The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 meters offshore in the north and 40 kilometers in the south within the country limits. Belize and Honduras both have interest in the reef, but it is considered to be mostly a Belize destination and place of interest.
The coastal area of Belize is an outstanding natural system consisting of the largest reef complex in the Atlantic-Caribbean region, and the second largest reef system in the world. The reef complex is comprised of offshore atolls, approximately 450 sand and mangrove cayes, coastal lagoons and estuaries. The system’s seven sites illustrate the evolutionary history of reef development and are a significant habitat for threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS), was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is comprised of seven protected areas; Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Blue Hole Natural Monument, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye National Park and Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. These seven protected areas constitute 12% of the entire reef complex.
The unique array of reef types within one self-contained area distinguishes the BBRRS from other reef systems. The site is one of the most pristine reef ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere and was referred to ‘as the most remarkable reef in the West Indies’ by Charles Darwin. Outside of the reef complex the property contains three atolls; Turneffe Island, Lighthouse Reef and Glover’s Reef. The Barrier Reef and atolls exhibit some of the best reef growth in the Caribbean.
Being unique in all the world, the Belize Barrier Reef is a popular destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing, fishing, windsurfing and a great many other water sports. Of course Belize’s beaches are equally inviting for visitors seeking to relax surrounded by sun, sand and surf.
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