Belize’s Barrier Reef, the Second-Longest in the World
Here, the Caribbean coast of Central America is visible, including (from top left to bottom right) the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Belize, eastern Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and western Costa Rica.
The Pacific Ocean lies to the southwest (bottom) and the Caribbean Sea to the northeast (top).
In the Caribbean, off the coast of Belize, Ambergris Caye can be seen. The country’s largest island, it is mostly a ring of white sand beach around mangrove swamp in the centre.
A Barrier Reef lies about half a mile off the winward side of the island. Flanking much of Belize’s 386 kilometres (240 mi) of predominantly marshy coastline, it is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia).
To the east of the Barrier Reef are three separate atoll reefs. There is also a fourth atoll reef, just to the north in Mexican waters. The three Belize atoll reefs are formed on two tiers of submarine ridges separated by deep marine trenches.
Inside the reef the water is shallow, with a blue tinge; outside the reef the water is deep and from the air shows a dark royal blue. On very clear days the reef appears as a narrow yellow line dividing the two shades of blue.