LAUGHING BIRD CAYE NATIONAL PARK
Laughing Bird Caye National Park is one of the gems in a string of pearls that is the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful Belizean isle situated on the western side of the Victoria Channel, only 11 miles off the coast from Placencia Village in the Stann Creek District of Belize.
A mini-atoll with a white sandy beach and its own miniature reef surrounding a natural swimming pool, is a snorkeler’s heaven, and a few minutes by boat from the Belize Reef. It’s a favorite stopover for reef kayakers and a great place to stop for a picnic.
Laughing Bird Caye – BelizeThis long narrow isle stands on an elongated ridge of reef known as a faro. A faro is an angular atoll on a continental shelf, also known as a shelf atoll. Like an atoll, a faro is steep sided and encloses a central lagoon. The Laughing Bird Faro is separated from the mainland, the barrier reef and other cayes by deep channels on all sides.
Due to the uniqueness of the Caye, the Faro, and the abundant and diverse marine habitats and life, the Caye was declared a protected area in 1981 under the National Parks System Act. On 21 December, 1991, Laughing Bird Caye National Park was declared. Finally, in 1996 the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed on the World Heritage List with Laughing Bird Caye National Park designated as one of the premiere protected areas within the World Heritage Site.
The uniqueness of this structure contributes to both the abundance and variety of coral habitats and marine life. The caye got its name from the Laughing Gull, Larus articilla. These birds, whose chirp sound like people laughing, once nested on the Northern end of the caye. Due to growing human disturbances in the mid 70’s and Hurricane Fefe, the gulls moved to breed on nearby undisturbed cayes. Today, under the management of SEA, the park is divided into three zones namely the Recreational zone, Buffer zone and the “Preservation zone also known as the Bird Restoration Zone.” Today we can now see a few Laughing Gulls returning along with Osprey, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigate, Herons and Melodious Blackbirds who nest within the preservation zone undisturbed by visitors.
The island is covered with coconut trees and scattered coastal mangroves. Seven plant species have been recorded on the island:
Coconut tree – Cocos nucifera
Spider Lily – Hymenocallis littorallis
Seaside Purslane – Sesuvium portulacastrum Euphorbia sp.
Red mangrove – Rhizophora mangle
Morning Glory – Ipomoea sp.
Black mangrove – Avicennia germinans