Lighthouse Reef is a stunning atoll, one of four found in the entire Western Hemisphere. Half Moon Caye sits at its southeastern most point and, as you get closer, you will find yourself guided ashore by magnificent frigatebirds and red-footed boobies that congregate here to nest and have their young.

At first glance this caye looks like a postcard perfect island-complete with a sea breeze, palm trees, white sand, and Caribbean blue water. But as you traverse your way from the ship to the shore, you will find yourself navigating a complex maze of some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world.

The magic of this location is not lost, but rather celebrated, and boasts the title of the first National Park of Belize (1981), added to its earlier designation as a crown bird sanctuary in 1928. The excitement was bubbling over as we began to explore our first stop in Belize. We walked the beach littered with ancient fossilized corals, followed the birds as they landed to make nests or hovered weightless over the caye. To get a fuller view of the island, we turned to the water via kayaking and snorkeling.

The first time you put your head underwater on a coral reef in Belize you will be immediately struck by how busy and colorful everything is! All the fish have somewhere to be, and their bright scales flicker in the refracted sunlight. We quickly found our fingers pruning as we ran our time to explore this mesmerizing ecosystem down to the final minutes. Thankfully, we were able to return to the reef in the afternoon to continue observing and learning about all the amazing critters living under the water.