From Manchester to Mexico and Mangroves

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Well fed volunteers on the first Belize expedition

by Christiana Hayward

Leaving the cold, grey persistent drizzle of Manchester was not difficult; my flight to the States uneventful and then a few short flights and I landed in Cancun at about half nine at night. There was a bus to Cancun city bus terminal almost immediately and from there I took the eleven o’clock, overnight, bus down to the Mexico Belize border.

Had I been paying more attention to my fellow travellers I would have noticed that they all had blankets and pillows with them, I was soon to find out why.  The bus was extremely new, fast and had the most fierce air conditioning system I have ever come across! Once I had put on all the clothes in my hand luggage and my coat I was able to sleep on the very clean comfortable reclining seats.  The bus arrived in Chetumal at 05.00 and from there I took a taxi to the Mexican border and then across a little bit of no-man’s land to the border of Belize.  From Belize it was another short taxi ride to Corozal where I was dropped off at the Thunderbolt water taxi jetty.

The sun was just rising like red molten lava over the horizon of the sea, there was perfect calm as other passengers slowly arrived, stretching and waking. Nothing was hurried.

After a twenty minute ride across the bay the water taxi arrived in Sarteneja and I was greeted by the ever smiling JJ; the suave Jon; the happiest diver in the world – Al and, later, Nick, our field scientist, who defies description except to say he is a whirlwind!

Arriving at the sleepy fishing village of Sarteneja one immediately felt welcomed by the BV staff and the villagers, this became even more apparent as I met my homestay family.  I have a lovely room very close to the sea overlooking a beautiful garden.  I settled in and then we met the other two volunteers who have arrived for the trip. They are two fantastic guys who are enthusiastic knowledgeable and great fun to be with.

We all feel so privileged to be here at the beginning of a new BV venture, we know it will be hard work but we have so much to look forward to.  We have started learning our fish and our benthic ID with Taco (Nick) and we discussed at length with all of the staff what we want to get out of this experience.

We have met various amazing people from other conservation groups and have met people from the village who have such hopes of BV and what we can give to the community.

It is now up to us to deliver, just as the people in the Wildtracks Manatee Rescue Centre have made a difference to the manatees we are starting on an adventure where so much is expected of us, we need to start our science; we need to work with this community and with their help we need to deliver what they want of us.

We start tomorrow when we make our way by sailboat to the Mangroves near Bacalar Chico then travel through the mangroves to our camp and start diving.

We will be on a 20km beach of pristine white sand and unexplored reefs. We are incredibly lucky to be the first to work in this area and we get to dive the most beautiful barrier reef with the most brilliant people.  It’s going to be wonderful!