Hol Chan Marine Reserve & Shark Ray Alley
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve was established in 1987 as Belize’s first Marine Park. The word Hol Chan in Mayan means, ‘little channel’ and the reserve is on the cut, which is a break or quebrada in the reef. The reserve is located approximately 4 miles southeast of San Pedro, and about 9 miles northeast of Caye Caulker. It was formed to control the fishing and diving in the area.
The channel of Hol Chan is well known for large schools of fish including parrotfish, grouper and snapper, as well as green moray eels. It has been divided into three zones that are marked by buoys. They are laid out accordingly with the main habitats – mangroves, sea grass, and coral reef. The reserve is a popular spot for snorkelers and divers interested in seeing the colorful coral formations and large schools of fish.
The popular Shark/Ray Alley, recently added to the reserve, is an area where visitors can snorkel and swim with docile nurse sharks, and stingrays. The idea of swimming with these seemingly intimidating creatures can be a daunting thought for many people, but visitors are often pleasantly surprised by the ease with which these graceful creatures interact with them.
Marine life is plentiful throughout the entire reserve, and the area is perfect for divers and snorkelers of all levels of experience.
Visitors must be mindful, however, that carelessly standing or touching the beautiful coral formations can easily destroy the fragile ecosystem. Touching the coral can also cause painful burns and stings. Respecting the simple rules of the park is one way to help preserve the natural environment for future generations.