Thursday, 2 May 2013

Belize, A Melting Pot

Belize is incomparable to any other country I ever visited. While planning my vacation to Belize I was captivated by the diversity of cultures all in one tiny country. I can surely say that this was one of the many factors that influenced my decision to visit Belize over Costa Rica, which my husband and I were deliberating.

It is the locals that make a difference. Similar to many Caribbean countries the people are ‘laid-back’. Leaving the hustle and bustle of our everyday life took some getting use to. I had to constantly remind myself that we were here on vacation. As we entered the airport my husband and I were greeted by the rhythmic drumming, what we now know to be Garinagu music. The Garinagu music is a traditional music of the Garifuna culture. It didn’t take long for us to notice that the Garinagu were only one of the many racial ethnic groups that share the beautiful and natural land of Belize.

The fact that Belize’s official language is English made our travels easier. This was surely a relief, as we were both able to interact more with the locals and not only experience the touristic side of the country. We later learned that although everyone understands and speaks English, many locals speak Belizean Creole (Kriol), which is best described as broken English. However, trying to eavesdrop on two locals conversing, sounds like mayhem.

Two Spanish-speaking countries, Mexico and Guatemala surround Belize; contributing tremendously to the prevalence of the Spanish language and the Mestizo culture. I was surprised by the intense flavors of many traditional mestizo foods such as the tamales, panades, and tacos, to name a few. Many cultural foods can be easily found at the markets, and is commonly sold by many street vendors. Traditional Mestizo foods are primarily made using corn. Corn is also a staple used by the traditional Mayas who we encountered in the village of Maya Center a small Mopan Maya Village on our way to Placencia, where we were heading.

We drove south to Placencia after leaving Belize City and we were greeted with a welcoming smile by many different faces. Heading to Placencia we passed by Belmopan, the country’s capital which happens to be near Spanish Lookout - an area inhabited by Conservative German Mennonites, who strictly use simple machines. While on the main road we were approached by a fast galloping horse and buggy driven by conservative Mennonites, this took us by surprise. Belize is truly a natural haven comprised of many racial ethnic groups who all contribute to the rich and diverse culture in Belize.

After arriving in Placencia, we instantly knew that we were in paradise. The sandy beaches and crystal blue waters made Placencia the perfect vacation getaway for my husband and I who had never been on a honeymoon. Belize is certainly a ‘melting pot’ of different racial ethnic groups working and living together in harmony. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Something More than just the Deep Blue

My family and I decided to go the extra mile and explore Belize a bit more and we were all happy we made the decision to experience the Mayas in Belize. We were in for an early start leaving Splash Dive Center in Placencia, by road at 6:00 am. I had no doubt that we were on an adventurous and rewarding journey as we headed back to 600 AD!  Archeologists believe that the temples in Xunantunich (pronounced shoo-nan-too-neech), located in the Cayo district dates back to the early Classical Period. It is unimaginable to climb the temples that were built so long ago; yet still remain sturdy.
However, before getting to Xunantunich our licensed tour guide took us to visit the Blue Hole National Park, also located in the Cayo District. I must add, the best thing about Belize is the close proximity of the sites; it took us more or less  1.5 hours to arrive to the Blue Hole and another 45 minutes to get us to Xunantunich. The Blue Hole is a natural 25-foot deep pool in the middle of a cave where the singing of birds is rhythmical. This Blue Hole is found inland and is distinct to the Great Blue Hole, found out in the center of the Lighthouse Reef. It is said that this inland Blue Hole was formed by the collapse of an underground limestone cave. The Blue Hole is named for its glistening turquoise water and is used by many for a quick refreshing swim.

After a quick visit to the secret natural pool we were back on the road to Xunantunich. The kids, Harry and Jim were excited to learn that in order to get to the Maya temple we would need to cross the Mopan river using a cool, hand-cranked ferry. This was one of the major highlights for the kids, as they got a chance to crank the ferry themselves!
We learned that the name Xunantunich was Maya for “maiden of the rock”, or “stone woman”. The area has 6 major plazas surrounded by more than 25 Maya temples and palaces. The largest of all, and also the second largest manmade structure in Belize, is named, “El Castillo” (The Castle), standing 130 feet tall above the plaza. Our guide explained to us that it is believed that Xunantunich was used extensively used for ceremonies and rituals.

The best reward of all was finally getting to the top of “The Castle”, as we stood 130 feet high, we got the chance to enjoy the ‘jungle view’: viewing Western Belize, and into the borders of Guatemala. It is thrilling to stand tall on a structure that holds the secrets of the Maya Civilization. It was certainly worth taking the tour to the Cayo district. The adventure was invigorating!

“A great way to discover the beauty and adventure of Belize above water”

Monday, 18 March 2013

You’ll Go Bananas!

Driving north of the Placencia peninsula it is difficult to miss the acres of bananas. It is true that Placencia is known for its perfect barefoot beaches, its diverse cayes located between Placencia and the Great Barrier Reef, its tranquil tours through the Monkey River, the jungle, Maya ruins and the unbelievable snorkeling and scuba diving reserves such as the Silk Cayes, Glover’s Reef and Laughing Bird Caye National Park. However, these are only a few of the activities Placencia has to offer. Recently, the Sagitun Farms located near Riversdale on the Placencia Peninsula has opened its doors to the public offering a fantastic opportunity to learn all about growing bananas while walking amongst acres and acres of bananas. The billboard on the Placencia roadside reads “you’ll go bananas!” and I concur, you will go bananas, after visiting the banana farm!

Super fun, educational, interesting, awed, are but only a few words to describe the tour around the plantation. Bananas are one of the only fruits that bear all year round and it is commonly found all over Belize, and the world. However, did you know that bananas were once considered a rare fruit in North America & Europe? History has it that bananas didn’t reach North America until after the Civil War. Consequently, it then became the number one selling fruit in America!

Our tour on the banana farm was booked and we were ready to go bananas! Entering the Sagitun Farm I was taken by surprise, they were lines of bananas the entire road in, it seemed to me as a hidden community/village! They had everything in this area from housing, schools, churches, to a police station. We met with Evin, our tour guide, who made us feel right at home.  The tour started with a brief ten-minute video on the history of the banana production in Belize and around the world. It is here that I learned that bananas are not grown on trees, as it is commonly believed. Bananas are actually grown on herbaceous plant (herb), not a tree!

We were then taken out in the farm where we walked amongst the bananas and met with the Farm Manager. The walk down the banana trail was very informative and interactive. We witnessed firsthand what it really takes to grow and harvest bananas to be sent off for exportation to the United Kingdom. Sagitun Farms takes pride in producing quality bananas; therefore the fruits that are processed, packed, and shipped all meet the very high standards of the European Union Commission Regulation (EC).

For me and for anyone that enjoys natural healthy snacks you will enjoy the end of the banana tour. After all the walk and learning about bananas your tummy will definitely be calling out for some bananas! Evin was kind enough to take us back to the main office where she surprised us with crunchy, delicious banana chips accompanied with a drink of our choice. The tour was incredible, it is definitely worth visiting the banana farm near Placencia!

If you are planning to spend some time on-land in Placencia be sure to have Patty book the nearby inland tour with Sagitun Farm!

It is bunches of fun for all ages!             

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

How to Spot A Whale Shark (Part I)

Spring is near and while many are looking forward to the blooming of flowers; in the Caribbean, we sea lovers are looking forward to the arrival of the gentle giants of the sea. When we hear about sharks our first thoughts may be “danger-man’s predator”, but there is no need to fear. The whale sharks are not voracious creatures, on the contrary they are known as passive, easy-going, sea-dwellers.

Whalesharks are one of the most magnificent and mysterious creatures of the sea. It is not unusual to spot a 40-foot whale shark.  These humongous creatures are known to grow up to 60 feet in length and to live for 100 years. Little is known of the great whale shark but what we do know is fascinating. It may be a scary thought to scuba dive or snorkel alongside the largest fish of the sea, but it is certainly an experience never to be forgotten and one that certainly needs to be on your bucket list as a diver.

The whale sharks are considered migratory creatures and are capable of travelling thousands of kilometers. Preferring warm waters, the Belize Barrier Reef is fortunate to host the whale sharks once a year. Just 30 miles east of Placencia is a unique and captivating area called Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve (GSSMR) where there are spawning aggregations of several species of snapper every year at the time of full moon in March, April, May and June.

The local Fishermen of Placencia were the first to notice the amazing whale sharks feeding at the Gladden Spit. Whale sharks may be found in other tropical areas but the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve is one of the very few areas of the world where you can reasonably predict their appearance and dive with them. Marine biologist, Dr. Will Heyman of the Natural Conservancy describes Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve as “a place so magical, so wonderful, and intact.”

The Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in Placencia has undertaken the necessary steps to preserve Gladden Spit as a natural habitat. SEA is responsible for the development of the Whale Shark Working Group, Whale Shark Tourism Interaction Guideline, and implementation of licensed Whale Shark Guides and Boat Captains.

Patricia Ramirez, co-owner of Splash Dive Center, is an active member of the Whale Shark Working Group. Patty, as many of her friends call her, not only offers the incredible whale shark tour to the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve but also offers a PADI Whale Shark Specialty Course. The PADI Whale Shark Specialty Course will enhance your Whale shark scuba diving and snorkeling experience.

The chance to experience the natural wonders of the sea alongside the most magnificent creature and a variety of fascinating schools of fish is now!

Stay tuned to find out more about my first whale shark experience and the exhilarating chance in spotting a whale shark in the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve. 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Your Next Dream Vacation

At the start of every New Year we begin to envision and plan towards our dreams and future goals. In the hustle and bustle of an ordinary life it should be an obligation to take a few weeks off to enjoy a vacation, one that will allow you to experience the natural wonders of the world. There is but one place that allows you to experience the natural wonders of several “worlds”, and that place is called Belize.

Belize has been referred to for many years as a secret, the secret country in Central America that is marvelous in every aspect, despite the small landmass it occupies on the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Belize is approximately 185 miles long and 75 miles wide.  In size Belize is often compared to the state of Massachusetts in the U.S.A, yet it has so much to offer, with an opportunity for 247,019 discoveries (diverse cultures, caves, Mayan temples, rivers, marine life, and many natural resources).

Whether you are looking for adventure or relaxation you can bet you will find it in Belize.   Belize is known for its many acres of unspoiled forest that hold the secrets of the Maya heritage, incorporating a vast array of temples, rivers, caves, and mountains. Belize was the center of the ancient Maya world.  Be it no surprise that Belize has one of the only jaguar preserves in the world, the “Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve.”

Not interested in experiencing miles of natural jungle life? Then be sure to visit one of Belize’s 400 tropical islands, and get a chance to dive into the enchanting Blue Hole, along the Western Hemisphere largest barrier reef. Enjoy the beauty of the magnificent underwater world, a nature so natural and captivating you will be left in awe. Belize is known for its intact Coral Barrier Reef that is home to 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of other diverse plants and animals.  With all that Belize has to offer you will enjoy and explore a wide array of activities from the jungle to the beach such as:  hiking, birding, caving, camping, zip lining, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, cultural experiences, and sailing just to name a few.

Relax, and take a breath of pure air! Forget about the hustle and bustle of everyday life and indulge into paradise. Start planning your dream vacation by choosing one of Belize’s resorts either inland or on any of Belize’s picturesque islands or beaches. Allow yourself to be one with nature, be one with Belize!

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your Dream Vacation by contacting Patricia Ramirez at

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Splash Dive Center Ltd (Splash) was founded as a sole proprietorship in the year 2000 by Patty Ramirez.  Patty’s goal was to be the best and to achieve that, she invested in herself becoming one of only two Belizean Course Directors (the highest PADI level) and by re-investing as much as the revenue as possible in the business.  Patty continues to invest in herself through continuing education and continues to re-invest to grow Splash.  Ralph Capeling joined Patty as an investor in the year 2009 and strongly supports Patty’s original goal which is now the Mission Statement for Splash:  Splash intends to be the premier dive center and adventure tour operator of choice in Belize.

Splash is focused on quality of service, from our attractive and welcoming dive center, our pickup service, our five custom dive boats, our crews’ attention to customers, and our well maintained equipment to the little extras after returning from a dive trip like serving cookies and juice while the crews rinse guest’s dive gear.


Marketing is a vital and multi-faceted part of Splash’s business and includes attendance at trade shows, working closely with BTB, BTIA and BHA by personally taking care of approximately 150 journalists, camera crews, and bloggers.  Splash took every opportunity to reach out to travel agents, travel writers and travel professionals and to invest in magazine and website advertisements, electronic media, professional signage and the good old fashioned method of meeting everyone with a welcoming smile. 

In 2012, Splash attended nine trade shows (The Ultimate Travel Show in Toronto, Our World Underwater in Chicago, The Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, Beneath the Sea in New Jersey, BETEX in Belize City, the BTIA San Pedro City Mall marketing weekend, CATM in San Pedro Sula, Scuba Swap in Toronto and DEMA in Las Vegas). In all of these, Splash markets Belize, then Placencia and then finally we market Splash Dive Center Ltd and our sister company Quest For Adventure In Belize With Splash Ltd.  We established Quest due to the clear and positive response from non-divers to marketing Belize first and our properties second.  Splash is also a participant in the BHA Global Initiative. 

Splash cooperates with BTB and also independently seeks out opportunities to work with travel writers and bloggers.  Splash has put a great deal of effort into working with bloggers to advertise Belize and Placencia. This keeps Splash in the news in a very effective non-advertising way.  Appendix I lists 45 blogs and articles resulting from this proactive approach.

Establishing effective Working relationships with travel agents and travel professionals is another important aspect of Splash’s active approach to marketing.  In addition to establishing relationships based on trust through meeting at trade shows and from visits to our facilities, Splash has always volunteered to participate in post CATM and BETEX trade show tours.  This has resulted in dozens of Placencia exclusive (and often Belize exclusive) listings on travel agents websites.  Appendix II does not include travel agent website that list Splash along with other Placencia area diving tour operators.  

Splash also advertises in magazines, newspapers and websites.  We advertise continuously in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver, Undersea Journal, The Canadian Travel Magazine, Destination Belize, Tropic Air magazine and the Placencia Breeze.  We also advertise from time to time in magazines such as City Central Magazine in Mississauga, Ontario.  Important components of our electronic advertising include banners on ScubaBoard and PADI’s website and Google and Bing Ad campaigns. 

Social media is another very important component of Splash’s international marketing efforts.  We spend at least two hours every day to update and correspond on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Patty Ramirez has two Facebook pages, Patricia Ramirez where she has over 3000 followers where she can create meaningful and personal relationships with clients and potential clients.  She invites divers to join her Splash Dive Shop Facebook page where she has over 1000 followers and posts Splash news, photos and blogs.  On Twitter Splash Belize posts every day Patty participates in the Live Chats about Belize, usually donating a giveaway. She promotes daily tours in Placencia What’s Happening and on TrekCATS (posting about diving in Belize). In addition to posting on the PADI Facebook, BTB, Scuba Diving Girl and Book Your Dive, Splash posts on Bookbag Santa (a NGO from Virginia that Splash supports as they bring groups to Belize every year to distribute at least a ton of school suppliers to schools in Stann Creek District). Splash monitors and is active on ScubaBoard (where we also advertise) and Trip Advisor on the Belize Pages.

In addition to our website,, our Splash blogs and newsletters are also an important part of our marketing program.

Splash has recently begun to post on YouTube with the intent to do more of this in future. With encouragement from Splash, some of our guests have begun to post videos on the internet that feature diving and snorkeling with Splash (often using cameras rented from Splash).

For any business to survive and thrive over the long term, it must contribute to the wellbeing of the community in which it operates. This contribution needs to be social and environmental as well as economic. Splash has adhered to this principle since the early days of a simple dive shop on the beach. 

One of the first and very important programs that Patty Ramirez initiated was the Splash Junior Diving Club where Belizean kids can learn to dive for free.  She uses the opportunity to teach them the importance of protecting our environment and introduce them to the marvels of the Belizean barrier reef that our guests are privileged to scuba dive on, but that local families and children cannot afford. Splash has issued 150 certifications from PADI junior open water to junior master scuba diver and dive master since 2006. In 2012, three “children” have reached the first professional level, Dive Master, and two of them are now working for Splash. The third "graduate" of the Splash Junior Dive Club used his qualification to move to the USA and join the United States Navy. Splash intends to continue the program to develop more young Belizeans into ambassadors for the sea and to become PADI professionals. As dive masters and scuba diving Instructors, Belizean kids can have the opportunity to develop careers in the dive industry and create more of a commitment within the local community to protecting our reef and environment. The biggest difference we can make as scuba divers, to the future health of our corals reefs, is to educate the next generation.

In 2012, Patty invited the first international student who arrived with her parents and progressed through to junior master scuba diver, the highest non-professional level in the PADI system. Her parents also became divers!  We hope we can continue to attract families to bring their kids to Belize so that the whole family can learn to be scuba divers.  We hope that these families could become ambassadors for Belize in their home counties to help market Belize, Placencia and Belize.

Splash is very committed to the protection and preservation of the reef environment in Belize. Patricia Ramirez is an active member of Placencia Mooring Masters, an organization that uses funds that it raises to install mooring buoys at the popular dive sites to protect our reef from anchor damage. The first one that Splash Dive Center sponsored is at Laughing Bird Caye (National Park and World Heritage Site) on the very popular and appealing dive site known as Coral Gardens. While Patty no longer has to time to go out to personally clean the barnacles from the buoy and the anchor line, she is still very committed to the objectives of PMM. Splash has provided the funds for a second buoy which is awaiting installation as soon as other buoy and buoy materials are in place. Splash Dive Center will continue to contribute to additional mooring buoys at popular dive sites in the Placencia area by providing funds, dive boat time, scuba tanks and manpower.

For many years Splash has organized a cleanup of Laughing Bird Caye National Park and has strongly participated in Placencia’s Whale Shark Day.  These are now combined and again, Splash has taken the lead with the strong support of Southern Environmental Association to do the annual clean-up of Laughing Bird Caye.  The words of Justino Mendez, SEA Outreach Officer express it well:

“Every year the Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in collaboration with SPLASH Dive Center host and coordinate an “Earth Day” event. This year under the theme “Mobilize the Earth: Living Green” “Sea-Splash” once again mobilized students from three community schools namely St. John’s Memorial Primary – Placencia, Independence High School – Independence and Nuestra Senora Primary School – Sagitun, who gave their all in making this event a success. Laughing Bird Caye National Park – World Heritage Site, co-managed by the Southern Environmental Association along with the Forest Department, was given an early mothers’ day gift, as 70 plus participants picked up a total of 45 drum size garbage bags of litter that was washed up on the beach. In plain sight, no one could have imagined that all that garbage was there, but as you dug deeper, the garbage emerged.

“Sea-Splash” ensured that students not only worked in picking up garbage, but also made it a learning experience for them, as Marco Suampul – gave them a presentation on “Marine Sea Turtles, Annelise on “Lion Fish” and Justino Mendez on “Coral Ecology” which made their visit to Laughing Bird Caye exciting and memorable. An excellent briefing was also done by head ranger Mr. Adolphos Molina Sr., which caught the attention of all participants.”

In addition to protecting the environment and reef, programs like this benefit the community and the attitude of the community to support sustainable tourism so that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty of Placencia and environs.

In early 2011, a group of friends and Placencia business owners initiated a new organization called the Placencia Tourism Business Organization (PTBO), designed to help Belizean owned businesses and native sons survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment on the Placencia peninsula.  While Ralph and Patty are not native sons, they were invited to participate as “founding fathers” of this new organization.  Ralph and Patty were happy to support this initiative as these are the very people that give this peninsula its special character and charm. Some local businesses are doing well, many are just hanging on and the rate of unemployment and under-employment is high.  New businesses that have easier access to capital and modern business techniques are moving into the peninsula.  While investment and development are welcome, Belizeans from Placencia are concerned that this should not be at the expense of businesses that have been here for a long time or at the expense of native sons who are trying to establish viable businesses or provide services. Ralph and Patty helped by participating in the discussions and preparing the draft Articles and Memorandum of Association for regularization by a lawyer and paying for the legal fees to get this new organization registered.  Splash also provided an office for the group and paid the power and water bill up to the end of 2012. The Placencia Tourism Business Organization (PTBO) mission/vision is to protect, promote and preserve the native business in Placencia Village by working hand in hand with native business to enhance their business, and promoting local tourism. Splash encourages its customers to use locally owned businesses.

To be the best and to provide superior service requires excellent employees.  Splash continues to stress the importance of high quality service to our employees with regular informal performance reviews aimed at steadily increasing the performance standard.  Feedback from customers both oral and by written questionnaires, on-line reviews, personal attendance on dive trips and “secret customer” reports all contribute to making this a meaningful and effective process.  In addition, Splash provides in-house training to its employees. Besides providing on the job training on scuba equipment inspection and maintenance, our senior boat captain is charged with improving the standard of operations by our boat captains with the result that three of our boat captains achieved higher level licenses during 2012 and the standard for operating the boats has been raised. By the end of 2012, four employees had nearly completed the dive master program (with two of them not having had any prior scuba qualifications), six employees had completed two or more scuba speciality courses and three employees were working on becoming licenced tour guides.  During 2013, we expect that four employees will complete their dive master training and along with five of our current dive masters, will take the PADI scuba diver instructor course (this will be taught in house as Patty is a PADI course director so is one of two Belizeans qualified to teach at this level).  Splash wishes all of its dive masters to reach the instructor level as personnel at this level have a greater understanding of the scuba diving business and tend to be more professional.  During 2013 we will also provide formal sales training to our employees, both office staff and dive crews.  We will also conduct formal risk management courses for our dive crews based on PADI materials and experience – this is extremely important not only from a risk management point of view but it is a vital tool to ensure customer safety.

Splash has made considerable and strategic investments in our dive center, our “downtown” Placencia booking office, boats, air conditioned vehicles, rental scuba equipment and air fill station operation.  Our dive center is spacious and welcoming with an appealing retail display with the full range of scuba and snorkel equipment, comfortable reception section, spacious waiting areas alongside the dock or under one of the cozy palapas.  Splash boats are either new or refurbished and well maintained projecting a very professional image.  They are fully equipped with all the required safety equipment including VHS radios, first aid and oxygen kits, clean life jackets, and compass and GPS systems.  It should be noted that Splash made major strategic investments in boats, facilities, store inventory, employee training, and vehicles as well as in marketing even through the recent downturn in the economy so as to be well positioned for the economic recovery.

Splash has been recognized by peer organizations in the diving and tourism businesses.
In 2012, Scuba Diver Magazine named Patricia Ramirez as a Sea Hero.  Her interview can be found in Appendix III or at
Patty has been recognized on two occasions by PADI, the premier organization in scuba diving, receiving Certificates of Recognition for Outstanding Customer Service & Scuba Instruction.
The Belize Hotel Association named Splash Dive Center as the best Associate Member of the BHA in 2011.

In 2010 Continental Airlines included Splash Dive Center in Belize as one of five recommended dive destinations in the world.

Splash wants to teach the world about the beauty of Belize and the need to protect and preserve this special place on Planet Earth. We and our employees will encourage our customers to become ambassadors for Belize and to share their enthusiasm with all.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Diverse & Beautiful Belize Coral Reefs

Belize’s coral reefs are the most diverse and beautiful of all marine habitats which include both hard and soft corals among other marine life.  The sub-tropical climate here provide ideal conditions for the formation of corals which thrive in shallow, clean water, plenty sunlight and temperate waters between 16 and 30 degrees Celsius and an abundance of food sources such as plankton and baby shrimps.

Undeniably, the geographic formation of Belize’s landscape, along with the moderate climate, has favored some of the most astounding natural coral reef systems that took several millenniums to form. Over thousands of years, calcium carbonate skeletons of tiny coral polyps are collected together, layering over skeletons of past coral marine life.  As each generation of polyps dies, the corals grows a bit larger giving rise to a cluster of slow growing hard corals.  Soft corals, such as gorgonians, are also composed of some rigid calcium carbonate as hard corals.  Although well rooted, and with no exoskeletons, soft corals such as sea fans and sea whips move with the waves of the water.

Sea fans, sea whips and sea plumes are all soft corals from the gorgonian family.  The common sea fans are often sighted in a variety of brilliant colors while the fan-like polyp colonies are normally erect, flattened, and branching.  Carnation corals are natural charms that never fail to draw attention.  Quite easily, these are one of the most beautiful that comes in a spectacular range of colors.  No less impressive are the tree corals sighted through the vast reef systems in the cayes, shallows, atolls and drop-offs.  The beauty and biological diversity in these life forms are a true marvel.  Coral might be beautiful to look at but should not be touched.  Watch out especially for the fire corals from the Millepora family ranging in variety of shapes, including stick formations, branch formations and even those that resemble underwater plants. Nematocysts on the tentacle skin of these corals release toxins which create a burning sensation when rubbed against.

Just about any imaginable hard and soft coral is sighted in Belize’s reef systems whether diving or snorkeling around the atolls or other islands.  The sheer numbers of and different types of coral, sponges, and fish, makes scuba diving all the more exciting and enjoyable.  A proliferation of hard corals easily seen include the brain coral, staghorn coral, elkhorn, rose coral, club finger coral, rough and smooth starlet and the knobby candelabra. The brain coral are common but spectacular formations that may take several hundreds of years to form and may grow as high as six feet.  Corals feed at night by extending their tentacles to catch their food and use the tentacles as protection during the day. Hard corals, however, enjoy a symbiotic relationship with tiny algae which live inside their skin. These algae use the coral as a safe place to live, and in return, can provide the coral with most of its energy.

Staghorn corals and elkhorn corals are among the most important reef building corals sighted anywhere in the reef.  These hard coral colonies, although structurally complex, are incredibly fast growing with an average growth rate of 2 to 4 inches per year and may span as much as 10 ft wide.  This magnificent spread makes excellent homes for lobsters, parrot fish, snappers and other reef fish.

With such a vast and complex coral reef system that includes a barrier reef straddling the entire coast with teeming inhabitants, Belize’s reef is a universe of its own.  With top dive sites unmatched anywhere, Belize is well poised in the Blue Caribbean for extraordinary diving. To book any diving trip in Belize contact Patricia Ramirez at