Visit One Of The Worlds Largest Barrier Reefs Off The Coast Of This Central American Country

Coral reefs make for vibrant universes under the sea. They are filled with countless animals, from colorful fish to sea turtles. Fringing reefs are close to the shore while barrier reefs are further away. The Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia spans more than 115,000 square miles, making it the largest grouping of coral reefs in the world. However, flights Down Under are quite lengthy for most of the planet. If that sounds too daunting, a small island in Central America might be a conceivable alternative.

The small tropical country of Belize is a Caribbean vacation hotspot that borders Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala. The tip of a smaller peninsula that jets off of the Yucatan called Ambergris Caye is part of Belize as well. Near this part of the country is where you will find the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. The reef features marine reserves teeming with wildlife and plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities.

Marine reserves get visitors close to incredible wildlife

Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the oldest marine reserve in Belize and covers around 3 square miles. Hol Chan translates to "little channel" in Mayan, a language attributed to the Maya people who are native to the area. Among the many iconic animals that live in the reserve are docile nurse sharks, stingrays, three species of sea turtles, two species of dolphin, parrotfish, angelfish, and barracudas. Coral formations include brain, leaf, staghorn, and more. There are four zones of the reserve: Hol Chan Cut, Seagrass Beds, Mangroves, and Shark Ray Alley.

South of Ambergris Caye is the island of Caye Caulker and the neighboring Caye Caulker Marine Reserve. While the sea life is similar to that of Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Caye Caulker Marine Reserve is more affordable to visit than Hol Chan, and less crowded too. It is around 61 square miles, part of which includes barrier reef snorkeling and diving.

Head to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye to find snorkeling and diving tours

Ambergris Divers Belize in Ambergris Caye's town of San Pedro offers scuba diving and snorkeling tour packages varying in length. Its boats leave from a dock near the San Pedro Belize Express ferry, which takes visitors from Belize City to Ambergris Caye and to the island of Caye Caulker. Star Tours Belize on Caye Caulker takes scuba and snorkeling trips to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Caye Caulker Marine Reserve.

Marine wildlife is experiencing devastating drops in population due to overfishing and pollution. Hol Chan and Caye Caulker Marine Reserves are protected locations, especially given that multiple endangered species like sea turtles dwell in these waters too. Do your part in protecting these places by not touching any animals, plants, or coral. While in the water or on the shore, mitigate the effects of overtourism by leaving the land exactly how you found it.