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Shark and Ray Alley, Belize – A Bucket List Snorkel Spot

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Shark and Ray Alley is one of the top snorkel locations in Belize and it’s certainly worth a visit. It’s one of the most famous locations to swim with sharks and it’s easy to do with a number of local tours.

In the “alley” you’ll find specific shark and ray species that you can get close to without disrupting the natural order of things. It’s a snorkel spot that is located at the southern tip of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve just south of Ambergris Caye, which is the biggest island in Belize.

Here is one of my favourite tours to visit Shark and Ray Alley with 7-Stop Snorkeling in the Belize Barrier Reef and here is my article covering the basic itinerary.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.


Me snorkelling with two large nurse sharks

The wildlife found at this snorkel spot

The main reason people come to this reserve is to experience the sea life that calls this area home. Specifically, you’ll find big southern stingrays swimming around here as well as nurse sharks.

Big southern stingrays are sea predators that can grow to be up to 6 feet wide. They are a non-aggressive species that are not known for hurting humans. However, as with most stingray species, they do have a sharp and venomous barb located near their tails which is especially dangerous.

Some people find it intimidating that sharks are found in this area where people swim, but you’ll be relieved to know that nurse sharks are harmless to humans.

It is advised not to put your hands near their faces and to avoid touching them as they have been known to bite in self-defence, but this is extremely rare. Plus, thankfully, their teeth are not as sharp and their bite is not as strong as other shark species.

While swimming at Shark and Ray Alley, you should try to keep a relative distance from the animals to avoid getting stung by the stingray barb, or bitten by the nurse sharks.

You might also be pleased to know that you’re highly likely to see other species of sea life in the area while you’re swimming with the sharks and rays.

Different schools of fish also come around to enjoy the feeding which can add to the experience. You won’t be swimming only with sharks and rays but also a few other species as well!


One of the tour boats that go to Shark Ray Alley

Tours that go to Shark and Ray Alley in Belize

If you’re trying to book a tour last minute or during peak travel seasons, it’s beneficial to have multiple tours to choose from in case they are fully booked. I have run into this problem before and it’s frustrating.

So, If you’re fortunate enough to fit in multiple tours throughout your Belize trip, then here are a few other tours I recommend that offer a slightly different experience or just a half day.

Geographically, Shark & Ray Alley is located between the two islands Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, however since you can only visit the marine reserve with an approved tour company, you should double-check that you book a tour from the appropriate island to where you are staying.

This first tour starts in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye:

These next tours start from Caye Caulker Island:

If you’re instead interested in getting your PADI certification, this tour does just that and takes you to Shark and Ray Alley for a bonus snorkel excursion! It’s the best of both worlds if you’re trying to dive and snorkel in one day.

Each of these tours is operated by different companies so the meeting places are slightly different. Make sure to read all of the instructions before attending the tour.


When to visit?

You’ll be pleased to know that you can visit Shark and Ray Alley at any time of year. The sharks typically spend much of the year in the area as opposed to following a specific migration pattern. The tour companies in Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye can take travellers to this snorkel spot most days of the week providing they have enough attendees and the weather is on your side.

Best time to visit: December through May.

I was fortunate during my visits to Belize as even when I visited in the middle of the wet season (August) the weather was perfect. Just be aware that the visibility in the ocean can be lowered directly after a storm if you do go during the rainy season.

Please note: During the rainy season (June – November) there will be more days that the tours don’t go ahead due to safety. It is not advisable to go snorkelling during a storm.


Me with a school of fish at Shark and Ray Alley

What to expect at Shark and Ray Alley, Belize

Each tour that takes you to Shark and Ray Alley has a slightly different itinerary, but the general experience at this famous snorkel spot is similar across them all.

After arriving at the correct spot, the tour guides will park the boat and then give all the tour attendees time to prepare their snorkels and fins ready to get back in the water. You’ll notice that the sharks start to swim near the boat before you’ve come to a complete stop.

This is because the sharks have learned that the sound of boat engines usually equals them getting some food, so they show up to the event right on time.

Each tour guide will sprinkle some safe food into the water for the local nurse sharks and the sting rays that frequent the area. Usually, they are fed some chum underneath the boat which will keep them occupied while guests swim nearby.

Depending on the tour you choose and the itinerary, it’s hard to determine how much time you’ll be spending here, but usually, it’s between 20 – 30 minutes as it’s one of the main attractions.

Swimming in Shark and Ray Alley is an exciting experience and a true bucket list activity for those who visit Belize.

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What should you bring?

If you’re visiting this famous snorkel spot with a registered tour, the main items you need will be prepared and ready. Snorkels and fins are included on each tour but you’ll have the option to bring your own should you want to.

Most tours also provide bottles of water but when you’re spending a lot of time on the boat, it’s always recommended to bring extra.

  • Sunscreen – it is extremely hot in Belize and easy to get burnt.
  • Sunhat – it is recommended to have a hat instead of shade to avoid heatstroke.
  • Water – you will be on the water for hours, you should bring water to stay hydrated.
  • Waterproof camera – so you can take pictures to remember the experience.

Have you been to Shark & Ray Alley yet? What did you think?

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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