Hello again from Belize! Today we write from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, an island about 35 miles from the mainland. We traveled here on Wednesday, Day 5 of our trip, from Cristo Rey village. The day had to be timed carefully around the ferry schedule, so that meant being up around 6 am for breakfast and being on the road (with all of our luggage) by 7. On the way, we stopped at the Belize Zoo, and a “Baboon” (aka Howler Monkey) Sanctuary.
The Zoo was unlike most zoos you would find in the U.S. Rather than hosting lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my!), the Belize Zoo residents are all native to the country. In fact, many of the residents have been rescued and were brought to the zoo for rehabilitation. a few favorites were a Tapir that wanted to taste a few Go Pros, a male and female Puma chasing each other around, and Junior the Jaguar, who was showing off to a family of 3 doing the “Jaguar Encounter” at the zoo. A few of us (myself included) even conquered our fear of spiders and held a tarantula!
After the zoo we had lunch and went to the Howler Monkey Sanctuary. The local farmers have made an arrangement with the government to keep the area as a preserve to help the Howler Monkey population recover, and they offer tours for people to observe the troop interactions. We took a short walk and ran into a group of young children watching the monkeys. A few monkeys, including a mom carrying her baby, crawled down to a branch just above the children. Those monkeys definitely know how to pose for the camera! We watched them for a little bit, then continued on to Belize City.
We went directly to the ferry in Belize City, and left for San Pedro around 1:30. The ride was just over 2 hours through crystal clear, blue water, and we arrived at our beachfront hotel around 4 pm. We were able to relax for the remainder of the day, which was much needed after our early wake up call.
Yesterday, Day 6, we got up at a more reasonable time and left by boat to go snorkel the barrier reef. We went to Hol Chan, which means “little channel” in Mayan. The area was used by Mayans to go beyond the break waters and fish for food. It rained a bit on the way to the site, but stopped for our time in the water. When we got in, we immediately saw several types of fish, a ray, and even a young nurse shark swimming under the boat. We swam around the preserve for about an hour, and saw countless species of reef fish, nurse sharks, a green sea turtle, a spiny lobster, and, of course, coral.
After our snorkel at Hol Chan, we boated to another site called Shark Ray Alley, where nurse sharks and sting rays can be found in great numbers. We swam around the boat watching them for a short time, then headed back in to shore. On our way in, a thunder storm started brewing to the east, and the rain started just as we reached our dock. There were blustery winds, thunder, and lightning for about half an hour, then the clouds cleared and we had a beautiful, hot afternoon. You would have never known about the storm if it weren’t for the puddles.
The afternoon was spent around San Pedro’s shops and beaches. After dinner, we spent more time around town. There were a couple of performers at the center of town trying to do a flamethrowing act, but there was too much wind for them to complete it. The students played with some local children there instead until it was time to return to the hotel.
Today is our last full day in Belize. It is hard to “Belize” it is already coming to an end, although our Monarchs are missing their families and ready to come home. We will be enjoying several activities today to soak up every minute we have here, including some kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, shopping, and other memory-making. Don’t worry, pictures to come!