Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, Belize
The Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve is located on the northern tip of Ambergris Caye and is only accessible by boat. This 23-square mile (60-sq km) reserve consists of sinkholes, meandering creeks, inter-island lagoons, coastal mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reef. Visitors to the coral reef can expect to see manatees, nesting sea turtles, spawning groupers, deep water conch, and reef species. Flourishing bird populations also live throughout the reserve, providing travelers with outstanding birding opportunities.
The area encompassing the reserve is deeply rooted in Mayan history, as it once served as a trading outpost with the neighboring Yucatán. Ruins exist but they have not been fully excavated. Visitors can learn about the history and ecology of the area at the reserve’s ranger station and modest visitor center.
The majority of tours to the reserve leave from San Pedro. The boat ride takes approximately one hour. Because boats must travel outside of the barrier reef, the trip can be rough during windy conditions. The relative difficulty of getting here makes the area very remote, so you should encounter very few other visitors during your tour.
Most tours travel through the mangrove lagoons and also include stops at the beach and nearby snorkeling sites, including Rocky Point, the only point on the Belize Barrier Reef where the reef extends all the way to the shoreline. This is generally a full-day tour, and visitors should bring along bug spray, sunscreen, snacks, and water.