I know that all around the world there are many bits of sand with a few coconut trees, or mangrove, or maybe just a hut, that people picture in their minds when they think of an Island. There are all the treasure islands, pirate islands and deserted islands to get stranded on when you are floating adrift out at sea like Tom Hanks in Castaway. He ended up on Monuriki Island, a small islet surrounded by coral reef in the Fiji Islands! But how do you know whether you are crawling with your last breath onto an island, or a caye (pronounced Key by the way and spelled caye, key or cay)? The truth is you are on both…
Whether you spell it caye, or cay, or key, or pronounce it however you choose, if the bit of land you are on is sandy, and has a few coconut trees, it may well be a caye. Which is really just a small island. Cayes are traditionally formed in the presence of coral reefs (which Belize definitely has, the healthiest reef around as well) the currents and storms push dirt and sand around until it settles on top of some reef and, as more settles over a long time, it builds up into a caye.
The beaches and edges of Cayes are constantly being eroded, or added to, so most are ever-changing and, unless the mangrove builds up to protect it, a single hurricane can greatly alter the size and shape of a caye. The decaying matter and droppings from visiting birds help to fertilize the caye and maybe a seed falls or coconut floats over and voila! We have vegetation! Give it 100 years or so and welcome to Hatchet Caye!
An Island is clearly defined as “any piece of land surrounded by water that is not large enough to be called a continent.” …, So that is basically the big boys like Hawaii, or Japan, which most people think of as large and wide. These have mountains and rocky terrains and many broke off of larger continents.
To be defined as a Caye the make-up has to be mostly sand and coral. A healthy reef is vital to the survival of these complex and fragile formations, and much concern over the climate changes and rising sea levels have people debating over the future survival of Cayes. Hatchet Caye has always done its part to conserve, protect and revitalize all the natural wonders that are on and around this little bit of paradise. Come visit us and take a tour through the organic garden, learn about the solar panels, eat some lionfish and see how we do our part to preserve Belize.