Half Moon Caye Natural Monument: This is Birding and Diving Heaven
Photo by Belize Audubon Society
As atolls go, Half Moon Caye National Monument is the furthest from Belize’s mainland and while it’s tiny, it has been given a very long name. In fact, this caye’s claim to fame is for the birds: It’s the nation’s oldest protected wildlife site and plenty of prestigious entities make sure it stays pristine, including Belize’s National Parks System Act of 1981, the Belize Audubon Society and this is designated a United Nations World Heritage site. Why so important? This is home to Boobies. Countless numbers of these noisy birds. So if you’re a birder, you may refer to this atoll simply as avian paradise.
Why you should visit Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
For starters, this unusually shaped parcel of land erupting from the sea has an asymmetric shape surrounded by a fringe of reef to create a platform that safeguards a tranquil lagoon. Every inch of the reef is lavished with coral patches that attract marine wildlife—especially fish—and it’s been around for longer than the nation of Belize has existed. Governments may have come and gone, but wildlife protection ordinances remain stringent, thus for a piece of land that only measures 41.5 acres in the midst of 9,658+ acres of sea, it’s understandable why this remote atoll is also one of the area’s most popular deep sea diving sites.
Where in Belize is it located?
When is the best time to go?
Since marine turtle nesting and hatching season runs from May to November, if you want to see Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green turtles swim to shore to deposit eggs, you’ll have to see it from the deck of a boat because nesting disturbances are serious business on this atoll. The Red-footed Booby colony nests just weeks after the turtles have done their thing, but birders recommend autumn for the most impressive migrations of all birds in this region. If you’re only coming to dive and don’t care about birds, the month of May is your best bet.
Best way to get here
There are two ways to experience this beautiful area: hire a boat and come by yourself or book a tour, which makes the most sense for myriad reasons. Sleep on board your boat or book a bed at the island’s quarters; just don’t expect luxury. There’s a dedicated camping area equipped with some of the comforts of home: a shower house, compost toilet, picnic tables and a barbecue pit. Solar power keeps things running.
Best way to experience Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
Take at least one full day to see Half Moon Caye National Monument. Browse forested areas that are home to lizards, Iguana and other reptiles that have migrated from Cuba, the Bahamas and the U.S. (most probably on cargo ships). The elusive Belizean Atoll Gecko lives here, but only comes out at night–reason enough to overnight on the atoll. Coconut trees proliferate and more than 40 species of flowers grow on Ziricote trees that are reported to have come from the Pacific Rim. Most Half Moon Caye National Monument visitors come for the diving and if that describes you, stick around long enough to get your fill at these perennially popular dive spots: Half Moon Caye Hall, Angelfish Wall, Elkhorn Forest, Tarpon Caves and Eagle Landing.