by Wendy de la Fuente
The Hol Chan Marine Park (Hol Chan is Mayan for Little Channel) is situated north of Caye Caulker. Declared the first marine park in the entire country of Belize,, this area has been zone a protected area. Due to its protected status, what was once a depleted fishing area has now been allowed to re-generate, producting to divers and snorkelers alike quite a colorful and varied fish spectacle.
The Hol Chan trip consists of two dives, both done outside the barrier reef area. Bottom composition in this area is mainly of coral canyons extending out like long fingers from the barrier reef. I prefer to refer to the coral composition in this area as "hard" corals, as opposed to the "softer" corals such as sponges and gorgonians found along the walls on the outer atolls. This canyon pehnomenon is caused by the motion of the water against the reef. On both dives today, you will note an abundance of HUGE fish. The Hol Chan dive is teeming with many of the fish overflow of the inside park and is colorful and highly interesting. It is not unusual in this area to spot schools of rays floating in the distance, or even schools of barracudas. The fish are pretty friendly and hand around out of curiousity. In fact, some are downright extroverts and may come right up to your mask to view you. Some of the fish are so friendly, they will stay around to be petted or may even comeup and "kiss" your mask.
Surface interval between dives is done in the "inside" area of the park where calmer waters prevail. Have something to eat (or drink). Plunge into the shallow water and snorkel off for a bit and explor the awesome wonders of the shallow waters before the next dive.
The highlight of this dive trip to me, however, is the Wreck dive. The "wreck" is really a sunken barge about 30 feet long located in approximately 80 feet of water. The main feature of this dive, though, is not necessarily the "wreck" but the fact that on this dive you are GUARANTEED to see sharks. A colony of curious nurse sharks make this wreck their home, as well as a friendly green moray that lives in the front part of the barge. Pet the eel if you dare, but remember that these are still creatures of the wild. Several sharks which I refer to as "grandpa-sized" sharks will circle you. Enjoy them. There are not many places in the world where this will happen.
Since they only eat two divers a week, check before you book this trip. Okay, that was a joke. These are probably some of the friendliest shsarks on planet earth. They have become accustomed to divers in the area and have become just as curious about you as you are about them. Please respect the wildlife. You are on their territory. Enjoy and bask in the pleasure and enjoyment of being on the same level with these awesome creatures.
Bottom time 40 minutes at 70 feet.
Enjoy your dive!!
For more information on diving in the area, with pictures and further details, click here.
For more information on Hol Chan, with pictures and further details, click here.
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