Audubon Society Belize
The Half Moon Caye Natural Monument (HMCNM) is located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Lighthouse Reef Atoll is 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 to the surface. Inside this fringing reef is a lagoon speckled with hundreds of coral patches which is known for its high density and diversity of corals and fishes.
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 Booby (Sula sula), making it Belize’s oldest site for wildlife protection.
In 1971, the Belize Audubon Society successfully lobbied the Government of Belize to expand the Reserve by acquiring five private lots on Half Moon Caye. Dr. Craig MacFarland of Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Enseñanza (CATIE) acquired funding from conservation societies to purchase additional private 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 comprising of 41.5 acres was designated a Natural Monument on March 4, 1982, together with 9, 658.5 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.
Significant Features of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
The Half Moon Caye Wall is a well known dive site described as “6, 000 feet of vertical abyss”. This exquisite wall is unparalleled anywhere else in the world and provides a unique diving opportunity. Divers will be able to see a diversity of marine life in spur-and-groove canyons including corals, garden eels, and some of the most spectacular sponge formations. Larger pelagics such as eagle rays, sea turtles and groupers are often seen swimming in the blue.