Belize: Natural Landscape

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Belize: Natural Landscape

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 17:21
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Belize is located along the Caribbean coast of northeastern Central America. Known as British Honduras until 1973, its geography consists of heavily forested plains and the Maya Mountains. The Belize Barrier Reef System flanks the coastline while cays and atolls dot the reef.

The Natural Landscape of Belize

Belize is located along the Caribbean coast of northeastern Central America. The country borders Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Known as British Honduras until 1973, it was the last British colony on the American mainland and is often considered a Caribbean country in Central America due to its history.

The Belize Barrier Reef System, the second-longest barrier reef in the world at 300 km (190 mi), flanks much of the predominantly marshy coastline. Small cayes dot the reef.

The country's north consists mainly of flat, swampy coastal plains, heavily forested in places. The low range of the Maya Mountains is located in the southern section of the country.


According to the Global Biodiversity Index, despite its small size, Belize is the 67th most biodiverse country in the world, with 531 species of birds, 37 amphibian species, 650 species of fish, 148 species of mammals, 140 species of reptiles, and 4,192 species of vascular plants.


Conservation in Belize is a significant and ongoing effort to protect the country's diverse ecosystems, wildlife, and natural resources.

Belize is renowned for its pristine tropical rainforests, coral reefs, and rich biodiversity. Conservation initiatives in Belize are vital for maintaining these natural treasures and promoting sustainable development.

Challenges to conservation in Belize include illegal logging, unsustainable fishing practices, habitat destruction, and the potential impacts of climate change.


Belize has a tropical climate, with warm, humid weather year-round. The mean annual temperature is 27 °C (81 °F), and the average humidity is 85%.

There are two main seasons in Belize: the wet season and the dry season.

  • The wet season runs from June to November, characterized by heavy rainfall and high humidity.

  • The dry season runs from December to May, with less rainfall and lower humidity. However, even during the dry season, there is still some rainfall in Belize.

Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean Sea.

The coastal regions are generally warmer and more humid than the interior regions. The mountains in the country's west are also cooler and less humid.

Map of Central America

Location map of the countries of Central America

Natural Geography of Belize

Geographic Regions

Belize can be divided into four main geographic regions:

  • the northern limestone lowlands

  • the Maya Mountains in the south

  • the narrow coastal plain

  • the offshore atolls and cayes

Northern Lowlands

The country's northern half consists of limestone lowlands and swamps less than 60 m (200 ft) above sea level. Eighteen rivers and many perennial streams drain these low-lying areas.

Flat agricultural fields, small farming towns, and lowland rainforests dominate the area.

Westward from the northern coastal areas, the terrain changes from mangrove swamps to tropical pine savannah and hardwood forest. The flora here is highly diverse.

Maya Mountains

The Maya Mountains of the south dominate all but the narrow coastal plain. A plateau of igneous rock cut by erosion into hills and valleys, the rugged but relatively low mountains stretch in a southwesterly to northeasterly direction. The highest point is Victoria Peak at 1,120 m (3,674 ft).

The Cockscomb Range, a spur of the Maya Mountains, runs toward the sea and rises to its highest point at Doyle's Delight at 1,124 m (3,687 ft). Because Doyle's Delight is just a spur slightly higher than the surrounding mountain range rather than an actual peak, it had no official name for most of Belize's history.

These heavily forested highlands are sparsely inhabited and are covered with shallow, highly erodible soils of low fertility.

Coastal Plain

The coastline is flat and swampy, with many lagoons, especially in the northern and central parts of the country.

Scattered oaks, pines, and palmetto palms on the southern coastal plain and inland from Belize City mark the open savanna (grassland).

Offshore Cayes and Atolls

Almost countless offshore cayes, atolls, and lagoons fringe the Caribbean coastline.

The Belize Barrier Reef System comprises the most significant barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and estuaries.

See more: Cayes, Reefs, and Atolls of Belize

Topographic map of Belize

Topographic map of Belize

Bodies of Water

Belize has many lakes, lagoons, and approximately 35 major rivers, the longest of which is the Belize River. The bodies of water are essential for drinking, agriculture, and hydroelectric power generation. They are also popular for recreation, such as fishing, swimming, and rafting.

See more: Water Bodies of Belize

Administrative Divisions

The administrative divisions of Belize include six districts. The six districts are located in different geographic regions of the country.

See more: Cultural Landscape of Belize

Map depicting the regions of Belize

Map depicting the regions of Belize

Natural Regions

Approximately 60% of Belize is forested, comprising at least 50 tree species. Savanna, scrubland, and wetland constitute the remainder of the landscape. Important mangrove ecosystems are also represented.

The wildlife of Belize is abundant and includes tapir, deer, jaguar, puma, Baird's tapir, American crocodile, manatee, and many species of turtles, tortoises, birds, reptiles, insects, and fish.

Ecological Regions

The following is a list of terrestrial ecoregions in Belize, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Belize is in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate.

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests

  • Belizian pine forests


  • Belizean Reef mangroves

  • Belizean Coast mangroves

Belize physiographic map

Belize physiographic map