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What Is Glover’s Reef Atoll? And Why Is It So Special?

Across all of the world’s oceans ranging from the storm-tossed waters of the Southern Ocean to the frigid northern regions of the Atlantic Ocean, you will not find a single atoll outside of the Pacific Ocean. Yet just a few miles offshore from Belize lie three atolls, the only true exceptions to the rule. And the crown jewel of these three iconoclastic atolls is Glover’s Reef.

What is an atoll? In regions where coral grows, it sometimes grows in a ring shape around a seamount or volcano. If the volcano or seamount begins to erode and slips beneath the surface of the water, a lagoon forms in the interior, the definition of a true atoll.

Glover’s Reef is one such atoll located approximately 22 miles (35 km) offshore from mainland Belize. Glover’s Atoll is part of a protected marine reserve called the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR), one of the most beautiful and eco-diverse regions of the reef. The clear water, white sandy beaches, and abundance of fish and other marine life make Glover’s Reef one of the most popular scuba diving and snorkeling sites in Belize.

Today, Glover’s Reef Atoll is an oval ring of coral measuring some 54 miles (87 km) in circumference around what was once an island. Inside Glover’s reef, there are more than 700 “patch” reefs or isolated stands of coral, including delicate fan corals and squat brain corals. These corals are why Glover’s Reef is such a biodiverse region. Everything from spiny urchins to huge schools of curious parrotfish uses the coral to hide from predators, lay eggs, and search for food. Divers have spotted stingrays, sharks, sea turtles, and rays in the reef, but it is the springtime visitors that get the most attention.

Every year between March and June during the full moon, schools of whale sharks, the largest non-mammalian creatures in the world, visit the waters off of Glover’s Reef to feed on plankton and fish spawn. Despite their enormous size, whale sharks have no teeth. Instead, whale sharks have a complex system of filters that strain out their microscopic food.

If you’re interested in visiting Belize and seeing Glover’s Reef for yourself, be sure to book your vacation with Adventures in Belize (AIB). AIB works with all of the top hotels and resorts in Belize which offer guided tours of Glover’s Reef, including those located right near the atoll.

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