Funnily enough, it was by chance that we ended up in Belize! When we were planning our trip to Central America, we’d read on numerous blogs that this tiny Caribbean country would suck the life out of our little pockets. Travelling on a budget, we didn’t have any intentions of visiting but, when we decided to travel back to Mexico via Tikal, we knew we’d be silly to pass up the opportunitiy. We only spent 3 days in Belize and we were glad that we did; if not for the rum and the lobster, then at least for the amazing snorkelling in Caye Caulker!
Snorkelling in Caye Caulker with Ragamuffin Tours
I’m not going to lie- because of my shawdy research and our last minute decision to go to Belize, I had no idea that the snorkelling in Caye Caulker would be as incredible as it was! We’d met a few people who’d been before us and word on the street was that it’s the essential thing to do in the land of slow living.
With that in mind, we started doing our research on the best snorkelling tours from Caye Caulker and one company in particular kept popping up- Ragamuffins Tours! Not only would they take us to the famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve, renowned for its abundance of nurse sharks, sting rays and unspoiled coral reefs, there would also be all you can drink rum on the way back. If there’s one way to sell a Scottish girl into doing your tour, that would be it, and so we decided to spend a day snorkelling in Caye Caulker, drinking rum and eating ceviche with Ragamuffin Tours.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve Snorkelling
The first stop on our Caye Caulker snorkelling trip was Hol Chan Channel. You can usually spot manatees swimming about in this part of the reserve but they didn’t come out to play for us. I’ll be honest, I found our introduction to snorkelling in Caye Caulker pretty underwhelming; since we were in deep waters, it was super choppy and a pretty difficult to snorkel in. I was so busy trying to stay afloat that I saw very little sealife.
At one point, I thought to myself, is this it?! Is this really what snorkelling in Caye Caulker is like?
Luckily, this first stop had nothing on what the rest of the day would have in store for us!
Snorkelling through Shark Alley in Belize
The next spot was shark alley where we could swim with nurse sharks and sting rays. I’ve now snorkelled around sharks twice now; once with nurse sharks in Sri Lanka and another time snorkelling with whale sharks in Mexico, but I still get pretty freaked whenever I see them. Plus, post Steve-Irwin-sting-ray-gate, I don’t feel too easy around the rays either!
If you’re thinking about going snorkelling in Caye Caulker, I should reassure you that there’s nothing to worry about. The nurses sharks are completely safe and, as for the sting rays, although they could kill you, the chances are very slim!
At shark alley, we saw a much bigger density of marine life than I’ve ever seen anywhere. It was pretty much a traffic jam of nurse sharks, sting rays and other fish swimming around us- making for a pretty cool snorkelling experience!
Part of the reason for this was that the guides were feeding the sharks: something that I do have mixed feelings about. I really disagree with baiting animals and, honestly, it did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
However, after reading Ragamuffins website, I noticed that they stated that:
“….with the permission and advice of various marine bodies, we do permit that the sharks and rays are fed sardine during our time at this stop. Although this does go against our belief that marine life should not be disturbed, we also are part of the fight to quell the great fear of sharks around the world. “
“By allowing our customers to come face to face with sharks in the Shark and Ray Alley in Belize they are being educated as to their importance in our seas and therefore become part of our fight to save sharks internationally. We prefer the sharks fed and not dead!”
So, although I don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing, I do now understand the why behind it. And I’m glad that the “why” is for the sake of the greater eco-system rather than just making money by showing tourists some sharks.
But, I do wish that there was an inbetween solution.
Snorkelling in Belize: The Coral Garden
The last stop of our Caye Caulker snorkelling trip was probably the best: the coral garden. I’ve done quite a bit of snorkelling and I’ve never seen coral as colourful and multiful as this. It was like the kind of world Disney always lead me to imagine lives under the sea! There was even a glittery blue fish- nature’s finest!
Sunset Sailing in Caye Caulker
After those 3 fish-filled spots, I felt as though I’d seen more marine life while snorkelling in Belize than I’ve ever seen anywhere else: even though we never managed to see manatees or turtles, the amount of sealife to see around the Hol Chan Marine Reserve was pretty incredible.
To toast the day off, we had a sunset ride back with unlimited rum punch which I took full advanage of. So much so that I may or may not have caused myself a couple of injuries while trying to alight from the sailboat.
All in all, this was probably one of the most memorable experiences from our trip in Central America. If not for what we seen underwater, then at least for the monster hangover and bruises I found myself with the next day!
Raggamuffins Snorkelling Tour in Caye Caulker: What you Need to Know
How Much Does it Cost to Snorkel in Caye Caulker?
The Caye Caulker snorkelling tour cost $140 BZD per person which is the equivalentof $70 USD. It’s definitely steep for snorkelling, but I’d say that it’s worth it- especially if you take advantage of the ceviche and all you can drink rum, like I did. If you’re wondering what you should and shouldn’t splurge on during your Central America trip, I’d definitely recommend splurging on this.
What Can YOU Do to Protect the Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Ever since I learned about it, I now always wear reef-friendly natural sunscreen when snorkelling. Actually, it’s one thing that I always travel with. I recommend bringing some if you plan on snorkelling in Caye Caulker- it’s expensive to buy most products in Belize so make sure you’re stocked up before you go. Also, be careful not to snorkel over coral in the shallow parts of the water and, it should go without saying, but don’t touch or grab any of the marine life!
Where to Stay in Caye Caulker
We stayed at Sophie’s Guesthouse which we loved. It had super cute colourful rooms with gorgeous balconies and rocking chairs. It was located right next to “the split” (Caye Caulker’s answer to a beach) and was the best priced double room we found on the island. For solo travellers, I’ve heard great things about Go Slow Hostel and Traveller’s Palm. Flashpackers shouldn’t miss the gorgeous Iguana Reef Inn.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Ragamuffins and was offered one complimentary place on the tour in return for this review. However, despite how much free rum I’m fed during sponsored activities, you can always be sure that I’ll give you my honest opinion. As always, all thoughts and words are my own.
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