Although no longer used as a pirate hideaway and as a base to attack Spanish ships, Glover's Reef Atoll remains a place of intrigue and fascination. This colorful tropical atoll, along with Lighthouse Reef and Turneffe Atoll, forms the Barrier Reef of Belize. Glover's Reef lies about 35 miles off the southern coast of Belize, and it is known for having some of the most exotic, diverse, and rare marine wildlife in the Caribbean. Today, Glover's Reef is one of the top diving destinations in the Caribbean, and it contains a combination of wildlife sanctuaries, diving centers, and resorts.
Glover's Reef is named after two English pirates (the Glover brothers) who arrived on the island's shores in the 1750s. The island's deep caves, where the brothers stashed jewelry, gold, and other treasures confiscated from passing ships, also contain remnants of Mayan pottery, which leads historians to believe that Mayans were the island's first human inhabitants. Over time, Glover's Reef became a refuge for nature too, and its shores now teem with sea turtles, nurse sharks, brittle stars, and other fascinating species. Glover's Reef was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, which means that its endangered species are protected from harm by law. Because of the atoll's delicate ecosystems, there are no permanent human settlements on the island. While it doesn't support large volumes of human traffic, the atoll is home to several eco-friendly resorts and adventure outfitters who offer kayaking, diving, and snorkeling adventures for curious visitors. Camping is also permitted in limited volumes at designated locations.
The varied terrain of the island produces a diverse and spectacular natural landscape, which makes it appealing to both humans and wildlife. Glover's Reef is about 20 miles long and eight miles wide. Its elongated interior contains a large lagoon with over 800 tiny coral islands and towers of coral pinnacles. The atoll contains several sand-covered cays, and it is divided into four distinct zones for management purposes. Some areas of the island, such as the Wilderness Zone, are off-limits to humans, while other places like the Seasonal Closure area are open seasonally to fishing and other aquatic activities. Middle Cay is used primarily as a research site by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which established the station in 1997 to launch research expeditions and create long-term plans to protect and conserve the atoll's natural treasures.