Belize reef and coastal systems is approximately 185 miles long, the largest in the northern hemisphere. It includes three of four coral atolls found in the northwest Caribbean, as well as hundreds of mangrove and coral sand islands. Naturally, this makes for an amazing underwater experience for visitors.
The Belize Barrier Reef along with the Glovers Reef Atoll, the Turneffe Reef Atoll and the Lighthouse Reef Atoll (home of the Great Blue Hole) are some of the most diverse Eco systems in the world. Divers and snorkelers will find paradise in Belize’s coastal areas, a safe haven for over five hundred species of fish, over a hundred hard and soft coral species, and hundreds of invertebrates. Many threatened species, including marine turtles and manatees, also live here.
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was considered to be of outstanding universal value, with supelative natural phenomena and natural beauty, ongoing ecological and biological processes, and biological diversity. The seven protected areas that comprise the World Heritage Site are: Bacalar Chico, National Park and Marine Reserve, Blue Hole Natural Monument, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye National Park,
and the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. Recommendations have been made to include the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
World Heritage sites should be enjoyed by citizens of the world, and preserved for future generations. Since we are dependent on the system for tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection, all Belizeans and visitors have a responsibility to contribute towards its conservation. In 2009, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger. This was done in order to increase the international awareness of threats to the site and to encourage counteractive measures. Several recommendations were made, and corrective measures were identified that continue to be implemented. The consequences of losing such biodiversity are great. Through responsible travel, visitors can continue to enjoy this natural wonder, and participate in efforts to protect the site.
Charles Darwin didn’t actually visit Belize reef, but after talking to other naturalists who had, he described it as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” in his 1842 book Coral Reefs of the World. Come experience Belize’s Barrier Reef and see for yourself why it’s so remarkable.