The southernmost of Belize’s three atolls, Glover’s Reef (named for a pirate, of course) is an 80-square-mile nearly continuous ring of brilliant coral, flanked on its southeastern curve by five tiny islands. The atoll is 18 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point; to the east, the ocean bottom drops sharply and keeps on dropping, eventually to depths of 15,000 feet at the western end of the Caiman Trench, one of the deepest in the world.
The southern section of the atoll around the cayes serves as a protected marine reserve; however, someone should remind the government Fishery Department rangers on Middle Caye of this fact, as they reportedly skip patrols and ignore illegal fishing activity (although they’re very efficient at collecting tourist fees).
Divers and snorkelers will find a fabulous wall surrounding the atoll, plus more than 700 shallow coral patches within the rainbow-colored lagoon. There are wreck dives and an abundance of marine life, especially turtles, manta rays, and all types of sharks, including reefs, hammerheads, and whale sharks.
The names of the dive sites speak for themselves: Shark Point, Grouper Flats, Emerald Forest Reef, Octopus Alley, Manta Reef, Dolphin Dance, and Turtle Tavern.
Anglers will have a chance at bonefish and permit, as well as the big trophies, including sailfish, marlin, wahoo, snapper, and grouper. There is also fantastic paddling, sailing, and anything else you can dream up. Glover’s is a special place indeed.
The first bit of land you’ll reach from the mainland is owned by the Usher clan, which runs the high-end, full-service Isla Marisol Resort (tel. 501/520-2056, toll-free tel. 866/990-9904, www.islamarisolresort.com ) for serious divers and sport fishers. There are comfortable, equipped cabanas, or stay in the reef house. Many all-inclusive packages are available (three-night minimum required).
Island Expeditions (U.S. tel. 800/667-1630, www.islandexpeditions.com ) is an adventure travel outfitter with a tent camp on the north tip of Southwest Caye; it’s a well-run, professional operation and a great option if you like meeting other travelers and bonding with them on a group trip.
No accommodations here, unless you’re a Belize Fisheries Department ranger or a marine biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. If staying on one of the surrounding cayes, ask your host about arranging a trip to see what’s going on here.
The 13 acres here form the gorgeous backdrop to Slickrock Adventures’ thatch-roof base camp (U.S. tel. 800/390-5715, www.slickrock.com ); check out the website for a range of active Belize adventures. Slickrock has a veritable armada of kayaks, sailboards, and other water toys; conditions and equipment will cover beginners and experts alike. Guests stay in very private rustic beach cabins overlooking the reef and equipped with kerosene lamps, foam-pad mattresses, and great views. Outhouse toilets are of the plein air variety, surrounded by palm leaf “walls”—offering possibly the best views from a WC in the entire country. Book a trip to the island, or link the trip with wild inland adventures as well (call for a catalog).
Off the Wall Dive Center (tel. 501/614-6348, www.offthewallbelize.com ) is a PADI 5-Star Resort, where you can stay on Long Caye in an ocean-front rustic cabana with access to a top-notch dive shop, gift shop, and yoga deck. Maximum capacity is only 10 guests. Package prices include seven days’ lodging, boat transport, meals, diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaks, and stand-up paddle board. Whale shark trips and PADI scuba certification courses are popular; yachties are welcome to come ashore and browse the gift shop.
This island is owned and run as Glover’s Atoll Resort and Island Lodge, a primitive island camp run by the Lomont family, which also has Glover’s Guest House in Sittee River (tel. 501/520-5016 or 501/614-7177, www.glovers.com.bz ). Their 68-foot catamaran takes you from Sittee River to Glover’s most remote caye, where you will camp or shack up for the cheapest weekly rates on the atoll: US$149 for a week of camping, US$199 to stay in the dorm, US$249–299 for rustic thatch cabins perched over the water. These per-person prices include transport, a week’s worth of primitive lodging, use of the kitchen, and nothing more, not even water.
Show up at the guesthouse in Sittee River at 7 a.m. Saturday, and be prepared for the week. It’s best to bring your own food, drinking water, and a few camping basics (lighter, can opener, etc.) or pay at least US$30/day to be served. A dive shop and kayak rentals are also available and the snorkeling is out of this world.
Note: According to reader mail I receive—and to the copious online reviews and trip reports about Glover’s Atoll Resort—guests either love or hate this experience, and a few have reported safety concerns, hidden charges, and personality clashes with Glover’s Atoll Resort staff. However, many of these readers would still recommend the experience because the environment really is that stunning.