Dock Snorkeling, Ambergris Caye, Belize, May 2018
I was very pleasantly surprised when this yellow stingray cruised under Xanadu Island Resort’s dock.
In addition to boat snorkeling, you can also snorkel off of docks on Ambergris Caye in Belize. You won’t see the beautiful coral that you see on the reef, and it’s unlikely that you'll see large fish, however, the docks do shelter some interesting marine life.
My husband and I stayed at Xanadu Island Resort, so I checked out its dock. There’s no reason to snorkel there unless that’s where you’re staying. As expected, there was no coral, and the number and variety of fish weren’t tremendous. In addition to the more commonly seen grunts and snappers, I saw lane and mutton snappers, a great barracuda, bar jacks, and yellowfin mojarras. The most unusual fish I saw at Xanadu, and one of the most interesting fish I saw on our vacation, was a yellow stingray, who cruised under and then away from the dock. This was the only ray I saw under a dock. In 3 days at Ambergris Caye, I saw 3 types of stingrays (southern, Caribbean whiptail, and yellow) plus a spotted eagle ray. This is a ray record for me, both in number and variety. The number of pictures I took of the yellow stingray is also a personal record for pictures I took of a single fish.
On both our first and last full days on Ambergris Caye, we walked to near the end of the dock at Ramon’s Village to snorkel rather than taking a boat trip. If you snorkel around and under the dock, make sure that you’re aware of boats coming to and going away from the dock. The first time we went to Ramon’s, my husband said there was no reason to take our cameras, as there wouldn’t be anything worth taking a picture of. He was wrong! As expected, there was no coral, however, we were greeted by a swarm of small, silvery fish, and there were tons of snappers and grunts under the dock. We also saw queen angelfish, spiny lobsters that weren’t hidden, colorful juvenile beaugregory and dusky damselfish, and a yellowline arrow crab. We took our cameras the next time, and were not disappointed.
Our second visit to Ramon’s Village started the way the first visit had, with a multitude of small, silvery fish, and loads of snappers and grunts under the dock. I was captivated by the large number of small (less than 1 inch), adorable sharpnose puffers that danced around the pilings and ropes. Other fish that we saw included: juvenile French angelfish, foureye and spotfin butterflyfish, juvenile beaugregory and dusky damselfish, a surprisingly large green moray eel, goldspot goby, needlefish, striped parrotfish, doctorfish and ocean surgeonfish, and wrasses (slippery dick and puddingwife). The exciting fish sighting of the day, and another of the most interesting fish we saw on the entire vacation, was a spotted scorpionfish that my husband spied. I tied my recent record for pictures I took of a single fish with that scorpionfish. I was surprised by the variety of crabs that we saw under the dock. We saw 2 more yellowline arrow crabs, whose long, spindly legs reminded me of daddy long legs spiders more than the sturdier legs of other crabs. Both of them were located in the corners where pilings joined with crossbeams under the dock. If you snorkel at Ramon’s Village, that’s where we’d suggest looking for them. We also saw an ocellate swimming crab, an ornate blue crab, and a hermit crab under the dock. After spending more than 2 hours at the dock, and seeing so many interesting fish and crustaceans, we wondered what we’d missed on and around the barrier reef in our more hurried boat snorkeling tours.