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Desirable Destination: Half Moon Caye, Belize

Back of Beyond | November


Belize is justly famed for subtropical ecotouristic jaunts, diving along the Western Hemisphere’s longest barrier reef, and other far-flung adventures. Much of the country’s mangrove-fringed coast is sparsely inhabited, and it’s common to gunkhole for days without seeing a soul. But beyond all the wildness that cruising folks most normally associate with Belize, there’s something even wilder.

It’s a place called Half Moon Caye, and it’s located “beyond the reef,” as Belizeans would say. This last detail sounds spooky simply because it is. Waters beyond the barrier reef are either oceanic in terms of depth and wholly exposed to potentially dangerous weather or wickedly shallow in spots, poorly charted, and fraught with thousands of unmarked coral heads, a state of affairs that makes safe navigation contingent upon either local knowledge or lots of talent at sighting local waters.


Fresh out of both, I made my first trip into the paradisical lagoon at Half Moon last year with an excellent Belizean guide at my side, a local boat captain who offered piloting services to visiting cruisers for modest moolah. “If you come into here without me,” he grinned as I zigzagged through the coral, “you’re just rollin’ the dice.”

We dropped the hook in a glycerin-clear pool, sending up a plume of white sand. In the distance the water’s clarity graded into neon bands of blue, green, and yellow. A ramshackle dock jutted from the shoreline, a convenience for day-tripping scuba and bird-watching boats. A couple of clapboard shacks stood empty, along with an old, rusted lighthouse sticking up. The air was soft, with nary a hint of the storms that sometimes coldly obtrude in the early fall, making November one of the better months for a visit.

The ambiance was extraordinary. I sat meditatively on the bridge for an hour or so with my feet on the dash, listening to the faint murmur of wind and waves, awed by the edgy emptiness of it all. Indeed, I remember thinking at the time, I’d not felt such a cosmic sense of wilderness since motoring across Canada’s James Bay years before, in an outboard-powered Zodiac, with absolutely nothing between the polar ice cap and me but cold, brown sea.

Looking for a Novemberish cruising destination? One that’s both gorgeous and transcendentally remote? While Belize is arguably one of the wildest, most exotic cruising venues in the world, the country’s outermost atoll, Half Moon Caye, kicks it up a notch. And a mind-blowing notch at that.

Desirable Destinations

January: British Virgin Islands
February: Great Abaco Island / Bahamas
March: Little Harbor Cay / Bahamas
April: Los Sueños / Costa Rica
May: Monaco
June: Massachusetts
July: Washington, D.C.
August: British Columbia
September: Montauk, Long Island
October: Hudson River, New York
November: Half Moon Cay / Belize
December: St. Barts

This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.