Lighthouse Reef Atoll is just 55 miles away from mainland Belize, but its coconut groves, endangered forests, exotic birds, and clear blue waters make it feel worlds away. Lighthouse Reef is one of three atolls that make up the Belize Barrier Reef. The others are Glover's Reef and Turneffe. Like its neighboring atolls in the reef, Lighthouse Reef Atoll's critical ecosystems are protected through its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because its lands and waters have been preserved, Lighthouse Reef does not have a permanent human population. Instead, its zones that are open to visitors serve as bases for diving expeditions, paddling tours, snorkeling, and guided nature trips. Lighthouse Reef also contains the Great Blue Hole, which is spectacular deep blue sinkhole in the atoll's center that is one of the top diving spots in the world.
Little is known about Lighthouse Reef's past human life, but its treacherous waters and the ghostly ruins of ships along its shores suggest it was never a hospitable place. The island likely served as a hiding spot for marauding pirates and perhaps as a temporary refuge for passing sailors, but there are no traces of long-term life on its shores. The remote and elusive atoll was only recently put on the map as a vacation and diving destination, which is due to a visit from renowned naturalist Jacques Cousteau in the early 1970s. After exploring the Great Blue Hole, Cousteau determined Lighthouse Reef had some of the most spectacular marine animals, aquatic vegetation, and submerged landscapes in the world. This discovery sparked a frenzy of activity within the diving community, and the Great Blue Hole was officially named by a diver named Ned Middleton.
Along with the Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef's fascinating landscapes include underwater caves, siricote forests, limestone towers, and sandy cays. The island's flora is primarily sparse vegetation and coconut trees. It also provides the warm, humid habitat that several rare tropical plants and trees, such as the Cordia sebestena, need to survive. The atoll's six cays are formed from coral reefs, and submerged coral reefs are part of the island's offshore geography too. Brightly colored coral, sea turtles, and hammerhead sharks are a few species that rely on the reefs to survive. Onshore, beautiful snowy egrets, parrots, pelicans, endangered saltwater crocodiles, and geckos are some of the wildlife that call this alluring atoll home.
Lighthouse Reef is located at N17.316010 and W87.535103.