The Atolls and Outer Cayes of Belize
With over 450 islands on the outer part of the great Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second-largest barrier reef in the world, this part of the reef is home to some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling sites on the planet.
Atolls are ring-shaped coral formations that are located on the upper slopes of gigantic submarine volcanoes, many of which have islands in their interior. These formations and the dozens of islands strung along the outer portion of the Belize Barrier Reef are home to exclusive resorts and some of the most popular destinations in the country, including Glover’s Reef, the Turneffe Islands, and Lighthouse Reef.
Lighthouse Reef Atoll
Instantly recognizable from outer space, the Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the almost perfectly circular ring around a deep sapphire body of water known as the Great Blue Hole or the Belize Blue Hole. Once unknown except to local fishermen, the Belize Blue Hole came to the world’s attention after the famed French marine biologist and conservationist Jacques Cousteau visited the area in 1971 and declared it as one of the top 10 best diving sites in the world.
Glover’s Reef Atoll
Named after a 17th century English pirate, these remote islands were once used as a staging ground for attacks on Spanish ships laden with treasure. Today, Glover’s Reef is popular thanks to its vast lagoon with more than 750 coral patches that serve as a nursery, feeding ground, and playground for hundreds of colorful fish species. Add in the fact that numerous shipwrecks dot the perimeter, and it’s easy to see why Glover’s Reef is a popular dive site.
Located about1.5 hours’ boat trip from the mainland , Glover’s Reef is also where migrating whale sharks, the largest fish in the world’s ocean, visit the waters of Belize every spring.
With steep drop-offs and hundreds of shallow lagoons with crystal clear water, many snorkelers refer to the Turneffe Atoll as a giant undersea garden. The Turneffe Islands are also home to some of the best fishing spots in the country.
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