Bacalar Chico: A Secluded Belize Marine Reserve For Your Bucket List

by Larry Waight

Belize is famous for its amazing ecosystems and the many reserves that protect them. Many visitors know about Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Preserve. However, one of the lesser known but equally extraordinary preserves is Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. With 15,000 acres of marine reserve and 12,000 acres of land, this vast preserve includes mangrove lagoons, shoreline, parts of the Belize Barrier Reef, semi-deciduous forests and littoral forests. Not to mention, it is one the seven composite sites making up Belize’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bacalar Chico provides important protection for hundreds of fish, bird, and reptile and mammal species. It is one of the region’s largest nesting beaches for endangered sea turtles, including loggerheads, green turtles and hawksbills. As one of the few protected areas of littoral forest in Belize, it is an important breeding ground for many species of waterfowl, including red-footed boobies and white-lipped peccaries. Although, jabiru storks, yellow-headed parrots and many other bird species also nest and breed here.

Fish, Wildlife and Reptiles

Bacalar-Chico-Marine-Reserve-and-National-Park-by Fisheries

Photo via Belize Fisheries Department

Crocodiles, manatees’, dolphins and nurse sharks live in the lagoons and protected sea areas. The sea grass beds are home to spawning fish of all kinds. The Belize Fisheries Ministry and the Green Reef Environmental Institute manage the park together. Fishing under strict regulations is permitted, and the reserve provides a source of important fish stocks to Belize’s subsistence fishers. Meanwhile, the forests are prime wild lands for Belize’s native big cats, including jaguars and ocelots.

Major Maya Ruins

Photo via Astrum Helicopters

The reserve is also home to important Maya ruins. Over 6000 years ago, the Maya created a canal connecting this part of Belize to what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The canal was a major trading route, and many Maya artifacts exist throughout the reserve. You can visit the parts open to the public at Bacalar Chico National Park. Additionally, it is on the northern tip of Ambergris Caye at the Bay of Chetumal. It is the only place in Belize where the reef meets land.

How to Visit Bacalar Chico

Bacalar Chico Dive Camp Belize

Photo via Caribbean Adventures Belize

Bacalar Chico is a place of stunning beauty. If you want to immerse yourself in Belize’s rare ecosystems, visit this amazing, diverse preserve. Tour guides provide guided boating, diving, hiking and snorkeling tours to Bacalar Chico. However, sport fishing and motorized boats are prohibited. If you want to visit, you must hire a tour operator with a special license. 

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