Snorkel, Caye Caulker
The real reason to go to caye caulker is the reef about a half mile off shore. Many companies offer snorkeling tours to the marine reserves close to the reef. We used Raggamuffin tours and were very satisfied, they use sailboats for a very smooth ride and the guides are excellent.
I went for the half day snorkeling which was 3 hrs, and was only $25US. Ian our guide was born and raised on Caye Caulker, so he was very knowledgeable and friendly. He was also very funny. He took us to the coral reef and pointed out all the fish that we saw, giving us the names as he went along. And he always made sure everyone, was together, no one left behind.
We next went to sting ray alley, where he fed the nurse sharks and stingrays so we could get a better look. When I was too afraid to touch them, he picked up his favorite "Lucy" and held her so that we could all touch her.
We next went to another coral garden, and while people swam, Ian cut up fruit for us to have on the way back. I loved this tour and recommend you find them when in Caye Caulker.
We choose Tsunami Adventures for our snorkling tour. We went to 3 diffrent gardens at the reef. The gardens are so breath taking. The coral is just to beautiful to put into words. We swam with the sting rays and rubbed thire backs!! Which was oh so cool!! Our tour guide did a great job in showing us all the diffrent shells and fish, shrimp, lobsters among many, many,many other things. The list just goes on and on. Great experience!!! for sure :)
the weather wasn't great that day, but it was still amazing, carol was able to make sea creatures to come out of their hiding, we event got to touch a sting ray. swimmed with turtles and sharks.. simply amazing
Caye Caulker is located just a short boat ride away from the Barrier Reef, so one of the island's top attractions is snorkelling. There are several different tour operators but we chose to go with E-Z Boy Tours because their guide Harry Woods is one of the best in Caye Caulker. The tour we picked left at 10:30 in the morning and it included three stops in the beautiful Hol Chan Marine Reserve: Zone A, Shark Ray Alley and Coral Gardens. Snorkelling there was beyond amazing! We followed Harry around in the water as he showed us tons of colourful fishies, some sea turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, spotted eagle rays and a moray eel. Salt water makes it incredibly easy to float and swim around, the water was crystal clear, and there are no words to describe the feeling you get as you slowly drift over a family of giant sting rays!
Once we got to Coral Gardens, we were left to wander about on our own for about 1h30 while Harry was getting lunch ready. It was nice to be able to spread out and go at our own pace and spend as much time as we wanted taking pictures. After a while I got nausea from moving around in the waves so I got back on the boat and Harry was incredibly nice, giving me a lime to chew on and all sorts of tips to help me get rid of the feeling. After only a few minutes I felt good enough to go back in the water and enjoy the rest of the day! I took loads of picture but it's always hard to tell how they'll turn out - here are a few "choice specimens" ;o)
When we got back on the boat after our last snorkelling stop, Harry handed out some water, fresh fruits and tuna sandwiches (he made a special vegetarian one for me), and we then made our way back towards Caye Caulker, going around the island to a spot most visitors don't get to see because it is on the other side of the Split (a waterway that divides the island in two). We stopped at the Driftwood dock and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking and relaxing while watching the sunset. While we were snorkelling at Coral Gardens, Harry had retrieved some conches from the bottom of the sea and prepared fresh conch ceviche (and some vegetarian ceviche for me), which we washed down with a few glasses of delicious rum punch! It just seemed like the perfect way to end a perfect day, and Harry brought us back to Caye Caulker just on time for dinner :o)
If I remember correctly, the price for the full-day snorkelling excursion, which included the food, drinks and snorkelling equipment, was US$60 (BZ$120) per person. I would definitely recommend E-Z Boy Tours for an amazing snorkelling experience in Caye Caulker!
Excellent way to spend the day. Carlos is very knowledgeable about the reef and its inhabitants. He actually leads the group (usually 6-8) on a tour of the reef pointing out the different types of coral and fish/eels/rays. You go to San Pedro for lunch and then snorkelling again on the way back. At the end of the day you can buy a CD of the pictures he took that day for about $15 US
We went with Star Tours, located in the heart of Caye Caulker town. Cost was US$47.50 per person for a full-day three location trip, which included Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark/Ray Alley, and Coral Gardens.
Guide was very informative, though we felt Hol Chan Marine Reserve was overly crowded and that was a shame. We only got to see one shark the whole day, largely because there were so many tourists in the water. We left a 20% tip for the operator at the end of the day for his work.
The full day trip runs from 9am till 4pm in the afternoon, stopping at Ambergris Caye for lunch. (We ate at Fido's. Prices are so much higher on Ambergris Caye!!)
We went on a full day snorkel trip with this tour agency. After comparing prices around the island it seems they're all around the same price. Anyways, I feel we made a good choice.
We went to three sites: The Coral Gardens, Shark and Ray Alley, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Swimming with the nurse sharks was a neat experience (they feed them and other fish to attract them to the boat). One of the tour guides comes in with the group, guides them around, and points out different types of fish. My favourite experience was gliding across the surface with rays deep below me in the depths, it was so serene, like it was just us.
Water and fresh tropical fruits were available on the boat. We also had a simple sandwich lunch (vegetarian option). On the return journey our guides opened the sails and we sailed along for an hour or so sipping rum punch and snacking on fresh salsa and chips before turning on the motor for the final leg of the trip.
Like I said, it was a fun trip, though more for the boat ride and introduction to snorkelling than the fish themselves. There weren't all that many fish like all the tour agencies and online sites make it seem, for whatever reason (coral decline? hurricanes?). Also, it did feel a bit rushed, though I don't blame the tour operators; it's a lot to see and do in one day. If you want to spend more time in one place, I recommend renting out snorkel gear and going out on your own time just for fun, or perhaps looking into 1/2-day trips that spend more time at particular places.
The final stop in our snorkeling excursion was at the inside of the reef wall itself. This enabled us to swim right up to the various channels and inlets along the backside of the reef, paying attention not to actually touch anything, where we could examine it up close. We had some really great views of colourful fish here, but I guess I was overly excited from the sharks and rays, managing to forget to bring the underwater camera with me for this session! We lingered here for quite some time before climbing out and getting ourselves organized before the boat headed ashore. The tour price also included a small snack of fruit and bottles of water. Even though I had covered myself with #30 sunblock, and we were only out for 3 hours, this was the only time I got a little bit of a burn on our trip - don't mess with the midday sun and water!
Having mastered our equipment at the first dive site, the boat then took us to Caye Caulker's own 'Shark-Ray Alley' where we were encouraged to interact with the placid Nurse Sharks and Southern Sting-rays to be found there. The place was full of the creatures and they readily approached us, having been conditioned to this by numerous other tourist visits. This photo shows our guide in the water with one of the Sting-rays, showing us how it is done!
The second photo shows the numerous Rays milling about beside our boat and finally the third photo is an underwater shot I took as I approached one of the rays!
These half day trips are great, with tours at 10:30 am to 1:30 pm & 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, weather permitting.
The only other time we had been snorkeling in recent years was near Cancun in 2003, and we enjoyed it so much that we fully intended to do it again while on Caye Caulker. We had even bought an underwater camera to take with us, but left it home in a drawer, we realized while en route! Oh well, picked up another cheap one in Atlanta while waiting for our Belize City flight, and now we got to use it!
Our tour driver took us all for a practise run in an area with various corals, and I was able to shoot away to get a few shots, even saw some SCUBA divers below us. It was just as much fun as we had remembered and I thought that the colours of the various corals and small fish were great! The actual snorkeling was easy, it was just pure fun to float along and take in the sights along this second longest of the world's barrier reefs!
The highlight of our stay on Caye Caulker was a 3-hour snorkeling trip we made just a short distance off-shore one morning. There are numerous dive shops set up along the streets of Caye Caulker, so we wandered into Hicaco Tours one night to make enquiries for the next day. The operator said the weather may by 'iffy' in the morning, but he put us down as first on the list for a 10:30 AM trip to the reef, providing at least 4 people had signed up by then. When we returned the next day, there was a long list that turned into 13 passengers and 2 crew when we finally did leave. There was a large group from the Netherlands and a couple from England readying to leave, and we were all soon outfitted with life-jackets, flippers, masks and snorkels (all for our price of US$45 for two). A 115-HP Yamaha engine was soon powering our open boat out to the reef!
No trip to Caye Caulker is complete without going snorkeling with the nurse sharks and southern stingrays at Shark Ray Alley. The moment the boat arrives the stingrays appear. With a roar of the engine, the sharks begin appearing. As the guide begins feeding, more and more stingrays and sharks appear and a feeding frenzy soon commences. Getting into the water with and touching these creatures makes the trip complete.
To a little caye, or to Hol Chan
One of the main activities for visitors to the cays is scuba, but there's a lot of snorkeling too. Because Belize has such an extensive reef system, that also means that the beaches are narrow. The reefs keep the surf from grinding up rocks into sand and building wide beaches. So snorkeling is most often done from small boats. But the water is so clear that you can see everything just as well snorkeling as you could diving up to about 20 feet deep.
You can rent all your equipment, but you might want to get your own mask so that you can be sure it fits. You should also take sun protection and water. You can wear a t-shirt over your bathing suit, but I like a full 'skin' which covers me all over. Plan on spending about $35-50.00 U.S. (includes mask, snorkels and fins) for a half to full day of snorkeling
Many of the tours go to Hol Chan to the Coral Garden or the shark and ray section. The guides play with the sharks and feed the rays (the rays are quite gentle, and the sharks usually are). In addition to the nurse sharkes and the eagle rays, you can see staghorn and elkhorn coral, many kinds of fish (about 400 species live around the reef) and occasionally dolphins or sea turtles.
We also took a manatee trip which included a snorkeling stop at a little island with 18 palm trees and very little else.