One of the things that Belize is known for is being a premiere destination for diving. We don’t dive, but we do like to snorkel, so we figured we had to try it out while we were in Caye Caulker. Spoiler alert: it was awesome!
Our traveling partners from the Caracol journey had been to Caye Caulker a week earlier and had recommended a variety of places to us. For snorkeling, they gave a big recommendation for Blackhawk sailing tours. We decided it looked good to us as well, mainly because it seemed like a smaller, more personal experience than going with one of the big companies.
We set up the snorkel trip a couple of days in advance with captain Steve. We were also able to get our friends from Hopkins to come along, and they also invited along four people from their hostel. No one else had signed up for the day so we would have the boat to ourselves.
The day of the tour it had rained early, so we worried that the tour might be cancelled, but Steve said we could still go out.Steve fitted us with snorkels and fins and we went out to the boat, named the Seahawk.
Our crew for the day was Captain Steve and his helper / snorkel guide Charlie. The boat had a sail, but the conditions dictated that to get out to our snorkel destinations we had to use the motor instead.
Stop 1: Manatee Viewing
The Caye Caulker area is known for having a small number of manatees in some areas of the reef. It is hit-or-miss on whether they will be there on any given day, but Steve had heard that they were there on this day so our first stop was to where one was supposedly hanging out. When we got there, Charlie hurried us into the water because he could see the big tour on its way. We rushed out to the spot and saw the manatee! This was especially exciting for Della because she had written a big report on manatees in grade school. We weren’t supposed to get too close, so we kept our distance. But then the manatee swam towards us! We had to back up quickly. We then left the area and got back on the boat.
Stop 2: Shark Ray Alley
We then travelled along the reef to our next stop, called Shark Ray Alley. This was a place that local fisherman had used to clean their daily catch, and as a result nurse sharks and rays had known to congregate there. They get so excited when they hear a boat coming that they swim right up to it. Charlie just had us jump right in with them, which was a little scary! Luckily, they are not aggressive towards humans. We spent some time swimming among the sharks, some big rays, and a lot of fish.
Stop 3: Conch Shell Graveyard
The next stop was only a short distance away. Here there were a ton of empty conch shells that fisherman had discarded. The highlight of this stop was getting to swim with a giant sea turtle! After this stop, we had a provided lunch on our way to the next stop.
Stop 4: Hol Chan Marine Reserve
The final stop was in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a part of the reef where the wildlife is protected. Our snorkeling stop was near the “Cut,” a channel that goes through the reef. The wildlife is especially vibrant here. You do have to be a little careful because there is a strong current coming through the cut, so we stuck together with Charlie. We saw a lot of different fish and even some more turtles. Some of the fish would even get close enough to touch!
After we were done snorkeling, Captain Steve and Charlie put up the sail and we sailed all the way back to Caye Caulker. They also put on some reggae music and passed around some rum punch. It was a very relaxing end to the day.
The only negative of the trip for us was that the cloudier conditions early in the day resulted in us not putting on much sunscreen. Bad idea! Eric wore a shirt so his main issue was the backs of his legs, but Della had a bad back burn herself.
Looking back on the trip, we thought was perhaps the best snorkeling trip we had done. It certainly was the widest variety of marine life that we have ever seen snorkeling. Plus, the water was a pleasant temperature, the currents weren’t too bad, and the boat ride itself was not too long or bumpy. Highly recommended!