All You Need to Know About Snorkeling in Ambergris Caye

Snorkeling in Ambergris Caye

Travelers flock to Belize to enjoy the tropical sun, local cultures and, of course, world-class snorkeling.  The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the greater Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the largest in this hemisphere.  Snorkeling in Ambergris Caye needs no prior experience and is a great place to try it out for the first time.  Knowledgeable guides, shallow water, and a bountiful reef make for a great experience no matter your ability level.

Snorkeling Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is ideally situated to take advantage of snorkeling.  With the reef just offshore, between a half-mile and a mile in most locations, it’s a quick boat ride from the island to a fantastic snorkel site.  Most areas for snorkeling are shallow with the water between five and fifteen feet, offering up-close views of the marine environment.  Children can snorkel along with an adult; it is up to the discretion of parents as to whether their children will enjoy snorkeling.  Flotation devices are available to help support those that may benefit from added buoyancy.  The geology that dictates the reef and shoreline of Ambergris Caye has the result of a shallow area of water between the shore and the reef.  This makes for calm water conditions with little-to-no current, ideal for snorkeling.

Choosing a Tour Guide for Snorkeling in Belize

When comparing tour providers, standards matter.  In Belize, all tour operators and tour guides are licensed by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB).  The BTB regulates training, insurance and safety protocols in order to provide guests in Belize the best possible experience.  A good tour provider will have licensed guides and boat captains, adhere to group size regulations and have valid insurance.  Snorkel gear and boat equipment should be in good repair.  Safety is always the first consideration and there are times when wind conditions do not allow for a safe and enjoyable snorkel experience.  The tour guide will make the final decision on safety considerations each day.  Many tour guides are San Pedrano locals and grew up on the reef, providing a wealth of knowledge on the marine creatures that you will see.

Your Equipment for Snorkeling in Belize

All of the gear you need for snorkeling is provided on the tour, but you can bring your own as well if you prefer.  You’ll need a mask and snorkel to see and breathe underwater.  Fins help to propel you as your hands and arms are moved minimally while snorkeling.  The guide will also have flotation devices to aid in buoyancy where needed.  Snorkeling is done while floating horizontally and slowly cruising along the surface.  A flotation band around your waist can help with floating so that your fins don’t dip vertically and stir up sediment from the sea bottom.  Not only does this reduce visibility for your snorkel group, but it can also smother the coral polyps, reducing the health of the colony.  You don’t need to bring a lot on the boat with you, but items for sun protection are a must. Wear a rash guard and a reef-safe sunscreen and bring a small bag to stash your water bottle, hat, sunglasses and towel when you are in the water.

What You Can Expect to See While Snorkeling

The coral reef in Belize provides a feast for your eyes. Vibrant colors and dancing fish are sure to wow.  Look closely in every crevice and nook on the reef to find flamboyant flamingo tongue snails, Christmas tree worms, Caribbean spiny lobsters and more.  The two most popular snorkel sites off of Ambergris Caye are Hol Chan and Mexico Rocks.  They both are protected areas, ensuring that they will be preserved for future generations of marine enthusiasts.  Hol Chan is located south of the island and is named for the Mayan words meaning, “Little Channel.”  As the name suggests, this site is at a cut in the reef.  A snorkel tour to Hol Chan is often combined with a stop at Shark Ray Alley where you can swim with nurse sharks and stingrays! These gentle giants are a joy to see, remember to never touch or chase any marine creature.  Mexico Rocks is north of San Pedro Town, right in front of Costa Blu Adults Only Beach Resort.  The boulder coral formations found here can be seen in only one other area in Belize, far to the south at Glover’s Reef. It was recently made a marine reserve under the same jurisdiction as Hol Chan.  See large schools of fish, even a sea turtle!

Best Time to Snorkel in Ambergris Caye

There really is no bad time of year to visit Ambergris Caye for snorkeling.  With its tropical climate, Belize has warm weather year-round.  Water temps stay fairly consistent, usually in the 80’s.  The warmest water is typically in September while the coldest month (‘coldest’ being used loosely here at 78 degrees F) for the water temperature in January.  The visibility remains fairly even as well, often at 150 feet.  Should a storm pass through and bring heavy winds, your snorkel provider will determine if it is safe to snorkel and will reschedule as needed.  Snorkel tours are conducted year-round on Ambergris Caye.
Snorkeling is at once calming and an adventure.  Can’t wait to jump into the sea on your next Belize vacation? Click here to learn more about 8 common fish you are sure to see on the reef.  Make sure that a snorkel tour is at the top of your excursion list for San Pedro.