National Geographic Magazine’s October issue highlights the beauty of Belize’s Great Barrier Reef which, along with Glover’s Reef Atoll, is part of the same reef system – the Mesoamerican Reef.
The Mesoamerican Reef, described in the article as “half the length of its famous Australian counterpart but in many ways more remarkable,” contains Belize’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the country’s most remarkable – and most fragile, geological assets. This fragility and the interplay between coral, mangrove and marine life is beautifully described in words and images, he said.
Past editions of National Geographic have highlighted parts of Belize’s sacred Maya cave system and the region’s Maya culture. Mr Fleming said that along with Jacques Cousteau, National Geographic was instrumental in bringing attention to Belize’s Blue Hole, which has become one of the world’s most valued dive spots and now enjoys a higher level of environmental protection.
Melanie Mcfield is the Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative and wrote this stellar article for Destination Belize Magazine, which begins by talking about Glover’s Reef. In the photo below, the three atolls of Belize, clockwise from left, are Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef, Glover’s Reef. Our private island, Long Caye, is located at Glover’s Reef.
Charles Darwin didn’t actually visit Belize’s reef, but after talking to other naturalists who had, he described it as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” in his 1842 book, Coral Reefs of the World. Among his many accomplishments, Darwin is credited with unlocking many of the mysteries of coral reef development, evolution and atoll formation. Atolls in the Pacific Ocean are believed to have formed when volcanic islands sank into the sea, leaving just a rim of growing coral near the surface. Atolls in the Western Caribbean are thought to have a different history. Many scientists believe these circular rims of coral are actually growing to keep pace with rising seas. Belize’s atolls are living, breathing coral reefecosystems—each with a unique history and a unique character.
Glovers Reef, Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe Reef are three of the four such coral structures in the Northwest Caribbean; the fourth is located near Banco Chinchorro in Mexico. The atolls rise deep from the seabed, beyond the more familiar continental shelf demarcated by the barrier reef. They are each constructed on foundations of Pleistocene limestone ridges that lie on submerged tectonic faults running in a Northeast direction.
Glovers Reef is the oldest (~7,500 yrs) with the best circular shape, a well developed coral rim and the deepest inner lagoon (18m deep) containing over eight hundred patch reefs scattered throughout. A few sandy cayes make up a land surface of only 0.2% of its total size of approximately one hundred and sixty square miles. Although it is ‘oceanic’ in character with clean clear waters, Glovers is occasionally affected by large river runoff events from the large Honduran rivers to the south. The entire atoll is a marine reserve and is one of the crown jewels comprising Belize’s World Heritage Site. The islands are all privately owned but Middle Caye was donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society and now serves as the headquarters of the reserve and an active marine research station. Glovers Reef has the largest remaining Nassau grouper spawning aggregation site… (read the full article here).
We have recently begun our latest new activity, paddleboarding downwind to the neighboring islands on the atoll on our new SUP Cruiser boards. These high displacement boards are especially designed for longer distance paddling rather than short excursions or surfing.
The hull has a ‘V’ shape and a pointed bow with a 6″ thick center volume, and the boards are as light as a feather. Thus, one can travel 3 times the distance per paddle stroke as on a conventional paddleboard. On our second trip to both Middle Caye and SW Caye, we brought along two sea kayaks, and switched people at the half way point to allow more participation. It also worked out well in enabling paddlers to rest, as the paddle to SW Caye is 6 miles.
Paddling downwind over the sand flats is exciting, since the higher viewpoint afforded on a paddleboard allows one to see many more reefs, fish, and rays in the shallow, clear water. We even had a large nurse shark spook and swim right under a paddle board! At SW Caye, we were then able to tour the island and enjoy a few cold drinks at their over-the-water bar before our shuttle boat arrived to tow the boards and give us all a ride back home. I think this new sport is going to be VERY popular!