The Highly Instagrammable Opp: Swim with Sharks in Belize

by Louise Roe

Once a common area for fishermen to clean their catch of the day, Shark Ray Alley is now a popular snorkeling site teeming with nurse sharks, rays and marine life. Located inside Hol Chan Marine Reseve, the country’s first established marine reserve, spanning roughly three square miles, this is a perfect half-day activity for all ages: swim with sharks!


sting rays nurse sharks

A short 15-minute boat ride south of San Pedro or 30 minutes north of Caye Caulker; Hol Chan is very accessible. Upon arrival, you are in for a warm welcome! A frenzy of sharks and rays surround the boat as seagulls flock above. Nurse sharks are the popular species of shark to swim with in this reserve. The sandy floors make for the perfect hang out spot for these docile creatures who enjoy lying on the reef floor and finding food hidden in the corals. With some of their favorites being fish, crab, lobster, and conch, there is no worry here so visitors happily share the water! The reserve is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 30 feet making for great visibility when snorkeling. Not to mention, the guaranteed encounter with a nurse shark.

First-timers can relax, grab a snorkel plus pair of goggles and flippers to jump straight in!


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preeetttyyy wild, very cool

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Feel your heart race as sharks averaging four to six feet swim at arm’s length alongside you. Though they may seem menacing at first sight, these creatures are majestic and passive. Beautiful stingrays, with a wingspan of roughly four feet, glide swiftly amongst the cluster of sharks, making for a truly amazing underwater experience. With luck on your side, you can also spot loggerhead turtles, horse-eyed jacks, groupers and schools of many other tropical fish, which together create a colorful and vibrant underwater scene that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Whether diving or snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, you are in for a treat! Full and half-day tours can be booked at your Gold Standard recognized hotel, local dive shop, or tour operator on either island. Another popular location to sight these friendly sharks is in Southern Belize at the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, if you’re lucky! Ask your tour operator for more information.

Written by Louise Roe for the 2020 Belize Gold Book.
 Article found on page 34 of the 2020 Belize Gold Book.

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