By Laura Brodie, Blue Ventures volunteer, Belize
My Belize adventure started in the quiet fishing village of Sarteneja. Having travelled from London via Cancun, Playa de Carmen, Chetumal and Corozal, I was pleased to have reached my final destination. As soon as I stepped off the Thunderbolt I was greeted by the sunny smile of Blue Ventures Field Scientist Jen who introduced me to my homestay family for the week. Keen to explore, I borrowed a bike and checked out the remote and secluded beaches of Sarteneja before meeting up with my fellow volunteers from Denmark and France.
The first few days were spent having a crash course in Spanish from BV Medic Gina and getting familiar with the fish families and coral we would be identifying in the Caribbean Sea. We also joined forces with several local NGOs to host a Shark Day in the village to help educate the kids on the importance of these majestic animals in safeguarding the biodiversity of our oceans. It was then time to say goodbye to the good friends we had made and head out to the Mesoamerican barrier reef for three weeks. Delayed by tropical storms, we finally reached Bacalar Chico Dive Camp following a rough and bumpy journey. As the dive camp came into view with coconut palms gently swaying in the breeze, I spotted a prime place for my hammock to escape the mosquitoes and sand flies. Having been vacated by the previous expedition several weeks before, we set to work clearing mountains of seaweed and cleaning the sand storm that had accumulated in the huts. Once the generator and the compressor were in place we were ready to get wet for our check out dive. In reality under water, the fish and corals were much easier to identify compared to the pictures in the heavy books I had purchased back home. I also immediately started work with BV Expedition Manager and Dive Instructor Michael on my Padi Rescue course. After a number of challenging scenarios in the water and some near drowning incidents devised by my victims, I passed with 98% so was really chuffed.
On a bad weather day when we were unable to dive, we spent a fascinating morning with the Fisheries Department assisting with their sea grass survey to identify the abundance of food available for manatees and turtles in the shallow waters. We are also hoping to accompany them later in the week to visit the turtle nests that will hatch in the coming months. Our days start early with bird surveys in the mangroves but our security watchman Javier is always on hand to shake the coconuts from the tree for us to enjoy at the end of the day. Then it’s back to the classroom to nail the fish and coral tests and assist in BV’s vital research in protecting the marine environment.