Have you always dreamed of swimming with sharks? Then set off for Shark Ray Alley, the most popular snorkeling destination in Belize. In a few meters of water, you will swim in the midst of dozens of completely harmless nurse sharks and impressive southern stingrays. Snorkeling tours to this spot, in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, are almost always combined with a visit to Hol Chan Cut.

How to get there?

Shark Ray Alley can only be visited in organized excursions, but you will be free to swim on your own once you are there. Most excursions (2 hours 30 minutes), include a stop at Hol Chan Cut, and leave from San Pedro (Ambergris Caye). It takes 5 to 10 minutes to get there by boat and costs $45 per person (including a $10 entrance fee for the reserve). A dozen excursion organizers and diving clubs share the market and offer morning and afternoon departures every day. It is easy to reach San Pedro from Belize City: several water taxi companies run 10 to 20 trip per day in each direction (about 1 hour 15 minutes).

Snorkeling with nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, Belize

Water entrance

You enter the water directly from the boat. You won’t have to look for the sharks and the stingrays for long, since they will come up to see you!

Shark Ray Alley snorkeling map, Belize

Exploration

The area has a constant sea level (↕5-10ft/1.5-3m) and the seabed is entirely made up of sand and seagrass.

Nurse sharks and stingrays are the main attractions of the spot. Shark feeding has been common for many years (and some excursion organizers still do so), and has made the sharks familiar with a human presence. While shark feeding is controversial, the spot remains a unique place to watch these superb creatures close up (some sharks are between 6 and 10 feet long), with some sharks swimming in shoals of ten or so.

Snorkeling with nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, Belize

As soon as the boat arrives, the stingrays and sharks are attracted by the noise of the engine and swim toward the boat. Get into the water as soon as possible to make the most of the sight. You only need to put your head under the water to see the sharks and stingrays coming and going between the boats. You can easily get close to them, but they will swim away if you make any sudden gestures. Some stingrays are quite “tactile”, but don’t forget that they have a stinger that can inflict serious injuries.

Snorkeling with stingray at Shark Ray Alley, Belize

Here and there, you will also see horse-eye jack, bar jack and Bermuda chubs moving above the seagrass.

This is a very popular spot at certain times of day, so watch out for the boats and the other snorkelers. Sea conditions are generally good (few currents or waves) and are adapted to beginners who are looking for strong sensations.

Restaurants & accommodation

This spot is on a coral reef facing Ambergris Caye, about 1 mile from the shore. Most excursions include water and fruit as refreshments.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Shark Ray Alley
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Southern stingray Dasyatis americana  
Nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum  
Horse-eye jack Caranx latus  
Bar jack Carangoides ruber  
Mahogany snapper Lutjanus mahogoni  
Live sharksucker Echeneis naucrates  
  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaHol Chan Marine Reserve
  • Maximum depth6ft/2m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a boat
  • Potential DangersStingrays
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsMarine reserve entrance fee ($10 pp.) + tour price (from $35 pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.