The Mangroves

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By Dan Purnell, BV Belize Volunteer, Sarteneja, Belize. It happens to be another windy day in Belize.  This usually means that it will be a “Plan B” day; we won’t be doing much in the way of diving.  But no worries, there is another, even more fascinating world, to explore.  We will venture out to explore the Mangroves.

The Mangroves around Bacalar Chico are teaming with an outrageous assortment of life.  It is literally a fish stew, with rays, tarpons, turtles, crocks and schools of fish competing for their niches.  Manatees mow the sea grass lawns and, birds watch for unsuspecting prey from the skies.  All these creatures, large and small, call the Mangroves home.

Our famous Captain Samos spotted some manatees in a mangrove channel.  We snorkelled with these gentle giants.  They would check us out as they silently glided around us.   I was mesmerized, as I watched their huge rounded tails effortlessly pulse through the deep green waters.  One turned to approach me, looking directly into my eyes.  We exchanged glances, before he slipped back into his sea grass world.  This was such an awesome experience.

Bird watching has also become a highlight for me.  These mangrove forests are a Mecca for birds.  There are big birds, tiny birds, fat birds, skinny birds, long legged birds and short legged birds and birds with happy faces.  We sat silently doing a bird survey in Crock lagoon.  Tarpon splashed, snook schooled, and bait fish rippled on the surface.  A couple crocks plied the waters, as ospreys, herons and pelicans patrolled the skies.  We slowly motored through the dark, narrow channels, with a green canopy overhead.  We listened in silence to the cries of birds, and the splash of fish, as the sun ushered in a new day.

After a day of snorkelling with manatees, exploring sinkholes teaming with fish, and watching birds, I retire to my hammock suspended between two palm trees.  As the inky night unveils the Milky Way, I lounge in my hammock, looking at the stars through the rustling palms.