Snorkeling At Hol Chan Marine Preserve & Shark Ray Alley

by Gordon Kirkland
(Pitt Meadows, BC, Canada)

This sea turtle was calmly eating sea grass and ignoring me as I approached.

This sea turtle was calmly eating sea grass and ignoring me as I approached.

This sea turtle was calmly eating sea grass and ignoring me as I approached. One of the many Southern Stingrays that swam around us at Shark Ray Alley. This was the largest shark that swam around us. He is roughly 9' long. The sharks came very close. This is all that fit in the frame.

We recently spent two days snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Preserve including Shark Ray Alley. My wife Diane and I spent a week at Las Terrazas Resort on Ambergris Caye.

Our first day out we saw a large sea turtle (see picture). It's shell was approximately 3' long. In addition we saw quite a large number of Southern Sting Rays, which were much darker than the ones we had seen in Grand Cayman and St. Thomas. The one in the picture is approximately 3-1/2 feet across its wingspan.

The real thrill came when we saw our first Nurse Shark. Over the two days we saw a great many ranging from about 3 feet to 9 or 10 feet long. Nothing can quite describe the feeling of having a large shark glide past close enough to touch (we resisted that urge.) I've attached two photos of sharks. One shows the size, and the other shows just how close they swam with us. (Our cameras do not have zoom lenses!)

I did get one unexpected and slightly unpleasant experience. While watching a large shark swimming past me a Horse-eye Jack bit me. It was an odd juxtaposition of swimming with a large shark and being bitten by a much smaller fish.

The vacation was the best snorkeling trip we have ever taken. Together we took over 1700 underwater photographs. Between the 100' visibility in the water, the huge variety of fish we saw and photographed, and of course relaxing at Las Terrazas with Belikin Beer, rum or tequila, we hated to come home. Our next trip will be to Peter Island in the BVI in July.

P.S. As I am partially paralyzed we took your suggestion and bought Tusa Split Fins, and couldn't be happier with them. It took very little leg movement to provide me with good forward thrust.

Galen and Nicole's Reply- Feb. 16, 2011
Thanks for sharing this wonderful story! Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley are fun spots to snorkel and seeing those big creatures up close is a real treat! Glad the fins helped you out, too.

Read our experiences and see more pictures on our Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley pages.

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