Laughing Bird Caye National Park is a beautiful Belizean Isle situated on the western side of Victoria Channel, only 11mls off the coast from Placencia Village in the Stann Creek District of Belize. Laughing Bird Caye is the southernmost island in the central lagoon of the Belize Barrier Reef.
This long narrow isle is on an elongated ridge of reef known as “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. The uniqueness of this structure contributes to both the abundance and variety of coral habitats and marine life.
The Caye gets its name from the “Laughing Gull”, which once used to breed on the Caye, but due to a growing human presence, the colonies have moved to nearby undisturbed cayes for breeding.
The Laughing Bird Caye is classified as a sand and shingle caye. It is a relatively large and stable island. The island itself is an elongated sand ridge on the windward side and sandy beach on the leeward edge. The centre of the island is generally high without any depression. The island is covered with coconut trees and scattered coastal mangroves.
Besides the Laughing Gull, other birds can be seen on the Caye including the Brown Pelican, Green Heron,, Melodious Blackbird and many other birds from the surrounding cayes and strays from the mainland. There are also a variety of lizards and insects on the Caye.
Reef development, in Belize, consists of 2 major types : (a) A semi-continuous barrier reef and (b) Lagoon reefs that occur primarily in the southern portion of Belize.. The barrier reef consists of a shallow water reef crest, several metres in width, fronted by a series of coral spurs and sand groves to the east.
The area behind the barrier reef is called the ‘lagoon’, which is dotted with colonies of coral. Lagoon reefs range from small patches, several metres across, to “ringed reefs” several kilometres long. The “ringed reef” at Laughing Bird Caye can be divided into 3 main areas :
(a) Outer rim which rises on the average of 100ft above the surrounding lagoon floor and is nearly continuous, relatively narrow and has several ridges which project into the inner lagoon.
(b) Inner lagoon which is completely enclosed and reaches a maximum depth of 16ft. The floor of the inner lagoon is nearly flat and consists of a fine mud.
(c) The most interesting feature of the Laughing Bird Faro are the patch reefs and mounds which criss-cross the inner lagoon.