Explore Belize’s Great Barrier Reef in 2019
Although the extensive tracts of rainforest and pristine jungles are top attractions for visitors in Belize, the country’s most famous natural destination is the Belize Barrier Reef.
Part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of hundreds of gorgeous islands, lagoons, and atolls. Coral reefs such as the Belize Barrier Reef compose less than 1% of the world’s oceans, yet they are home to an astonishing one quarter of all marine plants and animals.
As such, the Belize Barrier Reef is a great place to enjoy activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing. Beginning roughly 300 meters (1,000) feet offshore and running along the entire north-south axis of Belize, the reef is divided into several different national parks and protected natural areas.
Visited by Charles Darwin in 1842 as part of his epic global voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to endangered seabirds, vast schools of colorful fish, undulating fields of seagrass, dolphins, manatees, six species of sea turtle, sharks, and rays. Migrating pods of whale sharks, the largest animal in the world’s oceans, also visit the Belize Barrier Reef in springtime as part of the annual voyage around the world.
Coral reefs are often thought of as being vegetative in nature, but coral are actually classified as animals. These tiny creatures, known as coral polyps, exude a hard calcium carbonate exterior similar to seashells. Over time, these exterior shells form vast “forests” that are used by fish and mammals to hide from predators, give birth to young, and hunt for prey. Unfortunately, a combination of global warming and human activities have begun to threaten the health of the reef.
Although once heavily fished, the Belizean government has been working hard to protect the natural beauty of the reef. In a recent report, the Belize government was lauded for its conservation efforts with an improvement in the health index of the reef, according to the Healthy Reefs Initiative. It is estimated that the reef generates some $19 million dollars annually in tourism income.
If you’d like to experience the natural beauty of the Belize Barrier Reef, book your vacation with Island Expeditions. With more than three decades of experience in sharing the wild beauty of Belize with travelers around the world, Island Expeditions is the name to trust for adventure vacations in Belize.