Location and general information

On a calm and clear day, the corals of the Hol Chan cut can be seen thru the translucent waters from visiting dive boats.
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is located along the northern section of the barrier reef, approximately four miles southeast of the warm and friendly town of San Pedro on Ambergris caye. A central feature of the reserve is a natural break, or cut (the reserve takes its name from the Mayan term for this cut) in the reef.

The cut gives rise to striking coral formations, fish and other marine life. The reserve encompasses more than five square miles of ecologically linked coral reef, sea grass meadows and coastal mangrove swamp habitats.

The Hol Chan Cut and the surrounding reef area along with the interrelated and interdependent lagoon and mangrove habitats were included in the reserve so that the entire ecosystem could be protected and monitored. The need for the protection of this area was particularly urgent due to the increase of tourist development. Also the reef in this area had traditionally been exposed to heavy use and showed signs of stress caused by overcollecting, overfishing, and anchor damage. With the increase in development, a greater stress on the reef was imminent. With the protection offered to the area by "reserve status" it was expected that the area would be restored to its earlier, more vital state.

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley are the most popular diving/snorkeling sites in all of Belize. This is due to the close proximity of San Pedro, the large amount of fish life found with the Hol Chan "cut" accessible by snorkelers and beginning divers, the diversity of marine life encountered throughout the 4 zones of the park and the exitement and novelty of swimming with large numbers of nurse sharks and sting rays.

Over 160 species of fish have been identified in the reserve, along with nearly 40 species of corals, 5 sponges, 8 algaes, 2 seagrasses, 3 marine mammals and 3 species of sea turtle.

Below is the most current census of the marine life found within the Hol Chan Marine Reserves boundaries:

FishHard CoralsSpongesAlgaeGrassesTurtlesMammals
Sergeant Major - Abudefduf saxatilis Ocean Surgeonfish - Acanthuirus bahianus
Doctorfish - Acanthurus chirurgus Blue Tang - Acanthurus coeruleus
Reef Squirrelfish - Adioryx coruscus Spotted Eagle Ray - Aetoboatus narinari
Bonefish - Albula vulpes Scrawled Filefish - Aluterus scriptus
Hawkfish - Amblycirritus pinos Black Margate - Anisotremus surinamensis
Porkfish - Anisotremus virginicus Bridled Cardinalfish - Apogon aurolineatus
Flamefish - Apogon maculatus Sea Bream - Archosargus rhomboidals
Bronze Cardinalfish - Astropagon alutus Conchfish - Astrapogon stellatus
Silverside - Athermomorus stipes Trumpetfish - Aulostomus maculatus
Queen Trigger - Balistes vetula Spanish Hogfish - Bodianus rufus
Peacock Flounder - Bothus lunatus Saucereye Porgy - Calamus calamus
Orangespotted Filefish - Cantherhinus pullus Sharpnose Puffer - Canthigaster rostrata
Blue Runner - Caranx crysos Crevalle Jack - Caranx hippos
Horse-eye Jack - Caranx latus Bar Jack - Caranx ruber
Bull Shark - Carcharhinus leucas Black Tip Shark - Carcharhinus limbatus
Nurse Shark - Ginglymostoma cirratum Snook - Centropomus undecimalis
Spadefish - Chaetodipterus faber Four-eye Butterflyfish - Chaetodon capistratus
Spotfin Butterflyfish - Chaetodon ocellatus Banded Butterflyfish - Chaetodon striatus
Striped Burrfish - Chilomycterus schoepfi Blue Chromis - Chromis cyaneus
Dolphin - Coryphaena hippurus Bridled Goby - Coryphopterus glaucofraenum
Masked Goby - Coryphopterus personatus Sheepshead Minnow - Cyprinodon variegatus
Atlantic Flyingfish - Cypselurus heterurus Flying Grunard - Dactylopterus volitans
Southern Stingray - Dasyatis americana Balloonfish - Diodon holocanthus
Porcupinefish - Diodon hystrix Shark Sucker - Echeneis naucrates
Rock Hind - Epinephalus adscensionis Graysby - Epinephalus cruentatus
Red Hind Grouper - Epinephalus gattatus Coney - Epinephalus fulvus
Jewfish - Epinephalus itajara Red Grouper - Epinephalus mario
Nassau Grouper - Epinephalus striatus Jackknife Fish - Equetus lanceolatus
Majarra - Eucinostomas sp. Cornetfish - Fistularia tabacaria
Longspine Squirrelfish - falmmeo marianus Tiger Shark - Galeocerdo cuvieri
Yellowfin mojarra - Gerres cinereus Neon Goby - Gobiosoma oceanops
Fairy Basslet - Gramma loreto Green Moray - Gymnothorax funebris
Spotted Moray - Gymnothorax moringa Purple Mouth Moray - Gymnothorax vicinus
Margate - Haemulon album Tomate - Haemulon aurolineatum
Small Mouth Grunt - Haemulon chrysargyreum French Grunt - Haemulon flavolineatum
Cottonwick - Haemulon melanurum White Grunt - Haemulon plumieri
Blue-Striped Grunt - Haemulon sciurus Slippery Dick - Halichoeres bivittatus
Yellowhead Wrasse - Halichoeres garnotti Clown Wrasse - Halichoeres maculipinna
Rainbow Wrasse - Halichoeres pictus Puddingwife - Halichoeres radiatus
Scaled Sardine - Harengula jaguana Ballyhoo - Hemiramphus brasiliensis
Seahorse - Hippocampus sp. Squirrelfish - Holocentrus sp.
Long jaw Squirrelfish - Holocentrus ascensionis Longspine Squirrelfish - Holocentrus rufus
Queen Angelfish - Holacanthus ciliaris Rock Beauty - Holacanthus tricolor
Hamlet - Hypoplectus sp. Indego Hamlet - Hypoplectus indego
Dwarf Herring - Jenkensia lamprotaenia Chub - Kyphosus sp.
Bermuda Chub - Kyphosus sectatrix Hogfish - Lachnolaimus maximus
Honeycomb Cowfish - Lactophrys polygonia Scrawled Cowfish - Lactophrys quadricornis
Trunkfish - Lactophrys trigonus Perpermint Bass - Liopropoma rubre
Candy Bass - Liopropoma carmabi Triple-tail - Loliotes surinamensis
Crested Goby - Lophogobius eyprinoides Mutton Snapper - Lutjanus analis
School Master - Lutjanus apodus Cubera Snapper - Lutjanus cyanopterus
Grey Snapper - Lutjanus griseus Dog Snapper - Lutjanus jocu
Rock Hind - Epinephalus adscensionis Graysby - Epinephalus cruentatus
Red Hind Grouper - Epinephalus gattatus Coney - Epinephalus fulvus
Jewfish - Epinephalus itajara Red Grouper - Epinephalus mario
Nassau Grouper - Epinephalus striatus Jackknife Fish - Equetus lanceolatus
Mahogany Snapper - Lutjanus mahogoni Lane Snapper - Lutjanus synagris
Sand Tilefish - Malacanthus plumieri Atlantic Manta - Manta birostris
Tarpon - Megalops atlanticus Black Durgon - Melichthys niger
Yellowtail damselfish - Microspathodon chrysurus White Mullet - Mugil curema
Yellow Goatfish - Mulloidichthys martinicus Goldentail Moray - Muraena miliaris
Rockfish Grouper - Mycteroperca bonaci Tiger Grouper - Mycteroperca tigris
Yellowfin Grouper - Mycteroperca venenosa Lemon Shark - Negaprion brevirostris
Yellowtail Snapper - Ocyurus chrysurus Shortnose Batfish - Ogcocephalus nasutus
Yellowhead Jawfish - Opistognathus aurifrons Creole Fish - Paranthias fucifer
Glassy Sweeper - Pempheris schomburgki Freckled Cardinalfish - Phaeoptyx conklini
Sailfin Molly - Poecilia latipinna Gray Angelfish - Pomacanthus arcuatus
French Angelfish - Pomacanthus paru Dusky Damselfish - Pomacentrus fuscus
Beaugregory - Pomacentrus leucostictus Bicolor Damselfish - Pomascentrus partitus
Three Spot Damselfish - Pomacentrus planifrons Cocoa Damselfish - Pomacentrus variabilis
Spotted Goatfish - Pseudopeneus maculatus Southern Guitarfish - Rhinoboutos percellens
Soapfish - Rypticus sp. Midnight Parrotfish - Scarus coelestinus
Blue Parrotfish - Scarus coeruleus Striped Parrotfish - Scarus croicensis
Rainbow Parrotfish - Scarus guacamaia Princess Parrotfish - Scarus taeniopterus
Queen Parrotfish - Scarus vetula Cero - Scomberomorus regalis
Reef Scorpionfish - Scorpaena caribbaeus Plumed Scorpionfish - Scorpaena grandicornis
Look Down - Selene vomer Greater Amberjack - Seriola dumerili
Harlequin Bass - Serranus tigrinus Redband Parrotfish - Sparisoma aurofrenatum
Red-tailed Parrotfish - Sparisoma chrysopterum Bucktooth Parrotfish - Sparisoma radians
Redfin Parrotfish - Sparisoma rubripinne Stoplight Parrotfish - Sparisoma viride
Southern Puffer - Sphoeroides nephelus Bandtail Puffer - Sphoeroides spengleri
Checkered Puffer - Sphoeroides testudineus Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda
Great Hammerhead Shark - Sphyrna mokarran Redfin Needlefish - Strongylura notata
Pipefish - Syngnathus sp. Lizardfish - Synodus sp.
Red Lizardfish - Synodus synodus Bluehead Wrasse - Thalassoma bifasciatum
Permit - Trachinotus falcatus Houndfish - Tylosurus crocodilus
Yellow Stingray - Urolophus jamaicensis    
Staghorn Coral - Acropora cervicornis Elkhorn Coral - Acropora palmata
Leaf Coral - Agaricia agaricites Sheet Coral - Agaricia lamarcki
Ribbon Coral - Agaricia tenuifolia Giant Brain Coral - Colpophyllia natans
Elliptical Star Coral - Dichocoenia stokesii Smooth Brain Coral - Diploria strigosa
Grooved Brain Coral - Diploria labyrinthiformis Pencil Coral - Madracis sp.
Rose Coral - Manicina areolata Mountainous Star Coral - Montastrea annularis
Cavernous Star Coral - Montastrea cavernosa Club Finger Coral - Porites porites
Mustard Hill Coral - Porites asteroides Rough Starlet Coral - Siderastrea radians
Smooth Starlet Coral - Siderastrea siderea Corky Sea Fingers - Briareum asbestinum
Knobby Candelabra - Eunicea sp. Common Sea Fan - Gorgonia ventalina
Venus Sea Fan - Gorgonia flabellum Spiny muricea - Muricea muricata
Sea Rod - Plexaurella sp. Sea Plume - Pseudopterogorgia sp.
Sea Whip - Pterogorgia sp.    
Red Boring Sponge - Cliona sp. Cake Sponge - Ircinia strobilina
Sprawling Sponge - Neopetrosia longleyi Candle Sponge - Verongia sp.
Basket Sponge - Xestospongia sp.    
Sergeant Major - Abudefduf saxatilis Ocean Surgeonfish - Acanthuirus bahianus
Manatee Grass - Syringodium filiforme Turtle Grass - Thalassia testudinum
Hawksbill Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata Loggerhead Turtle - Caretta caretta
Green Turtle - Chelomia mydas    
Common Dolphin - Delphinus delphis Spotted Dolphin - Stenella attenuata
West Indian Manatee - Trichechus manatus    

FishHard CoralsSpongesAlgaeGrassesTurtlesMammals

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