Belize offers a good choice of yacht charter and this includes bareboat, luxury crewed, skippered yacht charter, monohull and catamaran charter and both sail and motor yacht charter. Belize is the only official English-speaking country in Central America.
Belize was a British colony for more than a century and was known as British Honduras until 1973. It became an independent nation in 1981. The Maya civilization spread over Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about AD 900. European settlement began with British Jews, privateers and shipwrecked English seamen as early as 1638. The early settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras grew from Belize Town and St George’s Caye into a colony of the United Kingdom during the late eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century the settlement was called British Honduras, and in 1871 it became a Crown Colony. British Honduras became a self-governing colony in January 1964 and was renamed Belize on June 1, 1973. Full independence came on 21st September 1981 after delays caused by territorial disputes with neighbouring Guatemala, which did not formally recognize the country.
A yacht charter in Belize enables you discover some of the most unspoiled islands of the Caribbean. The luminous turquoise waters of the Belize archipelago are made up of over 200 deserted tropical islands and coral atolls and boast some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean. Belize has become a popular spot for yacht charters and diving vacations. Most yacht charter companies have catamaran fleets because the shallow draft will assure easy navigation.
The coast of Belize encompasses has an unlimited abundance of wildlife and sea life waiting to be discovered. Schools of tropical fish, Manatees, and coral gardens abound here making snorkelling and diving expeditions an exciting adventure. There are many archaeological and national parks along with marine reserves in Belize. Check with your yacht charter company for help in making plans for land expeditions to the Mayan ruins or the rainforest.
Belize International is the main airport and is only little more than two hours from 3 gateways in the United States. San Pedro, Ambergris Caye or Placencia are reachable by a 15 minute commuter plane with several connections a day. English is the official language and is widely spoken, as is Spanish. Other languages include Creole, German, Mayan and Garifuna. US Dollars are used and major credit cards may be accepted in hotels, restaurants and some shops.
The yacht charter season in Belize is restricted by the hurricane season to the months of November through to May. From mid-December to May the trade winds blow. Temperatures are always around 25º – 30º C.
Most people are very comfortable sailing the waters of Belize but it does come with some challenges. Navigation is relatively easy and by line of site. The most difficult part is learning how to read the shallow waters and recognize coral. It is imperative to keep a proper watch at all times. Bare boating outside the reef is prohibited. The outer reefs are not well charted or marked making for the danger of running aground. Once inside the atolls the shoal waters are full of coral rock formations that lie in so many areas and in such numbers that the charts simply do not give clear insight to their locations. Communication on VHF is also non-existent, with mobile phones the most reliable means of communication, search and rescue is not very reliable and all this combined makes bare boating outside the reef untenable. However with so much to see within the barrier reef venturing beyond is not necessary.
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize and the most commercially developed. Ambergris Caye has been the hub of maritime trade in Belize for hundreds of years. In the last twenty to thirty years the incredible surroundings of Ambergris Caye has led to a large growth in both the Belize dive and scuba trade, yacht charters and ecotourism.
The main town of San Pedro still maintains itself as a quaint fishing village although here one will find a lively nightlife. San Pedro only has a few streets with interesting shops, a few homes, and several restaurants and bars. The airstrip is also located here, so getting to your charter yacht is literally a stone’s throw away. The island is home to tropical savannahs, sparkling white beaches and mangrove forests. It has become the most popular tourist destination in Belize.
The amazing coral reef system lies half a mile east of the shoreline and runs the entire length of the island. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world and has made the town of San Pedro the dive and water sports capital of Belize and Central America. It is easy for snorkellers to discover hundreds of species of fish right off the beach. Surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the transparent waters of Ambergris Caye are a paradise for divers, snorkellers, bird watchers and fisherman alike.
Begin your yacht charter in Placencia and you can explore the southern half of Belize. Placencia is known for its lovely white sandy beaches and beautiful mangroves. The main street is a three-mile stretch of sidewalk in which there are a few local services, including a laundry service and small grocery. However if you are planning to leave on your yacht charter from Placencia, it is a wise idea to have provisions planned in advance with your yacht charter company. The grocery store is not equipped to handle the needs of a charter boat. In most cases the provisions that you order are flown in from Belize City. This is not an active spot for nightlife and restaurant dinners. This is paradise on earth, very tranquil and serene. Many sailing connoisseurs have compared their experience of Placencia to memories reminiscent of the BVI 30 years ago before it was developed. Placencia is also the gateway for a land-based tour of the many cascading waterfalls and the archaeological ruins of the Mayan culture.
If sailing south from San Pedro or north from Placencia there are numerous beaches that provide great yacht anchorages. There are hundreds of cayes to explore with clear waters and white sandy beaches. Some are deserted while others have amenities for tourists. Those places that are undeveloped will offer complete solitude to those looking to get away from civilization on their yacht charter. Whilst there are too many to mention them all individually here are a few highlights to give you an idea of what awaits you on your yacht charter in Belize.
Caye Caulker is a four mile long island is divided in two and lies just about a mile east of Belize’s Barrier Reef. This is a quiet town with friendly people and some nice restaurants. The most popular dive destination is Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. A boat must be hired to visit and it is approximately 30 minutes north of Caye Caulker. With so much to see at various depths, all levels of snorkellers and divers can be accommodated here.
Caye Chapel is the island that is home to the rich and famous and boasts a new state of the art marina and championship golf course. It was developed for those searching seclusion. This is the most exclusive island in Belize where every amenity is available. The marina welcomes yachts up to 45 metres in length. Once here there are many picturesque beaches and exotic wildlife to discover as well as the natural beauty the island views has to offer.
St George’s Caye is located south of Caye Caulker, this island is one half mile from the barrier reef. St. George’s Caye is quiet and serene and a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Very few services are offered here with just a restaurant, hotel and a bar. The diving is incredible with visitors sighting many dolphins just before descending down the caye’s wall.
Goff’s Caye is a tiny island on the reef just north of the main channel, English Channel. It has good snorkelling and a beautiful beach.
English Caye has a lighthouse that marks the south side of English Channel. This island offers superb snorkelling 1000 feet south on a huge coral patch.
Rendezvous Caye is a jewel of an island also located right on the reef. Another beautiful beach with excellent snorkelling all around, this is also a good location for scuba diving on the 60 foot outside wall. It is not however a safe overnight yacht anchorage with its coral all around but a ‘must see’ day stop.
Bluefield Range provides a safe yacht anchorage and the two fish camps usually offer a choice of fresh seafood for dinner.
Colson Cayes is another safe anchorage with several fish camps. The Cayes offer a shallow lagoon to explore by dinghy with plenty of coral nearby for snorkelling.
Tobacco Caye is a fine overnight anchorage, unless in a northerly wind. There are several choices for basic meals and a few bars on the island. There’s a dive shop for those who enjoy scuba diving and plenty of good snorkelling.
Laughing Bird Caye is just 11 miles from the coast of Placencia; the caye is located within a “faro”, an atoll on a continental shelf. It is steep sided and encloses a central lagoon. The attraction is the diverse variety of coral reefs. Because of the large amount of visitors steps have been taken to ensure the reefs and lagoon will be protected. There are mooring buoys and channel markers in place to protect the fragile ecosystem.
South Water Caye is about 25 miles from Placencia. South Water Caye is a reserve protected by the World Heritage Organization. Like the other marine reserves in Belize it has an amazing array of underwater life and palm trees that line the waters edge. The clear blue waters of South Water Caye give way to white sandy beaches.
Sapodilla Cayes is another marine reserve that sits in the most southern portion of Belize’s barrier reef. It is comprised of 14 mangrove and coral islands with unspoiled white sandy beaches. The waters are very shallow with some areas being less then 5 metres. On Huntington Caye you will discover the lighthouse and a Belize Guard Station. The beaches here are the nesting grounds for turtles. Lime Caye is often the most crowded with tourist boats arriving from Punta Gorda. The best place to anchor the yacht and spend the night is either Nicholas or Frank’s Caye. The incredible reef system with an abundance of colourful fish species will provide for a great snorkelling experience, even for beginners. Because Sapodilla is off the beaten path it is not over run by tourists and remains a magnificent and pristine group of islands that have very little in the way of amenities.
Just 25 short miles south of the Sapodilla Cayes lies the port of Livingston on the Rio Dulce of Guatemala where you are required to check in and out of Guatemala. A local restaurant provides a great stop along the way where they’ll pull your choice of fresh fish out of the live trap at the dock.
Outside the Barrier Reef there are some well-known dive sites that are popular. Since bareboat yacht charters are not permitted to venture outside the reef, it is in your best interest to hire a local dive company if you wish to go there. If your yacht charter is crewed, then have the skipper contact the local dive company to make arrangements for a meeting place in order to explore with an experienced dive master.
Glover’s Reef Marine is located 36 miles off the shore of Belize. It is a group of islands encircled within a turquoise lagoon and surrounded by a coral reef that has one of the richest tropical marine environments called Glover’s Reef Atoll. All six sand cayes within the atoll are privately owned. The diving is legendary and cannot compare with any other place in the world. There are over 80 square miles for snorkellers and divers to explore with an incredible variety of fish. The southern part of the atoll is a conservation area that is used for research and recreational activities. Visitors are forbidden from taking anything from the area. Dive boats require a license to be there and divers must register with the reserve manager. There is a resort located here as well but amenities for boaters are limited.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the farthest atoll from the coast of Belize. There is one charming colonial style beachfront resort located on the island and the primary focus of activities is diving and relaxing on the beach. The famous “Blue Hole” is actually located in the centre of the Lighthouse reef lagoon. The 400 foot deep hole is perhaps one of the most amazing underwater experiences in the western hemisphere. Some of the best wall diving exists here and many consider it the greatest dive site in Belize. Coral surrounds the entire 75 square miles of Blue Hole. Visibility is an amazing 100 feet in clear turquoise waters that are calm with no currents running. If considering a dive here hire a local dive master to meet your boat and take you there. He will have the expertise necessary for a safe diving experience.