Laughing Bird Caye National Park was the first island I visited in Belize at the young age of ten. I grew up in Seine-Bight Village located in the peninsula of the Stann Creek District and Laughing Bird Caye is located right off the coast of the peninsula via a 30 minutes boat ride. Since then, Laughing Bird Caye has always had a special place in my heart. While growing up, I made several visits to it during school trips, clean-up campaigns, and even sometimes just to enjoy all that it has to offer.
Laughing Bird Caye is the southernmost island in the central lagoon of the Belize Barrier Reef. This long, narrow isle stands on an elongated ridge of reef known as a faro. This angular atoll on a continental shelf is also known as a shelf atoll. Like an atoll, a faro is steep-sided and encloses a central lagoon. The Laughing Bird Faro is separated from the mainland, the barrier reef, and other cayes by deep channels on all sides. The uniqueness of this structure contributes to both the abundance and variety of coral habitats and marine life. The Caye got its name from the Laughing Gull that once bred on the Caye, but due to a growing human presence, the colonies have moved to nearby undisturbed cayes. Presently, the caye is home to several birds like the brown pelican, green heron, the melodious blackbird, among others.
It had been almost three years since my last visit to the caye, and I was eager to be back, anxious to see what had changed. I just knew it was going to feel like coming back to my HOME CAYE. As we pulled up to the shore, once again, I was in awe of its unique, natural beauty. White sandy beach, scattered coconut trees, mangroves, all added up to the perfect island vibe.
Laughing Bird Caye is divided into three zones – the recreational zone, buffer zone, and the preservation zone, also known as the bird restoration zone, where no entry is allowed to guests. Due to these conservation efforts that are enforced by the park rangers living onsite, the laughing gulls have slowly started to return to the island.
After a brief history of the island by our tour guides from Splash Dive Center, we joined the rangers and headed out to snorkel around the shallow waters of the caye. While snorkeling, I am amazed by the colorful array of coral habitats and marine life. My companions and I see turtles, rays, lobsters, barracudas, schools of fish, and even the reef restoration project being carried out by Fragments of Hope. My favorite place on earth is in the sea, either snorkeling or diving. Exploring the magical underwater world is the best feeling ever. Every time I’m submerged into the cool Caribbean waters, I n, ever want to surface! While there, I wish I could become a fish, a dolphin, a manatee, or any other sea creature so that I could explore that amazing and magical world even more. After snorkeling for more than 45 minutes, I am once again reminded why Laughing Bird Caye National Park is my HOME CAYE. This is my tenth visit to the caye, and I will continue to do so if I am able.
Due to the uniqueness of the caye, the Faro, and the abundance and diversity of marine life, the caye was declared a protected area in 1981 under the National Parks System Act. On December 21, 1991, Laughing Bird Caye National Park was declared. In 1996 the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed on the World Heritage List with Laughing Bird Caye National Park designated as one of the premiere protected areas within the World Heritage Site.
Some of the latest additions to the caye over the past years include a gift shop that carries beautiful Lionfish jewelry(KAJ Expression Jewelry), artifacts, and souvenirs. There are even fun marine frame walls for visitors to take fun pictures. There are many companies in the area that offer tours to the beautiful Laughing Bird Caye National Park. This gorgeous piece of paradise is an ideal base for a full day of diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, and even picnicking. Be a Belizean traveler, and enjoy all that this piece of paradise has to offer.
To book your tour with Splash Dive Center, you can call 523- 3058 or visit their website at www.splashbelize.com.