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Snorkeling and Diving the Belize Barrier Reef

Nurse Shark

One of the main things we were looking forward to in Belize was getting out to explore the barrier reef.  On our second full day, we went scuba diving and got our first taste of the reef.

The first dive, at Bottom Time, was not quite what I expected.  I thought the reef would be one of the best I’d ever seen and that there would be tropical fish everywhere.  However, this wasn’t the case.  Sure there were a lot of corals, but not the vibrant colors I’m used to and the fish were quite scarce.

What was cool were the nurse sharks.  These guys would swim so close to us and didn’t care at all that we were there.  We also saw spotted eagle rays, lots of lionfish, a huge pufferfish, a giant lobster, shrimp, barracuda, a moray eel, and more.

While descending on the second dive, I felt like someone was jabbing an ice pick into my eye brow once I was down at 15′.  I tried coming up and going back down only to have the same sensation so I aborted the dive.  I’ve never had to do that before, and still don’t fully know why it happened, but it sounds like I got a sinus squeeze which commonly happens to divers.  Chuck was able to do the dive and said it was similar to the first, so at least I didn’t miss out on much.

On our 3rd day, I was still in a lot of pain from the sinus squeeze, but decided to snorkel anyway.  I’m so glad I did as this was my favorite ocean time of the entire trip.  We went to Mexico Rocks which was right off of our resort.  We saw so many stingrays and they were so close!


We also got to see some conchs up close.

We also saw a barracuda that followed us (I didn’t like him one bit), a green moray eel, lobsters, lots of lionfish, flounders, Sergeant majors, ocean triggerfish, trunkfish, a horseshoe conch, anemone, and 2 fish that were kissing in addition to stingrays, spotted eagle rays and another nurse shark.

Barracuda

Trunkfish

On Day 4, we snorkeled at Hol Chan Marine Reserve and at Shark Ray Alley.  Both sites are famous and considered ‘must do’.

At Hol Chan we saw similar fish and corals to our Mexico Rocks snorkel.  We also saw a spiny starfish and a worm like a Christmas Tree worm.

Moray Eel

Spotted eagle ray

On the way to Shark Ray alley, we stopped at a fishing boat that was feeding the fish.  Here we saw a ton of fish, rays, and even a sea turtle looking for a hand out.


At Shark Ray alley, we quickly got in the water as our boat captain chummed the water.  It was complete mayhem as nurse sharks and fish swarmed in hoping to get a bite to eat.  We were only a few feet away from the action which was amazing to watch.


On Day 6, we went back to Mexico Rocks as I wanted more time in the water.  This snorkel ended up being similar to the other two except we saw a group of squid.  I chased these guys down and spent a long time watching them.  I found it so cool how they lined up in a straight line formation and followed each other around.

Squid

Squid in a row

Our dive guide found a trunkfish with a remora harassing it, so he pulled the trunkfish out of the water to discourage the remora and sent them both on their way.  The remora kept looking for a new home and followed us around for the rest of the snorkel.  At the end of the snorkel, I saw the fish stuck to Chuck’s chest!  I couldn’t stop laughing.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture.

The remora that was harassing the trunkfish

Trunkfish being freed of his harasser

We even saw jellyfish.  Luckily they don’t sting, but I wasn’t a fan of being that close to them regardless.

Jellyfish

Overall I’m quite happy with our ocean time in Belize aside from the sinus squeeze.  The water was a fantastic temperature and it was so nice to explore a coral reef again.  I was especially happy with how many rays we saw – I love spotted eagle rays – and how close we got to nurse sharks.  I loved seeing the squid too and I’ve never seen lobsters that large before.