans. A whale shark can measure up to 40 feet long and weigh over 47,000 pounds, yet these filter feeders have no teeth and thus pose little danger to human divers.
Gladden Spit is a massive protected marine reserve located approximately 22 miles offshore from Placencia. The area gets its name because Gladden Spit is a long, tapered bit of dry land at the southern end of a sunken coral atoll. Along with nearby islands called the Silk Cayes, the Gladden Spit region is one of the healthiest parts of the reef and a great place to spot more than two dozen species of fish.
The reef just offshore of Placencia is full of top-notch diving sites, including places that are perfect for beginning divers. Top spots to dive on the Placencia Reef include the Turtle Canyons (where hawksbill and loggerhead turtles hang out), the North Wall (popular with reef sharks), the White Hole (which swarms with stingrays and nurse sharks), and the Pompion Canyons (where crabs and other creatures hide in the nooks and crannies of the reef).
If you’d like to enjoy some scuba diving, the best place to stay is the Laru Beya Beach Resort on the Placencia Peninsula. Laru Beya organizes scuba diving expeditions for certified divers of all experience levels to sites like Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Gladden Spit, and the Placencia Reef.