Belize Barrier Reef
A 190-mile long section of the second largest reef system in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef includes 7 marine reserves, 350 cayes and 3 atolls. Located in the Caribbean Sea and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 due to the unique array of pristine natural habitats. The diversity of life is abundant from the moment you look below the surface.
A Loggerhead Turtle with Jack Fish & Blue Tang
Blue Stripped Grunts, Sea Rod & Boulder Star coral
Blue Stripped Grunts leaving for school.
There are many cayes in the Caribbean Sea surrounding Belize. Caye pronounced 'key' is a small island typically formed in the presence of coral reefs. Currents, winds, and storms move sand, coral, and other bits of sea matter that eventually settle, building a shelf. Over time, a tiny island or caye emerges from the depths. Plants and other life begin to colonize the exposed surface. There are many cayes that are ideal vacation destinations along the Belize Barrier Reef. Some like Ambergris Caye are more developed with resorts, fine dining restaurants, and world-class shopping and others are on 'go slow' island time. Cody and I opted for the no cars, people riding bikes relaxed atmosphere of Caye Caulker. We arrived by water taxi from the capital city and walked less than a block to our brightly painted hotel, Seaside Cabanas.
Seaside Cabanas, our hotel with attractive room interiors and a pleasant view
The next morning we arranged a half day speed boat trip to snorkel several areas along the barrier reef with EZ Boy Tours. Our friend Phil from Carmelita Gardens recommended the tour company. A local tour guide, Harry, promptly met Cody and I upon arrival helping us to our hotel and arranging the tour for the next day. The 5 hour trip included a local plate lunch (order the barracuda, delish), fruit, drinks, and 5 stops to see manatees, nurse sharks, a sunken barge, turtles feasting on sea grass and finally Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is Mayan for 'little channel'. Our guide swam the 45-minute loop showing us caves, a moray eel and other unique treasures of the sea. Amazingly, he did it without a snorkel, swimming and freediving the entire time.
The Barrier Reef is over a mile from shore and it was windy on the water!
We recommend EZ Boy Tours- friendly local folks, good prices, and great guides.
A manatee came from the depths to check us out. Apparently they have poor eye site and the massive sea cow came right up to us. Yikes!
Free diving the sunken barge, now an artificial reef
Looking from aft to bow, we were warned to pay attention to currents and not to touch.
Our guide pointing to a cave filled with a school of large fish.
A Large Green Moray Eel typically found at depths of 30-40 feet and at least 6 feet in length. Yikes again!
The profusion of sea life, both flora and fauna, was extraordinary. Protection of ocean habitats under a marine reserve designation is vital to the health of our planet. In less than 20 years, the Belize Barrier Reef has rebounded and life is plentiful. The animals are unafraid and in many cases curious coming close as if inspecting you. We felt like welcomed visitors to an underwater world. The local guides were advocates for marine sanctuaries and Belize is strict about tourism along the barrier reef system. I highly recommend snorkeling and/or diving this rich underwater biodiversity. Everything pictured here was observed during a 3-hour period. All the diving I have experienced throughout my life has not equaled this variety, and that includes living in Hawaii, California, and Mexico. When Cody and I relate our experiences to friends and family, many say they have always wanted to visit Belize. Go. You won't be disappointed. Just a few more pictures to share.
Living, growing coral, like swimming in an aquarium.
Life under the sargassum seaweed. Learn more in our post about the Sargasso Sea.
Hello Wayne, Yes the reef has rebounded. When reefs are protected from fishing and the abundance of boats, dropped anchors, and tourism, then the biomass explodes. Unfortunately there is vast quantities of oil under the MesoAmerican reef and not all areas are protected. Who knows what the future will hold.