Monday, August 05, 2013

Snorkeling: Hol Chan & Shark Ray Alley

We went on two snorkeling excursions during our stay in Belize. We organized both with Searious Adventures because they had great reviews, competitive pricing, and they were located close to our hotel. If you book 14 days in advance, you can receive a 10% discount, so I booked both snorkeling trips and a day trip to Lamanai, which I will be blogging about soon.

Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel." The reserve was established to protect the amazing coral and sealife from overfishing and destruction. The Belize barrier reef is the 2nd largest in the world but it's the largest living reef so it's important to keep it protected.

Last year, when I went to Turks & Caicos, I used a case for my iPhone which was definitely waterproof but didn't produce the most stunning photos. This year, knowing we'd be experiencing some amazing snorkeling spots, I spent a bit more money to get dive-proof housing for my Nikon point&shoot camera. This case is essentially a rectangular prism with a little protruding oval for the lens so it will fit most point&shoot cameras. There was some reflection off of the plastic case but overall, the photos were fantastic. Obviously, the quality will be directly related to the quality of your camera, but in general, this is a great buy.
Early in the morning, we headed over to the Searious Dive Shop. We hopped in a small boat, picked up a few other snorkelers at their hotels (Searious will pick you up if your hotel is farther away), and then we were on our way.

Our first stop was Hol Chan. Our guides split us up into two groups and we were on our way. Our guide, Eddie, was really knowledgeable and kind. Two of the people in our group, including my dad, were afraid of going out into the ocean but Eddie made them comfortable, had them hold onto a life jacket and helped them along. He really went above and beyond.

We saw tons of amazing fish and coral and the colors were unreal. These photos don't really do the colors justice, but they are still pretty so I am sharing them.

Do you see the monstrous-looking eel?

One of the best experiences of my life was finally seeing a sea turtle and getting quite close. Our guide told us that in this area, the turtles are not so shy because they are used to seeing snorkelers on a daily basis. Lucky for us because I was able to get some great shots.

It was also an awesome place to free-dive because the water was so warm. Here are a few shots of my sister.
This is me. Do I look like a mermaid? I hope so. I love mermaids.
We snorkeled for about an hour and a half at Hol Chan. Then, we climbed back in the boat and headed to Shark Ray Alley. Our guides chummed the water to encourage the sharks and rays to come by and say hello. Tons of other fish came to the party too.

It is a myth that nurse sharks don't have teeth; they do. They have small mouths with small, non-serrated teeth that aren't the ideal tools for shredding humans. They are also quite gentle creatures that move quite slowly. A stingray is what killed Steve Orwin so it was a bit scary to swim with them. But, our guide told us that these rays know that humans come and feed them and they are quite used to it. That being said, you should never antagonize an animal. Be respectful, especially if you are intruding into their home.

Here I am, diving deep to ask the sharks and rays if they want to play.
Snorkeling at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. If you love to snorkel, I highly recommend you plan your next trip to Belize.

xoxo.

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