Belize

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    Satellite radar topography image of a portion of Central America. Due to persistent cloud cover, obtaining conventional high-altitude photos of this region is extrordinarily difficult. Radar's ability to penetrate clouds and make 3-D measurements allowed scientists to generate the first complete high-resolution topographic map of the entire region. All of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras are visible on this image, as well as a considerable portion of southern Mexico (the Yucatan Peninsula). Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/NGA.
    A view of the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest coral reef in the Western and Northern Hemispheres and second largest worldwide (after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia). Running the entire coastline of Belize in Central America, the Belize Barrier Reef supports a large number of patch reefs, shoals, and over 1,000 islands called "cayes." Most of these cayes, and the entire coastline of the country outside of settlements, are protected by huge forests of mangrove. The Turneffe Atoll is shown on the right side of the image. As one of three large coral atolls outside of the reef, it stretches over 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (10 mi) wide and is surrounded by one of the most fertile marine ecosystems in the world - a natural nursery for fish, sharks, and crocodiles. Belize City is situated on the outlet of land near the center of the image. It is the largest city in Belize and is the nation's principal port and its financial and industrial hub. Image courtesy of NASA.
    Chetumal Bay lies on the border between Mexico and Belize. To the east of the bay, Ambergris Cay (in Belize) connects the Belize Barrier Reef to the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico). The north of the island is Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. Here, the barrier reef comes very close to the east side of the island. Image courtesy of NASA.