Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belize Barrier Reef is a world-famous mecca for activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, sea kayaking, fishing, stand-up paddling, and sailing.
From outer space, the Belize Barrier Reef is immediately identifiable as an unbroken chain of white surf running north-south in the western Caribbean Sea. Perhaps the most iconic area of the reef visible from space is the Great Blue Hole located in the middle of Lighthouse Reef.
Although well-known to local fishermen, the Great Blue Hole came to the world's attention after legendary filmmaker and marine biologist Jacques Cousteau visited the area in 1971 and declared it to be one of his top 10 favorite dive spots on the planet. The Great Blue Hole is a natural phenomenon of deep blue water that covers a vast sunken limestone cave network more than 480 feet deep.
The Belize Barrier Reef is also home to thousands of islands, including uninhabited atolls and spits that are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and sailing. Gladden Spit, located at the eastern edge of the reef, is where huge schools of whale sharks visit every spring in order to feast on a rich bounty of plankton and fish spawn.
Other popular areas to visit on the reef include the Silk Cayes, three islands on the eastern part of the reef that are part of a protected marine reserve. These islands are a popular destination for bird watching, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Closer to the mainland, the islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker offer great accessibility and a wide range of amenities, including seafood restaurants, cafes, and bars. Ambergris Caye is located just a few miles from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley where divers and snorkelers can interact with large schools of nurse sharks and rays.
The Belize Barrier Reef is also home to half a dozen other protected marine areas, including South Water Caye, the Sapodilla Cayes, and bird and sea turtle nesting sites. There are also protected areas for manatees near the coast.
If you'd like to enjoy a great vacation on the Belize Barrier Reef, book your vacation with Adventures in Belize (AIB). AIB offers a wide variety of Belize vacations that include barrier reef tours such as diving, snorkeling, fishing, and sailing.