The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the first of its kind on Ambergris Caye. First established in 1987, it consists of four zones. Zone A – the coral reef, Zone B – the turtle grass beds, Zone C – the mangroves islands and finally Zone D – Shark and Ray Alley, which was added to the reserve in 1999. The reserve is located 15 minutes from our location at Banyan Bay. We will pick you up from your resort and bring you to Banyan Bay to get you fitted with gear, if needed. From there we have you enter the boat. Our boats are fully equipped, we have life jackets on board, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, cell phones for emergency purposes and a cooler full of cool fresh drinking water and fresh fruit to snack on between stops. The tour consists of two stops.
The first stop on of the tour is to Zone A of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Here you snorkel away from the boat around a small channel in the reef. The tour starts in the shallow portion of the reserve; this gets everyone accustomed to the conditions and equipment. Once everyone is comfortable then the fun starts. The guide will lead you around the Zone pointing out all of the marine life that the reserve can offer, from turtles to nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays to the green moray eels. This portion of the tour lasts between 45 minutes to an hour. All of our guides always carry a life ring for anyone who gets tired during the tour, or to hold on to if equipment needs adjusting.
Once this portion of the tour is complete, you enter the boat again; here your guide will offer you fresh water and fruits to remove the salty taste from your mouth. From here there is a five minute boat ride to the next stop, Shark and Ray Alley. Another portion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve that was added in 1999. It was established by fishermen. At the end of day fishing they would go to this area to clean the catch of the day, throwing scraps overboard, attracting the nurse sharks and sting rays. Now the sharks and rays associate the sound of a boat engine with the sound of a dinner bell. As soon as the boat is moored to a line, it’s time to jump in. Here there are chances to see the Nurse Sharks, the Southern Sting Rays and the Caribbean Sting Rays. However they are very shy creatures and don’t stay around the boat for long. So it’s imperative to jump in as quickly as possible in order to spend as much time with the marine life. This portion of the tour is conducted closer to the boat than the first portion of the tour. You snorkel for as long the marine life stays near the boat. Back on the boat we offer more fruits and water. From here it is a 20 minute ride back to the dive shop, where we will return you to your resort.
We can also do this tour to include a dive at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. This is perfect for families or groups who have a mix of snorkelers and divers but want to do a trip together. This dive is at Zone A. It’s a shallow dive, with a max depth of 28ft. It’s perfect for a first dive after a break from diving or for an introduction to diving in Belize. This trip is called a combo and consists of one dive at Zone A and then a snorkel at Zone D.