Exploring the Atolls of Belize

Across the planet, almost all of the coral atolls in existence are found in the Pacific Ocean. But Belize is unusual because it has three of the four atolls found in the Western Hemisphere, tiny spits of land known as Glover’s Reef Atoll, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, and Turneffe Atoll.

An atoll is a bit different than the islands you’ll find in the Belize Barrier Reef. An atoll is formed when large colonies of coral begin to grow in a ring shape around an island. Over time, the island gets eroded away, leaving behind only the ring of coral on its outer edges. On the inside of that ring, a lagoon forms, and these sheltered waters are home to an incredible cornucopia of marine life.

Glover’s Reef Atoll


Now part of a protected marine reserve, Glover’s Reef Atoll is located in the outermost area of the reef. Roughly 28 miles (45 km) off the coast, this atoll got its name when the infamous English pirate John Glover used it as a base of operations from which to raid Spanish galleons.Today, the vast lagoon inside of Glover’s Reef Atoll has over 700 patch reefs, small areas of coral that shelter a wide variety of marine animals and plants. And the gentle waters make Glover’s Reef Atoll an ideal place to enjoy snorkeling, stand-up paddling, or sea kayaking.

Lighthouse Reef Atoll


Easily identifiable from outer space, the Lighthouse Reef Atoll is one of the most famous landmarks in Belize. At its center is a nearly perfectly circular expanse of deep blue water known as the Belize Blue Hole or Great Belize Hole.When legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau visited Lighthouse Reef Atoll in 1971, he declared that the diving at the Belize Blue Hole was some of the best in the world. There are also other areas along the edge of the atoll that are perfect for snorkeling.

Turneffe Atoll


The largest atoll in Belize, Turneffe Atoll has been a protected marine reserve since 2012. A combination of currents makes the waters of the Turneffe Atoll incredibly nutrient rich, which is why you can spot more than 500 species of fish in this area along with manatees, seabirds, and dolphins.If you’re interested in exploring Belize’s atolls, book your vacation with Island Expeditions. For more than 30 years, Island Expeditions have been sharing the pristine beauty of Belize’s islands and the mainland with visitors from around the world.

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