Spectacular Belize Barrier Reef

Posted On April 19, 2010 

The Barrier Reef is situated nearly half a mile toward the winward side of the island. It is arguably the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world.

Three distinct atoll reefs lie to the east of the Barrier Reef. A fourth atoll reef, called Banco Chinchorro, is also present. It lies to the north in the Mexican waters. This is of special interest to wreck divers.

All three Belize atoll reefs are situated on two tiers of submarine ridges: Turneffe and Glover’s located on one ridge and Lighthouse on the other ridge that lies to east. This explains their similar outlines and northeast-southwest orientations. Marine trenches help separate the two ridges.

Belize Barrier Reef
As travelers move toward the south, they are able to see the reef as an unbroken chain comprising of white surf that runs along the Caribbean coast near the Yucatan Peninsula. It continues south stretching along the length of the country to Ranguana and Sapodilla Caves.

The water is quite shallow within the reef. It has a blue tinge to it. The water is deep outside the reef. A view from the air reveals a dark royal blue tinge. The reef resembles a narrow yellow line on clear days. It divides the two shades of blue.

The reef runs near a densely-populated caye, near the Ambergris Caye. At this point, it is a solid wall of wonderful coral formations that are broken by narrow channels known as ‘quebradas’. Here, divers are entertained for hours at end by the limitless variety and shapes of the tropical coral.

Ambergris Caye
The reef is much more than just a decorative sideshow. Without the reef, the island would cease to exist. The reef serves as a natural break-water that protects the beach from erosion from the waves. It provides shelter to the caye and its inhabitants.

The waters within the reef are shallow and crystal clear. It offers splendid opportunities to view the marine life of the region. There are plenty of rainbow-tinged tropical fish, precious sea fans, and spectacular coral gardens. The waters are home to game fish, mackerel, kingfish, tuna, marlin, and sailfish.

Belize Barrier Reef Marine life
The reef resembles a dead stone. It is, in reality, a living wall that is formed by scores of coral organisms. These corals are carnivorous and are known as polyps. They eat tiny sea creatures by capturing them with the help of stinging tentacles. They tend to feed only during the night. During the day, they draw their tentacles back into the skeleton.

Tiny blue green algae live within the reef. They release oxygen that helps the coral polyps to breathe. The algae absorb carbon dioxide that is secreted by the polyps. This forms a symbiotic relationship. Corals tend to be multi-colored with hues of golden, red, green, brown, orange, and yellow. The coral polyps protect themselves by forming a thick layer of calcium carbonate known as corallite.

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2 Responses to “Spectacular Belize Barrier Reef”
  1. vareeja says:

    The Belize Barrier Reef is home to a large diversity of plants and animals, one of the most diverse ecosystems of the world.
    * 70 hard coral species
    * 36 soft coral species
    * 500 species of fish
    * hundreds of invertebrate species
    With 90% of the reef still needing to be researched, it is estimated that only 10% of all species have been discovered.

  2. vareeja says:

    Charles Darwin described the Belize Barrier Reef as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” in 1842.

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