Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Snorkelling with Sharks & Stingrays in Belize

Belize Barrier Reef

Get ready for lots of photos! We started our day with Carlos Tours in Caye Caulker and after boating for about 30 minutes we made our first stop where, to my happy surprise, we saw turtles immediately upon turning off the motor. These animals have quickly become one of my favourites and I loved how they swam about with complete indifference to me tagging along.  

The water was shallow, clear, and visibility was incredible. After snorkelling in Honduras, which I thought was good, I was blown away by how much better the reef is in Belize. The wildlife is truly abundant and, I noted before, makes you feel very small as you realize you're just a temporary visitor in this part of the world.

After only 20 minutes (too short in my opinion) we moved on to Hol Chan Marine Reserve where we snorkelled with stingrays, moray eels, crabs, and fish galore. The photo below is one of my favourites as it looks like this guy has a big smile on his face.

We made our way over to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye to have lunch at a nice but slightly overpriced beachfront restaurant before hopping back on the boat to head to Shark Ray Alley. I won't go into the ethics of feeding the marine life but I later learned that all but one tour company on Caye Caulker feeds the sharks so their customers can be guaranteed a closeup experience.

This was the part of the trip I was most nervous about as I'd heard of the abundance of sharks and stingrays in this part of the water. You're probably thinking, Duh, Danielle, hence the name Shark Ray Alley, but when we stopped the boat and I peered over to see THIS waiting for me I internally lost my shit. Yes those are all sharks!

You can certainly see the apprehension on my face in the photo above (I'm at the very back). Our guide Romeo advised us to get in from the other side of the boat while the sharks were feeding and while my husband happily jumped in, I required a bit more convincing. I mean, look at this guy!!!

A fair amount of people were opting to sit this one out but I knew I'd be so disappointed in myself if I didn't get in the water. After a few minutes of working up the nerve, telling Romeo to chill out with his goading, and waiting until M had come back closer to the boat, I discreetly tried to slip in furthest away from where the sharks were congregated. With stingrays circling in the shallow water below, my sister Rachelle made her way over to us and we nervously clung together. 

Not even 30 seconds after I'd got in, Romeo (that little shit) threw pieces of fish in our direction which made all the sharks and rays swarm us. The next part I barely remember as I had a freak out in the water. As the giant yellow tailed jack fish, stingrays, and nurse sharks started touching me everywhere, I accidentally pushed M right into a stingray, screamed into my snorkel, probably sprained a few of Rachelle's fingers, and started to feel the panic rise and clench my throat. Maybe Romeo had fun getting a reaction out of me but if it wasn't for the fact that I'd have to swim through even more sharks to get to the boat's ladder, I would've gotten out of the water right then and there. 

Fortunately they stopped feeding after that point and I had time to adjust and become a bit more comfortable with my surroundings. M was rightly pissed and refused to stay by my side but Rachelle stuck it out with me and I eventually even worked up the nerve to touch one of the sharks (once it was being held securely by the guide of course).

All in all, despite my freak out, I still had a great time snorkelling the Belize Barrier Reef. Our tour lasted about five hours and we made four stops in total. After we finished our last round of snorkelling, the guides cut up watermelon, pineapple, and cantaloupe to share with the group, along with a few shots of coconut rum which were very appreciated (I had three). Then we went back to the office to look at a slideshow of pictures from the day and we ended up purchasing a DVD. These photos were all taken by Carlos Tours.

Have you ever had a slightly traumatic experience in the water and reacted by pushing your husband into a stingray? Please tell me I'm not the only one haha!

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  1. INCREDIBLE! I've only been snorkeling twice but never have been able to document it like this. Nor have I seen such amazing creatures! I was really scared the first time I went snorkeling but loved it the second time

  2. AMAZING! The photos are amazing and gorgeous. And I would have done EXACTLY what you did. I would have been so mad at myself for not getting in, but also completely terrified. I am glad you went for it!

    It looks like you're having an amazing time!

  3. Oh my goodness! I can't believe you were actually in that water! Haha I'm deathly afraid of sharks and spiders, and you could not pay me to be near either one.

  4. OMG! I feel sorry for your husband but the experience overall seemed cool! I want to go! ;-)


  5. Holy cow! Talk about facing your fears! What an incredible journey. Fear makes us do crazy things... I hope you and M have had some nice make-up time :-)

  6. Wow. This is amazing. What type of camera were you using for the underwater pictures?


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