This blog post is being released on June 8, 2020, which happens to be World Oceans Day.
When you live this close to the ocean, you really become part of its enormous presence. The tides are a regular reminder of its ceaseless motion and it’s just beautiful, wherever you look. Once in a while, though, we see the effects of hurricane season. Last week, Hurricane Cristobal brushed the Yucatan peninsula and tracked on across the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s a very brief piece of video I shot. Belize has felt the effects of hurricanes before, but as this summary by Victoria Day-Wilson, from her book, Hurricanes in Belize and Historic Storms shows, most of the time we only experience the after effects or side effects, such as heavy rains or agricultural damage. Hurricanes are a fact of life in any equatorial, ocean facing area, but Belize as a country is well prepared in terms of emergency measures. But being World Oceans Day, I thought I would bring you a couple of examples of how we, as humans, get to interact with the amazing diversity of ocean life.
The Hol Chan Marine Reserve
This small but very important reserve is found just off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan is Mayan for “little channel.” The reserve is based around a cut in the reef, and was founded to push back against aggressive, uncontrolled fishing. The life that thrives here includes conch, lobster, nurse sharks, rays, coral reef, seagrass, mangrove, seahorse, sponges, and hundreds of varieties of fish.
It is divided into four zones, specifically Zone A: Coral Reef, Zone B: Grass Beds, Zone C: Mangrove, and Zone D: Shark Ray Alley (see below). More descriptions of each of these zones is available on the Dive page of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Website, however I encourage you to read the entire website. It’s not that huge, but it covers everything you need to know. The reserve is also available on Instagram at holchanmarinereserve.
Shark Ray Alley
Shark Ray Alley is in Zone D of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It is only 15 minutes south of San Pedro by boat, and has a maximum depth of 30 feet, with great visibility from its clear waters. Here’s the best descriptive line from the Marine Reserve’s own website:
As soon as your boat arrives in the area, you will notice a number of dark shadows in the shallow (eight foot deep) waters. These are the sharks and rays that hear the boat approach and come in search of a few scraps of fish.
These sharks and rays are gentle creatures and show a great tolerance for having humans in their presence. Although it is always recommended to keep your distance and not touch them, this is more out of respect for their independence and safety.
Snorkeling here is enormous fun. I have done it myself, and everyone I have dived with or who I have spoken to says only positive things about it. With so much life in the waters, you will always see something amazing and beautiful. You swim with the rays and the nurse sharks and snorkel all around the reef. I actually did this with our 15 yea- old granddaughter, Mackenzie, and she loved it too.
Our neighbor, Sam, owns Scuba Daze, and he is the one who is best suited to give you some training on snorkeling and then take you out there. That’s one of the great things about life on Ambergris Caye. Your neighbors are such great people. Make sure you check Sam’s company out on Instagram at scuba_daze_belize.
Looking Forward to Hosting You Here
It’s still too soon, of course, to be making firm travel plans to visit us here at Coastal Breezes. Did you know that Belize is one of only 12 countries in the world that are COVID-19 free? The country is starting to open up again, slowly and carefully, but the borders are not yet open.
But even though you can’t make any firm plans to come here right now, I am hopeful that our blogs, and our photos that we post on Instagram will show you what a delightful place Ambergris Caye is. We all deserve a break from the mounting troubles of the world, and a few days or a couple of weeks by the sea, in the warm Caribbean winds can do wonders.
So, if you’re reading this post on World Oceans Day, then happy #worldoceansday. Maybe send out a message on social media reminding people of the beauty of all of our oceans, and their need to be protected. But whatever day you read this blog, thank you for reading. Stay safe and think about coming out to see us.