Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef

Note: Resolution on all of these photos has been lowered for easier uploading. Higher resolution photos will be posted to my Flickr account (alaskagirlatheart) at a later date.

Yesterday was the first absolutely gorgeous day since we arrived in Belize a week ago. The day before was pretty nice too, but the water was still a little rough and murky. Yesterday we awoke to perfectly calm and clear waters. I couldn’t believe how nice it was. I was thankful that it happened to be so perfect on the one day we set aside to go snorkeling. We even got a great view of Victoria Peak (highest peak in Belize) on our way and way back in.

We went out with Noawel (pronounced Noel or Nole) and his son Judel. He doesn’t have a website and not big sign pointing out his location along the main road in Hopkins, but you ask anyone in town and he’s the guy to go with. To find him, walk down the main road, going south towards the resorts. After the basketball court you’ll eventually come along a shack with ‘ANs Snorkel Gear’ painted on it along with a painting of mask, snorkel, and fins. Just in case anyone is interested their phone numbers are 523-7219 or 662-3017. Most hotels will make a local call for you.

We started out with a 20 minute boat ride that brought us to Blue Ground Range (in Belize a range is a group of cayes/islands). These were basically mangrove out-croppings. Sometimes manatees can be seen here, but we didn’t see any although weaving ourselves through the mangroves was good enough for me…it was so peaceful and beautiful. We couldn’t snorkel in the planned spot due to rough water, so we worked our way further north up the Barrier Reef and found a great spot. It was my Mom’s first time snorkeling, so Noawel stayed with her to give her instruction and to show her interesting things. It was nice that there were only three of us, so that he could dedicate a bit more time to hang out with Mom.

We stopped at Southwater Cayes for homemade chicken and vegetable rice made by Noawel’s wife Jude. It was a nice bonus as most of the tours (snorkeling or otherwise) usually give you a cold sandwich for lunch.

Southwater Cayes

After Southwater Cayes we headed further north and snorkeled between Tobacco Caye and the Smithsonian Marine Biology Research Center (which consumed an entire small island). My favorite sightings of the day were several Stoplight Parrot Fish. Their color was amazing and we even saw one that had a Remora attached to it. Other underwater sightings were Brain, Fan, Barrel, Stag, and many other corals as well as Sergeant Major, Blue Tang, Angel, and many other fish. I’ve not snorkeled a lot, but at our last stop I finally got the feeling that ‘gee…I actually am comfortable snorkeling’. My next step will learning how to free dive down a bit.

Smithsonia Marine Biology Research Center

Here are some of the underwater pictures. The fish and coral were really colorful. It was a complete blast.

Stoplight Parrot Fish

Stoplight Parrot Fish w/Remora on It’s Back

Sergeant Major

Four Eye

Brain Coral

Purple Fan Coral

One our way back, we stopped at Bird’s Caye…bet you can guess what we saw there. Yep…birds…and a lot of them. They were Frigates and Brown Boobys. The male Frigates were putting on quite a show by pumping up there red chests to attract the females. They were also quite vocal, using their beaks to make a clanging noise. This caye is surrounded by other cayes that protect it. Noawel turned off the engine and used his bush pole to move us around the island. All we could hear was the quiet slapping of the water and the birds. Breathtaking…as is nearly everything is in Belize.

Between the Mangroves to Bird’s Caye

Female Frigate Drying Her Wings

Male Frigate Showing Off

Brown Booby

We headed back towards Hopkins, passing between Thatch and Coco Plum Cayes.

Honestly we could not have planned it better if we had been able to pick our weather. And the icing on top of the cake was Noawel and his son. Such a lovely day.

Now on to Caye Caulker for a few days before we reluctantly head back home.

Noawel and Judel

Tomorrow’s Plan: Snorkeling Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley or San Pedro