Caye Caulker Marine Reserve
Rays and nurse sharks greet boats in Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, a natural haven comprising 61 square miles (158 square kilometers) of thriving sea life—including portions of the Belize Barrier Reef. Since the reserve is just off the coast of Caye Caulker island, it’s a budget-friendly alternative to the more distant (and more popular) Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Caye Caulker Marine Reserve is a popular destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat trips from the island. Coral Gardens is a favorite snorkeling site, known for bright varieties of ocean life including sea fans, brain corals, and plate corals. Dive sites such as Raggedy Anne, Rock Beauty, and the Aquarium are known for their coral canyons—long cuts through the barrier reef.
Things to Know Before You Go
The reserve is great for animal lovers. Since rays are used to humans, they’ll often approach groups of snorkelers.
Most scuba tours require divers to be certified. If you’re not, consider a snorkeling trip or sign up for a multi-day diving course.
Bring plenty of reef-safe sunscreen. Varieties free of ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate won’t harm the coral.
How to Get There
Unless you have your own boat, you’re likely to visit the reserve on a tour. Fortunately, most marine tour operators in Caye Caulker offer excursions to the reserve with boat transport included. To get to the island from mainland Belize, you can hop on a short flight from Belize International Airport, or take the Belize City Caye Caulker Ferry. The ferry departs regularly from the Belize City waterfront and reaches the island in roughly 45 minutes.
When to Get There
Clear skies and great visibility in the water from November through April make this one of the best times to visit Caye Caulker. If you’re hoping to see the massive whale sharks that arrive each year, opt for an April or May visit. September and October are the rainiest months of the year, though there is still plenty of sun between the cloud breaks.
Where to See Wildlife in Caye Caulker
In addition to the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a top destination for checking out sea life. If you prefer birds to brain coral, stay on land for trips to Caye Caulker Forest Reserve, which is home to wildlife ranging from white-crowned pigeons to mangrove warblers. A few miles off the coast is Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area where manatees come to feed on sea grass.