Belize Barrier Reef Snorkeling Tips
Snorkeling on the Belize Barrier reef on your next vacation to Ambergris Caye is a must-do. With a wealth of world-class snorkeling sites to choose from you really can’t go wrong. The Belize Barrier Reef is populated by a wide variety of marine life, from hard and soft corals, fish, marine mammals like dolphins and manatees, and even sea turtles, sting rays and nurse sharks. Snorkeling is a great activity to try, even if you have no experience, you don’t even need to know how to swim. With just a few basic pointers and tips, you can be well on your way to a fantastic underwater adventure.
Tips for finding the best snorkeling outfitter
A great snorkeling guide can make your excursion the best it can be. Make sure your guide is a certified tour guide through the Belize Tourism Board. The outfitter should have a wide range of good quality gear in a variety of sizes. Gear should be free of dirt and in good working condition. Oftentimes snorkel tours include all of the necessary gear, there is no need to buy or pack your own. Should you fall in love with snorkeling, it is easy to slowly acquire your own personal gear. Snorkel tours are typically a half-day, either in the morning or afternoon.
Tips for choosing a snorkel site
Once you’ve chosen your tour operator, it’s time to select a snorkel site. On Ambergris Caye, there are many to pick from. Two of the most popular, and great for beginners, are Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Mexico Rocks. Hol Chan is just south of the island, while Mexico Rocks is about six miles north of San Pedro Town, just down from X’tan Ha Resort. A great beginner snorkel site has no current, a shallow and sandy area for practicing at the beginning, and a vibrant and active reef system. Both sites mentioned here check all of those boxes. For more on Hol Chan, click here.
Tips for using your mask correctly
If you have the chance to practice with a mask and snorkel before your excursion, you can get comfortable in the shallows or even the swimming pool. For your mask, make sure that all of your hair is off your face and if you have long hair, tie it back to prevent it getting tangled in the strap. The mask will sit over your eyes and nose and the strap should rest on the crown of your head at a bit of an angle from the mask. To ensure the mask fits properly, hold your breath and set the mask on your face, pressing gently. It should stay in place on its own without the strap. This will check that the mask is the right size for your face. When you’re ready to get in the water, put on your mask and make sure that the skirt of the mask is nice and snug on your face to prevent leaks and that the strap is not too tight.
Tips for using your snorkel correctly
The snorkel clips onto the side of your mask on the strap. The mouthpiece is where you breathe from, when snorkeling you only breathe through your mouth, not your nose. You want to stay relaxed and take slow even breaths as you glide along. Try breathing like Darth Vader, breathing only through your mouth, nice and slow. When snorkeling, you generally are lying flat at the surface, with your face and mask in the water. If you bend your head down towards your chest too much (say, to watch a passing sea turtle swim under you), the top of the snorkel may go under the water, causing the snorkel to fill with water and block the air. To fix this, just lift your head back up so the top of the snorkel is in the air again, and blow out hard. This will clear the water out the top of the snorkel and you can resume your Darth Vader breathing
Tips for making the most of your fins
As you are not really swimming when snorkeling, fins are used to provide forward movement and direction when snorkeling. Make sure your fins fit comfortably but are slightly snug so that the heels do not slip off when you kick in the water. You want to move your legs like a scissors, from the hip, in slow fluid movements. Your arms are kept close to your body, either folded in front of you, or you can hold your hands behind your back. You should never try to vertically tread water while wearing fins, as it stirs up a lot of sediment that can the smother the coral. Instead, try laying sideways with your head out of the water and scissor kicking your legs out the side. A life jacket or waist belt can be used to keep you afloat, and is a great aid even if you are a good swimmer.
For tips on being a benevolent visitor under the sea, click here to read more. The many marine protected areas in Belize means that the reef and its surrounding areas is being preserved for future generations. Snorkeling in Belize is an adventure you’ll never forget. Try it out and see for yourself.