Diving Placencia

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Placencia, Belize

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Country: Belize  Area: Belize

Water Temp: 26 - 30°C (79 - 86°F)

Visibility: 30 - 50m (98 - 164 ft)

Depth Range: 9 - 30m (30 - 98 ft)

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The village of Placencia, and that’s what it is, a village, is a typical small Belizean town that people come to for relaxing on it’s beaches, diving or fly fishing. It’s generally a safe and laid back destination most of the year but, beachfront parties can be wild during high vacation times.

Diving in Placencia is famous for it's access to the seasonal arrival of Whale Sharks. And, for those in your party that aren’t divers, there are tours that also take snorkelers out to experience these gentle giants.

 

 Climate

Placencia, Belize is famous for its average temperatures that hover between 24°C and 27°C (75°F and 80°F).  The water temperatures hover around 27°C (80°F) all year long.

Placencia, Belize, Credit

There are basically two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season lasts from February until end of June and the rains fall between June and November. That said, the months of July and August don’t always get hammered with rain, but expect some light showers along with occasional sunshine.

You will find the best overall weather between February and May.

Seats, Credit

Marine Conservation

The waters off the coast of Belize have had a rocky past especially with the fishing industry, with some species being almost eliminated completely by foreign companies.  However, over the past years the country of Belize has made it a priority to bring it back to the way it was, and keeps it there.

Many dive sites are now World Heritage Sites, Marine Reserves and protected, strictly. Enforcement is seen quite often on the Belize waters.

 
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he main draw for diving besides the fact that you can dive in your bathing suit is the migration of the Whale Sharks. If that is your key reason to visit Placencia, then you must plan your trip from middle of March through early June because that’s when they are here. However, the fact is that scuba diving in Belize is an all year activity; there isn’t an off-season. From the Belize barrier reef, the 2nd largest in the world to the World Famous Blue Hole discovered by Jacque Cousteau, there are hundreds of dive sites.

Divers in Placencia, Credit

For anyone new Scuba Diving, Belize is an excellent environment to take the Open Water Diving course as well as the Advanced Open Water Course. Probably the best thing about learning to dive here is the mid eighties water and air temperature. No wet or dry suit required. That being said, sometimes, especially diving deep a shorty or skin suite is advisable.

Here's info on the most popular dive sites in no particular order.

The Gladden Spit

The Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve located 26 miles east of Placencia is where you will dive with Whale Sharks. It takes about an hour and a half by boat to the dive site, and is rated for the advanced divers. The average depth of your dives is about 60 feet (18 meters), although the wall itself is a sloped 160 feet, (50 meters) before it ends in a deep blue endless abyss. As the Whale Shark viewing window is narrow and the expenses of getting here as well as the dives is pretty high, you should be aware of the best sighting dates in advance of booking your trip.

The Whale Shark viewing season begins in early March and ends in mid June. Keeping that in mind, the very best sightings are a few days after the full moon, especially in April and May, so check out the lunar calendar before booking your trip and dives.

Placencia underwater, Credit

Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye is a popular inner reef dive location, offering great opportunities for the beginner to the advanced divers. This dive site is a National Marine Park / World Heritage Site with an abundance of coral and marine life, and located only about 11 miles from Placencia. There are dive opportunities from 30 feet (9 meters) up to 80 feet (24 meters).

Along with the beauty of the Coral Garden, you can dive Laughing Bird and Laughing Bird South, Drop Off, Mosquito Caye and even a small shipwreck.

Glovers Reef

One of the well-known and famous dive sites is Glovers Reef one of the three atolls located on the Belize coast, located about an hour and a half from town. The atoll is four miles wide and about fifteen miles long; with the main dive sites located in the waters around five islands. Glovers Reef is a Marine Reserve, designated as a conservation zone and “no take” site. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Jelly Dive, Credit

There are three main dive sites associated with Glovers Reef, and they are Pinnacles, The Aquarium and Manta Wall. Pinnacles dives 25 feet (8 meters) to 100 feet (30 meters) where diving is done around these massive stone pinnacles that rise up from ocean floor supporting barracudas, reef sharks and tarpon. The Aquarium dive 30 feet (10 meters) to 100 feet/30 meters and like the name features turtles, dolphins, black durgons and more. Manta Wall dives 35 feet/ 11meters to 90 feet (27 meters) and puts you on a sandy bottom leading to this massive wall. There’s an abundance of coral, huge grouper, tropical colourful fish and nurse sharks to be found.

For the advanced divers there is one more dive site at the Glover Reef Atoll that you might talk your Dive Master into diving, and that’s The Crack. This dive drops you into a vertical cave that you reach at 45 feet (14 meters) and can exit at 70 feet (21 meters) or 90 feet (27 meters). You can explore smaller “mini-caves” in search of sponges, crabs and shrimp. Be very aware that often divers are surprised by an occasional bull shark hiding in those small caves.

Enjoying the dive, Credit

The Blue Hole

Probably the most famous dive site off the coast of Belize is the famous Blue Hole. Although it is more popular and accessible from Ambergris Caye Island and Caye Caulker Island or Belize City up north, there are dive shops in Placencia that will take you there. The Blue Hole lies in Lighthouse Reef Atoll, which is about 65 miles from Placencia. Made famous by Jacques Cousteau who labelled it one of the top ten dive sites in the world, it is quite fascinating.

The dive consists of a wall dive to 130 feet, to view stalactites formed when the hole was above water level.  Another dive there is Half Moon Caye Wall offering fantastic colourful corals, sponges and sea fans. Divers need to be at least Intermediate if not Advanced for this dive. It takes three hours by boat to reach this dive site, which makes it a long day for short dive time a depth, however, if it’s on your “bucket list”, it’s available.

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Getting There

The only International Airport is Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport located in Belize City. You can then choose to catch a small commuter flight on either Tropical Air or Maya Air to the small airport north of Placencia. Flight Time is about 40 minutes. From there you can take a taxi to your hotel.

The other option is renting a vehicle at the International Airport and driving to Placencia. The main road is paved and pleasant to drive on although a little “bumpy” at times, and will take you about three hours drive time from Belize City. You will first need to travel on the Coastal Road to the Hummingbird Highway to the Southern Highway.

View of Placencia,Belize, Credit

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Going out

In Placencia you will find many options for restaurants and bars. The Barefoot Bar is located directly on the beach and offers great local seafood and Belizean favourites.  Local rum cocktails flow; especially Rum Punches and the Belizean Belikin Beers are cold. Another excellent choice for restaurant/ bar on the beach is the Tipsy Tuna, with fresh seafood dishes a more. This is a great place for late night entertainment or anyone looking for sports channels, because its also an 'Island Sport’s Bar'.

Refreshing drink! Credit

One of the best choices for restaurants is the Secret Garden Restaurant, an 'open air' restaurant featuring seafood and Caribbean menu. You can’t find much fresher seafood, as it comes directly off the Placencia docks.

Another excellent choice and local favourite is Rumfish y Vino, probably the most well known on the peninsula. When dining at this restaurant keep an eye out for celebrities who often frequent there.

Rated the #1 “restaurant” in Placencia, everyone who visits this town visits Tutti Frutti for desert or just because. Owned and operated by two Italian expat’s, they serve fantastic gelato and ice crème created from local ingredients.

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Other Activities

Fly Fishing - if you are a fly fisherman or want to learn, Placencia is a great place to do just that, in fact its famous for its fishing. Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon are the prime targets, and very plentiful. Just hook up with one of the local fishing guides at the docks or check with the guides at Roberts Grove Resort (also Dive Guides).

Kayaking, Credit

Belize is also famous for its Mayan Ruins, and one of the most famous is Xunantunich located in the Caya District just West of San Ignacio. Check out one of the local tour companies because that’s the best way to explore this historic site. They also can set you up with an ocean kayak tour if that’s of interest.

If you’re traveling as a family, or just want to take a day trip, you can jump on a tour or drive yourself to the Howler Monkey Reserve, another highly rated adventure for tourists.

Finally one of the most popular activities in Placencia, besides diving and fishing is sunning on its sandy beaches. Placencia is well known for having the best beaches in Belize. Miles of soft white sandy beach, without the annoying sea grasses. You can take a swim in clean waters; walk up the beach and directly into an open beachfront bar/restaurant for a bowl of ceviche and an ice-cold Belikin beer.

Hobie Cats at Hatchet Caye, Placencia, Credit

Family Friendly

As most diving schools can start youngsters with lessons in a pool at eight years old, but obviously to start an Open Water Diving Course they must be at least ten years old. Those that have already completed the course can dive in Belize, however if you want your youngster take the course there in Belize, you should check with the dive shops in advance. Most offer the PADI Junior Open Water Diver program for children between 10-14 years old.

Most dive companies in Placencia and area resorts offer both snorkel trips as well as combination dive/snorkel trips to many of the most popular sites. Even if your family members have never snorkelled, there’s always a dive master / guide that snorkels with them. This can be an exciting introduction to mask and fins, and possibly a tank or two in the future.

Another fun activity for the whole family is ocean and river Kayaking that can be arranged through local guide services. These are also where you can arrange Mayan Ruin Tours in the area. The main ruins to visit are the Xunantunich Mayan Temple Ruins located about an hour away. Although you can drive there on your own if you have a rental, it is advisable to take a tour, just for all the info tour guides provide.

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Tips

Getting around the village of Placencia can easily be done on foot, however if you are staying outside of town at one of the resorts, or want to explore, it is a good idea to rent a golf cart.

Golf Carts are the main mode of travel in most of Belize, and rentals are not only plentiful but a great deal cheaper than renting a car. Be sure to lock the steering wheel with the provided bar/lock and don’t leave anything in the cart when you aren’t in it.

Laid back atmosphere, Credit

If you are specifically coming to Placencia to dive with the Whale Sharks, the best months seeing Whale Sharks in the blue waters are April and May. Although the season technically starts March 4th and ends June 12th, be cautious if a dive shop wants to book you before or after those dates when your primary aim is to see Whale Sharks. It’s an expensive trip and dive to come all this way and have no activity.

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