Bird's eye view of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument

Half Moon Caye
Natural Monument


Visit Half Moon Caye Natural Monument to see wonders above and below the sea. Crystal clear turquoise waters, colorful and abundant marine life, and spectacular coral growth make this an ideal location for snorkeling and diving. Charismatic seabirds, rare and threatened reptiles, white sandy beaches, a unique forest ecosystem, and a historic lighthouse await at a Belizean tropical island paradise- Half Moon Caye.

The Half Moon Caye is located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the furthest of Belize’s three atolls from the mainland, and one of only four such atolls in the Western Hemisphere. The atoll is an asymmetric rimmed platform, entirely surrounded by a fringing reef rising virtually to the surface. Inside this fringing reef is a lagoon speckled with hundreds of coral patches. Snorkelers can access beautiful coral patches from the Western Beach of Half Moon Caye. The reef, including the spectacular wall where the atoll drops away into the depths, is highlighted for its density and diversity of both corals and fish. In the deeper waters on the south of the protected area is one of Belize’s internationally important fish spawning aggregation sites. Nassau groupers, once the second most commonly caught fish in Belize, have sharply declined because of unsustainable fishing.  Half Moon Caye protects the healthiest grouper aggregation in Belize.

Half Moon Caye Wall is described by some as “6,000 feet of vertical abyss”. These exquisite walls are unparalleled anywhere else in the world and provide a unique diving opportunity. A shallow beginning with huge corals lying on a white sand bottom where garden eels sway back and forth, drops vertically over spur-and-groove canyons with dense corals, swim-throughs, and some of the most spectacular sponge formations found anywhere. Larger pelagics such as eagle rays, sea turtles, and groupers are often seen swimming in the blue.

Red-footed BoobiesOne of Half Moon Caye's principal inhabitants is the Red-footed Booby with a population around 4,000 breeding birds. Half Moon Caye supports what is considered the only viable breeding Red-footed Booby colony in the western Caribbean. The colony can be viewed from an observation platform located in the littoral forest on the western end of the caye.

The Half Moon Caye littoral forest, which is found on the western part of Half Moon Caye, represents a small, endangered, and fragile habitat that grows according to soil type and height above sea level.  The littoral forest provides valuable habitat for birds and reptiles.  The Island Leaf-toed Gecko and Allison’s Anole are two lizard species of special interest because of their very restricted distributions. The Island Leaf-toed Gecko, also known as the Belize Atoll Gecko, is endemic to Belize, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world.

Red-footed Boobies

Red-footed Boobies

Half Moon Caye’s population of Red-footed Boobies is made up almost entirely of white-colored birds with black on the trailing edge of their wings.

Historic Lighthouse

Historic Lighthouse

An old weathered red and white lighthouse overlooks the blue lagoon at Half Moon Caye of Lighthouse Reef Atoll.

 

Dive Sites

Diving Lighthouse Reef Atoll Photo by: Linda Searle

Dive sites within Half Moon Caye Natural Monument include Tarpon Caves, Elkhorn Forest, Half Moon Caye Wall, Angelfish Wall, and Eagle Landing.


The History of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument

It all started with the boobies. In 1928 the western end of Half Moon Caye was gazetted as a crown reserve bird sanctuary under the Crown Land Ordinance to protect the habitat of the Red-footed Boobies, making it Belize's oldest site for wildlife protection.

Beach clean-up on Half Moon Caye. October 9,1969In 1971 Mr. Vivian Grey-Wilson asked Mr. Ford Young, a real estate agent and Belize Audubon Society Vice President, to sell five lots on Half Moon Caye. Mr. Grey-Wilson’s father had been the Collector of Customs and either purchased or was given for his services these lots on Half Moon Caye. Mr. Young brought this information to the Belize Audubon Society Board, who requested that Government acquire the remaining private lots adjoining the Reserve on Half Moon Caye.

Dr. Craig MacFarland of Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Enseñanza (CATIE) had visited Belize and was interested in Half Moon Caye. He got conservation societies to donate money to buy the additional lots. On October 20, 1979 the Crown Reserve was expanded to include the entire caye and part of the surrounding sea and reef.

Under the National Parks System Act of 1981 Half Moon Caye was designated a Natural Monument on March 4, 1982, together with 10,195 acres of its surrounding waters. It was the first protected area in Belize to be designated under this legislation.

The United Nations World Heritage Committee formally adopted seven marine protected areas along the Belize Barrier Reef and its adjacent atolls as a World Heritage Site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at their meeting in Merida, Mexico on December 4, 1996.  Half Moon Caye Natural Monument is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site.

Getting There

Half Moon Caye Natural Monument of Lighthouse Reef Atoll is located 55 miles east of Belize City. Several PADI dive operators visit Half Moon Caye Natural Monument out of San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Hopkins, or Belize City. There are also charter services throughout the country, live-aboard dive ships, as well as island lodges that provide packages that get you there. Local live-aboard dive ships are now required to anchor in designated areas as their anchors have caused irreversible damage to the reef. Air charters are available if you want a good aerial view of Lighthouse Reef Atoll and the Blue Hole.