There are only four atolls in the entire Atlantic region; three of them are located off the coast of Belize. Glover’s Reef Atoll is the most southerly of the three, located 70 miles southeast of Belize City and 35 miles southeast of Dangriga Town. The atoll was named from the elusive pirate, John Glover, who inhabited the small islands two centuries ago. The atoll was declared Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve in 1993 and soon after became internationally recognized for its diverse habitats, and proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1996. Extending 20 miles in length and seven miles wide, Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve is the largest marine protected area in the country. Soaring to the surface from ocean depths of almost 2000 feet, the atoll is the most physically developed in the entire Caribbean. This also means that it supports the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the region.
Five coral islands, all privately owned sit atop the reef’s eastern edge, allowing visitors easy access to water adventures. Four of the larger islands (Northeast Caye, Long Caye, Middle Caye and Southwest Caye) offer accommodations ranging from camping in canvas tents to luxuriating in air-conditioned villas. Most of the resorts offer scuba diving certification, diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. Lying atop an almost unbroken stretch of reef visitors can walk great distances towards neighboring islands along the bleached coral path. Encircling an 80 square-mile central lagoon visitors can snorkel around any of the 700 shallow coral patch reefs within or glide along the crystal aquamarine waters in a kayak. On land, the pristine white sandy beaches offer the perfect place to bask in the cool sunny day while being hypnotized by the rhythmic sounds of the waves crashing against the reef. With one resident crocodile on Middle Caye, the islands are primarily home to pelicans, white-capped noddies, ospreys, nesting turtles, geckos, wish-willies (iguanas), hermit and solider crabs and the predominant colonies of white-winged sand flies.
Boasting world-renowned dive spots, the atoll is a scuba diver’s paradise. Dramatic walls and drop offs offer spectacular views, with visibility of 80-100ft, allowing for sightings of marine creatures large and small. Home to important snapper spawning grounds, the atoll draws enormous whale sharks to the area every year where they feed on the snapper eggs. Also home to game fish like the bonefish and permit, flat fishing on a catch-and-release basis is a popular pastime. Being a protected area, any fishing done within conservation zones require a permit. This can be obtained from the reserve’s management team on Middle Caye, also home to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) headquarters, where scientific research on the marine ecosystems of the atoll is conducted and documented. Visitors interested in learning about the diversity of the area and the conservation projects underway can take a tour of the island’s visitor center.