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Swimming with Sharks in Belize

How to get in the water with some of the most fascinating creatures on earth and make the most of a trip to Belize.

Swimming with sharks

Located on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize has beautiful shorelines, lush jungles, and delicious food. And while some travelers can spend days exploring the Mayan ruins founded within the jungles, other travelers can spend their entire trip snorkeling and diving along the Belize Barrier Reef.

The Belize Barrier Reef is one of the longest coral reefs in the world and is home to a diverse range of marine life—including sharks.

Yes, it’s true! Snorkelers and divers can go swimming with sharks in Belize. Some people might find the idea of swimming with Sharks terrifying, while others will find the experience thrilling! No matter which category you fall under, swimming with sharks with Belize is an unforgettable experience.

What to expect

When it comes to diving or snorkeling with sharks, keep in mind that most locations will require you to go with a diving or snorkeling operator. Operators give instructions on how close to get to the sharks or redirect the sharks if they get too close to people. Listen to what the operator says!

It is possible to get really close to certain species of sharks without being in danger. An operator will be able to distinguish between different species and inform members of the group. Some operators may even bring bait for the sharks. Sometimes bait is used to help draw sharks closer. Other times, bait is used as a way to keep the sharks from growing interested in nearby humans.


Snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley

Snorkelers can swim with sharks and rays at Shark Ray Alley, which is located at Ambergris Caye. Crystal clear, warm, shallow waters make this location ideal for snorkelers. Diving is also possible.

Shark Ray Alley is full of docile nurse sharks and small rays. Nurse sharks are one of the more harmless species of sharks. They are bottom-feeders and do not have any interest in humans. The only time a nurse shark will bite is if they’re stepped on or if someone intentionally provokes them.

Fishermen in the area feed the sharks and rays, which is why so many of them stay in the same location. And because this is a popular snorkeling location, most of them are very used to people.

Diving at the Great Blue Hole

Divers that want something more challenging than Shark Ray Alley should head to the Great Blue Hole, which is the most well-known diving location in Belize. The Great Blue Hole is known for a deep abyss full of marine life—including sharks. Sharks that can be seen while diving include nurse sharks, reef sharks, and blacktip sharks.

As mentioned above, nurse sharks are harmless unless intentionally provoked. Reef sharks and blacktip sharks can be slightly more aggressive if there is food involved but tend to keep a reasonable distance from divers. Those that dive deep might spot hammerheads and bull sharks. Hammerheads are mostly harmless and stay away from humans, but bull sharks can be aggressive if they spot a human!

Other locations to explore

Belize really does have an amazing underwater world. Visitors have the chance to spot sharks at other diving and snorkeling locations throughout the island. Nurse sharks, reef sharks, lemon sharks, blacktip sharks, and bull sharks are all commonly spotted.

While multiple sharks are to be expected at Shark Ray Alley and the Great Blue Hole, most snorkelers and divers should be prepared to see at least one shark at other locations. Other locations to consider include Half Moon Caye, Turneffe Atoll, and Gladden Spit.

Divers that go to Gladden Spit between the months of March and June have the chance to see a whale shark! Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, but they are docile and harmless.


Spotting other marine life

Sharks are the only marine life swimming throughout the waters of Belize! Divers and snorkelers will be able to experience a diverse range of marine life. To help visitors identify different types of fish and coral, most tour boats will have laminated cards that snorkelers and divers can use. Guides and operators are also able to identify various species of fish.

Coral and reef fish will be found at all snorkeling and diving locations. Colorful clownfish, parrotfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish are all common. Some locations may even be home to some larger reef fish, such as barracudas and groupers.

In rare cases, manatees can also be found. These slow-moving sea mammals are quite large but are completely harmless.

Final thoughts

Swimming with sharks? Completely possible in Belize! While visitors won’t spot a fierce-looking Great White Shark prowling around in shallow waters, they will find plenty of docile nurse sharks, beautiful coral, and plenty of reef fish! And those that are brave enough to dive into the depths of the Great Blue Hole may spot the dangerous bull shark.

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