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Diving and Snorkeling on the Corn Islands

Nurse sharks lurk on the ocean floor, docile and shy, despite their 4.3m (14-ft.) length. Diamond-shaped spotted eagle rays glide through the water, their whip-like tails trailing behind. A school of baby barracudas brushes past, their large mouths and powerful jaws indicating the voracious predators they are. They have lots to hunt: red and yellow snapper, blue angelfish with bright yellow fins, damselfish with blue fluorescent spots, striped French grunts, and multicolored parrot fish. Add to this spiny lobsters, crabs, shrimp, sea urchins, octopus, squid, and marine snails, and you can understand why the Corn Islands are regarded as one of the best places in the world to dive and snorkel. Such a cornucopia of marine life is supported by a spectacular coral reef that extends the whole way from Belize, making it the second longest in the world. Unlike Belize, however, the Corn Islands enjoy splendid isolation and have so far avoided the curious, tank-bearing, bubble-emitting herd. You will most likely be alone when floating above the eerie, cerebral mounds of purple and red coral and those antler bushes that look like exotic Christmas trees. The only crowds here wear scales and dorsal fins.

Most diving sites are a 10-minute boat ride from the islands. In addition to the coral, there are some shipwrecks to explore, including a Spanish galleon. There's also a curious rock formation known as Blowing Rock, as well as some intriguing underwater caves. Snorkelers don't have to go far, either. North of the island, near Sand Fly point, are some excellent shallow waters teeming with colorful sea life. Diving certificates can be obtained at any of the three main diving agencies. A PADI Open Water Certificate costs approximately $250 and takes 4 days. Introduction dives cost $75. Because of the relatively few people who come here to dive, beginners get that extra bit of personal attention from an instructor.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.