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.
Half Moon Caye, named after its distinct crescent-shaped beach, is proud home to a large nesting colony of endangered, red-footed boobies. Being the primary inhabitants of the island, the red-footed boobies number 4,000, with ninety-eight percent being the rare white species. Truly a bird-watchers paradise, Half Moon Caye also hosts 98 other species of birds. A lookout tower was erected by the Belize Audubon Society in the middle of the nesting grounds, where visitors can observe the rare red-footed boobies in their natural habitat as well as uninterrupted views of many of the other species of birds inhabiting the island. The island is also famous for its superb diving. The popular Half Moon Caye Wall is a shallow drop-off beginning with huge nuggets of coral lying on a white sand bottom. A series of tunnels pierce the wall, and groupers along with eagle rays are often seen swimming in the blue.
The Blue Hole is a landmark of Belize and is one of the country’s most notable marine attractions. It was made famous in 1970, when Jacque Cousteau explored it. The Blue Hole is a deep, circular and incredibly blue sinkhole in the center of Lighthouse atoll. The Blue Hole has a diameter of approximately 1000 feet and a depth that has been estimated at 400 feet. The site is completely enclosed by living coral, except for two breaks on the eastern and northern edges of the hole. This spectacular formation dates back to approximately 15,000 years ago, resulting from earth movements, and the rising of sea levels. The cave became submerged, and the dome covering the cave collapsed, forming this magnificent attraction. While some shark species have been seen inside the Blue Hole, its marine life mainly consists of algae, sponges and other sessile organisms; and the wall rim consists of scattered growths of stony coral interspread with dead coral skeletons. Outside of the rim wall however, has an abundance of marine life with many coral heads surrounding the Hole.
The Blue Hole is a must see for all serious scuba divers while for non-divers, the magnificence of it is better appreciated from an aerial view. The most diverse and beautiful dive spots, however, are found just off Half Moon Caye and Long Caye.