Belize Scuba Diving & Snorkeling: Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan

The Barrier Reef is the largest in the western hemisphere. Two of the favorite sites to dive or snorkel are Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan. Here is some information on them and some photos taken from these areas.

Off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is the HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE. Hol Chan is Mayan for 'little channel." This sanctuary was officially established in 1987, and since then the return of all species of fish has been quite dramatic. The reserve covers approximately three square miles (7.8 sq km) and is divided into three zones. Each one is clearly marked by buoys. The entire reserve focuses on a cut through the reef which is little more than 25 yards (23 m) wide and 30 feet (9 m) deep.

This is a must stop for the first introductory dive in Belizean waters. About 15 minutes south by boat. Maximum 30 feet deep. Excellent visibility. You can almost always see all species of fish including jacks, groupers, snappers, parrot fish, angel fish, barracuda, eels, spider crabs, lobster, and nurse sharks. Divers are occasionally cautioned regarding the currents.

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Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Ambergris Caye Field Guide
Diving the Ambergris Caye Area
Turneffe Islands
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Pics from Belize Atolls Trip
Great Blue Hole
Species Frequency Reports
Belize Barrier Reef
National Parks
Shark Ray Alley annexed to Hol Chan

SHARK RAY ALLEY The world's largest diving magazine, Skin Diver, has given Belize's Shark-Ray Alley feature billing in two issues this year (1996). This recently discovered dive site has been selected as one of the seven best "animal dives" in the Caribbean.

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, and "Shark-Ray Alley" quickly became a very popular dive site.

As soon as your boat arrives in the area, the Dive Master points out all of the dark shadows in the shallow (eight foot deep) waters. These are the sharks and rays that hear the boat approach and come in search of a few scraps of fish.

These creatures have a great tolerance for divers and seem to enjoy the human interaction. The rays, which have a 'wing-span' of two to four feet, swim directly towards the divers, inviting them to reach out and stroke their wings (although it's best not to touch them). Some would also swim in circles around us, like a cat rubbing against our legs. The gentle Nurse Sharks average four to six feet in length, and the dive masters often feed them small fish.

This is a truly unforgettable adventure. Snorkellers can also enjoy this encounter with nature. Be sure to visit Shark-Ray Alley during your stay at Ambergris Caye.

Even amateur photographers can take great underwater photos here with disposable marine camera. They work in depths of up to nine feet, which is perfect for the shallow waters inside the reef at Shark-Ray Alley.

Click here for photos of Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan.

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