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While not technically their own district in Belize, people often talk about the reef and its surrounding islands as its own special place within the country. The barrier reef spans 185 miles long (the longest in the Western Hemisphere) and its sites, inhabitants and mystique are profound.
The cayes (pronounced keys) are islands that are located between the mainland and the barrier reef. Although the mangrove cayes are normally uninhabitable by humans, they do provide a superior habitat for birds and marine life. Many birds, fish, shellfish, and marine organisms begin their lives within the protection of the mangrove.
On the other hand, the island cayes, which are distinguishable by their palm trees, have provided the foundation for the development of many resorts to serve the water sports enthusiasts, marine naturalists, or those who simply prefer a beach setting as they vacation. The cayes and atolls provide superior opportunity for scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, sailing and sea kayaking.
Scheduled flights and regular passenger boats go from Belize City to San Pedro (on Ambergris Caye) and Caye Caulker, and from Corozal to San Pedro. Caye Chapel and Northern Caye (Lighthouse Reef) also have airstrips. No scheduled boats run to/from the outer islands, but most of the lodges located there provide transportation for their guests.