Turneffe Atoll in Belize

by McNab Editorial Team
turneffe atoll

Turneffe Atoll is the newest marine region to receive national protection under the Belizean government. The atoll is notable for being the biologically diverse and populous atoll in all of the Americas. This area spans 30 miles in length and 10 miles in width. It is rich with species of coral, fish and massive rays, making it an excellent spot for anyone interesting in diving, sport fishing or snorkeling.

The Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, established in November of 2012, is managed by a dedicated Sustainability Association (TASA) within Belize City. TASA was developed by several nature foundations, including the Blue Marine, Bertarelli and the Oak.


If you want to find this spot, look 20 miles away from the coast of Belize City, to the southeast of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. Turneffe is one-third of the trio of atolls within the Belize Barrier Reef, the other two being Glover’s Reef and Lighthouse Reef.

What you’ll find there…

Turneffe is a haven for many marine creatures that might be threatened or valuable to commercial industries. The region is saturated with flats, creeks, and lagoons laden with mangroves, cayes, and fields of seagrass. This rich tapestry of habitats means that all manner of creatures from crocodiles and conches to lobsters, manatees, and waterfowl can be spotted.

The area is also rich in spawning zones for fish, with at least three major sites having been properly identified. Beyond the natural beauty of the atoll itself, visitors can check out the low-lying Mauger Caye to the north, notable for its lighthouse.

History of Turneffe

For those with a passion for history and infamy, the legendary pirate Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard,” wintered along the Bay of Honduras between the years 1717 and 1718; Turneffe Atoll resides within this bay.

It was during this time that he would harry vessels traveling back and forth from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to the Bay. It was at Turneffe in early April that Blackbeard captured the “Adventure” and convinced Captain David Herriot of swearing loyalty to Teach. Also aboard this vessel was gunner Edward Robinson, who would become relevant during the Battle of Cape Fear River.

Turneffe Atoll has much to offer anyone vacationing in Belize. While the sheer number of creatures and the coral reefs who call it home is undoubtedly a major selling point for the site, being a footnote from the “Golden Age of Piracy” may be just as enticing to some.

Written by Larry Waight

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