Tourists from around the world pay hundreds of dollars to visit Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret – Belize! And our number one tourist destination is without a doubt our beautiful Isla Bonita – San Pedro Ambergris Caye home of the world famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley.
Have you ever taken the time to visit this wondrous place? Famous TV personalities, actors and many tourists just love to enjoy a snorkeling or diving trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray. Hey if Andrew Zimmern came to swim with the sharks and Mr. Robert Silva made the longest salt water dive at Hol Chan, why can’t you lovely San Pedranos and Belizeans make a trip and enjoy the beautiful underwater world at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley.
I am not much of a swimmer or “water person”. I prefer land adventures such as venturing into the beautiful rainforests of Belize or exploring sacred Maya temples, but this past weekend I made an exception and went out to Hol Chan and Shark Ray with friends and family.
Once in the water you are in another world, schools of horse-eye jacks are beneath your boat swimming about. As you swim by you easily get distracted by the vast underwater life. You can easily spot groupers, snappers, angel fish and parrot fish in their natural habitat. And when you least expect it green turtles are grazing on the grass beds swim up for air right in front of you! Can you say WOW!
If it were up to me I would name this place one of the Natural Wonders of the World, and if that weren’t enough we headed off to Shark – Ray Alley. For several years, local fishermen often cleaned their catch in this area, located just inside the reef, to the south of Ambergris Caye. When fishermen noticed that their activity had attracted Nurse Sharks and several Southern Sting Rays, they reported this information to the dive operations in San Pedro, who then dispatched some divers to investigate. What they found was a bonanza, "Shark-Ray Alley" quickly became a very popular dive site.
Shark Ray Alley has a maximum depth of 30 feet and excellent visibility. You can almost always see all species of fish including jacks, groupers, snappers, parrot fish, angel fish, and nurse sharks. Divers are occasionally cautioned regarding the currents. As soon as we arrived in the area, we noticed a number of dark shadows in the shallow (eight foot deep) waters. As soon as the sharks and rays heard the boat approach, they came in search of a few scraps of fish.
For those adventurers and brave at heart swimming with nurse sharks and sting rays is very fun. I just stayed on the boat enjoying the scene from up above. One interesting thing that did capture my attention was a local San Pedrano Mr. Lopez and his son who happened to be cleaning their conch nearby. As we approached them to our surprise there were huge Sting Rays everywhere and a huge loggerhead turtle. I was amazed by seeing this lovely creature.
Mr. Lopez he explained to us that the turtle is very docile and has gotten used to them as they feed it with the conch scraps. Although one is not allowed to touch any animal (flora or fauna) in Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley Mr. Lopez (every now and again) gets in the water to clean the turtles shell and is more than pleased to entertain tourists who snorkel in the area by feed the turtle so they can have a closer look. Tour guides are asked to tie their boats in the marking buoys placed around the area and tourists are constantly reminded not to touch the turtles.
So instead of taking a stroll along the beach, going for a ride around town, why don’t you plan a picnic and head out to Hol Chan and Shark-Ray Alley. I’m sure you won’t regret it. Swimming with turtles, nurse sharks and sting rays is one of a kind experience. Don’t miss out and have a great time in your own backyard; explore the wonders of San Pedro!