Lighthouse Reef Atoll
What is an Atoll?
An atoll is a large lagoon with coral formations around its perimeter. The reef walls protect the coastal areas from erosion by dispersing the pounding waves. Landmasses occur where the coral buildup is above sea level and plant life has taken root.
Lighthouse Reef atoll is the furthest atoll out from the mainland, approximately 45 miles east of Belize City. It is one of just four atolls in the entire western hemisphere. The atoll is an asymmetric rimmed platform, entirely surrounded by a fringing reef rising virtually to the surface. Inside this fringing reef is a lagoon speckled with hundreds of coral patches. This coral paradise spans 27 miles in length and about eight miles wide. With its unique variety of marine life in such an untouched state, Lighthouse Reef is one of the largest and most outstanding examples of an atoll coral reef ecosystem. It has some of the greatest underwater visibility in the Caribbean. Beautiful reef structures and walls beginning at 35 feet that are loaded with colorful corals and sponges that are seen through the clear water.
Lighthouse Reef is healthiest, most pristine tropical reef environment in the World and Western Hemisphere. Without it, travelers and scientists alike would have to go the South Pacific to find similar quality of reef. Americans (from Canada to the Chile) and Europeans are fortunate to have this resource and treasure so close to us.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Great Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is a round, deep depression in the center of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Its diameter is just over 1,000 feet, with a maximum depth just over 400 feet. It was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in his 1970s Calypso journey. In the last ice age, seawater was frozen in glaciers lowering the sea level more than 350 feet, exposing the limestones of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. As a result, larger subterranean caverns were created when fresh water flowed through the limestone deposits. Since this ice age, the top of the cavern has collapsed to form this sinkhole.
Now, the Blue Hole is almost entirely surrounded by living coral. This is where the most diverse and abundant marine life is found. With 100 feet of visability, through crystal waters, visitors may dive either the north or south side to depths of 100 to 150 feet where the closest caves may be seen. There is an overhang that shapes a cave-like ceiling that stalactites hang with a width of more than 3 feet and up to 20 feet in length. As you descend below the ceiling, the bottom of the cave has numerous detached stalactites. Occasionally you may see a shark or turtle casually swimming by. Red algae, hydroids and gorgonians cover most of the corals. You may also find sharing brush, mermaid’s fan algae, elkhorm, club finger, shallow-water starlet corals, giant green anemones and arious urchins.
Half Moon Caye
Half Moon Caye Natural Monument is located in the southeastern corner of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. One of the caye’s principle inhabitants are Red-Footed Booby, with a population around 4,000 breeding birds. This is considered the only viable breeding Red-footed Booby colony in the Western Caribbean. The colony can be viewed from an observation platform located in the littoral forest on the western end of the caye. Littoral forests are a small, endangered, and fragile habitat. They are essential in providing valuable habitat for birds and reptiles. This includes the Island Leaf-toed Gecko and Allison’s Anole, two lizard species of high conservation that are only found in Belize.
The crystal clear turquoise waters surrounding Half Moon Caye are a protected Marine preserve. They support some of the healthiest fish populations in Belize including the heavily fished Nassau grouper. The reef, including the spectacular wall where the atoll drops away, is decorated by exquisite diverse corals and marine life. Huge corals heads tower over a white sand bottom and eventually drop vertically over spur-and-groove canyons with dense corals. There are many “swim-throughs” and some of the most spectacular sponge formations found anywhere. Larger pelagics such as eagle rays, sea turtles, and groupers are often seen swimming in the blue.
A Mesoamerican Paradise – Love your Reef
Belize has an extraordinary barrier reef and atoll ecosystem that is part of the Mesoamerican Reef system. Next to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia it is the second largest in the world. It is an extremely valuable, complex and largely intact coastal ecosystem. The barrier reef runs the entire length of the country and supports a tremendous number of patch reefs, shoals and over 1,000 islands called “cayes” (pronounced keys). They provide shoreline stabilization and a haven for animal life, nesting and feeding. The beginning of life for all of the reef creatures starts in these estuaries and mangroves.
Living on Long Caye is existing on a private island where you are an integral part of the eco-system. You are part of how the island and the community stays healthy. The Community on Long Caye (the development itself) is designed to promote and sustain the health of the surrounding tropical reef and jungle environment. Residents and businesses, understand that by honoring the Eco-guidelines we can “have our cake and eat it, too” by respecting the natural assets. Your parcel and home is a part of the overall design of all-encompassing, unsurpassed access to an extraordinary ecological system while ACTIVELY preserving the the Caye and its surrounds. We have designed the community with a long term vision.
All of Long Caye is essentially a preserve. Stewardship of the surrounding environment is a core value for us. We take a long term, holistic approach to building community on Long Caye, through the mindful, yet aggressive, adoption of leading edge environmentally friendly technologies. We seek to demonstrate to the world the achievements possible when people, passion and technology team up with nature to create an extraordinary living and visiting experience. Our Conservation Ethos is enacted in perpetuity by the Eco-Guidelines – and they ensure that Long Caye will be here for future generations. As stewards of the atoll, we will not sacrifice our ecological standards or compromise our principals.
We hope to bridge the gap between the enjoyment of access and conscientious preservation of the natural environment – to prove that environmental assets can be preserved, protected AND enjoyed in a fashion that actually promotes the long term health of such assets for the greater good. Community and Conservation priorities are fulfilled with a deep and abiding respect for the Local Culture that has preceded us for centuries in the Lighthouse Reef atoll. We are friends, supporters and business partners to the fishers that have responsibly used the Lighthouse Reef for their livelihood for generations. We understand and promote sustainable business in the Atoll and on the Caye.