Snorkeling in Caye Caulker and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve

hol chan marine reserve belize

Snorkeling is my favorite tropical activity and I never pass up a chance to hit the water whenever I can. I did some research prior to booking our day snorkeling trip and I found great reviews for Raggamuffin Tours – plus their trip details and pricing were exactly what I was looking for. (note to tour companies – websites matter!)

We walked down to the Raggamuffin Tour stand around 10 a.m. One of the great benefits of Raggamuffin is how easy they are to find. You won’t be able to walk by their office without noticing their bright, reggae colors. Every employee we talked to, from registration, to crew members, to the captain were all exuding fun. We immediately knew it would be an awesome day!

Evidently there were a lot of people drawn to the bright colors and swagger from the company because this tour had more people than any other tour we had taken our entire time in Belize. We all jumped on board a smaller schooner that took us out to a large sailboat waiting deeper water.

We climbed on board our vessel for the day and the captain greeted us and went over what to expect for the day. Soon we were off to our first of four stops.

boat ride to snorkeling in caye caulker

We arrived at our first stop and everyone hopped off the boat. We swam around, taking in the beautiful coral and fish beneath us. We weren’t there very long before we headed off to our next stop. We were in a “conch graveyard” of sorts. There were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of conch shells scattered underneath us. And all throughout vibrant, colorful fish swam in between the shells, diving and darting right in front of us.

Soon enough we were back on board headed to stop number three – shark and stingray alley.

belize snorkeling

We pulled up and I peered overboard, spotting large shadows slowly swimming along in the water. My fear turned to all out panic when the crew started tossing sardines overboard, bringing the sharks to the surface and showcasing their size.

shark and sting ray alley in caye caulker belize

I asked the captain if he was seriously considering that we all get in water. He laughed his knowing laugh and told us to jump in. I knew in my head they were nurse sharks and couldn’t (hopefully) hurt us but I was still afraid. Overcoming my fear, I jumped into the water and tucked up my legs, hoping not to hit a shark or a stingray that wanted me for lunch.

We swam around and my fear was replaced with pure amazement. Sharks and stingrays were everywhere beneath us, easily gliding through the water like we weren’t floating just a few feet above them. It was an incredible experience.

Back on the sailboat we were on to stop four.

Like old pros, we dove in for the final time. In the water, we followed our guide around the Hol Chan Marine reserve as he dove below us, pointing out interesting sea creatures and fish along the way.

We passed through the channel running through the reserve, which is 30 feet deep. In the channel, the pull of the water was stronger and we didn’t spend too much time lingering as we crossed to the other side of the coral.

As we swam along, we got to an area with an underwater cave that experienced free divers were welcomed to swim through. Russ is usually the first up for a free-dive challenge but the task seemed daunting, and I’m not sure if it was because of the optical illusion the water gives off, or the true depth of the area.

The whole way we spotted a range of fish from tiny to huge, many of which we later identified thanks to a fish guide on the boat.

caye caulker birds
The birds hovering by the boat got a hand-fed treat.
caye caulker snorkeling
We dangled our feet off the side of the boat as we sailed in between snorkeling destinations.

I’ll be honest, at each stop I was surprised at the number of boats and snorkelers around. While I understand how popular of a snorkeling destination the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is, I couldn’t believe how many boats and swimmers were in the water. It would be easy to lose your group as swimmers were consistently criss-crossing each other.

Caye Caulker Belize snorkeling

Sadly, our time in the water was over – which may have been a good thing because backs were starting to get burnt from the intensity of the sun compounded with the water. The sail back was not disappointing. The crew had the rum punch flowing freely and the reggae music on full blast. It truly was a sail in paradise.

The more the rum flowed, the more friends we made on the boat – including a couple from the east coast who were planning a move to the cayes. You can spot them here photobombing our picture with the captain.

captain of the raggamuffin

 

After a fun-filled ride back, we arrived just in time for sunset and took off for the split, ready to continue happy hour.

return from snorkeling

panoramic.jpg

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