A Guide To The Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize
Head 50 miles southeast of Belize City and you will find Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the east-most of Belize’s atolls and the only one capable of supporting an airstrip. This particular atoll is 30 miles long, eight miles wide, and offers some of the best diving experiences you can find in the country. You also have the infamous Blue Hole sitting smack dab in the center of its lagoon and the 45-acre Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, a national park, to the southeast. This atoll is home to five sandy islands, multiple lighthouses, a variety of marine habitats, the usual crystal cleat waters, and a rustic aesthetic, making it the perfect spot for all sorts of visitors.
Half Moon Caye
Named for its crescent-shaped beach, this is the proud home of 4,000 endangered red-footed boobies, several of which happen to be the rare white species. Birders have a lot to enjoy between the boobies and the other 98 species of avian residents. The Belize Audubon Society established a lookout tower right in the center of the nesting grounds, allowing visitors to get an unimpeded view of the island’s many birds. If you would rather dive than watch the birds, Half Moon Caye’s Wall serves as a shallow drop-off by coral, followed b a series of tunnels that eagle rays and groupers call home.
The Blue Hole
This landmark has served as Belize’s most well-known marine site since Jacques Cousteau explored it in 1970. The Blue Hole is a deep, circular sinkhole in the core of Lighthouse Reef atoll with a diameter of around 1k feet and a depth of nearly 400 feet. The Blue Hole is completely surrounded by living coral with the exception of two breaks along its eastern and northern edges. This site goes back some 15,000 years when tectonic shifts and rising sea levels submerged the cave and its dome collapsed. While you can find several shark species swimming about, there are far more species of algae, sponges, and other immobile lifeforms. While the interior wall is littered with coral growths, a huge variety of marine species swims beyond the wall.
The Blue Hole is a must-see for divers but even non-divers can find some appreciation of its majesty; they just need to take in the view from the air. That said, the best diving spots are by Half Moon Caye and Long Caye.