Scuba diving is a relatively expensive but highly rewarding vacation activity. Central and South America have some of the best scuba diving opportunities in the world, including the second largest barrier reef in the world in Belize, and scuba diving vacations with fearless wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, to name a couple of options…..
Belize is probably the top scuba diving destination in the Caribbean / Latin America. The coral reef is extremely extensive and well preserved. Visibility normally ranges between 50 and 150 feet. Most of the best dive sites, such as the famous Blue Hole (an extinct volcanic crater swarming with sharks and other marine wildlife), are a fair distance away from the shore. Fringing reefs (those close to the shore) can be found near Ambergris Caye (San Pedro), which is the hub of scuba diving vacations in Belize. There are also many huge offshore patch reefs amongst the Cayes of Southern Belize. Laughing Bird Caye is another excellent spot for scuba diving - this an excellent Faroe (or ringed) reef. Belize’s barrier reef runs for approximately 150 miles from the Yucacatan Peninsula to the Sapodilla Cayes in the South of Belize. The Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, Halfmoon Caye and Glovers Reef are other excellent spots for scuba diving in Belize.
Second on the list for the best places for scuba diving in South America is the Galapagos Islands. Scuba diving in the Galapagos is relatively undiscovered, but those in the know rate it as one of the worlds top dive locations. The wildlife has no fear of humans, making diving at close quarters with a host of marine wildlife such as seals, sea lions, penguins, turtles, iguanas, sharks, dolphins, and whales. To dive in the Galapagos Islands is a truely unique travel experience. Environmental concerns are at the forefront of tourism development in the Galapagos, which many fear is getting out of hand and detrimental to the fragile local environment. In August 2007, most live-aboard diving boat licences were revoked by the authorities, however land based diving trips remain a possibility. The islands have been names as one of the “Seven Underwater Wonders of the World” by CEDAM International. The Galapagos is not suitable for beginner divers - many tour operators require you to have done over 200 dives to be eligible for their trips.
Scuba Diving - Bonaire, Belize & the Galapagos Islands offer the best possibilities.
Bonaires pristine reefs and diverse marine life make it one of the best spots for diving vacation in the Caribbean. Bonaire sees little rainfall and as such visibility is excellent. Year round calm waters, a well developed tourism infrastructure geared towards scuba diving vacations and a fantastic aquatic environment to explore make Bonaire on of the top places for diving in Latin America.
The Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia also offer some fantastic diving as well as great beaches. San Andres is the more developed of these two islands, while neighbouring Providencia is a very peaceful and underdeveloped island that has the worlds third longest barrier reef.
There are plenty of other excellent options in addition. Other great dive destinations in Latin America include Cozumel (Mexico), Los Roques (Venezuela), Taganga & Providencia (Colombia), Roatan (Honduras) and Fernando do Noronha, Ilha Grande & Arrairal do Cabo (Brazil).
Belize, the Galapagos Islands and Bonaire are the three best spots for scuba diving in South / Latin America. The three destinations can be combined effectively for the ultimate scuba diving tour of Latin America & the Caribbean. Those travelling from Europe can do so effectively as follows: KLM flight via Amsterdam to Quito in Ecuador, with a stopover in Bonaire (suggestion: 4 nights) en route. Two nights in Quito, followed by a flight to the Galapagos Islands (allow 1 week in the Galapagos). Fly back to the mainland, and catch an onward flight to San Salvador in El Salvador, where you will need to overnight, before flying on to Belize (allow a week). From Belize, KLM flight schedules back to Europe usually permit a same day connection if you fly from Belize City to Houston, and catch the connecting KLM flight back to Europe. If ever I’ve written expert flight advice, that was it.