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The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

The Caribbeans Great Ecosystem

Updated January 2021

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

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 islands perched on the reef include Isla ContoyIsla Mujeres and Cozumel in Mexico, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye in Belize and the Bay Islands of Honduras (including Utila and Roatan).

Sea Turtle At Isla Mujeres
Sea Turtle At Isla Mujeres

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).

The Blue Hole, Belize
The Blue Hole, Belize

Sea Life

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.

Scuba Diving On The Reef
Scuba Diving On The Reef

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.

Mahogany Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras
Mahogany Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras

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!

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