02 May Visit the string of coral islands surrounding the Blue Hole
A Rare Atoll
The Half Moon Caye Natural Monument (HMCNM) is located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, which is also home to the famous Great Blue Hole. Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the furthest of Belize’s three atolls from the mainland, and one of only four such atolls in the Western Hemisphere. The atoll is an asymmetric rimmed platform, entirely surrounded by a fringing reef rising to the surface. A lagoon speckled with hundreds of coral patches is inside this fringing reef which is known for its high density and diversity of corals and fishes.
Begins with the Boobies
In 1928, the western end of Half Moon Caye was gazetted as a crown reserve bird sanctuary under the Crown Land Ordinance to protect the habitat of the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula), making it Belize’s oldest site for wildlife protection.
In 1971, the Belize Audubon Society successfully lobbied the Government of Belize to expand the Reserve by acquiring five private lots on Half Moon Caye. Dr. Craig MacFarland of Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Enseñanza (CATIE) acquired funding from conservation societies to purchase additional private lots. On October 20, 1979 the Crown Reserve was expanded to include the entire caye and part of the surrounding sea and reef.
There is an important sea turtle nesting ground on the southeastern part of the island. Every year the Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and Green turtles, all endangered species, go ashore to lay clutches of eggs. The marine turtle nesting and hatching season commences in May and usually ends in November. The nesting ground is demarcated to prevent nest disturbance during this period.
Ends in Vertical Dropoffs
The Half Moon Caye Wall is a well known dive site described as “6,000 feet of vertical abyss”. This exquisite wall is unparalleled anywhere else in the world and provides a unique diving opportunity. Divers will be able to see a diversity of marine life in spur-and-groove canyons including corals, garden eels, and some of the most spectacular sponge formations. Larger pelagics such as eagle rays, sea turtles and groupers are often seen swimming in the blue.
Zoom in on the map and see if you can spot the Great Blue Hole! (Hint: It’s inside the atoll, north of Half Moon Caye.)