Snorkel Hol Chan Marine Reserve on Your Belize Vacation

Snorkel Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley

Located just a few miles south of the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a large protected marine environment famous for its rich abundance of coral reefs and aquatic flora and fauna.

Why You Have to Snorkel Han Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley

Declared a protected habitat in 1987, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve measures more than 4,400 acres (18 square kilometers) in size.

The name “Hol Chan” is Maya for “Little Cut” and refers to a natural break in the Belize Barrier Reef. The reserve is home to three kinds of sea turtles, two kinds of dolphins, the West Indian manatee, lobsters, eels, stingrays, sea anemones, dozens of species of fish, and three kinds of coral.

The reserve is divided into four zones:

  • Zone A – In and around the coral reef where fishing is prohibited but snorkeling and scuba diving are permitted.
  • Zone B – An area of sea grass beds where fishing is permitted.
  • Zone C – The mangrove swamps of southern Ambergris Caye where limited sport fishing is permitted.
  • Zone D – Popularly known as Shark Ray Alley, the zone is primarily used for snorkeling but some limited fishing is permitted in the area.

Shark Ray Alley is the local nickname for a shallow section where swift currents attract large groups of nurse sharks and stingrays, a popular destination for scuba diving.

Where in Belize Is Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley Located?

The reserve begins at the southern end of Ambergris Caye and continues south along the Belize Barrier Reef unto the waters offshore of Caye Caulker.

When Is the Best Time to Snorkel Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley

Variations in tide and weather affect which creatures can be seen in the reserve but the robust ecosystem means that visitors can experience the majesty of Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley all year round.

Best Way to Get to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley

As the reserve stretches between the islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, most visitors to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley begin their trips from one of those two islands.

Best Way to Experience Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley

All fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling in the reserve requires the payment of a fee. The government does not collect these fees directly but instead from licensed tour guides. Visitors must contract with a licensed operator in order to enter and enjoy snorkeling, sport fishing, or diving in the reserve.

Contact us if you have questions or would like to book a tour on Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley.


Get a copy of The Ultimate Belize Bucket List! Written by Larry Waight, a local with more than twenty years of experience in the travel industry, the book is packed with tips, information, and recommendations about all of the best things to see and do in Belize.
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