Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the Mayan name for “little channel.” Located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye, this sanctuary was officially established in 1987. The entire reserve is a natural cut through the Belize Barrier Reef, which is a little more than 23m wide, 9m deep, and about 4 miles southeast of San Pedro. This area is perfect for a private dive boat and guide out of San Pedro or Caye Caulker to reach this site for an amazing snorkeling and diving experience. In fact, Hol Chan Marine Reserve has been selected as one of the seven best “animal dives” in the Caribbean. Check out our guide to learn more about Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
• Hol Chan Marine Reserve: History
Hol Chan is the natural break in the Belize Barrier Reef. It was established as a national reserve under the auspices of the Belizean Government and Dr. Jacques Carterhen headed by the New York Zoological Society in 1987. Since its preservation began, the reserve area witnessed an increase in the return of different fish species. Experts believe that the natural cut in the reef was formed by erosion during the early years when the sea level was quite low in this region. There is a small blue hole in the Hol Chan area just off the Marco Gonzales site. It is a collapsed vertical fracture in which carbonate sand and mud washed down the cave system, forming a favorite spot for numerous fish including jewfish and grouper.
• Diving the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Park
Declared as the first marine park of Belize, it is a protected marine area. Once a depleted fishing area, the area now sees a colorful and varied fish spectacle. The entire reserve covers approximately three square miles and is divided into four zones:
Zone A - The inside and outside of the Reef where fishing is not permitted.
Zone B - The Seagrass Beds of the Belize Barrier Reef. Sport fishing is allowed in this area with a license.
Zone C - The southern mangroves of Ambergris Caye where fishing is not allowed.
Zone D - Shark Ray Alley is a great snorkeling area, and fishing is also allowed only after obtaining a license.
The Hol Chan cut allows marine animals to go inside the reef from outside and vice versa. During your dive excursion, expect to see a wide variety of animals including short-beaked dolphin, dotted dolphin, West Indian manatee, spotted eagle rays, moral eels, lobsters, jacks, groupers, snappers, and barracuda to name a few. The mangrove forests in the Zone C area boast many fish species such as seahorses, striped grunts, gray snappers, gray angelfish, French grunts, white grunts, and more. Hogfish and parrotfish are common sightings in the seagrass beds. If you want to see nurse sharks and rays, then go to the Zone D – Shark Ray Alley.
• Snorkeling and fishing at Hol Chan
Hol Chan is one of Mother Nature’s best kept secrets here in Belize. During your snorkel excursion, expect to swim with green sea turtles, the spotted eagle ray, the queen angelfish, and different types of groupers and hogfish, vase sponge, sea urchin, sea anemone, and giant tube sponge. Remember to obtain a license before going on a fishing expedition unless you charter with us in which case we take care of the license. There are some restricted areas where you cannot catch any fish. If you have obtained license, then you can troll for or easily catch bonefish, permit, and tarpon in just about any area.
• Wreck dive and night dive at Hol Chan
The wreck is a sunken barge which is 30 feet long and located 80 feet in deep water. A colony of nurse sharks have made this wreck site their home. If you wish, you can pet or swim alongside the eels. When diving this wreck site, it may happen that these nurse sharks circle you. Enjoy this phenomena as there are few places in the world where this actually happens. 80% of Hol Chan animals are nocturnal, so night dives are a popular choice among divers. It is a great way to see night animals in their natural habitat during your night dive at Hol Chan.
• Nearby Restaurants and Attractions
After your diving excursion, head to restaurants located nearby Hol Chan and enjoy some Caribbean foods. Lone Star Grill & Cantina is conveniently located in this wildlife reservation about four and a half miles from Hol Chan nature preserve. Black Orchid Restaurant and Hidden Treasure are additional dining options where you can try out Caribbean food and Belizean dishes. Explore Caye Caulker and the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve on board your own private yacht charter. Caye Caulker is a limestone coral island where you can enjoy snorkeling with sharks, diving the Blue Hole, chilling at The Split channel, sailing on the blue waters in the evening, and kayaking the mangrove forests. There is no better place to have fun for the family than Boca Del Rio Park. Inside there is a water park, playground, jungle gym, picnic tables, and barbecue pits. San Pedro town on Ambergris Caye and its surrounding areas remain the archetypal tropical paradise for many visitors where sun-drenched days are filled with water sports. From windswept beach path to snorkeling in clear waters, Ambergris has it all. Home to numerous nightclubs, bars and restaurants, San Pedro offers the most imaginative and appetizing dining scene in Belize. Tour the San Pedro lagoon area where you will find a small park, fast-food outlets, souvenir shops and a board walk. Plan your day trips to Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve, Mexico Rocks dive site, Tres Cocos and Cypress Garden. Other nearby attractions that are perfect for weekend trips on board your own yacht charter or catamaran include Turneffe Island, Glover's Reef, Great Blue Hole, and Lighthouse Reef.
Start your adventure on board one of our luxury yachts and visit Hol Chan Marine Reserve on your next vacation to Belize. At Belize Yacht Charters, we have a range of yachts to suit your Belizean vacation needs. We will take you to all the popular dive sites, nearby tourist attractions, fishing areas and will make your trip to Hol Chan a memorable one. Contact us today to book your luxury yacht in Belize and get ready to explore the underwater world of Belize Barrier Reef and Hol Chan cut.