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Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System
Author: Josh Steinitz (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The Barrier Reef Reserve System of Belize is the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. It comprises offshore atolls, sand says, islets, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and estuaries stretching a length of 300 km. The Belize Barrier Reef is part of the longer Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which stretches from Cancún in Mexico to Honduras, making it the longest in the western hemisphere, and second only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 20th session of the World Heritage Committee which was held in Merida, Mexico, on 2-7 December, 1996.

On 27 June 2009, the barrier reef was entered onto the List of World Heritage in Danger. This is due to concerns over the cutting of the mangrove trees and excessive development within the site. The World Heritage Committee requested the reinstating of a moratorium on mangrove cutting which expired in 2008. Scientists claimed that over 40% of Belize's coral reef has been damaged since the inscription. Hurricanes, global warming, increase in ocean temperature, oceanic pollution, uncontrolled tourism, shipping and fishing have all played their part in the reef degradation.

It was one of the three sites placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009. The other two are the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and Los Katios National Park of Colombia.

Photos of Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize caye
Belize caye
Author: anoldent (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

What to See in Barrier Reef Reserve System

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System comprises seven marine reserves, 450 cays and three atolls, covering a total area of 960 square kilometers. Among the locations within the barrier reef include Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, Great Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Caye Chapel, St. George's Caye, English Caye, Rendezvous Caye, Gladden Caye, Ranguana Caye, Long Caye, Maho Caye, Blackbird Caye and Three Coner Caye.

World Heritage Site Inscription Details

Location: N 16 45 0 W 87 3 30
Inscription Year: 1996
Type of Site: Natural - Listed on World Heritage in Danger
Inscription Criteria: VII, IX, X

Location Map

View Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System in a larger map

Visiting Barrier Reef Reserve System

Your base for visiting this World Heritage Site is Belize City, the largest city in Belize but not the capital (that honour goes to the city of Belmopan). You can make your arrangements to visit the cays from Belize City.

Getting there

The main gateway to Belize is the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) in Belize City. It has regular flights connecting it with a few US cities including Miami, Houston and Atlanta.

Book Hotel Rooms in Belize and Worldwide

Click here also for a full list of hotels in Belize or hotels worldwide. If you prefer budget accommodation in hostels, guesthouses or inns, check out hostels worldwide for budget accommodation providers with online booking.

Local Tours of Belize

Here are some local tours of Belize that you may consider including to your itinerary. They save you time and cost of doing it yourself. These tours are arranged by Viator, one of the most reputable tour agencies in the market.

Return to Belize's World Heritage Sites
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