While we were in Belize the nice folks at Suya Tours offered to take us out on its snorkel trip. Belize is flanked by the world’s second-largest barrier reef, and because we’re big snorkeling fans we were very excited to get out there. We were definitely not disappointed.
Our guide Chicho, born and raised in San Pedro, picked us up at our hotel dock at 7:45 AM. We then went on to pick up another couple and a family of four on our way out to the Hol Chan Cut. Because we started out so early we were the first tour boat there. A ranger checked our tickets be sure we had permission to be there, and then Chicho explained about the regulations in this protected area. Basically, there’s no chasing after the fish/turtles/rays, etc., and there is no touching of animals or corals. Also, we had to stay together in a group with our guide. Since there were only 8 of us, this was not too difficult. Going with a larger group would have made that challenging, so we were happy to be in a smaller group with Suya.
It was excellent to be the first boat out there. That surely made a big difference in our experience. When we were returning from our trip we passed by the Hol Chan Cut again and there were about 16 boats there which meant a lot of people in the water!
As soon as we got in the water we saw green turtle and then lots and lots of fish. A school of horsetail jacks came right up to us. (See video of them here.) It is clear that some people feed these fish, although Suya does not. We particularly appreciated that about this tour.
The reef at Hol Chan is beautiful and healthy and the water is very clear. Chicho would swim down and point to a fish and then pop up and tell us all what it was. We saw many, many rays and several turtles and lots of large fish. Large to huge fish, actually. There were not a lot of small fish out at the Hol Chan Cut.
After a 45 minute or so snorkel we all swam back to the boat and went on to our next stop, looking for a loggerhead turtle. We stopped at a place near Shark Ray Alley where a fisherman often comes to clean his lobsters and conch. The sea floor is littered with conch shells there — it’s completely covered by thousands of these shells. The turtle likes to eat the scraps, but at that time the turtle wasn’t around, so after a few minutes we left to go to Shark Ray Alley.
This was an amazing experience. It was like being on Shark Week! You could see the nurse sharks circling the boat down below and it seemed like there were 50 or more. Maybe it was more like 30, but still, it was a LOT. Chicho was all casual about it. “OK, guys, this is your chance. Just jump in.”
With a quick double check that nurse sharks are not aggressive, we jumped on in. It was crazy down there. Sharks of 4 to 6 feet were swimming everywhere. They were, of course, hoping for a handout. In the past, fishermen cleaned their fish here, so the sharks got used to getting food. Some companies still feed the sharks here. Chicho said many people also touch the sharks which makes them leery of humans, so they don’t stick around very long if you don’t have food.
After seeing the sharks we went back to look for the loggerhead turtle again, and guess what – he was there. He (She? How does one tell?) is enormous! Four remora fish were needed to keep that turtle clean. And actually it looked like they needed to do a little more work. He had several large barnacles on his shell! There were also lots of rays to watch gliding through the water both here and at Shark Ray Alley.
Suya Tours offers a wide variety of tours on the reef and inland Belize. This was an incredible experience and we are so lucky to have been able to do it. Thank you so much, Suya Tours, for sponsoring our trip out to Belize’s barrier reef.
This post was sponsored by Suya Tours, but all opinions are our own. Enjoy your week or your weekend!