Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (1996)
Belize (British Honduras)

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The coastal area of Belize is an outstanding natural system consisting of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and estuaries. The system's seven sites illustrate the evolutionary history of reef development and are a significant habitat for threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile. 

The northern half of Belize consists of lowlands, large areas of which are swampy. The southern half is dominated by mountain ranges, notably the Maya Mountains, which rise to a maximum elevation of 1,120 m (3,675 ft) atop Victoria Peak. The Caribbean coastline is fringed by coral barrier reefs and numerous cays (islets). The principal streams are the Belize River; the Río Azul, which forms much of the boundary with Mexico; and the Sarstún River, which forms the southwestern boundary with Guatemala. The climate of Belize is subtropical, moderated by sea breezes along the coast. 

Belize 1981. Tapir.

Belize 1983. Jaguar.

Belize 1990. Turtle.

Mangrove swamp vegetation is found along the coast. Wildlife includes jaguar, deer, tapir, and numerous species of birds and reptiles. 

Belize 1987. Souvenir sheet. Indigenous primates. Black Spider Monkey.


  • Belize 1981. Tapir. 

  • Belize 1983. Jaguar. 

  • Belize 1990. Turtle. 

  • Belize 1987. Souvenir sheet. Indigenous primates. Black Spider Monkey. 

Some 59 percent of Belize is covered by forests. Deciduous trees are found in the north; tropical hardwood trees predominate in the south. Principal species include the commercially important mahogany, cedar, and rosewood, as well as pine, oak, and palms. 

Belize. British Honduras 1938. Mahogany Cutting.    

Belize. British Honduras 1969. Timber Industry. Hardwood trees.

Belize. British Honduras 1970. Hardwood. Santa Maria tree and wood.

Belize. British Honduras 1971. Hardwood. Tubroos.

In pre-Columbian times Belize was part of the territory of the Maya. It was included in the Viceroyalty of New Spain in the 1500s, and sometime later English woodcutters from Jamaica established a settlement on the Belize River. 

Belize 1974. Maya Pottery. Stag.

Belize 1975. Maya Art.

Belize. British Honduras 1938. Mayan Figures.

During the wars between England and Spain in the 1700s, Spain failed to dislodge the British from the area. In 1836, after the emancipation of Central America from Spanish rule, the British claimed the right to administer the region; it was declared a British colony, subordinate to Jamaica, in 1862 and an independent crown colony in 1884.

Sources and links: 

There are at present no other World Heritage Sites registered in Belize. For more information about the Barrier Reef Reserve System, please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Belize-section

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Revised 03 aug 2006  
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