By Ellen – (Hinesburg, VT)
My adult son and I just got back from snorkeling in Ambergris Belize in January 2020. Incredible trip! The reef is very healthy and most is part of a nature preserve, so lots of large fish and many species to see. The water is unbelievably clear – you can see the ocean bottom from the plane as you fly to Ambergris Caye. The major disadvantage is that all of the reef is a boat ride away. Snorkeling from the beach around the docks and over the sea grass is available, but no coral to be seen snorkeling off the beach.
We snorkeled Hol Chan day and night, Mexico Rocks, and Shark Ray Alley, all part of the preserve. Many very large fish and schools of over 100 fish. We hired a fisherman to take us to Coral Gardens – not quite enough tourists at the time for a regular trip, but it was well worth the cost. We saw beautiful coral and no other people. Fishing is allowed at that spot, so not as many big fish or large schools.
We went on our first night snorkel in Belize! We used Chuck and Robbie’s diving adventures for a guided tour in the Hol Chan preserve. Great way to do it for the first time. Big sharks very rarely enter the inner reef and you have a guide so it is extremely safe. And the reef is completely different at night. Big groupers followed us so they could use our lights to hunt. We saw tons of lobsters and eels. Spotted Eagle Rays were swimming by most of the time we were in the water. There were a lot of nurse sharks to be seen, too. Absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done.
English is the official language. San Pedro town is very busy. We stayed in an airbnb south of town, which is a great, quiet area. All around great trip.
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Anonymous – Feb 2, 2020 – Thanks
We are headed to Ambergris and Caye Caulker in March, 2020. Thanks for the report. The lack of shore snorkeling is a disadvantage for sure but we knew this going in.
Perry S – Feb 3, 2020 – Belize
Thank you for the update on Ambergris Caye. We are making our first trip to the area in April, so happy to see you had a great experience.
I’m in the process of putting together our snorkeling/trip plans and had a couple of questions: Did you guys make the trip or see the opportunity to go to Bacalar Chico? I’m trying to visit that area, but have not been able to confirm a company just yet.
Also, what about Caye Caulker? Worth a day trip? Was looking at charter options or maybe taking the water taxi.
Maria – Feb 16, 2020 – Snorkeling Bacalar Chico
Since you asked about Bacalar Chico, here’s my husband’s and my experience in May 2018 with Searious Adventures and Eddie as our guide. First, we went through the channel that separates the southern and northern parts of Ambergris Caye, past businesses and homes in San Pedro to lots of mangroves with birds and iguanas in the trees. Then we headed north along the western, less developed side of the caye, past more mangroves and the no longer Secret Beach.
Eddie entertained us along the way with stories about Ambergris Caye and the famous people, especially tech giants and movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, who had visited and/or owned property there.
Our first stop was to a small museum at the end of the caye that held exhibits about the wildlife and the Mayans who lived there long ago. I held a rib bone from a manatee skeleton, which was heavier than I thought it would be. We climbed up a structure that I’d describe as a fire tower if it were in a northern forest to a lovely view. Next, we traversed the channel that the Mayans completed hundreds of years ago, and that separates Belize from Mexico. When we reached the eastern side of the Caye, we snorkeled in two spots, hoping to find a manatee. No such luck.
We pulled up to a dock on a postcard-worthy beach for a lunch of ceviche with tortilla chips, barbecued chicken, potatoes, pasta salad, mixed vegetables, and a brownie. The food had been mostly prepared before the boat picked us up, so it only had to be reheated. Everything was delicious. There was rum punch, Belikin beers, and something non-alcoholic to drink. The sound system at the palapa bar played Beach Boys songs – how appropriate for the venue.
My husband and I ventured a short distance from the bar, but there were piles of garbage and bugs, so we turned back. The snorkel trip to Bacalar Chico also included a stop at Mexico Rocks before we were dropped off at our resort.
I enjoyed the ride and was happy to see another part of the beautiful reef, but the only things I saw on that snorkel that I didn’t see elsewhere in Ambergris Caye were a clinging crab, which I wouldn’t have seen if not for Eddie, and a porcupinefish hiding. This was also the better lionfish sighting of our vacation.