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Snorkeling in Belize
Hol Chan Marine Reserve - Shark Ray Alley



Hol Chan Marine Reserve Goto top

Off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is Mayan for 'little channel." This sanctuary was officially established in 1987, and since then the return of all species of fish has been quite dramatic. The reserve covers approximately three square miles (7.8 sq km) and is divided into three zones. Each one is clearly marked by buoys. The entire reserve focuses on a cut through the reef which is little more than 25 yards (23 m) wide and 30 feet (9 m) deep.

Thhe site is about 15 minutes south by boat. Maximum 30 feet deep. Excellent visibility. You can almost always see all species of fish including jacks, groupers, snappers, parrot fish, angel fish, barracuda, eels, spider crabs, lobster, and nurse sharks.

 



Shark Ray Alley Goto top

For several years, local fishermen often cleaned their catch in this area, located just inside the reef, to the south of Ambergris Caye. When fishermen noticed that their activity had attracted Nurse Sharks and several Southern Sting Rays, they reported this information to the dive operations in San Pedro, who then dispatched some divers to investigate. What they found was a bonanza, and "Shark-Ray Alley" quickly became a very popular dive site.

As soon as your boat arrives in the area, the Dive Master points out all of the dark shadows in the shallow (eight foot deep) waters. These are the sharks and rays that hear the boat approach and come in search of a few scraps of fish.

These creatures have a great tolerance for divers/snorkelers and seem to enjoy the human interaction. The rays, which have a 'wing-span' of two to four feet, swim directly towards the divers/snorkelers, inviting them to reach out and stroke their wings (although it's best not to touch them). Some would also swim in circles around us, like a cat rubbing against our legs. The gentle Nurse Sharks average four to six feet in length, and the dive masters often feed them small fish.



Advise: Ask the operator to go out to the sites outside the normal times. This will prevent that you end up seeing more people than sharks!

For diving, snorkeling and tours you can contact Rene at Island Excursisons on email islandexcursions@btl.net.








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