A tent cabin sits directly on the beach surrounded by palm trees.

Island Expeditions’ adventure camp site is on Glovers’ Reef Atoll. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

The southernmost of Belize’s three atolls, Glover’s (named for a pirate, of course—John Glover) is an 80-square-mile, nearly continuous ring of brilliant coral, flanked on its southeastern curve by five tiny islands. Divers and snorkelers will find a fabulous wall surrounding the Glover’s Reef Atoll, plus more than 700 shallow coral patches within the rainbow-colored lagoon.A UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Belize Barrier Reef, 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, with the largest no-take zone in Belize; 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).

Diving and Snorkeling

Divers and snorkelers will find a fabulous wall surrounding the Glover’s Reef Atoll, plus more than 700 shallow coral patches within the rainbow- colored lagoon. There are wreck dives and an abundance of marinelife, 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. Snorkeling is no less impressive, with amazing visibility and abundant marinelife—spotted stingrays; barracuda; queen, blue, and French angelfish; trunkfish; hogfish; butterfly fish; blue tangs; groupers; sergeant majors; and blue-headed wrasses, among a host of other species.

Anglers will have a chance at bonefish and permits as well as the big trophy species, including sailfish, marlins, wahoos, snappers, and groupers. There is also fantastic paddling, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and anything else you can dream up. Glover’s is a special place indeed.

Map of Glovers Reef Atoll, Belize

Glovers Reef Atoll


Southwest Caye

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. 855/350-1569, 3-night all-inclusive scuba package US$1,290) for serious divers and sportfishers. There are comfortable, equipped cabanas with air-conditioning and porches, soon to be outfitted with composting toilets; or stay in one of two reef houses, with spectacular deck views of the reef and ideal for either families or honeymooners. Many all-inclusive packages are available for a three-night minimum. There’s a lovely dockside bar that is the center of nighttime activity where guests get merry, fish, or play board games.

Island Expeditions (U.S. tel. 800/667-1630, , US$60-275 pp) is an adventure-travel outfitter with a tent camp on the north tip of Southwest Caye; it’s water-sports activities of all kinds—for the novice and expert alike—and a great option if you like meeting other travelers and bonding with them on a group trip. The sturdy tents have single or double beds and kerosene lamps, and they are well sheltered from the elements. This eco-friendly camp provides shared composting toilets, cold-water showers (with outdoor warm-water hoses when the weather cooperates), and evening generator use until 9:30pm. The communal meals are excellent, and guests are welcome to head over to the bar at Isla Marisol at night.

Middle Caye

There are no accommodations on Middle Caye, unless you’re a Belize Fisheries Department ranger, a marine biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, or a PhD student with special permission. If staying on one of the surrounding cayes, ask your host about arranging a trip to see what’s going on here.

Long Caye

The 13 acres of Long Caye form the gorgeous backdrop to the thatched-roof base camp of Slickrock Adventures (U.S. tel. 800/390- 5715, 5-night package US$1,450 pp); check out the website for a range of active Belizean adventures. Slickrock has a veritable armada of kayaks, windsurfing boards, 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 toilet 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. 501/532-2929, US$1,395 per week all-inclusive) is a PADI 5-Star Resort. Stay on Long Caye in a rustic oceanfront cabana with access to a top-notch dive shop, gift shop, and yoga deck. The maximum capacity is 10 guests. Package prices include seven days’ lodging, boat transportation, meals, diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Whale shark trips and PADI scuba certification courses are popular; yachties are welcome to come ashore and browse the gift shop.

Northeast Caye

This island is privately owned and run as Glover’s Atoll Resort and Island Lodge (tel. 501/520-5016 or 501/614-7177), a primitive island camp run by the Lomont family, which also runs Glover’s Guest House in Sittee River. Their 68-foot catamaran takes you from Sittee River to Glover’s remotest caye, where you can camp or shack up for the cheapest weekly rates on the atoll: US$99 per week of camping, US$149 to stay in the dorm, or US$249-299 for rustic thatched cabins perched over the water. Prices include transportation, a week of primitive lodging, use of the kitchen, and nothing else—not even water. Show up at the guesthouse in Sittee River at 7am Saturday and be prepared for the week. It’s best to bring your own food, drinking water, and a few camping basics, or pay at least US$42 per day to be provided these amenities. A dive shop and kayak rentals are also available, and the snorkeling is out of this world.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Belize.