|When the famous captain Jacques Cousteau visited Belize and declared it the best place on earth to dive, he kick-started a huge travel and sports industry. Although the site is astonishing, it's now under peril because of issues with its conservation. It's the second natural UNESCO site I visit in a row, and this one is more spectacular by all accounts.|
The major element of this UNESCO site
is the barrier of reef is the largest one in the Northern hemisphere
and cover all the coast of Belize... even extending into the Mexican
coast in the North. It's an extremely rich environment with a large
variety of fishes and mamals, but also of the coral species as well.
Of course, most of the site is under water... although in some points
the reef is only inches away from the surface.
The site also includes mangroves and
cayes. The mangroves are both in the middle of the water (sometimes
a few kilometres offshore) and along the coast. The cayes, which are
essentially sea sand dunes that form islands, are located just inside
the barrier. There are two very large cayes near Belize City which
are inhabited and act as hubs for the huge snorkeling and diving
Today, I've been to one of those cayes
and took a snorkeling tour. We visited 3 sites... but two especially
interesting in relation to the UNESCO site. The first of those stops
were in the Sharks Alley, which is a shark nursery. We saw at least
a dozen small sharks (up to 90 cm long) near the boat... and we
touched them delicately. They are used to be fed and pet... so no
danger there. Same thing with the stingrays we also saw in the same
spot. Since the captains of the boats perpetuate a tradition put in
place by fishermen a long time ago by throwing some pieces of fish
for the sharks... they know exactly where to get a free meal.
The barrier of reef stops the mighty ocean.
The last spot we went too was very
close to the actual barrier... we were just about 100 metres away
from the actual barrier that stops the huge waves from the open sea.
It's very spectacular to see in fact an army of little living beings
stand up and halt the mighty ocean.
The site was added to the list in 1995.
However, in 1999 it was places on the danger list, and is still
there. Why? Because there are some cuts of the mangrove fields that
are being done and they alter the fragile balance of the area. Then
there's the constant human development in the area, especially on the
two major cayes offshore of the Northern Belize. Let's hope the
government will put in place measures to protect this jewel.
See the water ground next to the barrier.