12 Enthraling Belize Barrier Reef Facts

The most amazing natural feature of a Caribbean country is an enormous living organic off its coast.

Yes, coral reefs are alive and the largest living organisms on the planet. This makes them some of the most intriguing underwater wonders in the world.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Belize Barrier Reef, a spectacular living attraction with some fascinating stories to tell.

1. It straddles the entire coast of Belize in Central America

As the name of the Belize Barrier Reef suggests, it’s situated off the coast of the Central American country of Belize.

This Caribbean country borders Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south. It’s a very small country that covers an area of just 22,970 square kilometers (8,867 square miles) and with a population of around 420,000 inhabitants.

The reef is a series of coral reefs that straddle the entire coastline of this country. It has a length of approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles).

While it’s only 300 meters (980 feet) offshore in the north, this extends to up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) in the south.

Belize Barrier Reef location
The reef near Caye Caulker in the northern part / Dronepicr / Wiki Commons

2. It’s part of the second-largest coral reef on the planet

The Belize Barrier Reef consists of well over one-fourth of an even longer series of coral reefs called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System or MBRS.

This immense collection of coral reefs has a total length of 1,126 kilometers (700 miles). Only the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of northeastern Australia is larger.

It is situated off the coast of 4 different countries:

  • Mexico
  • Belize
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras

It stretches from Isla Contoy on the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in the north to the Bay Islands of Honduras in the south.

How big is the Belize Barrier Reef
Aerial view of the huge reef / Dronepicr / Wiki Commons

3. 3 atolls are a distinctive part of the reef

One of the most fascinating features of the Belize Barrier Reef is the presence of 3 relatively large atolls in the eastern section of the reef. These are:

  • Turneffe Atoll – 48 kilometers (30 miles) long and 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide
  • Glover’s Reef – 32 kilometers (20 miles) long and 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) wide
  • Lighthouse Reef – 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and kilometers (5 miles) wide

Turneffe Atoll is the largest coral reef atoll in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System and was declared a marine reserve in its entirety in 2012.

Belize Barrier Reef facts
Detail of the coral reef / Bernt Rostad / Wiki Commons

4. The reef is home to a large number of marine animals and plants

The magic of the coral reef starts underwater. That’s because it’s home to a wide range of animals and plants. Some of these include:

  • 70 hard coral species
  • 36 soft coral species
  • 500 fish species
  • 100’s of invertebrate species

Most of these didn’t make it to our list with scary animals in the ocean, mainly because they look astounding.

Belize Coral reef underwater
Underwater view of the coral reef / Wiki Commons

5. It’s the most popular tourist attraction in Belize

Over a quarter-million people visit Belize every year, and over half of these visitors come here especially to admire the country’s amazing coral reef.

The coral reef is an amazing place to snorkel and scuba dive as you can discover the colorful corals and swim together with the wide variety of marine animals that Iive here.

Yes, you can say hello to green sea turtles and a plethora of colorful fish is possible in this amazing piece of nature in the world.

Belize Coral reef green sea turtle
Meeting green sea turtles in the reef / Andy Blackledge / Wiki Commons

More interesting facts about the Belize Barrier Reef

6. The Belize Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the Northern Hemisphere. It features amazing atolls, hundreds of sand cays, and mangrove forests. It was therefore added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

7. The coral reef is so extensive that only about 10% of it has been explored. This means that of the dozens of coral species and hundreds of fish species, only a fraction has been discovered.

Brain Coral Belize
Detail of a so-called brain coral / Jayhern / Wiki Commons

8. Most of the reef has been transformed into a protected area. There are 7 nature reserves, including Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

9. The reef features over 450 protected cayes. These are low-elevation sandy islands that are situated on top of a coral reef. The total protected area of the reef totals 960 square kilometers (370 square miles).

Belize Barrier Reef caye
One of the reef’s caye’s / Wiki Commons

10. The most amazing feature of the Belize Barrier reef is a huge marine sinkhole referred to as the “Great Blue Hole.” It’s located near the central part of Lighthouse Reef, the easternmost atoll situated about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the mainland.

Great Blue hole aerial
Aerial view of the Great Blue Hole / Axelspace Corporation / Wiki Commons

11. The Great Blue Hole has a circular shape with a diameter of approximately 318 meters (1,043 feet) and it covers an area of 70,650 square meters (760,500 square feet).

12. It’s one of the most popular places in the world for scuba divers and was once placed in the “10 Most Amazing Places on Earth” by Discovery Channel.

Great Blue Hole Belize
A closer view of the Great Blue Hole / The TerraMar Project / Wiki Commons