Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System
Belize City, Belize
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System Belize City Reviews
Second Largest Reef in the World! Oct 23, 2006
Located approximately 1/2 mile off the winward side of Ambergris Caye, the barrier reef system of Belize is the 2nd largest in the world! The reef is one of reason's Belize's popularity is increasing, especially with divers and snorkelers.
The Belize Barrier reef is part of Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which is continuous from Cancun on the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and continues offshore Guatemala. Charles Darwin even quipped, "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies".
It is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the entire world, although only about 10% estimated that has been discovered. Only tropical rainforests rank higher on the biodiversity scale! Some of the reef's features:
70 hard coral species
36 soft coral species
300-500 species of fish
and hundreds of invertebrate species
A large section of the reef is protected by the Belize Barrier Reef System which includes seven marine reserves, 450 cays, and three atolls. Some of these regions are:
- Glover's Reef Marine Reserve
- Great Blue Hole (the most popular diving spot)
- Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve (off coast of Ambergris and very popular snorkeling spot)
- Cayes include: Ambergris, Caye Caulker, Caye Chapel, St George's Cay, English Caye, Rendezvous Caye, Gladden Caye, Ranguana Caye, Long Caye, Maho Caye, Blackbird Caye, and Three Coner Caye.
The three atoll reefs are formed on two tiers of submerged ridges: Turneffe and Glover's on one ridge and Lighthouse on a separate ridge. It should be noted that the presence of atolls in this region is unusual. Most are found in the Pacific, on top of submerged volcanoes. Very few occur in the Caribbean and they obviously differ in structure as these for example, which lie on non-volanic submarine ridges.
Ambergris Caye is the one spot where the reef runs closest to a more populated Caye. At the northern end of Ambergris, the reef actually touches the land. The best way to see this is on the Bacalar Chico snorkel trip.
For those who are not divers, the snorkeling is fantastic and many species of fish are visible within 20 - 30 feet of water. Nurse sharks, giant rays, groupers, sea turtles are some of the regular sightings at Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. Bacalar Chico may provide a glimpse of the elusive manatees who frequent the channel as well as the coral reef nearby.
The existence of the reef system is believed to have created my favorite destination, Ambergris Caye. The reef protects the beaches from erosion and provides a break. Researchers believe Ambergris was likely formed from the accumulation of coral fragments from the reef along with silt from the Rio Hondo.
Because of it's diverse ecosystem and it contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, it was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in 1996.
Sadly though, the reef has received some damage and is being watched as the damage to the reef is steadily increasing. In the last few years, the damage has not come from natural events such as hurricanes but now, development, overfishing and an increase in tourism are causing damage.
If you come to Belize and visit the reef, make sure to take all the precautions given by your guides seriously. It is imperative that you do not land or touch the coral, especially since some of it (fire coral) will hurt. As the threat to the Belize Barrier Reef System increases, it is important that everyone take part in trying to preserve the reef and its incredibly important ecosystem.
Part of the Belize Oct 2006 travel blog
Part of the list UNESCO Sites
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