Scuba Diving: Belize or Roatan?

My wife and I are looking for a “learn to scuba” vacation over the US Thanksgiving weekend. Currently we have it narrowed down to either Belize for the Blue Hole and Belize Barrier Reef. Or spending the weekend on Roatan Island.

Does anyone have an opinion either way? My biggest concern at the moment is weather. It seems that the diving and weather might be better in Belize, but the infrastructure for the trip is better on Roatan.

As anyone done a trip like this with success that they’re willing to share? Our current plan is to do the eLearning course from and then finish the open water course at our destination.

Thanks for the help!

My Wife and I dove the Blue Hole off of Belize in 2001. We did love staying on Ambergis Kay (an island and popular destination off of the cost of Belize).

We saw great stuff drift diving.

We had some great local dives off the island. The water was very rough though. The Blue hole was something we really wanted to do, and it was a great experience. It is a hell of a long boat ride that you need to prepare for. We were on a brand new boat. About a 40 footer, and it was a very long ride. The boat was fast, We must have been making 30 knots.

It’s an all day thing that leaves very early. Sharks are around but not aggressive. Just curious.

A drift dive over a reef is what I would recommend for new divers. You can manage your buoyancy and get used to diving. And experience a whole new world. The reefs off of Belize are very nice.

It’s very easy for new divers to forget about their buoyancy and the Blue hole is not where you want to have that happen. My Wife dropped down to 125 feet which is a bit much for a recreational dive on air. It’s very easy to fall into that hole.

The deeper you go, the less buoyancy you have. You must manage it constantly on a drop dive like the Blue Hole.

125 ft? Ouch…does she remember much from down there? ^^

No, seriously…close one :confused: Narced at five atmospheres with a single bottle on your back is not a good place to be.

We went to Belize a few years back- we stayed in San Pedro. The food is fantastic, the people are friendly, the local rum is oh-my-god-how-can-I-get-this-back-home. The diving? Meh.

We did a lot of reef dives. We didn’t do the Blue Hole- it would’ve been a three-hour boat ride just to get out there… and we really prefer shallow dives where we can stay down a long time. The Blue Hole sounds kinda neat, but the extremely minimal bottom time means it’s really more of a “I did this” dive.

For diving, we much prefer Cozumel.

By the way, if you go to Belize, can you bring me back some of the local rum? :slight_smile:

We did the Blue Hole last fall and loved it.

But I also don’t recommend it as a place to learn. As said upthread, a new diver often has trouble with buoyancy, and it can be a bit counter-intuitive when you want to come up (as you’re rising, you also let out a bit of air - the air expands as you rise, so you need to let a bit out so it’s controlled). Going down to 125 feet (!!) is scary and dangerous, and the Blue Hole is very, very deep.

That said, I’m not even sure if they would offer a learn to SCUBA course there…usually your four open water dives are in shallower water (max. 60 feet).

Why did you guys take so long to reply?! We’ve booked our trip to Roatan. Has anyone been there?

My reply was within 30 minutes. Enjoy Roatan. I have heard great things about it. And I think that especially for new divers, stay a little shallow. 70 feet max. I guess you where joking about reply times?

I was my Wife’s buddy on the Blue hole dive and have more experience than her. I turned around and she was 10’ feet below me and descending into the dark fast. I should have been paying better attention to her.

The Blue Hole is 400 feet deep.

The buoyancy thing is a real issue on dives like that. I suspect that she might have narced out. It wasn’t until she hit 125’ that I and the dive master could catch up to her and turn her around. It was scary. My Wife does not remember much of that. It is in her log book though.

Sorry I’m kind of late to the thread.

I have dove both Belize (Turneffe Atoll) and Roatan. And for a “learn to dive” destination, I think you chose the better of the two.

First off, I am not a big fan of learning to dive at these “easy” locations. Sure it will make the course easier, and there’s LOTS to see. But the problem with “easy” is that it doesn’t prepare you for “not so easy”. But if you recognize that you’re learning under (probably) ideal conditions, and keep in mind it isn’t always going to be that way, you’ll do fine.

We did more dives on Belize that involved some current. Some were full-on “drift” dives, others the current just helped you along. It is because Roatan (at least while I was there, and on the dives I did) had almost no current, I think it is a better location to learn to dive. Adding current to the mix, while grappling with bouyancy would not be a good thing.

Not sure where you’re staying (Anthony’s, perhaps ?), but the boat rides tended to be pretty short (a good thing). The water was very warm (I was there in July), and very good visibility. I think for sealife, I saw a bit more in Belize. But there was plenty to see in Roatan as well. Of course, you’ll be concentrating on your coursework, and may not get to spend a whole lot of time just checking stuff out.

Along with diving, Roatan is also known for…sand fleas. Basically no-see-ums that hide in the sand and attack your ankles. And yes, I did get my share of bites. Each bite is pretty small - much smaller than a mosquito. But where they get you is in “quantity”. So bring bugspray. That combination sunscreen - bugspray stuff works well.

Other than that, enjoy. And have fun learning to dive. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

Boy, those stories always scare the crap out of me. Where I dive (Baltic Sea) it’s always freezing cold and pitch black in the water (and almost exclusively wreck diving), so you learn buoyancy and trim rather quickly.

Oh, that reminds me. Another thing I didn’t like about Belize- millions and millions of blood worms. They were especially bad on our night dive.

What the hell are blood worms?!

Bloodworms are these small, about 1 inch long worms. They look brownish red underwater, hence the name. They are attracted to your light, so they are a common occurance on night dives. I’ve seen them in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, etc…
They are totally harmless, but they can kind of freak you out. Thousands can start swarming around you and they can obscure your vision. They tend to swarm when you stop moving and are checking something out.

But there’s a really easy trick to ditch them - turn off your light and swim about 5 feet. You can then turn your light back on, and continue your dive. But if you stop again, you run the risk that they’ll home in on your light.