Belize // The cayes and atolls //

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Bz$20), 8km south of San Pedro at the southern tip of the caye, takes its name from the Maya for “little channel” – it is this break in the reef that forms the focus of the reserve. Its three zones preserve a comprehensive cross-section of the marine environment, from the open sea through seagrass beds and mangroves. Tours to Hol Chan must be led by a licensed guide, and also stop at Shark-Ray Alley, another part of the reserve, where you can swim with three-metre nurse sharks and enormous stingrays – an extremely popular attraction. It’s also somewhat controversial: biologists claim that the practice of feeding the fish to attract them alters their natural behaviour.