We left Caye Caulker with Raggamuffin Tours around 1030am. While probably some of the most commercial part of the Belize Barrier Reef, Coral Gardens/Shark Ray Alley/Hol Chan, are very impressive in my opinion. They plan the order in which you arrive at each stop in perfect sequence…as each stop arrives, the sites get more and more exciting.
Last time I visited these sites, Coral Gardens was a little ho-hum, but not today…there were a ton of smaller fish at Coral Gardens today. Here are some of the most colorful.
Shark Ray Alley
Stop two was Shark Ray Alley. Going here is a must do in Belize. They not only coaxed the Nurse Sharks and Caribbean Sting Rays to the boat with a little food, we also got in and swam around with them. The Captain, Jahlee, was catching a Sting Ray for everyone to touch and I was a bit too close for my comfort. I think I even let out a little squeal as the Sting Rays tail came within inches of my face. I didn’t know I could snorkel backwards so fast…taking people out as I went. I touched both the Nurse Shark (which has sandpaper like skin) and the Sting Ray (which has slimy skin) last year, so I let others do it this time. We were also joined by A LOT of Jack Fish…and, I mean A LOT. I think my Mom really enjoyed the Sharks and Rays…who wouldn’t? Below are some photos of the Nurse Sharks from the boat and then both the Nurse Sharks and the Sting Rays from the water.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Our final stop was Hol Chan. Last time I was here there was a fairly strong current that we had to swim against on the way out…luckily that meant we could just float back to the boat. Today there was absolutely no current which made it much easier. In either case it’s not a problem because the guides will always help you along. Hol Chan is a reserve, so there is no snorkeling on your own. All snorkelers must stay with a guide at all times. I don’t have a problem with this at all since I tend to see many more fish with their keen eyes helping spot them. So, what did we see right off the bat? A Green Moray Eel. It was such a treat because he was right out in the open moving around. I find them to be extremely beautiful and a bit scary all at once. There were also some massive Groupers right near the boat. Hol Chan is an open channel in the reef, so unlike most of the areas near this reef it is around thirty feet deep. The sheer number of fish in this channel is amazing. Aside from all the brightly colored fish, we also saw several Tarpin which can get up to eight feet long and weigh over 250 pounds. Our guide says they put up quite a fight when you get one on the line. It’s legal to fish for them (outside the reserve), but they are strictly catch and release. We attempted to track down a Sea Turtle, but they hid from us all day (I got to see one last time…so cool). I could go on and one, but the best way to explain Hol Chan is to include some of my favorite photos.
And, a huge THANKS to Vito for making us delicious shrimp ceviche and for also making sure my Mom was well taken care of.
Note: Resolution on all of these photos has been lowered for easier uploading. Higher resolution photos will be posted to my Flickr account (alaskagirlatheart) at a later date.
Tomorrows Plan: San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.