Follow along with our campers as they explore the Belize Barrier Reef from their home base on beautiful South Water Caye. We'll update this page daily with the latest news from their expedition.
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Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
Day 6 was eventful, but it is sadly at an end.
We started the day off exploring a patch reef not too far off the coast of South Water Caye. This spot is called Aquarium, because of the vast number of species which can be seen there. There we saw several large Spotted Eagle Rays, a Moray Eel, and many other beautiful creatures. As usual, the water was lovely and clear. We then ventured to Whale Shoal. Sadly, there are no whales there; the 'whale' refers to a Sperm Whale which got caught in the shallows there. Here we saw many beautiful Queen Angelfish and Fan Corals adorned with Flamingo Tongues.
In the afternoon, we went our separate ways to enjoy the exquisite scenery and bask in the sunlight. Around dinner, we presented our art projects, which ranged from drawings to interpretive dance to a rockin' rendition of Under the Sea by the Hot Crustacean Band. It was great to see the creativity of the group as a whole. After a delicious dinner, we gathered together to watch the sunset, then headed back to the ocean for a wonderful night snorkel. Decorated with glow-sticks and flashlights, we dove into the dark water. There we saw a huge Barracuda, three Octopi, and a large Nurse Shark. It was really amazing to see how the ocean is transformed at night.
We ended the night roasting marshmallows in the bonfire and playing games.
Though we are sad that the week is almost ended, we can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring!
From Yours Truly,
The HOT Crustacean Band ;) (aka Hannah, Rachel, and Zada!)
Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
(a summary of Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017)
I apologize that we didn’t update you on our adventures yesterday, we’ve been quite busy in the evenings working on our independent art and science projects. The campers are putting the final touches on these projects and are preparing for presentations tonight and tomorrow. Also, we the WiFi has been down all day (Thursday) - the joys of field station life!
While the campers were fast asleep this morning, I wrote a quick update on our day yesterday.
After a wonderful Belizean breakfast of fry jacks and eggs (smothered in Marie Sharp’s hot sauce of course), we set off for our journey to Tobacco Caye Range at 9:00 AM sharp. Our first stop was Bird Island – a small mangrove island that serves as a rookery for Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. As we approached the island, we could see the frigates soaring overhead and we could begin to smell the fishy guano. Loud clacks and chatters filled the air while the birds dove all around our boat and watched us from their perches. We got an up-close look at the fuzzy white nestlings with big doe-like eyes and the striking coloration of the Brown Boobies (a new species for me, the bird nerd in me was so excited!).
Next up was a mangrove snorkel to explore the ecosystem that is so important in the life history of many coral reef fish. We did this dive sans-fins to not stir up the mucky sediment, and floated on our bellies into the roots of the mangroves. The water was surprisingly clear, as most of us are familiar with the tannic mangrove waters around Sanibel. Under the roots we saw many Cassiopeia, or upside-down jellies, that welcomed us with their itchy stinging cells. We also saw juvenile barracuda, mangrove snappers, pork fish, and even a lionfish all tucked deep inside the roots. It was amazing to see that the mangrove roots were a host to thousands of different organisms – each rootlet was carpeted with sponges, tunicates, and calcareous algae. You could really get a sense for how important this ecosystem is for our ocean.
Our final stop of the morning was another snorkel along the reef crest on the Belize Barrie Reef System – it still amazes us how close and accessible the barrier reef system is to our field station. We rolled off the boat in full snorkel gear, and made our way to the edge of the reef. Almost immediately off of the boat, we were graced with the presence of about 4 tarpon, where we free-dove down to try to catch a closer look at these large fish. We made our way to the coral heads where we were greeted by small colonies of Acropora corals and our favorite dazzling reef fish. Mid-snorkel, I heard Metin call out my name, so I swam over to see what’s up. To all of our excitement, Metin had caught a sharksucker fish that had imprinted on him and thought he was a big predatory fish! Sharksuckers and remoras are small, elongated fish that are known to latch on or hover close to larger predatory fish to gain protection and food. As Metin swam and twirled around in the water, the sharksucker stayed close to his body and did not seem to want to leave! After awhile, he shared it with Emma, who was overjoyed to share the experience. Other notable species on this dive were spotted eagle rays, yellow-tailed damselfish, a batwing crab, and of course, tons of parrotfish that were audibly munching on the corals.
After our action packed morning of diving, the campers enjoyed some swimming at the dock, naps in hammocks, and journaling about their days. The evening hours brought us a delicious fried chicken dinner where we shared our “Creature of the Day” assignments, followed by art projects and soldier hermit crab projects after the sun went down.
It’s hard to believe that it is already Thursday but we are ready to soak up every moment in the water for the next two days.
Nicole and the crew
Tuesday, August 1st, 2017
Our third day was outstanding! We started our day by snorkeling at a sink hole. When we were there, we saw many species including a nurse shark and a stingray. The nurse shark had a now healed bite out of its dorsal fin, which was most likely received by a larger shark. It was amazing to see the land sheerly drop to 30 feet where you could no longer see the bottom.
The next thing on our adventure was exploring a patch reef on the south side of Carrie Bow Caye. The water was crystal clear which allowed us to see many different species. Some of the species we saw were a Scorpionfish, Tarpon, Rainbow Parrot Fish, and a Spotted Eagle Ray.
Later in the day, a part of the group went kayaking while the rest relaxed in the shade. Before dinner, we all met in the dining hall to play board games. We're all excited for another day of snorkeling, relaxing, and playing games together.
Brody and friends :)
P.S. the food is great!
Monday, July 31st, 2017
Our second day on South Water Caye was really amazing!
We started out with a trip to the Smithsonian field station on Carrie
Bow Cay, where we learned all about coral reef ecology and the
research projects that the scientists there are currently conducting.
Notably, we got a chance to look at the samples of rose coral that
researchers are testing for micro-organisms. It was incredibly cool to
see science at work here!
Our next adventure was a mid-morning snorkel in crystal clear and
refreshingly cool water. Some of our finds were a barracuda, a massive
school of blue tangs, a donkey dung sea cucumber, and a nurse shark.
Equally exciting to see were a myriad of species of fish darting in
and out of the abundant corals. The water was really beautiful, but we
were all saddened to see a lot of of plastic residue drifting around.
It reminded us all how important it is to attempt to limit the use of
plastic in our lives so we can keep our oceans blue!
When we got back, Doc Bruce taught us about DNA and RNA. The rest of
the afternoon was filled with swimming, throwing coconuts for
Reef-boy, the friendly island dog, hanging out in hammocks, and
journaling about marine creatures we decided to research for the day.
We're all having an awesome time here, and we're super excited for
tomorrow and the rest of the week!
Zada + the Squad
Sunday, July 30th, 2017
We have finished our first full day here on South Water Caye and have nothing but good things to share!
After a wake up call and breakfast we set out on the boat to the Forereef Slope off the shore of the island. Masks and fins were strapped on and soon 20 eager marine explorers were in the water. The cool water welcomed us as we approached the spur-and-groove reef. We spent our time diving under the surface and exploring the mounds of coral that offered its beauty. We discovered little creatures under the coral overhangs and inside tiny caves just big enough to hold a hidden creature. The best things to see are the ones who have to be found. The reef was alive with corals ranging from Elk Horn and Stag Horn to Lettuce Leaf. We saw a Spotted Eagle Ray, Caribbean Reef Squid, a Nurse Shark and many many types of colorful reef fish. It is truly incredible to dive down 30 feet and hold onto the rock of the reef at the same level as the sea creatures. There is so much more to be seen from that point of view than from the surface. It almost feels as if you are a fish, that is until human reality calls and it's time to return to the surface for air. The beautiful reef was an amazing first dive.
We came back for lunch and then had free time which consisted of identifying fish we saw this morning, relaxing in hammocks, backflipping off the dock into the water, cracking open coconuts and hanging out in the seagrass beds. We have been journaling and have been researching different species to write about daily. Today was a very successful day and we are so excited to see what the rest of the week has in store for us!
Be on the look out for tomorrow night's email, we can't wait to share our adventures with you all!
Emily and the Belize Crew :)
Saturday, July 29th, 2017
We have arrived safely at the IZE field station on South Water Caye. We had a long but fantastic travel day through the Belize countryside and finished off the day with a snorkel. We've already seen a sea turtle, spotted eagle ray, and so many wonderful corals. Tonight we are getting settled in to our cabins and are about to eat dinner.
We will touch in more later but we wanted to let you know that we are safe and sound.
Nicole and the Belize crew