Belize Blue Hole

We follow Belize news closely, and we recently learned that there is a new mega resort being proposed on Northern Caye at Lighthouse Reef, where the famous Blue Hole is located. The new mega-resort is to be called the Puerto Azul Luxury Resort. Plans were unveiled at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France, where the Italian developers showed off a model for a super high-end luxury resort they propose to build on this island, designed for clientele such as attend the Cannes festival. The entire island would be converted to clusters of very fancy villas and bungalows with a marina, beaches, pools, and other resort amenities. An airstrip would also be constructed to facilitate travel to the resort.

As expected, there has been an immediate outcry from protesters about the ecological impact of such a development, and it is unlikely that the project will be completed along its original plan. An EIS study is currently underway as the fist phase of the project, and it will take several years before a development of any sort would be able to proceed. Nonetheless, some sort of resort will undoubtedly be built on this island in due time.

This is just the latest mega development Belize is seeing. Work has already started on Harvest Caye in southern Belize near Placencia, where Norwegian Cruise Lines is developing a cruise ship port. And another giant resort on the coast is well under construction just south of Hopkins, called Sanctuary Belize, where 500 lots, condos, and a hotel are being developed centered around a marina, a golf course, and private canal system in Sapodilla Lagoon.

All these huge projects, along with the development of smaller resorts on many of the cayes in Belize, is changing the face of tourism in Belize from the small, intimate retreats the country is famous for into the larger, more industrial style places one finds at locations like Cancun. We find these changes to be upsetting. At least we know that our island will remain a rustic, eco-oriented resort with a limited number of guests on the island at any one time, a true Belizean experience!

Thanks to whoever wrote this great review on Trip Advisor, which returned us to the #1 ranked Belize resort on Glover’s Reef:

I took the Belize Adventure Week trip in April and had an absolutely great time. Half of the trip is inland at the mountain region (Cayo District) Hikers in Belizeand the other half is at Slickrock’s private Island. I traveled solo but never felt alone. Our group was small, just 4 guests, but with us was one of the Island guides as well as the designated guide for the trip, Neri.

Neri was a such a great guide, making sure everyone was having a good time, safe, and well informed about the area and about the various activities.

On the inland portion, we stayed at the Windy Hill Resort which was really nice. The food was very good and when there, you pretty much got to choose from anything on the menu. Alcohol is not included at the Resort but Slickrock keeps a cooler full of beer and other refreshments so you are never really in need. It was great to actually have real bottled coke during the trip, as they still do glass bottle recycling in Belize. The trip to Takal was great but I wish we had the opportunity to spend more time there as it is a massive complex.

The island portion of the trip was just as good as the inland portion. No hot running water but I didn’t miss it as the water that is stored for the showers never felt cold, as it is housed in the sun to warm up. On the Island, those of us who were travelling single got assigned our own cabanas, which as you can see from the brochures are directly on the water’s edge. Every cabana has a great view. The food was great and plentiful on the Island and they have a huge cooler full of beer and other drinks that you take whenever you’re thirsty.

MJ is one of the guides that we met on the Island and in 30 minutes he taught me more about Windsurfing that I ever learned before at any of the other resorts I stayed at. Belize resortsI was actually up on the board and surfing in about an hour’s time. It felt great to actually stay up on the board and make turns after failing so badly during my previous attempts at other resorts.

Since safety is a concern they don’t let anyone go out into the ocean without a safety buddy; however, each day there are multiple scheduled group activities, led by a guide. So if you are travelling alone you just pick an activity that interests you. Or you can just chill and do some hammock surfing or watch the kayak surfing wipeouts from the deck with an ice cold beer. Kayak surfing was a blast, even when I was wiping-out.

I am already trying to plan my return to the Island, as I’d like to stay for the full week; I just wish the air fare to Belize was not so expensive.

There was something so very different
so far from my ken, my experience
sharing a tropical sunrise with her
with my beautiful wife, alone on the beach
Waking before the dawn, sitting together
watching the sliver of light rise
and consume the dark
warm breezes off the easterly shore, sunlight
wafting across us, moving inland
to wake the island
— poem by Raymond A. Foss (2008)
Photo: sunrise from the beach behind the surf dock

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.

The three atolls of Belize

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).

To learn more about the formation of Glover’s Reef Atoll, visit our website.

Check out these two photos of the point of our island in Belize. We just came across an old shot taken from our third year on Long Caye, in 1999. This was the first year after Hurricane Mitch swept over the island with 30’ waves (but no wind), knocking down four of our buildings and carving 40’ off the front side of the island. The storm then deposited the rubble and sand into a new peninsula, where we built a palapa and set up our windsurf trainer. We had not yet planted any palm trees on this new area, so it is bare of vegetation as you can see.

Long Caye at Glover's Reef
Long Caye 1999

Thirteen years later, the peninsula is thriving with new trees we planted, and our kayak palapa is still there (although it has gone through four new thatch roofs since it was constructed). The trees grow fast with a year-round growing season, and now the whole area is nicely shaded. These trees will continue to grow until they are 40’ tall, and hopefully they will help anchor the sand so that further storm waves will not wash it all away!

Long Caye at Glover's Reef
Long Caye 2012

If you’ve ever wondered what our guests experience while visiting Long Caye in Belize, this 35 min. video, shot by one of our guests and posted on Youtube last October, is a true, full immersion experience. The clarity of the photography is amazing, especially the close-ups of the reef and associated marine life through the crystal clear water.

 

We have a birding register in our dining hall. Sometimes months go by and no one enters anything in it, but we have quite an impressive record going back to 1999. Last week I made a cumulative list and found we have collectively seen 82 species on this little island.

The complete list:

American Redstart, Anhinga, Baltimore Oriole, Barn Swallow, Bay Breasted Warbler, Belted Kingfisher, Black And White Warbler, Black Bellied Plover, Black Catbird, Black Crowned Night Heron, Black Neck Stilt, Black Throated Green Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Blue Winged Warbler, Boat Billed Heron, Brown Booby, Brown Pelican, Canada Warbler, Caspian Tern, Cattle Egret, Cedar Waxwing, Cliff Swallow, Common Grackle, Common Nighthawk, Common Yellow Throat, Double Crested Cormorant, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood Pewee, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Great Tailed Grackle, Green Breasted Mango, Green Heron, Grey Catbird, Groove Billed Ani, Hooded Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Least Flycatcher, Lesser Nighthawk, Little Blue Heron, Magnificent Frigatebird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Magnolia Warbler, Mangrove Swallow, Mangrove Warbler, Northern Perula, Northern Waterthrush, Olivaceous Cormorant, Orchard Oriole, Osprey, Ovenbird, Palm Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pectoral Sandpiper, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Royal Tern, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Scarlet Tanager, Snowy Egret, Solitary Vireo, Spotted Sandpiper, Summer Tanager, Swainson’s Warbler, Tri-Colored Heron, Tropical Mockingbird, Veery, Virginia Warbler, White Crowned Pigeon, White Fronted Pidgeon, Willet, Yellow Bellied Elenia, Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Yellow Throated Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yucatan Vireo.

(Click on each photo to see the full image)

We just talked to Kendra from Long Caye, the owner of the dive shop on our island. She and her husband Jim just arrived on the caye, returning after they evacuated on Saturday. They brought our construction crew out and our groundskeeper, Apolitico, as well. She reports that she is amazed at how good everything looks. She estimates that the wind blew about 60 mph, with winds coming from the West, which is super good news for us because we are on the east end of the island! She said that there looks like there was very little storm surge (this is what we were worried about), and that in fact instead of losing land, they gained more, because the storm piled up more coral rocks on their east side. A few trees are down, but none of their buildings or roofs are damaged. They will contact us again later after they have had time to walk around our property. HOORAY! A giant relief.