Belize Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Some 50 miles southeast of Belize City is Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the most eastern of the atolls and the only atoll with an airstrip. Stretching 30 miles long and eight miles wide, the atoll boasts some of the best diving in Belize.
The infamous Blue Hole sits in the middle of the atoll’s central lagoon while gracing the southeast corner is the beautiful 45-acre Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, the country’s first national park. Home to five sand islands, several lighthouses, diverse marine habitats, crystal clear waters, and small rustic accommodations, Lighthouse Reef Atoll offers visitors the ideal island getaway.
There are also six cayes. In the north, Sandbore Caye is one of the two cayes equipped with lighthouses occupied by a keeper and his family. Nearby is Northern Caye and these two cayes are known locally as Northern Two Cayes. On Northern Caye is one of the newest offshore diving resorts. Much of the caye has well-matured mangroves and there is an internal lagoon. The caye is noted for its saltwater crocodiles and snowy egrets.
Halfway down the west coast, there is a small caye called White Pelican Caye. The white pelican is not regarded as a species indigenous to Belize, so their being here is unusual. I first saw a large flock of these splendid birds in 1988, and have heard that they frequently stop at this point when in transit.
Further south, there is Long Caye, which is a veritable jungle and home to far too many mosquitoes for reasonable comfort. However, some of the best diving is found to the west of Long Caye. The nutrients are pushed westward by the prevailing winds and there are no lagoons of fresh or brackish water to destroy the reef. just below Long Caye is Hat Caye which is very small and inaccessible by boat.
The Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is a giant marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 km (43 mi) from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, 318 m (1,043 ft) across and 124 m (407 ft) deep. It has a surface area of 70,650 square meters (760,500 sq ft). It was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation when sea levels were much lower.
Analysis of stalactites found in the Great Blue Hole shows that formation took place 153,000, 66,000, 60,000, and 15,000 years ago. As the ocean began to rise again, the cave was flooded. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a FLOHA World Heritage Site
The Great Blue Hole is one of the top ten natural wonders of the world. It’s a circular hole in the middle of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. About 1000 feet across and just a little over 400 feet deep. The blue hole has become a popular tourist attraction in Belize and is home to much marine life including rays, sharks, barracuda, and eels.
The blue hole is also famous for its crystal clear waters and visibility up to 164 meters. This unique feature makes the blue hole a great place to observe and study marine life in Belize. The clear, deep waters make it an excellent place for scuba diving as well!
In it, the diver will find coral only at the very top, on the rim of the hole. The lack of sunlight prevents coral growth on the inclining walls of the hole. At about 130 feet of depth, one can see huge stalactites hanging off the overhang. Some of them are more than 20 feet in length. Also at this depth, several reef sharks and an occasional bull shark greet the divers. On certain days more than 20 of them chill out in the cool depth of the Blue Hole. These sharks have just recently named the hole their home and make for a very exciting dive.