For years and years people have always thought of sharks as the predator from the deep, a fine tuned killing machine whose sole mission in life is to destroy humans. At least that’s they way they have been and are still are portrayed in movies, the media, and even on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week—an annual show supposedly aimed at educating people about sharks. The only thing is though, most of these shows are categorically false when it comes to how sharks interact with humans. Globally, sharks only kill an average of 5-15 people per year, that is a very very low number. As a comparison, dogs kill an average of 30-50 people each year and that’s just in the United States alone. Basically what I’m trying to get at here is that sharks as a whole have a reputation that doesn’t match up with their statistics and I would urge people to open up their minds about sharks and see them for what they really are, a beautiful, highly intelligent animal animal perfectly suited to it’s environment. What’s the best way to open our minds and see them for what they really are? Well, my advice would be to seem them in their natural environment and there’s no better way to do that then to see them while snorkeling!

guests standing in shallow water with many baby sharks around their feet

As shark awareness grows globally and people realize sharks aren’t the people killing machines they’ve been made out to be, they are are traveling all over the world to safely swim with sharks and it’s turned into a massive source of revenue for ecotourism. Globally the annual estimate is that sharks bring in over $314 million dollars for ecotourism activities. This influx of money has been hugely influential in not only establishing many safe options for swimming with sharks—including great whites and tiger sharks—but also in aiding in shark preservation efforts as their numbers are threatened from over fishing. 

In terms of safely snorkeling with sharks, it doesn’t take much real preparation, just a bit of common sense really. Most of the species we encounter on our snorkel tours are reef sharks like the black tip reef shark, white tip reef shark, nurse sharks, and if we are really lucky a giant plankton eating whale shark. All of these species are essentially harmless and will most likely just casually swim away from you. In certain places like Raja Ampat who has done a lot in the way of shark conservation, there are natural shark nurseries around most of the beaches where dozens and dozens of juvenile black tips reef sharks who are anywhere from a foot to two feet long swim in the shallows. You can just stand ankle deep in the water and watch the little ones swimming around you. 

baby black tip reef sharks in the shallows

Where larger pelagic shark species like silky sharks, blue sharks, makos, hammerheads, and the various species you get in the sardine run are concerned, you do need to be a bit more mindful of their presence, but nothing more complex than the way you might treat a dog you are unfamiliar with. Once again, basic common sense is key. We have several tours, one in Mexico and another in South Africa for the Sardine Run where we have opportunities to see some of these fantastic species up close and the guides onboard will always jump in first to check the sharks behavior, and also brief you on proper shark etiquette and what to expect. The basic idea though, regardless of species, is to remain with the group and don’t flap about or abruptly swim away from the sharks. Certain species like the blue sharks and mako sharks have a more inquisitive behavior, but that’s really the extent of it. They may come and check you out the same way a manta ray would, but once they realize what you are they will just pass you by. It’s a truly thrilling encounter with statistically less risk involved than walking down the street, and once you experience sharks like this for the first time you’ll really begin to understand just how intelligent they are and really how uninterested they are in eating us!

silkie shark swimming close to the surface

Twenty-Twenty twenty began with a bang as our Snorkel Venture season started out with back to back trips in Belize aboard Belize Aggressor III, the liveaboard operator for our Belize tours. Belize is a fantastic place for snorkeling, not only is getting to Belize easy if you are coming from the States or Canada, but the reefs and marine life are prolific! Here’s an in depth break down of what you can expect from a snorkeling safari with us aboard Belize Aggressor III. 

Getting There

As far as international travel is concerned, Belize couldn’t be easier to get to. If you are coming from North America you can expect just a couple short flights, possibly one direct flight if you live next to a large international airport, and boom, you are in Belize city. It’s a small little airport and easy to navigate your way to the taxi stand. At the taxi stand you just tell them where your going—which is the Radisson— and pay the flat rate at the stand so no need to haggle or barter with the drivers. The national language of Belize is actually English, not Spanish, so getting around and asking questions is really easy! Not only that, but their currency, the Belize Dollar is locked at 2-1 with the USD, and most shops will accept USD anyway so that also makes life easy. It is recommended that you grab a few Belize dollars if you do plan to do some souvenir shopping, but once onboard or in the Radisson hotel everything can be paid with a card. Just make sure to tell your bank you are traveling!

My personal recommendation would be to arrive a day before the trip starts and stay at the Radisson as the Belize Aggressor III literally parks on the doorstep of the hotel. However, if you want to arrive and jump on the boat straight away that is absolutely fine as well and many guests did just that. Either way, make your way from the airport to the Raddison and then walk the next couple hundred feet down the pier to the boat waiting on the end where we will meet you. 


The Belize Aggressor III is a fantastic and well maintained steel yacht built specifically for diving and snorkeling. It’s 110ft long and 22 feet wide and able to sleep 18 guests with it’s 8 Deluxe staterooms and 1 Master Stateroom. Yes, each room has it’s own private bathroom complete with hot water shower, and full sink with drawers and cupboards, there’s even a closet.  The room are a comfortable size for two, but best keep in mind this is a boat so space is in a limited supply so if you don’t do well in smaller spaces this is something to keep in mind. The boat is divided into four decks with the lowest deck being for the cabins, the middle deck hosts a large social area with large comfortable sofas and an entertainment center. The restaurant and kitchen are also located on this level along with the spacious snorkel deck where everyone has their own gear locker! Up above the main deck you’ll find another large deck complete with Jacuzzi, sun loungers, and a full wrap around bar that features their local beer on draft! Moving up to the very top of the boat you’ll find a smaller deck which functions more as a look out or chill out area where you can catch some rays or just watch the horizon for dolphins. 

Guests aboard Belize Aggressor III enjoying happy hour

The food, well lets just say you’ll never go hungry. The chefs are amazing and somehow manage to have these amazing snacks ready for you after each snorkel session which his then followed by these huge delicious meals featuring everything from Mexican, Italian, American, and of course local dishes among many other great meals. There is always fresh fruit, jars of cookies and chips around as well as a full fridge of soft drinks. Basically everything you could ever need and more. Oh, and after your last snorkel for that day the bar is open and it’s all free! 

two snorkelers swiming over coral reef with silver fish swimming underneath


Snorkeling via liveaboard couldn’t be easier. All the travel between snorkel sites is done between snorkel sessions while your gorging yourselves on whatever culinary masterpiece the chef has whipped up, and once you’ve digested it all it’s time to jump in the water. From the larger boat we will either just jump straight off the back or load up in a large dinghy, which then shuttles us to the reef. After the snorkel session the captain maneuvers the boat into a suitable and safe position and shuts the props off so we can climb the three steps up the ladder to the back deck. 

Every day, with the exception of the arrival day and day before departure, we do three day snorkels with the option of doing a night snorkel—of which we normally do two or three depending on the day. The snorkels themselves are awesome, and because there are so many different reef systems each one is a little bit different than the last. The reefs are generally characterized by a shallow sandy area with a bunch of mixed coral heads covered in sea fans, sponges, and hard corals. Here the coral comes up to the surface! As you swim towards the outer reefs you’ll notice a very gentle slope where the coral coverage increases. The slope typically goes from a few feet to about twenty or thirty feet deep and then drops off into a wall and open blue water. The average depth where we spend the majority of our time is around three to ten feet. Here we have the best mix of stunning coral and marine life. Aside from the clear blue water, very mild to absent currents, and vibrant scenery, one of the best things about the snorkeling on our tour is that we never really run out of reef, they just kept going and going and going!

Snorkelers cruising over coral reef

Some of the highlights for myself and the guests were the forests of sea fans which totally blew me away. Even by Indonesia standards there was a ton of them and right up in the shallows, something you don’t find in the Indo-Pacific! Other highlights included the many giant eagle rays who casually passed us by and of course the nurse sharks we found either sleeping or swimming through the snorkel groups on many of the sites. The sharks were so cool and docile, just like a dog wandering around it’s neighborhood only to stop and take a nap under a tree. 

The Final Day

We do offer an optional half day land tour on the final day of the trip to see the Mayan ruins that are just an hour from where the ship docks. Unlike some of the popular Mayan ruin tours in Mexico, the archaeological site here in Belize are empty or, or relatively empty and only had a few other people visiting it on the day we went which meant we could observe the fantastic and well preserved ruins in peace. The whole trip takes a few hours and the guide who escorts us is wonderful and full of funny commentary for the duration of the tour. 

Cow fish looking into the camera with snorkeler behind

For those of you who are not interested in the ruins you are welcome to either lounge around the boat and enjoy the facilities onboard or you can take a little self guided walking tour of the nearby markets and shop for souvenirs. The area around the Radisson and the pier are very safe and those guests who did indulge in the local scenery and shopping came back with some great stuff. 

Once everyone is back onboard that final afternoon the crew throw a little fiesta on the sundeck upstairs with more outstanding appetizers and of course drinks. Following the happy hour we head downstairs to the entertainment center where we have a slideshow and video showcasing the trip highlights! 

Also, because the Belize Aggressor III runs back to back trip with same day turn around, on this final evening the crew is busy restocking the boat for the next guests who will be arriving several hours after we depart the following day. So, for the final evening of the tour we disembark and eat our final dinner of the trip on land. People can choose to eat where they want, the Radisson for example has a couple great restaurants, or for those that want, we can also arrange for a large group dinner. Either way, it’s a great way to finish the trip. 


The following morning breakfast is served as usual and then we check out from the boat around 8:30am. For those that are leaving that day you can spend your time lounging at the pool or any one of the restaurants at the Radisson hotel until it’s time to catch your airport transfer. For those that have other arrangements, we bid you farewell. 

For those of you who haven’t done a bunch of snorkeling or spent a significant amount of time around the ocean, you may be wondering what exactly pelagic means. Well, pelagic generally refers to marine life that spend the majority of their time in the open blue ocean, as opposed to residing close to the shoreline or reefs. Species like manta rays, tuna, sword fish, most species of sharks, and whales would all be considered pelagics. Basically, these are the species that are responsible for most peoples interests in the ocean given the charismatic personalities and awe inspiring behavior of these animals. The only thing is though, many of these species are quite hard come by as they spend their their time roaming the open ocean. Regular encounters with creatures such as schools of mobula rays and dolphins are few and far between, even in most iconic snorkeling destinations, and can hardly be predicted, unless of course you happen to be on a pelagic specific snorkel safari in the pelagic paradise that is the Sea of Cortez.

giant school of mobula rays underwater with snorkeler

The way the pelagic safari works is, every morning we board a well equipped and comfortable speedboat with twin 250hp engines from the beautiful marina in Cabo San Lucas Mexico and head out past the iconic arch of Cabo and into the illustrious Sea of Cortez in search of orca whales, fleets of mobula rays, various species of sharks, and whatever else happens to cross our bow. I’ll say this straight away, this tour is not for everyone. If your ideal snorkeling holiday is spending hours floating over beautiful reefs, this is not that holiday. Komodo or Raja Ampat, places with a mix of marine life and endless reefs may be more your cup of tea. For those of you who dream of sitting on the edge of a moving boat with your adrenaline turned to maximum as a one-hundred foot blue whale surfaces just a few feet from where you are perched, eagerly waiting for the “GO GO GO” from the captain, a clear signal that it’s time for you to quickly slide into the water and meet this majestic creature face to face as it casually drifts just beneath you like a submarine, this trip is for you.

pelagic safari boat in front of Cabo san Lucas clifs

Another thing we want to be clear about is that, given the inherent illusive nature of these creatures we are searching for, it could be anywhere from ten minutes to a few hours or scanning the horizon for dorsal fins as we motor our way through the open ocean. Yes, the boat does have a canopy to protect our fragile skin from the sun, yes, there is a toilet onboard, yes, there are endless amazing snacks and drinks to graze on as we pass the time, and the pelagic guide and captain are extremely knowledgeable and just generally interesting people to be around as they regale us with all the amazing encounters they’ve had in the sea, but it is a full day on the ocean. That being said, once the first sleek gray dorsal fin from an orca or a smooth hammerhead shark appears, all time spent waiting is forgotten as the adrenaline kicks in and you scramble to swap a sandwich for a snorkel and get into the water. 

Underwater view of blue whale

I was lucky enough to spend three days on the pelagic safari in August 2019 which is sort of like low season in the Gulf of Mexico as it’s the one month where the marine life comes to a bit of a lull. I wasn’t too bothered though as my main objective was not to see big amazing animals, but more to see if the operation was up to the Snorkel Venture standard, which it effortlessly met. So, my first day onboard I’m relaxing on the plush bench seating enjoying the view of the rugged coastline just outside the harbor when the guide casually said, “there’s a large group of mobula rays right here if you want to get in.” I had been on the boat for a grand total of about seven minutes when she said this so the last thing I expected to find was a fleet of about a thousand mobula rays swarming beneath the boat and then to have the opportunity to be the only one in the water with them. 

baby orca whale swimming

After about an hour or so I had my fill of the mobulas and was motivated to see what would come next. We moved the boat a few miles out into the open blue in an area where the Sea of Cortez met the mighty Pacific Ocean and onto a very specific spot known only to the crew, as a great place for finding smooth hammerheads and silky sharks. We didn’t have to wait long for a silky shark to start circling the boat, which was then quickly chased away by a larger hammerhead. Just as we were about to grab our masks though, we were interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a large whale surfacing about sixty meters from the boat. The captain looked at me and just as casually as the guide had told me about the mobulas, asked if I’d like to try and get in the water with the whale. It was a very quick and definitive, “yes”. After about an hour or so of finding the whale and then losing the whale as it dived beneath the blue surface and finding it again we had finally matched it’s pace and direction and were slowly motoring along side it at a respectful distance. When the time was right and we were just in front of the whale with the engines off, we were then excitedly ushered into the water by the captain for our first of several encounters with what we soon found out was a blue whale, the largest living thing ever on earth. That was day one. 

The following day included another hour long stop with the mobula rays who hadn’t moved from their spot the previous day just out side the harbor, followed by a radio call from one of the captains friends alerting us to a pod of orca whales several miles from where we were. As if the blue whale and mobulas weren’t enough, the idea that we might be able to swim alongside one of the most iconic animals in the ocean was almost too much for me to take in. It took several hours to locate them, and at one point we had basically given up on the search and jumped in with a pod of dolphins and a couple turtles, when the pod magically surfaced just next to the boat. Once again we matched their pace from a respectful distance and when we were in front of the orcas we slid into the water to find a mother and calf passing underneath us. Over the next hour or so we casually followed the mother and calf and were able to swim with them on three different occasions that afternoon. Not too shabby for a visit in low season. 

silkie shark swimming close to the surface

In short, the pelagic safari is amazing. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where encounters with blue whales, massive fleets of mobula rays, orcas, sea lions, blue sharks, mako sharks, hammerheads, turtles, dolphins, and a host of other amazing marine life exists with such minimal travel and effort. It is a truly unique experience. For those of you concerned about swimming with sharks, please be assured that there is very little to no risk swimming with these animals. The guides will always jump into the water first to check the behavior before ever letting us in the water. Even still, sharks are highly intelligent animals and humans are just not on their menu. Swimming with sharks and other ‘scary’ marine life like orca whales in a controlled and well monitored environment is the quickest way to get rid of that fear and see these creatures for what they really are, amazing. 

giant school of mobula rays underwater

Video: This video was filmed in three days while aboard the Pelagic Safari