Hol Chan, Belize
Spend the day with nurse sharks and rays in Hol Chan Marine Reserve. I took a day trip which included Shark Ray Alley. It was funtastic! They provide snorkeling equipment and of course rum punch. You definately want an underwater camera for this and perhaps a beach towel for the outing. The November evenings can get cool so I brought a windbreaker. Also a must chapstick, lip balm whatever you call it-take it. A day in the boat, water and sun takes it's toll. Again I used Daniel with Tanisha Ecological Tours.
and living to talk about it!
What an incredible experience...even if you've never snorkled before, I urge you to face your fears and get in the water! Hol Chan marine reserve is rife with marine life, including giant sting rays, nurse shark, moray eels, grouper, etc. No need to scuba here -- the water is so shallow you will almost have to walk in certain places, but it is amazing to see such underwater wildlife.
Hol Chan is a quick boat ride from Ambergris Caye (20 min?) and provides a great morning or afternoon of fun. If you can, avoid the days when cruise ships come to Belize, as this is a popular site for most tourists, with good reason. The cost is extremely reasonable -- I think we paid around $30 per person and that included a guide, boat ride to/from, snorkel gear, snacks and drinks.
The Belizeans are quite knowledgeable about their island and the waters surrounding them and our guide was terrific in providing us with hands-on experience while keeping us (and the fish) safe from each other! (sorry, I can't recall the name of the tour operator...I believe it was Ruff E'Nuff or something along those lines).
Hol Chan and Shark Rey Alley are two of the best locations for snorkeling and scuba diving with nurse sharks and shark reys. None of the sharks will hurt you, but it does feel a little eerie to swim with them. The tours will usually bring them in with bait and revving their boat engines. Lots of other sea creatures also, and pretty inexpensive.
We went to Hol Chan/ Shark Ray Alley with 2 friends who had recently began to snorkel. The first day was a bit windy so we didn't prod them to snorkel with us. The second time, however, was calm and clear with underwater visibility to 100 feet +. Still they stayed in the boat. " There's no sharks around - we'll wait to snorkel if they show up..." Not 5 minutes later, both bailed into the water after seeing a 12 foot Nurse Shark follow me away from the boat. A bunch of pictures, and a brief shark petting session and we were back on the boat. " We were actually too scared to snorkel in the ocean as we only practiced in our pool" was the excuse,"but when we saw that big shark follow you and you just turned and ran your hand down it's back like a pet, we couldn't believe we were seeing what we were missing....". And the rest is history. A great moment to be alive.
Good all round diving, Healthy coral gardens and great fish line. The Hol Can marine park is a great place to see large fish and large schools of fish. The Blue Hole was a good dive but it is a long way to get there especially if it is rough.
Snorkel/Dive Hol Chan Marine Preserve
You can snorkel in shallow water(6-10Ft) with very docile sting rays, nurse sharks and grouper. They are looking for food from the boats. However as nice as that shallow water snorkeling is, if you swim over to the channel area(30ft depth) you can see a wide variety of other fish swimming through the outer reef to the shallow areas. We saw in 15 or so minutes, Larger grouper, Green morays, spotted moray, eagle ray, black tip shark and legions of angelfish, Snapper, grunts and a spotted Drum. All just while snorkeling. Diving is also a good option here but only night diving is permitted.
This underwater park is under the protection of the government. You do have to pay a fee to go there and they do check all boats. The fish are huge! The coral is also huge and has very unusual colors. This is the first time that I have seen bright blue coral. This is a guided activity and sometimes if you are the last one to get there it is rather crowded. Go early!