Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the oldest marine reserve in Belize. It is the top snorkeling adventure for the entire country of Belize. It is located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. This activity is typically coupled with Shark Ray Alley.
Duration: Half Day (morning or afternoon)
Morning Tour: 9:00 a.m. to Noon
Afternoon Tour: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Snorkeling Gear: Fins, Mask, Snorkel
Included: Cold bottled water, fresh fruit at snorkeling intervals, transportation to & from site, licensed guide.
What to Bring: Camera, cell phone, personal medications (for the day), light jacket or windbreaker, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, beach towel, swimsuit, cash for park fees (if applicable), and tipping your guide.
Note: The tour & gear rental can be put on a credit card, park fees need to be paid in cash.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Description: Hol Chan Marine Reserve has been noted as being some of the best snorkeling in the world. Belize is well-known for its most beautiful and intact marine sites, located on the second largest barrier reef in the world. This is truly an unforgettable experience. If this is your first time to Belize, make sure your family gets to experience this tour, it will be one you will soon not forget.
The reef is protected by the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, and is comprised of seven protected areas. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one of the seven protected areas. The marine reserve is located four (4 ) miles south of San Pedro, off the coast of Ambergris Caye. First established in 1987, today Hol Chan measures more than 13,000 acres and is divided into four distinct marine zones:
Zone A (Hol Chan Cut) – anchor point for the reserve, many coral formations, & sea life live here.
Zone B (Sea Grass Beds) – 1,000 of species use the sea grass as a habitat to hide from predators.
Zone C (Mangroves) – closer to shore, these salt-resistant tree roots, are a habitat for juvenile fish.
Zone D (Shark Ray Alley) - a natural cut in the reef, with a white sandy sea floor.
According to Skin Diver Magazine, Shark Ray Alley (Zone D) has been declared one of the seven best animal dives in the Caribbean. Hol Chan is a Mayan word, meaning “Little Channel”. The Hol Chan Channel is the most often visited area in the reserve. This channel differs from other channels off Ambergris, due to its greater depth and nearly vertical sides which are partially covered with live corals and interspersed with caverns.
The marine park is protected from commercial fishing and industrial exploitation, allowing hundreds of aquatic species to flourish here, including three kinds of coral, anemones and a colorful assortment of fauna, two species of sea turtle, large schools of fish, like groupers, sting rays, and nurse sharks.
Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel." The entire reserve focuses on a cut through the reef (called quebrada) which is more than 25 yards (23 m) wide and 30 feet (9 m) deep, and about 4 miles southeast of San Pedro.
The reserve was formed primarily as a community-based initiative due to concern over the high level of uncontrolled, often destructive fishing and diving activities in the area. Reserve status was also called for by international organizations such as the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) and Peace Corps, due to the unique formation of the channel, the abundant fishery resources (including conch and lobster) and the feasibility of including an interlinked system of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats in this area.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is considered the most popular snorkeling spot in Belize. The site has several zones, the most popular being Coral Reefs and Shark Ray Alley.
The 8 zones (habitats) are:
By boat, Hol Chan is about 15 minutes away from San Pedro and 40 minutes away from Caye Caulker. The reason why the site is popular for snorkeling and diving is because it has a vibrant community of marine wildlife. On a typical day, anyone snorkeling or diving in the area will encounter numerous types of fishes, sea turtles, manta rays, crabs, eels, lobsters, and friendly nurse sharks.
Realizing the importance of the coral reef community off Ambergris Caye, Belize, the Government of Belize established the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on May 2, 1987. Shark Ray Alley was officially declared Zone "D" of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on August 31st, 1999.
Due to its protected status, what was once a depleted fishing area has now been allowed to re-generate, providing an unparalleled diving/snorkeling experience for visitors and an important refuge for marine life along the northern section of the Belize Barrier Reef.
What is the Best Way to Experience the Hol Chan Marine Reserve?
To do this tour you will need to be in the company of a licensed tour guide. The best way to experience the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is by taking either a morning or afternoon tour (offered by any number of local tour operators). They provide you with snorkeling equipment, fins, mask, breathing tube. They will take you to and from the site, and take you to and from the site, and the tour guide will take you on a snorkeling trip around the Hol Chan Cut in the Reef. After your surface interval from snorkeling the cut, you'll be given fresh fruit & cold water , before traveling to Shark Ray Alley. On the way back to San Pedro, they offer additional fresh fruit and cold water , making this a very enjoyable adventure.
Where is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Located?
It is located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. By boat, Hol Chan is about 15 minutes away from San Pedro and 40 minutes away from Caye Caulker.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is located about twenty minutes off the coast of Ambergris Caye. Ambergris Caye is the top tourist destination for the entire country of Belize and is located in the northern part of the Belize Barrier Reef. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve measures more than 13,000 acres and was first established in 1987. It is broken up into four distinct marine zones: