The clear and warm waters off the coast of Belize,
and the mainland streams and rivers that feed into it,
help to form the perfect marine environment worthy of
sustaining a coral reef. And sustain a coral reef the
Belize waters most certainly do. The Belize Barrier Reef
is the second largest barrier reef in the world, with
only the Great
Barrier Reef of Australia topping it in size. It's impressive to consider
that this renowned Belize coral reef extends for more
than 180 miles, and since it's never more than 25
miles from the Belize coast, it's extremely easy
for tourists to access. In fact, the Belize coral reef
might just be the country's top tourist attraction.
Not only does it make for excellent diving and snorkeling, but it's also a wonderful fishing destination. Should you be headed to Central America to
enjoy a Belize vacation,
you'll have plenty of options to arrange tours to
what Charles Darwin labeled as, "the most remarkable
reef in the West Indies". That was way back in 1842,
and the Belize Barrier Reef continues to impress visitors
of all kinds to this day.
The Belize reef that visitors so enjoy is part of the
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which extends from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on down to the waters off of Guatemala.
It is a magnet to an array of marine life, with over 100
different species of hard and soft coral, some 500 species
of fish, and various invertebrate species making it their
home. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has gone
to great lengths to protect the treasured Belize reef
portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, and there
are no less than seven marine reserves that they have
created to help do so. Hundreds of cayes lie between the
reef and the Belize coast, and they owe their existence
to reef itself. It helps to form a barrier to rougher
seas to the east that would otherwise devastatingly erode
the shores of these cayes. Though most of the Belize cayes
are uninhabited, there are some that have been transformed
into top Belize destinations. Ambergris
Caye is just one of them, and partly because of its
close proximity to the Belize reef, it has become Belize's
top overall tourist destination. The Ambergris Caye resorts offer tours or tour connections for the reef, which is
only about a half-mile away.
Ambergris Caye isn't the only place from which to enjoy excursions that involve the Belize Barrier Reef. Caye Caulker, Tobacco Caye, and South Water Caye are just a few other cayes where you can book such excursions. Should you be on the mainland, it's also easy to hook up with tours to the reef. Should you be enjoying the top Belize beaches in Placencia, for example, you'll easily be able to arrange Belize reef sailing, diving, and fishing trips. Snorkeling and scuba diving are the best way to see and explore the Belize coral reef, and serious divers in Belize will also recommend heading past the reef to also dive the Belize Glovers Reef. The Lighthouse Reef Belize diving experience is also as good as it gets, as it is here where you can dive the famous Blue Hole. The famed French diver and scientist, Jacques Cousteau, placed the Blue Hole among his top ten favorite dive sites. Back at the main reef, scuba divers of all levels will be treated to the kind of diving that fills curious hours on end. Off of Ambergris Caye, the Belize reef is a solid coral-laden wall that is only broken by a series of channels. These channels are extremely interesting to dive, offering up a replete array of tropical corals of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Excellent fishing can also be enjoyed at the Belize Barrier Reef, and should you head east where the water quickly gets much deeper, you can attempt to nab some kingfish, sailfish, or marlin, among other species.
The ecosystem of the Belize coral reef is simply amazing. Blue-green algae gives off oxygen that helps to sustain polyps, which in turn give off carbon dioxide that the algae then needs. Solar energy and the organic plant and animal material that flows in from the mainland streams and rivers helps the Belize coral reef to survive. It's certainly understandable that people flock here, as the Belize reef offers enjoyable pursuits that you probably can't enjoy back home. Bring an underwater camera if you plan to snorkel or dive the Belize Barrier Reef, as the exceptionally clear waters that surround it afford some excellent underwater photography shots.