Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize

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Splashes erupted from the side of the sailboat. Giant brown sharks thrashed out of the water, surrounded by silvery tuna, each of them vying for the fish bits thrown on the surface of our daredevil crew.

Sharks. Sharks were waiting for us. And it was time to dive in and swim among them.

Snorkeling with Sharks

The single best activity I did in Caye Caulker was a one-day snorkeling trip with Ragamuffin Tours, who offered me a complimentary trip.

If you’re a longtime reader, you might remember that I have a big fear of fish. Touching fish while I swim, to be exact. It goes back to my summers camping in New Hampshire, shrieking when the little minnows swam too close to me.

And because of that, I’ve mostly steered clear of swimming with sea creatures. I snorkeled for about five minutes in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, then got scared when I saw a school of big black fish hanging out by the ocean floor.

But Koh Phi Phi was nothing compared to what lies off the coast of Belize. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Belize Barrier Reef is a short boat ride from Caye Caulker and is home to some of the best underwater life in the Americas.

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A Day on the Water

There are lots of different companies in Caye Caulker offering one-day snorkel trips. Raggamuffin Tours is known for being one of the most expensive but higher quality companies, and I was very pleased with the itinerary, crew, food, and equipment, just as I was on my three-day overnight sailing trip with Raggamuffin.

Departing on the Ragga King sailboat, we spent the first hour sailing to the reef as we passed beautiful islands.

Caye Caulker

And soon it was time to jump in the toasty Caribbean Sea.

This trip was the first time I ever used my GoPro Hero 3+ Silver for underwater photography and, to be honest, it was a bit of a learning curve. I recommend playing around with your GoPro before doing something as cool as this!

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I also learned the hard way that it’s impossible to look attractive with a snorkel in your mouth. If you’re doing underwater selfies, trust me, remove the snorkel!

Our first excursion was at Coral Gardens, filled with a variety of colorful fish.

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To my surprise, our captain was also our snorkeling guide! Captain Rob jumped in the water and led us on an underwater route, pointing out all the pretty fish and unusual species.

And it wasn’t scary. The fish were far away enough that I could observe them without worrying that they were going to eat me. I swam gently, fascinated by what lay before me.

And then Erisa and I spent the rest of the time taking glamour shots.

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Erisa in Belize
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Our second snorkel stop was the most famous (and scary) one of all: Shark Ray Alley. Here is where you’ll find plenty of nurse sharks holding court alongside giant stingrays.

This was our first view, after the crew tossed fish bits into the water:

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And this was my reaction:

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But I couldn’t sit this one out. It was time to jump in and swim with the sharks, the stingrays, and their best buddies, the giant tuna.

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If they could do it, I could do it.

I jumped in. And promptly screamed.

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To be completely honest, the tuna were far scarier than the sharks and rays. (And that’s even while thinking of Steve Irwin the whole time.) They had such a ferocious look to them.

I screamed quite a bit on this excursion, I’m afraid to say.

But soon I learned that the tuna were so adept in the water, far more adept than a human ever could be, they wouldn’t touch you at all. If you kept your head above the surface, you’d have no clue they were even there.

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I swam around the sharks and tuna, trying to keep my distance.

And by doing so, I got my favorite underwater photo of all time:

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I don’t know who that girl is, but the fish is definitely saying, “Dat ass! Dat ass, tho!”

Soon it was time to climb back on board, have a delicious seafood lunch, and sail to our third and final destination: Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

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Hol Chan is a small channel within the Belize Barrier Reef. This place is home to a large display of marine wildlife and it’s one of the most diverse places you can find close to Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.

We had a similar experience to Coral Gardens, following Captain Rob around and marveling at a few sharks that hung out on their own, but the highlight for me was definitely hanging out with this cool-ass turtle! I could have swum with him all day.

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On the way back, out came the rum punch and the reggae got cranked up. Our sailboat turned into a party! We capped it off by sailing through the Split, waving to everyone hanging out at the Lazy Lizard.

This trip was so much fun and I was surprised at how much I fell in love with snorkeling! It laid the groundwork for enjoying three more days of sailing on my three-day Belize cruise and I know I’m going to seek it out in the future.


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Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize! via Adventurous Kate

Essential Info: The one-day snorkeling trip from Raggamuffin Tours visits three sites: Coral Gardens, Shark Ray Alley, and Hol Chan. Lunch is included. The tour lasts all day and costs $70 USD.

It’s so easy to burn badly while snorkeling. I rarely burn, but my back got singed on this trip, even with high-factor sunscreen. Wear strong sunscreen and reapply it a few times throughout the day. If you’re fair-skinned, I recommend wearing a t-shirt while swimming.

For more information about Caye Caulker, see this post I wrote about the island.

Many thanks to Raggamuffin Tours for offering me a complimentary one-day snorkel trip. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you ever gone swimming with sharks? What about an awesome turtle?

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30 thoughts on “Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize”

  1. I won’t lie, that photo of the shark / tuna frenzy made me want to scream, too! I also get a bit scared (read: terrified) by being in the water with lots of big fish – especially the thought of them being round my ankles without me realising. I’m generally pretty good at forcing myself past these fears – I’ve snorkelled / dived a few times in Fiji and Australia, and swum loads of times in the North Sea (slightly less exotic!). But I did almost have a heart attack once when a 2m long reef shark swum past me on the Great Barrier Reef. I think snorkelling with multiple sharks would just bring constant terror! Hugely impressed with your bravery!

    http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com

  2. You’re so funny Kate! I’m comfortable in the water and always forget that it’s not that way for everyone. Massive props to you for facing your fears though, that’s pretty damn brave if you have a phobia. Next up a scuba course??? I’m sure Alex would help you out ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’ve gone swimming with stingrays and fish but never sharks. It looks like you had an amazing time! And $70 doesn’t like a bad price for all of what’s included. Great post Kate!!

  4. This was also the highlight of my trip to Belize! Unlike you, though, I LOVE snorkeling – and I especially love sharks. I was SO excited to get in the water with them that I was the first one in, and almost landed on top of a couple when I jumped from the boat! SO SO cool.

  5. Hi Kate!
    Long time reader, first time commenter! Love your blog! I took this same exact trip earlier this year with Capt Rob. It was so amazing, I can’t wait to go back to Caye Caulker. I just wanted to say though those aren’t tuna, they are horse-eye jacks. ๐Ÿ˜‰ They were so cool I even remembered the name lol, when I took the trip they tossed some food far away and those fish were so quick to get it I couldn’t believe it, way cool! BTW, I also fail everytime with the snorkel selfies, oh well. haha.

  6. LOL, literally, at that picture (and caption!) with the fish.

    I snorkeled with sharks and other sea creatures at the Great Barrier Reef and surprisingly, it didn’t scare me as much as I thought it would. Like you said, if you didn’t put your head under the water, you probably wouldn’t even know there was anything under there.

  7. Kaite I salute you for facing your fear!! I will also admit that I was scared when I was diving in Belize, I felt like the Nurse sharking was following me, such a creepy feeling, when you can not look back all the time. I also almost crashed with one of them. So brave of you!!

  8. I did the one day snorkel long trip with Raggamuffin too and absolutely loved it, especially Hol Chan. Such diverse marine life and the rum punch party on the way back was awesome although I had one of the worst hangovers of my life the next day

  9. Great photos Kate!

    Have I ever gone swimming with sharks? Er Nope! Yeeeeks! I have snorkelled with exotic fish in Egypt though. They were very tickly and kept trying to chew my feet! I didn’t really like that feeling. As for sharks and huge tuna wading pass and touching me. No thanks!

    An awesome giant turtle? Yes. That I can live with LOL!

  10. When I read about you screaming after you got in the water with the sharks, I thought, “That would be me!” I love the ocean and seeing all of the creatures, but it would scare the shit out of me too! Belize is one place in Central America I would love to visit, and now that I’ve read about your experience I want to go even more so.

  11. To have those sharks swimming side by side with you, it must have been nerve-racking but I’ve gotta admit that you’re really brave to be able to do so. I wish that I could snorkel with sharks someday. I bet it would be fun!

  12. 100% it’s those “Horse Eyed Jacks”. Bugged out eyes…darting around willy nilly. Much scarier than the lazy nurse sharks. Glad you like it.

  13. I just went snorkeling and swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman, so I know how you feel! I’m not sure I’d have the courage to swim with sharks though.

  14. I always loved the water but i never swam with fishes around, because i’m afraid i share the same fear too. But those photos were so beautiful that i wish i could go there too and experience the beauty of Belize and its wonderful marine creatures. And hopefully to face my fear too like you bravely did. Thanks for showing me the uniqueness of Belize.

  15. Iโ€™ve snorkelled, dived a few times in Fiji and Australia, and swum loads of times in the North Sea (slightly less exotic!). But I did almost have a heart attack once when a 2m long reef shark swum past me on the Great Barrier Reef. It is pure adrenaline!

  16. This is awesome! So brave of you to jump in there with all those guys! And I love the turtle and ray shots too! Belize looks great and I hope to make it there one day. Went snorkeling in St. Croix in February and saw a few lemon sharks. Scared me, but not enough to not chase one down for a picture ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://www.thisrainylife.com

  17. I absolutely love sting rays, I have had the opportunity to swim with them this last summer and they are so fascinating. Now sharks i am not sure I could do that.

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