The Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, the first marine conservation area in Belize, was declared a national park in 1982 and became one of Belize’s first World Heritage Sites in 1996. The 180,000-square-metre caye is divided into two distinct ecosystems. In the west, guano from sea birds fertilizes the soil, enabling the growth of dense vegetation, while the eastern half has mostly coconut palms. A total of 98 bird species has been recorded here, including frigate birds, ospreys and a resident population of four thousand red-footed boobies, one of only two such nesting colonies in the Caribbean. Upon arrival (most people come as part of a tour), visitors must pay the Bz$20 entrance fee at the visitors’ centre; you can camp here (t 223-5004; US$10 per person), but you need to call ahead for permission.

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