Moho Caye and Laughingbird Caye, Belize

Mar 01, 2018 - National Geographic Quest


We could not have asked for a better day! Light winds, sunny skies, crystal clear Caribbean Sea with 100’ visibility. Moho Caye was our first stop this morning and this postcard island surrounded by a fringing reef and cobalt blue waters did not disappoint. The tiny butterflyfish gracefully danced from coral patch to sea fan and through sand channels while cocoa damselfish ferociously guarded their tiny algae farms. Coral patches with gently swaying soft corals—sea plumes, Venus sea fans, and golden sea rods. Brightly colored sponges added their red, green, purple, yellow, and orange, not to be outdone. Tucked in the crevices of the Starlet Corals various sea urchins—reef, pencil, and long-spined waited patiently for nightfall and their turn to wander the reef. Squirrelfish, their huge eyes and predominantly red color indicating their nocturnal lifestyle also waited for nightfall to hunt their prey.

 We spent the afternoon at Laughingbird Caye, a tiny island that sits atop the outer rim of the Laughingbird Caye Faro, a shelf atoll. What is a laughing bird? Well, years ago, laughing gulls nested here when it was just an island sitting in the middle of nowhere and occasionally used by fishermen from Placencia, a small village on the coast, eleven miles away. One third of Laughingbird Caye is now set aside for the gulls who had abandoned the island in the 1990’s due to increased visitation. Other birds like pelicans and ospreys are also nesting on the island and making a comeback. Other species of birds sighted by our passengers included ospreys, ruddy turnstones, brown pelicans, and yucatan vireos. National Geographic Quest passengers who went snorkeling saw many exciting fishes and corals as well as a cool Caribbean reef octopus. Some favorites of the snorkelers were the three butterflyfish – banded, foureye, and spotfin and of course, the stoplight parrotfish. While the kayakers paddled around Laughingbird Caye, a few just hung out in the brightly woven hammocks from Guatemala.

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About the Author

Luz Hunter

Cultural Specialist

Luz was born and raised in Belize City along with two brothers and six sisters. As a child she always felt the need to protect animals, both wild and domestic. Alternating summers between grandparents on the cayes and in the bush brought her very close to nature and she soon realized that the hardest part of going back to school was sitting down…indoors. One thing led to another and by 1980, Luz was “guiding” people around the reefs near Ambergris Caye and Lighthouse Reef. 

About the Photographer

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

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