Southwest Caye in Belize
Belize is home to hundreds of amazingly beautiful offshore islands, and one of the finest of them all is Southwest Caye (“caye” is pronounced “key”.) Southwest Caye is, ironically, located on the eastern part of the Belize Barrier Reef near the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, approximately 36 miles (58 km) due east of Dangriga in southern Belize.
Southwest Caye is particularly famous for its fantastic diving options. The outer edge of the island contains a steep cliff that descends to around 130 feet. From there, there is a narrow shelf before another nearly perfectly vertical descent to 350 feet. These extreme conditions make the area only suitable for experienced divers, but many consider it well worth it for the abundance of marine life visible in the area.
The entirety of Southwest Caye is owned by a local Belizean family, which purchased the island in the 1940s. For many years, they have operated a small resort with 12 wooden cabins and two big guesthouses called Isla Marisol. The island has electricity and fresh running water as well as an onsite restaurant and bar. The resort also operates PADI diving certification courses.
Besides the diving, Southwest Caye is also a popular place to enjoy activities such as snorkeling, sea kayaking, stand-up paddling, and saltwater fishing. The island is located in one of the healthiest parts of the reef and is a very biodiverse marine environment where dozens of different fish species thrive, including bonefish, tarpon, permit, marlin, and sailfish. Both fly fishing from the flats and offshore deep water fishing is available in this area.
The exact coordinates of Southwest Caye are 16 degrees and 43.034 minutes north and 87 degrees and 50.934 degrees west. There is no regularly scheduled water ferry service to the island, so all transportation to Southwest Caye is by private charter. Many visitors to Southwest Caye start at places like Gladden Spit or one of the Silk Cayes as these are only a short boat/kayak ride from Southwest Caye.
Marine life thrives in and around the island, and divers can expect to see eagle rays, sea turtles, gigantic sponges, and enormous schools of reef fish. Several different kinds of coral can be found in this area. There are dozens of different dive sites adjacent to the island or within a 15-minute boat ride or less from the shore. There are also wedge-shaped coral ridges that separate into shallow sand channels for divers to navigate.