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Gladden Spit & Silk Caye Marine Reserve

Gladden Spit & Silk Caye Marine Reserve in Belize

Just a few miles offshore of the Belizean mainland lies the vast archipelago of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest coral barrier reef system in the Western Hemisphere. Located on the outer edge of this reef is the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes MarineReserve (GSSCMR), a protected conservation area that is ideal for enjoying snorkeling and scuba diving.

The GSSCMR measures over 25,000 acres (10,500 ha) in size and is located approximately 22 miles (36 km) due east of the Placencia Peninsula in southeastern Belize. Managed by the Southern Environmental Association, a local NGO, this area is one of the healthiest and vibrant marine ecosystems on the Belize Barrier Reef.

Gladden Spit is a small strip of uninhabited land that lies at the southernmost tip of a sunken atoll (a coral structure that formed around dry land but is now underwater). The shore of Gladden Spit continues towards a short underwater shelf with steep drop-offs to depths of over one mile, making it a popular destination for certain kinds of diving.

The other prominent land bodies in the GSSCMR are the Silk Cayes, a collection of pristine uninhabited islands, including North Silk, Middle Silk, and South Silk (all islands in Belize are called “cayes”). Areas of these islands are used as nesting colonies for seabirds, making the GSSCMR an excellent place to enjoy bird watching.

But it is the clarity of the water and the abundance of marine life that draws scuba divers and snorkelers from around the world to visit the GSSCMR. Over 25 species of reef fish inhabit the GSSCMR, including snapper and grouper. The health of the coral reef and varying depths of the water make it ideal as a spawning ground for fish and other marine animals, including conch and the area’s most famous yearly visitors: whale sharks.

As long and as heavy as a tractor-trailer, whale sharks are the largest non-mammalian species in the world’s oceans. Every spring, these migrating giants come to the GSSCMR in huge schools in order to feed on plankton and fish spawn. Normally found cruising the depths of the ocean, whale sharks rise to the surface when the moon is full. Because whale sharks are filter feeders, they pose little danger to human divers.

If you’d like to enjoy a scuba diving and/or snorkeling vacation at the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, book your vacations with Adventures in Belize, the premier travel company in Belize.