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Shark Ray Alley Belize: Swim With Sharks in Belize!

Shark Ray Alley Belize: Swim With Sharks in Belize!

Shark Ray Alley is one of the most mindblowing places you can visit in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize. Known as ‘Zone D’ in the marine reserve, Shark Ray Alley is teaming with nurse sharks and stingray. By doing a snorkeling tour to Shark Ray Alley, in Belize, it’s possible to swim with nurse sharks and stingrays. This is certainly one of the most unforgettable experiences you can have in Central America!

In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about swimming with sharks at Shark Ray Alley in Belize!

Shark Ray Alley, Belize: An Overview

Shark Ray Alley is not only a star attraction of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve; but, the entire Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world. Indeed, when it comes to the best things to do in Belize, swimming with sharks at Shark Ray Alley is often at the top of the to-do list. And, for good reason! Swimming with sharks, in Belize, is a unique and adrenaline-pumping activity and an experience that’s truly memorable.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details about how to visit this spectacular site, let’s take a look at how the area came to be known as Shark Ray Alley.

FYI – Shark Ray Alley is also known as Shark and Ray Alley, Hol Chan Shark Ray Alley and Shark Alley Belize.

Read more about snorkelling tours from Caye Caulker and the best snorkeling in Belize

A nurse shark in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve seen during a Caye Caulker snorkeling tour

What Is Shark Ray Alley?

Without human intervention, it’s likely that Shark Ray Alley would have never existed! Before the area was full of nurse sharks and stingray, it was once a place where anglers would clean their catches of the day. By doing so, fish would fall off the side of the boat, into the water, attracting the interest of marine life such as nurse sharks and stingray. With an easy meal on offer, more and more nurse sharks and stingray started to hang around this area. So, this part of the Belize Barrier Reef soon became known as Shark Ray Alley.

These days, Shark Ray Alley is known as ‘Zone D’ and is one of many protected areas in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. This means that fishing is no longer allowed in this area. But, when boats arrive in Zone D, nurse sharks, in particular, still instinctively swim directly towards the boats in the hope of being fed.

With this in mind, tour companies started to visit the site, knowing that swarms of nurse sharks would be present in the water. Because nurse sharks are generally harmless to humans, Shark Ray Alley became a main selling point of tours – a guarantee to swim with nurse sharks in Belize!

So, these days, Shark Ray Alley is one of the most popular snorkeling spots (and dive sites) in Belize.

Nurse sharks in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve seen during a Caye Caulker snorkeling tour
Nurse sharks, Belize

Where Is Shark Ray Alley?

As mentioned, Shark Ray Alley is located in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is part of the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s located just south of San Pedro in Ambergris Caye, which is Belize’s biggest island.

Specifically, Shark Ray Alley is located in the southern part of Hol Chan Marine Reserve. In 1999, the marine reserve was actually extended to include Shark Ray Alley, which, as mentioned, was referred to as Zone D.

Shark Ray Alley Belize location

How to Visit Shark Ray Alley, Belize

To visit Shark Ray Alley in Belize, you’ll need to do a guided tour. That’s because it’s a protected area, so you can’t independently visit without a guide.

Let’s look at the snorkeling tours heading to Shark Ray Alley in a bit more detail, so you can plan your swim with sharks in Belize!

A stingray at Shark Ray Alley in Belize

Shark Ray Alley Snorkeling Tours

Generally speaking, all snorkelling tours offered in Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye, that are heading to the Belize Barrier Reef, include visiting Shark Ray Alley. Whether it’s a full-day or half-day snorkeling tour, Shark Ray Alley is very likely going to be headlining the itinerary.

Most visitors base themselves on Caye Caulker to do a snorkeling tour of Shark Ray Alley. But, some visitors will do a day trip from Ambergris Caye and visit both Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley and Caye Caulker. Below, we’ll look at details about snorkeling trips to Shark Ray Alley from both Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.

Dan underwater during a Caye Caulker snorkeling tour
Hol Chan snorkel tour from Caye Caulker

Snorkeling Tours From Caye Caulker

A full-day snorkeling tour from Caye Caulker is the most popular tour option for visiting Shark Ray Alley in Belize. Certainly, when it comes to snorkeling tours, the tour companies mostly promote their full-day tour. These tours usually include around 7–8 stops with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley promoted as the main attractions.

Personally, Beck and I did this Full-Day Caye Caulker Snorkeling Tour with Salt Life Eco Tours and absolutely loved it. Because we really enjoyed this Shark Ray Alley Caye Caulker tour, we highly recommend it. You can book this tour on GetYourGuide.

FYI – you can also book this same full-day snorkeling tour visiting Shark Ray Alley on Viator.

Of course, not everyone wants to spend all day out on the water. If you want just a few hours of snorkeling, the half-day tour is a great option. These half-day tours specifically focus on visiting Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley without dilly-dallying at other less-exciting snorkeling sites. These tours usually run in the morning for 3–4 hours.

You’ll find most tour companies in Caye Caulker offer this half-day option visiting Shark Ray Alley.

Which Company Should I Snorkel With in Caye Caulker?

There are numerous tour companies offering near-identical full-day and half-day snorkelling tours from Caye Caulker to Shark Ray Alley. The most popular tour companies include Salt Life Eco Tours, Caveman Snorkeling Tours, Raggamuffin Tours, Anda de Wata Tours and Nauti Time Tours. So, which tour company should you choose? Well, of course, each company will tell you that they’re the best and are the most environmentally conscious and eco-friendly. After all, that’s what people want to hear.

Admittedly, all of these tour companies offer similar full-day and half-day snorkeling tours to Shark Ray Alley. Indeed, all of the tours roughly follow the same itinerary visiting the same places. Essentially, it’s a convoy of boats, from different tour companies heading to the same places at about the same times. So, it doesn’t really matter which tour company you choose! Basically, don’t worry about it. Whichever company you go with, you’ll have a great time.

Which Caye Caulker Snorkeling Tour Should I Choose?

As mentioned, most people choose to do a full-day tour rather than a half-day snorkelling tour. After all, if you’ve made all of the effort to travel to Belize, you may as well make the most of it and explore for the full day. But, in reality, whether you do a full-day or a half-day tour, you’ll roughly spend the same amount of time at Shark Ray Alley.

The difference with the full-day tour is you’ll visit more snorkeling sites at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Whereas, on the half-day tours, you’ll just visit 2–3 spots at the marine reserve including Shark Ray Alley.

As mentioned, Beck and I booked this Full-Day Caye Caulker Snorkeling Tour on GetYourGuide. This tour was run by the friendly and informative guides at Salt Life Eco Tours. Because we had a wonderful time, we’re more than happy to recommend Salt Life Eco Tours. Feel free to use this link to book your Shark Ray Alley Belize tour from Caye Caulker with this company.

Snorkeling Tours From San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

It’s also possible to do Shark Ray Alley tours from San Pedro in Ambergris Caye. As mentioned, these tours not only visit Shark Ray Alley; but, they also visit Caye Caulker. So, if you’re staying on Ambergris Caye and want to swim with Belizean nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley and visit Caye Caulker, these tours are an excellent choice.

You can book this highly-rated Full Day Hol Chan, Sharky Ray Alley and Caye Caulker Snorkeling Tour From San Pedro on Viator.

There are also half-day snorkeling tours available from Ambergris Caye. Again, if a full-day tour sounds like it’s a bit much, a half-day tour may be a perfect option. By doing a half-day snorkeling tour from Ambergris Caye, you’ll get to visit Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley.

You can book this popular Half-Day Hol Chan Marine Reserve Shark Alley Tour From San Pedro on Viator.

How to Book a Snorkeling Trip to Shark Ray Alley

It’s possible to pre-book a snorkeling tour to Shark Ray Alley on GetYourGuide, Viator or directly through a company’s website. Although, some of the companies have insecure websites, so I wouldn’t trust booking online through those websites. Otherwise, it’s possible to book in person once you arrive on the island. You can usually book a tour for the next day.

Having a swim with a nurse shark at Shark Ray Alley in Belize

Snorkeling Tour: Our Experience at Shark Ray Alley

From Caye Caulker, Beck and I excitedly boarded the boat and headed to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The marine reserve is a protected area in the Belize Barrier Reef. Whilst, the reef system as a whole was delegated UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1996. As expected, the reserve is an immensely rich area of marine life and wildlife.

Most full-day and half-day snorkeling tours don’t start at Shark Ray Alley. You’ll usually start by snorkeling within different zones in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. These initial stops offer your first snorkeling experience of the incredible Belize Barrier Reef.

Make sure to keep an eye out for West Indian manatees, green sea turtles, Caribbean lobsters, seahorses, southern sting rays, eagle rays, sea anemones, tarpons, starfish and loads of different tropical fish. Whilst, there are many colourful coral reefs to explore such as the elkhorn coral, fire coral and brain coral.

A turtle in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve seen during a snorkeling tour at the Belize Barrier Reef

Swimming With Sharks in Belize

After the initial stops at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, soon enough, you’ll be gearing up for a swim with sharks! Admittedly, on the way to Shark Ray Alley, Beck and I were nervous about swimming with the nurse sharks. But, the guides at Salt Life Eco Tours assured us that the sharks are harmless to humans and that it’s totally safe to swim with them. Despite the assurance, we were still a little apprehensive; but, I suppose that’s normal!

When you arrive at Shark Ray Alley, the nurse sharks almost immediately swarm the boat with the hope of being fed. As you and your fellow snorkelers start to plunge into the water, the nurse sharks will start to calmly disperse. We recommend trying to be one of the first people to jump in before the nurse sharks start to scatter with more people entering the water. That way, you’ll get a better look at these beautiful creatures.

You’ll then have around half hour to swim with nurse sharks – a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Belize!

Having a swim with a nurse shark at Shark Ray Alley in Belize

Of course, Shark Ray Alley isn’t just about the nurse sharks. The area is also popular with southern stingrays. Certainly, snorkeling amongst stingrays was also an awesome experience at Shark Ray Alley.

Once you’ve explored Shark Ray Alley, you’ll usually then have lunch on the boat. Because we were doing the full-day tour, we then visited some other sites at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. This included snorkeling at the Conch Shell Graveyard and the shipwreck (Belizean Titanic). We then enjoyed spotting some West Indian Manatees before heading to the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve to snorkel at Coral Gardens. The tour then finished with tarpon feeding and going to the seahorse viewing platform at the Igunan Reef Inn.

A stingray at Shark Ray Alley in Belize

What to Take When Snorkeling in Shark Ray Alley

Let’s talk about the things you’ll need to wear and pack for when you’ll swim with sharks in Belize!

  • Swimming gear: well, this probably goes without saying, but you’ll need your swimmers! We recommend wearing a rash shirt or a wetsuit to help protect your skin from the sun.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen: you’ll also want to apply sunscreen to protect your skin. But, of course, we want to conserve the coral reef, so a reef-safe sunscreen is ideal.
  • Microfibre towel: a small lightweight microfibre towel is a great addition to dry off in between stops.
  • Waterproof or minimalist draw-string bag: you can take a backpack on board. Personally, we just took a drawstring bag that we didn’t mind getting wet.
  • GoPro and other accessories: although most snorkeling tours include a guide taking photos, having your own action camera and photographing the nurse sharks is part of the fun!
  • Waterproof phone case: this is a wise choice to protect your phone whilst out on the boat.
  • Extra snacks and drinks: yes, lunch and snacks are provided. But, we found snorkeling tiring work. So, it was good to have our own snacks to keep us going throughout the day.
  • Sea sickness tablets: if you tend to get seasick, we recommend taking travel motion sickness tablets before going on the boat as a preventative measure.

GoPro HERO12 Black

GoPro HERO12 Black

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Shark Ray Alley Belize: Summary

There you have it, swimming with sharks at Shark Ray Alley in Belize – what an incredible experience! Personally, Beck and I had a smashing time doing GetYourGuide’s Full-Day Caye Caulker Snorkeling Tour. So, we can honestly recommend doing this tour if you want to visit Shark Ray Alley in Belize! Otherwise, as mentioned, we’re sure you’ll have a great time snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley with whichever Caye Caulker (or Ambergris Caye) tour company you go with.

Now you know all about swimming with sharks in Belize, let’s look at some logistics to help you plan your visit. Let’s start with getting to Belize and Caye Caulker in the first place.

How to Get to Belize and Caye Caulker

To do this trip from abroad, it makes sense to fly to Belize City. When booking flights, you should definitely use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. That’s what Beck and I always do.

Once you’re in Belize City, make your way to the San Pedro Belize Express ferry terminal and ticket office located here. Booking in advance often isn’t required. Beck and I booked our ferry tickets from Belize City to Caye Caulker on arrival at the ticket office. Just to be on the safe side, you can pre-book tickets online on the official website. You can find the ferry schedule on the website here.

The roundtrip ferry ticket covering Belize City to Caye Caulker and Caye Caulker to Belize City usually costs around $35USD ($70BZ). In 2022, Beck and I paid $34.50USD/person ($69BZ) for a return ferry ticket.

Getting to Belize City From Chetumal By Bus

Personally, Beck and I caught a chicken bus to Belize City from Corozal after crossing the Chetumal Mexico-Belize border. We paid around $5USD/person ($10BZ) for this bus. Basically, after crossing the border when it opened at 9am, we were able to get the bus by mid-late morning and arrive in Belize City by mid-afternoon. We then caught one of the last ferry services of the day, arriving in Caye Caulker by late afternoon.

You’ll have to check the latest schedules to make sure this journey is possible. Certainly, it’s difficult to get up-to-date information on the bus schedule from Corozal to Belize City, which makes planning this trip tricky. But, usually, there are a few departures from Corozal to Belize City in the morning. So, hopefully, you can catch one of those buses and arrive in time for a ferry from Belize City to Caye Caulker. Just make sure to arrive at the Chetumal Mexico-Belize border when it opens so you can be one of the first people processed.

To get from the Chetumal Mexico-Belize border to the bus station at Corozal, we organised a taxi with Alberto, who’s also known as The Transporter BZ (+501 630-2700). He’ll organise a driver to pick you up from the Belize side of the border. It cost us $25USD to get from the Belizean border to the Corozal bus station, whilst the ride took around 25 minutes.

FYI – we also organised a taxi from Chetumal in Mexico to the Chetumal Mexico-Belize border through Alberto. He has some contacts in Chetumal. So, he’ll organise a taxi for you to get from Chetumal to the border. You’ll then cross the border and take a different taxi to get to Corozal.

Getting From Chetumal to Caye Caulker By Ferry

Getting a 2.5 hour ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker is by far the easiest and quickest way to get there. This ferry is run by Water Jets International.

Where to Stay: Caye Caulker Accommodation

Despite being a small island, there are plenty of awesome accommodation options on Caye Caulker. Below, we’ll look at the best budget, mid-range and luxury options on the island.

  • Budget – Go Slow Guest House: Beck and I booked the Go Slow Guest House and really enjoyed it. We stayed in a lovely private room that was comfortable and clean. We highly recommend this budget option.
  • Mid-range – Tropical Paradise: there are plenty of fantastic mid-range Caye Caulker hotel options. Tropical Paradise is our pick of the bunch given it has the most reviews.
  • Luxury – La Isla Resort: if you’re looking for a special place to stay on Caye Caulker, look no further than the exceptional La Isla Resort.

Travel Insurance For Central America

You’ll want travel insurance if you’re travelling through Central America. Certainly, if you’re going to swim with sharks in Belize, please get yourself some travel insurance!

Heymondo is one of the best budget travel insurance providers on the market. They provide comprehensive travel and medical insurance that won’t break the bank. Whether it’s single trip insurance, annual multi-trip insurance or long stay insurance, Heymondo offers affordable travel and medical insurance to suit all of your needs. Personally, we use Heymondo travel insurance and highly recommend it. To find out more about Heymondo travel and medical insurance, read our Heymondo travel insurance review.

Travel Insurance

Heymondo Travel Insurance

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Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about Shark Ray Alley and also Caye Caulker.

Where Is Caye Caulker?

Caye Caulker is a small island off the east coast of Belize, in the Caribbean Sea, that’s conveniently located near the Belize Barrier Reef. To help you get your bearings, feel free to access an interactive map of Caye Caulker here.

Where Is Amerbgris Caye?

Ambergris Caye is the biggest island in Belize, that’s also located off the east coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea. Ambergris Caye is located north of Caye Caulker. Click here to access an interactive map of Ambergris Caye.

Are There Sharks in Belize?

Yes, there are many types of sharks found in Belize other than nurse sharks. In Belizean waters, you can also find Caribbean reef sharks, bull sharks, black tip sharks, lemon sharks, hammerhead sharks and migratory whale sharks.

Where Can I See Nurse Sharks in Belize?

As you’ve already gathered by reading this guide, it’s possible to swim with sharks near Caye Caulker. At Shark Ray Alley, you can swim with nurse sharks.

What Kind of Sharks Are in Shark Ray Alley Belize?

Nurse sharks are the most common shark found at Shark Ray Alley in Belize. Indeed, it’s nurse sharks that people want to go swim with in Belize. Nurse sharks average 1–2 metres in length, have barbells, are nocturnal predators and like to hang out in shallow coastal waters.

Can Nurse Sharks Harm You?

The typical narrative is that nurse sharks are docile and harmless. This is certainly true. But, there have been some nurse shark attacks reported previously; but, as far as we’re aware, no Shark Ray Alley attacks have ever been reported. Indeed, nurse shark attacks are very rare. They may bite if provoked or if they mistake an arm or finger for food, but these bites aren’t fatal. Essentially, the chances of being attacked by a nurse shark are low to none. To be on the safe side, make sure not to swim too close to the sharks. If you respect their space, they’ll respect yours.

Are There Shark Attacks in Belize?

Very rarely, Belize shark attacks have been reported; but, these attacks have never occurred by nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley.

Can You Swim at Shark Ray Alley?

Yes, swimming with sharks is possible at Shark Ray Alley.

Can I See Sharks From the Boat at Shark Ray Alley?

Yes, when boats arrive at Shark Ray Alley, nurse sharks flock to the boat as they think it’s time for feeding. Because of that, you’ll enjoy a fantastic view of the sharks from the boat. So, if you’re not too keen to swim with the sharks, you can at least see them from the boat.

Is a Tour Necessary to Visit Shark Ray Alley?

Yes, you’ll have to do a guided tour to be able to swim with sharks at Shark Ray Alley in Belize.

How Much Does a Snorkeling Tour to Shark Ray Alley Cost?

All of the tour companies in Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye charge a similar rate for their tours. Whether you’re doing a full-day or half-day tour, pricing is fairly identical across the board. Expect to pay around $90USD ($180BZ) per person for a full-day tour and around $50USD ($100BZ) per person for a half-day tour. Although, it’s possible to negotiate the price of a snorkeling tour. We think it’s possible to get the price of a full-day tour down to around $80USD (BZ$160) by bartering the price in person.

How Much Does it Cost to Swim With Sharks in Belize?

Basically, you’ll need to pay the price of a guided half-day or full-day snorkeling tour to swim with sharks in Belize. If your mission is to simply swim with sharks at Shark Ray Alley at the cheapest price possible, then we recommend doing a half-day tour.

How Deep Is Shark Ray Alley Belize?

The average depth is around 1–2.5 metres and the maximal depth is around nine metres.

How Far Is Shark Ray Alley From Caye Caulker?

It’s around 12km north of Caye Caulker.

How Many Days Should You Spend on Caye Caulker?

This all depends on what type of holiday you want and what activities you’d like to do. Personally, Beck and I spent three nights on Caye Caulker. This gave us one day to do a snorkelling tour and another day to explore the rest of the island. We found three nights was a decent amount of time to see the main attractions on the island. If you’d like some more relaxation time, we recommend staying an extra 1–2 nights.

Is Caye Caulker a Party Island?

No, not really. The island is more about chillin’ out with a few beers by a pool or beach rather than any raging nightlife. Of course, there is some nightlife if you’re interested. Most people tend to head to the Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill, whilst, beyond midnight, only I and I Reggae Bar is open.

Bonus Tips

  • Belize swim with whale sharks: other than swimming with nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, it’s also possible to swim with migratory whale sharks in Belize.
  • Stingray Beach: if you want to see more stingrays, head to Stingray Beach at the Iguana Reef Inn.
  • Explore Maya ruins in Belize: other than natural beauty, Belize has plenty in the way of cultural attractions. Read more about visiting Caracol, Xunantunich and the ATM Cave.

Central America Guides

Dan watches Volcan Fuego erupt
Volcan Fuego erupts – seen during a Volcan Acatenango tour

Read our huge Caye Caulker Visitor’s Guide to find out everything you need to know about visiting the island. Otherwise, read 46 AWESOME Things to Do in Belize (Best Tours and Travel Tips) or The 21 Best Things to Do in San Ignacio Belize.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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