The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
The Caribbeans Great Ecosystem
Updated June 2023
About The Reef
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, also known as The Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef, is the most extensive barrier reef system in the Western Hemisphere. Running more than 700 miles along the eastern coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, the reef has been an adventurers’ paradise for centuries. Some of the Mexican islands perched on the reef include Isla Contoy, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel in Mexico, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye in Belize and the Bay Islands of Honduras (including Utila and Roatan).
Protected Wildlife Areas
Beyond simply being a sub-oceanic reef, the broader M.A.R., as many refer to it, boasts lagoons, mangrove forests, sand dunes, coastal wetlands and more. The reef system also includes various protected wildlife areas and parks, including the Belize Barrier Reef (Belize), Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park (Mexico), Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (Mexico), Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park (Honduras).
As far as sea life goes, visitors to the reef are in for a treat! Over 500 species of fish live here, 60 diverse coral species, four types of sea turtles, saltwater crocodiles, the largest number of whale sharks in the world and the largest number of manatees in the western Caribbean. As could be expected, this makes for one of the most popular snorkeling and diving locations in the world.
Living With The Reef
Aside from just being beautiful, the M.A.R. is a life source for many people who live and work along its shores. Tourism and the fishing industry (wild, deep-sea, or local fisheries) provide an incomparable income source for many locals. Thus, making the sustainability of healthy ecosystems an absolute must. Thankfully those who depend on the reef are working hard to teach visitors about the effects of climate change and bringing awareness to the importance of eco-friendly practices.
A Note From Team Island Life
Please do your part to protect the oceans and the reefs. Please don’t use sunscreen in the water, don’t litter into the ocean, don’t take living things from the sea, don’t buy shells or other souvenirs harvested from the ocean and most importantly of all, don’t touch the wildlife or the coral. Thank you!
This Post Has 3 Comments
Thank you for all this information on the Barrier Reef. This was all great information. Do you know if there is any type of sunscreen that could be safe in the water?
There are a variety of reef safe sunblock, but I recommend wearing a UV swim shirt instead. Better for the environment and protects your skin from little jellies. Take a look at our What To Pack Guide.
Great post. Perfect amount of information. Well done guys.