Mesoamerican Reef

Mesoamerican Reef

With 900 km of extension, this great coral reef is the largest in the Atlantic Ocean and the second largest in the world, only inferior to the Great Barrier Reef of the East of Australia. It bears that name because it goes from Mexico to Honduras. It begins on the island of Holbox, in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, turns south and covers the entire Quintana Roo Coast, continues in front of Belize and Guatemala, to end in Roatán and the other Bay Islands in Honduras.

This more developed reef forms the habitat of 65 species of stony corals, 350 species of crustaceans with sharp armor or transparent shells, 35 types of sponges of amazing dimensions and shapes, 24 species of aquatic mammals and more than 500 species of multicolored fish, associated to the reef or grouped in walking schools. It is also a refuge for numerous protected or endangered species, among which are sea turtles (green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle and leatherback turtle), the queen conch, the Caribbean manatee, the American crocodile, the crocodile morelet, elkhorn snail and black coral.

More than a simple barrier reef, it is an intricate coral system. Twenty thousand years ago, during the last ice age, the level of the Caribbean Sea was 120 meters below its current level. As the continental ice melted, the sea level gradually rose. The coral, which requires surface water to live, grew with it from then on and colonized this part of the coastal zone until about six thousand years ago, when the water level stabilized. Meanwhile, complementary ecosystems such as mangroves grew on the coasts, and brackish water lagoons formed that together created this treasure trove of biodiversity that is the northwestern Caribbean. The human presence in the last millennia has put many of the species present here at risk and some, even, such as the Caribbean monk seal, have become extinct. However, this reef is still home to several very striking species. If you visit the reef, be sure not to damage it and to hire the services of authorized companies. So you and the next generations who come to visit can enjoy it.