The coral reefs in the Caribbean Coral Reefs are a major draw for tourists all around the world – and for good reason. The vibrant colours of the reefs, along with the beautiful Caribbean fish are outstanding and mesmerizing – providing the ultimate experience for any diver or snorkeler.
Currently the Caribbean hosts 9% of the total number of coral reefs in the world, which play a key part in the economy for both the tourism and fishing industries in these 38 countries.
Exploring The Caribbean Coral Reefs
All of the islands in the region offer spectacular Caribbean coral reef exploration opportunities, and they stood the test of time because of the Caribbean’s commitment to protecting these sites.
The reefs in the region feature a huge diversity of bright coral species, and provide homes for vast numbers of fish. With recent estimates, the Caribbean coral reefs have 65 species of hard corals, and almost 700 fish species.
Below we’ll take a closer look at the types of coral reefs in the Caribbean today, as well as the on-going initiatives that assure a healthy environment for them to flourish.
Additionally, we’ll give you our best island recommendations for exploring the Caribbean’s coral reefs.
Types of Caribbean Coral Reefs
There are two main types of coral reefs in the Caribbean.
Caribbean’s Fringing Reefs
Most Caribbean coral reefs are of the fringing type, distinguished by the lack of a lagoon or backreef zone (or the presence of a very small one). These reefs tend to be extensive and well developed.
The fringe reefs encircle most of the islands throughout the Caribbean, some of which can be found in shallow waters thus providing great snorkeling and diving opportunities.
The largest and most beautiful can be found along the coast of Cuba, Jamaica, and part of the Bahamas.
Caribbean’s Barrier Reefs
In addition to the fringing reefs, the Caribbean also has two barrier reefs. The Meso-American reef is 220 kilometres long, and runs between the coasts of Belize and Guatemala.
Another smaller, barrier-style reef also exists to the east of Nicaragua.
Protecting the Caribbean’s Coral Reefs
Only one sixth of the original ancient coral reef cover in the Caribbean remains today. Overfishing and lack of protection have harmed the ecosystem – but there is hope.
Recent changes to the legislation on the islands have lead to setting up more protected areas than ever before, and coral reefs are returning to their original state – which is great news for tourists!
Without the protection and legislation initiatives, it is theorized that Caribbean coral reefs could be lost within 20 years due to pollution, development, and overfishing.
4 Island Recommendations For Coral Reef Exploration
All of the islands are joining together in an attempt to balance use with conservation, in order to ensure the lasting legacy of the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Here are 4 great examples.
- Anguilla features a double reef system with a large variety of corals, the largest area of interest for tourists being the Shoal Bay Harbour. The island is also known for the sunken ships that become artificial reefs.
- Nevis has fantastic marine protected areas – which have created the opportunity for species to thrive.
- St. Barths has a similar initiative, with the St. Barths Marine Reserve attempting to marine resources.
- Mustique has an Environmental and Conservation Programme as well.
Any of these islands – which are actively involved in ensuring their reefs flourish and prosper – are great considerations for a Caribbean vacation that includes diving, snorkeling, and coral reef exploration.
Exploring the Caribbean’s Waters
To explore the Caribbean’s coral reefs, you first have to get here. We tell you the best way to travel in the Caribbean in our new guide – Flying Smarter In The Caribbean. Download your free copy today!
We can help you arrive in style to your Caribbean diving and snorkeling vacation, as we did many of our previous customers (see testimonials here). For any questions or queries, please get in touch and our Caribbean travel experts will be happy to help!
Images sources and special thanks: Inhabitat, Science Minded, ZooChat, Ocean PortalCaribbean Coral Reefs