Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Hol Chan Marine Reserve at the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is a popular destination for snorkel and dive trips from Caye Caulker. At Hol Chan you can swim with nurse sharks and stingrays and see hundreds of tropical fish, some quite large due to the no-fishing restrictions in the reserve. On the way, your boat may be followed by a pod of frolicking dolphins, and you may spot sea turtles or even a manatee. Larger boats from Caulker also go to Lighthouse Reef, including the Blue Hole, and Turneffe atolls.
The Caye Caulker Marine Reserve north and east of Caye Caulker, with its coral canyons, is a favorite of divers, especially for night dives. Caulker has its own mini version of San Pedro's Shark-Ray Alley, called Shark-Ray Village.
Charters, Lessons, and Equipment
A plethora of dive and snorkel operators offer reef tours (some of them are "cowboys"—unaffiliated and unreliable—so make sure you use a reputable company). Plan on spending about BZ$40–BZ$60 for a snorkel trip around the island or BZ$70–BZ$100 for a six-hour snorkel trip to Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Local two-tank reef dives typically run about BZ$150, and those to Hol Chan or other nearby areas cost about BZ$160–BZ$180. Day trips to Lighthouse or Turneffe atoll, with three dives, cost around BZ$250–BZ$300. If you stop at Half Moon Caye, there's an additional BZ$80 park fee. At Hol Chan, the park fee is BZ$20, and at Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, BZ$10. These park fees, which apply for divers and snorkelers, are sometimes not included in the quoted prices for dive and snorkel trips. The 12.5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) may—or may not—be included in the price you're quoted. Ask, to be sure.
Anwar Tours. Anwar Tours, operated by brothers Erico and Javier Novelo, runs snorkel trips to see manatees at Swallow Caye, with a visit at St. Georges Caye, and stops at three other good snorkel sites. Rate for this full-day trip is BZ$170. A night snorkel trip is BZ$100, and other snorkel tour rates start at BZ$50. Anwar, like other tour operators, provides various snorkel and land tour options, depending on demand. Stops and length of trips vary depending on weather and sea conditions. Hicaco Ave., Caye Caulker, Belize. 226/0327. www.anwartours.com.
Belize Diving Services. Established in 1978, Belize Diving Services has been around long enough to know the best spots. They train around 500 divers every year, with a full open water course running around BZ$800. A two-tank local reef dive is BZ$170, and a one-tank BZ$90, not including gear rental, 12.5% tax, and BZ$10 reserve admission fee. A two-tank Turneffe North (not Elbow) trip is BZ$220 plus tax and gear rental. A full-day Blue Hole/Lighthouse Reef trip is BZ$450 plus tax and gear rental, but does include lunch. Chapoose St., near soccer field and Iguana Reef Inn, Caye Caulker, Belize. 226/0143. www.belizedivingservices.net.
Frenchie's Diving Services. If you're looking for someone to take you out to the reef for diving, or to the Blue Hole, Frenchie's Diving Services is a respected local operator. Frenchie's leaves early for the Blue Hole, to try to be the first boat there. The three-dive, full-day trip, including gear, breakfast, lunch, BZ$80 park fee, and 12.5% tax is BZ$450 per person for divers, and BZ$249 for those snorkeling only. Three dives at Turneffe Elbow are BZ$337 including lunch. Half-day reef two-tank diving trips are around BZ$230, including tax and marine reserve fee. Four-day open water certifications courses run BZ$800. If visiting in high season, best book ahead because Frenchie's is popular. Blue Hole trips are scheduled every other day. Beachfront off Front St., on dock north of main public pier, Caye Caulker, Belize. 226/0234. www.frenchiesdivingbelize.com.
Raggamuffin Tours. Go out for a snorkel on a sailboat with Raggamuffin Tours, which goes to Hol Chan for around BZ$140 for a full-day snorkel trip, including the park entrance fee, lunch, and booze. Front St, Caye Caulker, Belize. 226/0348. www.raggamuffintours.com.