Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a marine reserve close to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize. It covers approximately 18 km² (4,448 acres) of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan is Mayan for ‘little channel.”
Hol Chan is divided into 4 zones:
Zone A mostly consists of the Hol Chan Cut, a natural break in the reef. The cut is approximately 23 m (75 ft) wide and 9 m (30 ft) deep (Hol Chan is Mayan for “little channel”), and is rich in marine life. Around the cut the sea can be as shallow 1.5 m (5 ft). On the outside of the reef the channel slopes into the Caribbean, and on the inside of the reef tails off into the shallows.
Zone B has Boca Ciega Blue Hole, a sinkhole, which opens into a larger underwater cavern. It is dangerous for inexperienced divers, so is not regularly visited.
Zone C covers the mangroves swamps of southern Ambergris Caye. No commercial fishing is allowed in this zone, but sport fishing may be carried out under license.
Zone D, Shark Ray Alley, is a shallow sandy-bottomed area inside the reef, unremarkable except that it is a gathering place for sharks and stingrays. It was an area traditionally used by fisherman to clean their nets before returning to port, and the abundance of food that entered the water as a result attracted the sharks and rays to feed. The presence of these fish was actively encouraged as a tourist attraction – being fed by local tour guides; the shallow clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkellers to observe the creatures.