Southwest Caye has an interesting and unusual history dating back to the pirate days, and much of the history is passed down through stories shared from one generation to another. Isla Marisol is located on Glover’s Reef Atoll a Belize Dive Resort, which is named after 17th century pirate John Glover. Pirates used Southwest Caye and neighboring islands as the base from which to raid Spanish ships laden with riches. Modern day residents claim to have found historical artifacts such as cannon balls and glass bottles (but so far no pirate booty!).
Southwest Caye, home to Isla Marisol Resort, was originally purchased by Mr. Jack Usher in 1942. For many years the island operated successfully as a coconut plantation. Mr. Jack and his family visited the island during family retreats, and as the stories go, it took two full days of sailing from Dangriga to reach Southwest Caye. For comparison, it now takes less than two hours to reach Southwest Caye from Dangriga. In the 1990’s, a dreadful disease called Lethal Yellowing swept through the southern Caribbean, destroying countless coconut trees, including much of the plantation on Southwest Caye.
In 2000, Mr. Eddie Usher, a descendant of Mr. Jack, began replanting the coconut plantation to its original glory. Eddie started with just 100 seedlings. At the same time he began constructing what is now Isla Marisol Resort. Isla Marisol officially opened its doors on May 2nd 2002. It has been operating ever since under Belizean ownership, managed by the Usher family and has been replanted with over 1,200 coconut trees resistant to the lethal yellowing disease.
Today’s lifestyle at Isla Marisol Resort is not very different than in the past. It is relaxed and comfortable and welcoming to all.
Glover’s Reef Atoll is the southernmost of the three atolls found in Belize and is located approximately 30 miles off the Belizean coastline. Isla Marisol Resort is situated on Southwest Caye, which is one of only four inhabited islands on the Atoll.
Glover’s Reef Atoll is an elliptical-shaped reef (20 miles long by 7 miles wide) that encircles a shallow lagoon with more than 700 coral patch reefs. The calm and protected lagoon provides nursery and feeding habitats for sea turtles, sharks and rays, small and large reef fish, and numerous species of coral and other invertebrates. Glover’s Reef supports extraordinarily high biodiversity, and according to the neighboring Glover’s Reef Research Station, the Atoll boasts the greatest range of coral reef types in the entire Caribbean Sea. Full-color photos and field guides to Glover’s Reef Atoll are available on the Glover’s Reef Research Station website.
In the 1970’s, Glover’s Reef Atoll was identified by a team of renowned scientists as the best site in the Caribbean to carry out “long-term, multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional investigation of coral reef ecosystems.” In 1993 the Atoll was designated as Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR) by the Government of Belize.
In 1996, the Reserve was designated by the United Nation’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a UN World Heritage Site. The same year, Glover’s Reef Research Station was opened, with the goal of promoting the long-term conservation and management of the Belize Barrier Reef through research, cooperative management, training, and education.
Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregations
The northeast corner of Glover’s Reef Atoll is the site of one of the Caribbean’s largest and last remaining Nassau grouper spawning aggregations. Nassau grouper are a protected species in Belize. Many other grouper species can be seen spawning across the Atoll at different times of the year.
In 2007, Glover’s Reef Research Station partnered with the Belize Fisheries Department to begin a sea turtle monitoring program. The program’s goals are to increase knowledge related to sea turtle movements and habitat use, study growth rates, and assess the genetic stock.
The Glover’s Reef Atoll Shark Survey gathers scientific information to improve shark conservation in Belize. The shark conservation project has been going on almost two decades and has located critical habitats such as breeding grounds and monitored population trends.