Belize Trip Report: Snorkeling at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley

In Belize, you’ll find the second largest barrier reef in the world and the longest in the Western Hemisphere.  The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef spans nearly 700 miles and begins in Mexico at the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and continues southward all the way through the Bay islands of Honduras. You can see waves breaking along the reef just offshore from Ambergris Caye in northern Belize.

Hol Chan (“small channel” in the Mayan language) Marine Reserve is less than 10 minutes by boat from the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.  Hol Chan ranks as the second largest marine reserve in Belize and the most visited.  Water depths range from approximately 5-6 ft to 28 ft.

guided eco tours Belize Reefs to Rockies
Tropical fish and coral at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize.
guided eco tours Belize Reefs to Rockies
Spotted eagle ray at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize.

The biodiversity awaiting snorkelers and divers at Hol Chan is surprisingly abundant for an area that’s so frequented by people.  In just under an hour, we swam with spotted eagle rays, a nurse shark, a green sea turtle, moray eel, and a dazzling array of tropical fish and corals.

guided eco tours Belize Reefs to Rockies
Green sea turtle feeding on sea grass at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize.

Trips to Hol Chan are often followed by a short stop at Shark Ray Alley, another 10 minutes away by boat.  Historically, local fisherman used this shallow area to clean fish and conch, thus attracting resident nurse sharks and southern stingrays.  The sharks and rays have come to expect visitors throwing chum into the water.  If you’re hoping to get up close views of both species, this is the place.

guided eco tours Belize Reefs to Rockies
Nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, Belize.

We would like to thank Exito Travel, Delta Airlines, Tropic Air, and Ramon’s Village for hosting us on this recent scouting trip to Belize.