South Water Caye Marine Reserve in Belize

South Water Caye Marine Reserve is the largest protected marine park within Belize and part of Belize's World Heritage site. It has a total area of approximately 62 square miles and it is located 10 miles from the coast of Dangriga and Hopkins in Belize.

Together with the Gladden Spit Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, the Laughing Bird Caye Marine Reserve and the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, the South Water Caye Marine Reserve is the Southern Barrier Reef Complex. 
 
This reserve is home to sea grass beds, patch reefs, sand bores, mangrove habitat and more than a dozen islands. The coral reefs are a habitat for species such as the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus), the Black Grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci), the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus).


The islands include Man-O-War-Caye, which is a sanctuary for the frigate birds and the brown booby, the South Water Caye, the Tobacco Caye, both islands atop of the Barrier Reef for snorkeling of the beach, the Twin Caye, the Pelican Range, which are both mangrove islands and the Carrie Bow Caye.  
 
Four channels (cuts) break the reef crest south of the South Water Caye and are so allowing oceanic water from the Caribbean Sea to flow onto the continental shelf. These channels are named South Water Cut, Third Cut of the Reef, Tobacco Cut and Carrie Bow Caye Cut, referencing to the proximity and neighboring sand cayes. Third Cut of the Reef is a narrow channel where local deep water fish migrations funnel into the lagoon. Regularly spotted are large groupers and schools of horse-eyed jacks. Tobacco Cut is a deep channel where a lot of rays, such as sting rays, spotted eagle rays and sometimes manta rays, are located. 
 
Part of the South Water Caye Reserve is also the underwater cave Hell Hole with a mouth 10 to 15 feet wide. The walls and ledges of the cave display stalactites and stalagmites, eagle rays, moray eels, dolphin, rock snappers and a diversity of smaller fish. 
 
The South Water Caye Reserve is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site, which was established in 1996 for its outstanding universal value. Due to this international convention Belize has an obligation to conserve and protect the area. As a reserve, the area is zoned to protect fishing nurseries and unique habitats, but there are a lot of multi-use areas for snorkeling, fishing, diving and educational activities. These activities can be arranged by licensed tour operators from Dangriga, Hopkins and Placencia and also with the hotels and resorts on the islands in and around the reserve. 
 
The park fee is BZD 10 (USD 5) per person per day or BZD 30 (USD 15) per person per week. The station of the warden is located on the southern end of Twin Caye, but most tour operators and hotels will include this price in their package deals.