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Your Guide to Snorkeling in Caye Caulker, Belize

Snorkeling at the second largest reef in the world? Yes, please! About a month ago I had the chance to visit Belize, a stunning country on the eastern coast of Central America. The Belize Barrier Reef spans 190 miles parallel to Belize's coastline, and is composed of offshore cayes, coral atolls, coastal lagoons, estuaries, mangrove forests, and all of the wonderful marine life that you can imagine.

Not only does this reef possess immense biodiversity, but it also protects the Belizean coastline from weather events such as waves, tropical storms, and hurricanes. I was amazed at the variety of marine life that I saw snorkeling in the daytime versus the nighttime in Belize - there are different creatures that make an appearance at night that you wouldn't normally see throughout the day!

As well as being a hotspot for snorkeling, Belize is also known for its diving, fishing, sailing, etc. due to it's massive reef system. If you're planning to take advantage of the underwater world in Caye Caulker, look no further than this article to point you to the best snorkeling companies you should book your tour through.

For daytime snorkeling:

Bella's Backpackers Full Day Tour: There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to snorkeling tours in Caye Caulker, but I personally really enjoyed my experience with Bella's.

Bella's Backpackers is a hostel on Caye Caulker that offers Good Vibes Tours such as the Full Day Hol Chan Marine Reserve Small Group Snorkeling Tour. This was the tour that I took myself, and here's what this tour includes:

  • 6 tour stop locations, including:

    • Hol Chan Marine Reserve (12 miles away)

    • Shark Ray Alley - close to San Pedro Island

    • Coral Gardens (north end)

    • Chatos Area (wildlife congregate at this area)

    • Ship wreck (sunken barge)

    • Manatee Search

Additionally, as part of this tour you are provided snorkeling gear, lunch, happy juice (rum punch), water, fruit, and GO PRO photo & video equipment. This tour lasts from 10:30 AM - 3:30 PM and costs $94.50.

Our boat driver feeding the hungry birds during our tour!

My thoughts:

  • I loved the variety of tour stops and what our group was able to experience - we swam with 20+ nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley (they came straight up to the boat!), explored the sunken barge, and got to chill with a manatee that was doing summersaults in the water.

  • Five hours of snorkeling was actually the perfect length of time for the experience that I wanted to have - although I was tired afterwards, I still felt that I could squeeze in some activities at the end of the day after the tour had ended.

  • Be prepared to swim, shall I say, very closely to the people on your tour. While this is expected, I sometimes found it hard to navigate my way through the water without bumping into the people behind or beside me due to everyone crowding around the same sights. I have very lanky legs and found myself having to put my flippers into gear to avoid kicking the person next to me!

  • The reason why I enjoyed Bella's tour so much, is that we were a pretty small group as there was only 6 of us, but I noticed a few other snorkeling tours that had a lot more people and everyone seemed sort of squished on the boat. I felt as though there was enough room for all six of us to spread out and be comfortable. Additionally, lunch, fruit, and gear is included so you don't have to worry about other costs being added on to your total.

If I still haven't convinced you to check out Bella's snorkeling tour, you can also book a tour through GetYourGuide here for their Caye Caulker 7-Stop Snorkeling Tour. This tour includes similar offerings as Bella's.

For nighttime snorkeling:

Let me start by saying that going snorkeling at night after I just snorkeled for five hours during the day was not included in my original plan, but after I came back from my daytime trip, some awesome American friends that I met earlier in the day invited me to go with them on a nighttime snorkeling adventure.

What convinced me to go on this tour other than the fact that I already wanted to? My American friends said that we'd be able to see the bioluminescence of the organisms underwater.

Bioluminescence (pictured above) is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is produced by the chemical reactions that are occurring in these organisms bodies, and trust me, it's definitely something that you need to see at least once in your life. Some examples of bioluminescent marine organisms include fish, bacteria, and jellies. I'm so glad I said yes to this adventure to witness this phenomenon, and here are some details about our tour:

French Angel Expedition: We booked our nighttime tour through French Angel Expedition and it cost us around $65/person. This tour includes gear and a flashlight that you'll need to use to navigate your way through the dark expanse of the water at night.

A minimum of three people are required, and you head out around 5:30 p.m. and start with a sunset cruise which is absolutely breathtaking. We were able to see the sun melt into the horizon...10/10 recommend taking advantage of watching the Belizean sunsets during your trip.

Heading out to the local reef was beautiful as well, with the sky reflecting shades of light pink and blue. This boat was smaller than the one that I had been on throughout the day, but I didn't mind the bumpiness all that much. For those of you that get seasick easily, you may want to have some dramamine on hand.

My thoughts:

  • Like I mentioned earlier, we got to witness different creatures come out in the nighttime versus the daytime. For example, sea urchins are nocturnal and feed at night, so our group found ourselves navigating through the reef trying not to get pricked by one. We also saw octopus, lobsters, and crabs, who were nestled in the crevasses of the reef.

  • When it came time to witness the bioluminescence, we switched off our flashlights and let the water around us as well as the surrounding atmosphere engulf us in complete darkness except for the glowing organisms that shimmered beneath us. I can say that it was definitely one of the top 10 travel experiences that I've ever had in my life!

  • Our group was one of the only ones in the water, expect for a few scuba divers that we came across during our journey. It was cool to experience this feeling of being some of the only people exploring the underwater world at night.

  • At the very end of our two-hour tour, our group seemed to be surrounded by hundreds of bioluminescent worms that were wriggling through the water at light speed. There was no way to get around these worms at a certain point, and I felt them brush against my skin which made it feel pretty itchy. I'm not sure what type of worms these were or what reaction they caused to my skin, but I do know that they were unpleasant to swim around and one of my friends found some worms in her hair after the tour...which was not fun to hear after I'd already taken a shower at this point.

  • We had the best tour guide who was showing us the underwater world - Zach! He's very experienced and took the safety of our group very seriously. Ask for him if you chose French Angel Expedition for night snorkeling! (& don't forget to tip your guides!)

Overall, if you have a chance to snorkel during your trip to Caye Caulker DO IT because you won't regret it!

And as the Belizeans say, after you finish your exciting day of snorkeling, be sure to go slow!


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