May 20, 2020
Ever wondered what swimming with sharks in the warm Caribbean waters would be like? The thrill, adrenaline and absolute craziness of it all? I know I did. Sometimes I shock myself at how brave and courageous I am. From the things that I do to the adventures that I embark on such as the one I am about to share with you.
I had the amazing opportunity to snorkel the barrier reef as well as swim with sharks and stingrays in the beautiful waters of Belize. Belize is a country located on the northeast coast of Central America. It is renowned for its lush mangroves, clear blue waters and rich marine life. I went on the most popular tour the ship has to offer, the ‘Belize Barrier Reef Snorkel and Shark Swim’. Read along as I share with you my thrilling yet breathtaking experience.
Belize Barrier Reef
The Belize Barrier Reef is a stream of coral reefs sitting on the coast of Belize stretching out approximately 300 km thus making it the second largest following Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is an amazing place for scuba diving and snorkeling. Since I had never been to the Great Barrier Reef so I had to jump at the opportunity and tick another experience off my bucket list.
This is an early excursion so prepare to be up and ready before the ship anchors. In the morning, you will be required to meet at a specific location on the ship to prepare for disembarking. You will then be escorted by one of the shore excursions associates to the tender boat where you will take a 30 minute ride to the pier.
Upon arrival on the pier you will be given a wrist band by the tour operator and an indemnity form to fill out. Once everyone is present, you will make your way to the boat where life jackets will be handed out. On a very scenic 30 – 45 minute boat ride to the beautiful island of Caye Caulker you can expect to see lush mangroves and nurse sharks splashing away if you are lucky. The tour officially begins on Caye Caulker island where you will also receive your snorkeling gear and instructions.
Arrival at Cay Caulker
When you arrive on Caye Caulker, you will be given time to get ready and use the rest room if you need to. It is at this time that the tour operator will give you information as well as guidelines needed for the upcoming tour. This is also where lunch and drinks will be served after your tour and where you will have a little bit of down time. Once everyone has received their gear, you will take a boat ride to your first stop, the Barrier Reef.
Barrier Reef Snorkel Experience
In a group, you are led by the tour guide into the ocean for snorkeling. Make sure to always stay in your group so that you do not wander off or get lost.
The ocean was very choppy on this day which made it difficult for me to move around since I am not a strong swimmer. Thank God for life jackets. There is a plethora of beautiful fish and coral, some of which I was not familiar with. I also got to see an eel for the first time.
Personal View on the Snorkeling Experience
I have been snorkeling many times so this part of the tour was not particularly exciting for me. Plus, I have seen more colourful and lively reefs in the Pacific ocean. The Caribbean sea seems a bit more dull and brown which is supposedly attributed to the temperature of the water. Tourism may also play a huge part because the amount of daily activity in the water; from the boats to the tourist possibly touching and stepping on the coral, could affect it. Regardless, it is still a beautiful sight to behold.
Shark and stingray swim
After 30 min of snorkeling you will head to your next stop which was my favourite part of the whole tour. Just 10 min away is a sand bank where you will swim with nurse sharks and sting rays. Yes, real sharks and rays! After a short briefing on the rules and what to expect, you will be led into the water by the guide once again. Here you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with nurse sharks and stingrays. Because I have swam with sharks before, I was not nervous this time around. In fact, I did not need any convincing to enter the water.
For a good 30 min, you will swim around and take as many pictures as you would like. You can also take in the beauty and graciousness of these sea creatures which is a mind blowing experience.
The sharks go about their business while you find the stingrays are more interactive and friendly. Standing on the sand bank, expect a little brush from a stingray’s fin as it swims in between your legs. If you are looking to get pictures of your new found ocean friends in the background, the guides are nice enough to take them for you.
Now For Some Down Time
After a beautiful day out at sea, you will head back to the island for some lunch, drinks and relaxation. Laze around on the beach or dock on the many available lounge chairs or a dip in the warm Caribbean water. In about an hour and a half, you will head back to the pier where you will take the tender boat back to the ship.
Things to take note of
Expect to spend the day at the excursion with little time left for souvenir shopping
The excursion is quite long because of the travel time more than the actual experience
Make sure you put on enough sunscreen and have a hat on for the boat rides. It can get very hot.
Since it is a ship tour, if it runs late you will not be left behind which is a good thing.
Most of your time is spent on a boat, so if you know you have a problem with motion sickness, take motion sickness pills
The travel time is longer than the actual excursions so be mentally prepared for that
The excursion is weather dependent. Weather permitting, it will take place. But if it rains or the ocean is too choppy then expect cancellation. For the snorkeling part of the excursion, the ocean was very choppy which cut it short for us. Also, it was pretty murky at the bottom so we couldn’t see the ocean floor clearly. The cloudy weather did not help either.
Exercise caution when in the water with the sharks and rays. Do not get too close to the sharks and do not touch them. Do not corner or surround them. They are wild animals after all so if they get frightened or feel threatened, they will attack.
Overall, the experience was amazing and worth the hype. So if you are looking for something to do in Belize during your cruise I would highly recommend this tour. It is great for the whole family with kids 5 years and older. Definitely check it out. You will not regret it.