When planning my trip to Belize, one of the things I was most interested in doing was a snorkeling excursion. Belize boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world and is considered one of the best places to snorkel on the planet! I’ve always been obsessed with marine life and literally could not wait to see it up close! Snorkeling in Belize was such a great experience that we did it for two full days.
I booked our trip with Island Dream Tours, located in San Pedro in front of the Sandbar Hostel (one dock north of Palapa Bar). In a town filled to the brim with tour companies, Island Dream Tours really stood out from the rest and I am so glad we booked with them.
I chose Island Dream tours because:
- Their website was informative, easy to use, and easy to book online
- They had excellent Trip Advisor reviews
- Tour options – once I read about the Chill Cruise, I knew it was exactly what I wanted
- Free. Booze.
The full-day chill cruise advertised two snorkeling stops – at the famous Shark-Ray Alley and the Hol Chan reef – and a ‘chill spot’ to relax at a shallow sandbar, plus food and unlimited drinks.
The owner briefed the group on a current issue regarding the Belizean government possibly agreeing to allow off-shore drilling. If this were allowed, it would destroy the gorgeous reef and marine life that live there, and would be devastating to Belize as a country. He was extremely passionate about the issue and protecting the reef. We took a photo with a flag protesting the off-shore drilling to raise awareness and hopefully influence the Belizean government.
Their boat, named the YOLO, was amazing. There was plenty of seating for our large group (around 20 people I believe) both in the sun and the shade. On the way out to the snorkel stops, I parked myself in a seat right in front of the bar. The onboard bar was fully stocked with liquor, beer, and wine. Once we got going, the crew passed out cocktail menus and everything looked amazing – I had a couple of the Blue Hole drinks and they were GREAT.
First Stop: Shark-Ray Alley
Aptly named for the numerous nurse sharks and gigantic manta rays that frequent the area, shark-ray alley fulfilled my every wish. The feeling of swimming next to a shark was unreal. Even though they are nurse sharks and not bitey sharks (that’s a totally scientific term) it’s still so incredibly cool to swim alongside them. Or, five feet away as recommended. The GIANT manta rays drifted along the bottom of the sea and I absolutely loved them.
The guides were extremely helpful and did a great job of ensuring everyone was safe. This was my very first snorkeling experience and to be completely honest, I sort of freaked out when I got in the water.
The water was super choppy that morning (something I’ve been told is NOT the norm) and I’m honestly not the best swimmer. Between the choppy water and the fact that I kept trying to breathe through my nose with my snorkel on (I’m REALLY smart y’all) I had a bit of a panic but the guide helped me put a life jacket on and made sure I was good to go. He checked in with me several times throughout the stop as well, making me feel totally safe.
Second Stop: Hol Chan
We received fresh fruit in between snorkel stops which turned out to be a life saver! After the first stop, my lips were so puffy from the saltwater but the fruit cleared it right up! We were also given French toast sandwiches for breakfast and a fantastic lunch that was actually my favorite meal of my entire trip!
We feasted on jerk chicken and short-ribs with rice. The meat was so tender it was literally falling off the bone. I could have gorged myself on the entire tray, but had to restrain myself. I was in a swimsuit, after all.
At the second stop, we took a guided swim along the reef and witnessed much more marine life. The coral structures were so unique and colorful. There were all kinds of tropical fish flitting about and some more manta rays along the bottom. It’s also common to see sea turtles, moray eels (we saw one!), octopus, etc.
Final Stop: Chill Spot
We headed over to a gorgeous sandbar in the middle of the sea. The water is about waist-high, but there is no land anywhere nearby. A volleyball net was set up in the water and a people were tossing around a football and frisbee. We played volleyball with another family for a bit and then got back on the boat for some DRANKS.
We ended up striking up conversation with another couple who was visiting from Canada. We spent the majority of the chill spot lounging on the deck of the boat, Belikins in hand, engaging in wonderful conversation with our new northern friends.
We ended up heading to Palapa Bar with them after the cruise ended and spent the evening drinking and laughing. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a LONG time. We hung out until Palapa closed down, but I wish the night could have gone on so much longer!
Island Dream Tours offered the best excursion of our week-long trip. If I could spend every day on the YOLO, I would do it! You should absolutely schedule a cruise (or two!) with this crew – it will be the highlight of your trip.
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