By Sabine, Blue Ventures volunteer, Belize
Week one of our expedition was pretty exciting; arriving in Sarteneja, moving in with my Belizean host family, getting to know all the other volunteers and staff members, as well as absorbing new scientific knowledge on fish and coral. I arrived in Sarteneja two days before the expedition started. I checked in with my host family and was totally blown away by their hospitality and friendliness. Within a second I felt part of their family, a home very far away from home. I hung out with the daughters of the family, ate delicious food, watched movies and explored the little town by bicycle. I discovered that Sarteneja has 2000 inhabitants, 20 churches and 3 bars. There is even a disco, where the party people of the village dance the ‘Tornado’. It is the only place in Belize where you can see the sunset on the ocean.
Sarteneja is one of those untarnished places, safe for now from the effects of mass tourism. There is incredible natural beauty here with a wide variety of flora and fauna, but thankfully lacking in hotels, bars and restaurants that are only set up for Western tourists. It is so good to be here, part of this little fishermen community. The only negative brought by the attack of mosquitoes, requiring frequent application of insect repellent.
Our expedition schedule was packed full to the brim with fun activities; interesting lectures on fish and coral, visiting a manatee rehabilitation center, seeing the beautiful Corozal Bay by boat, manatee mapping and teaching school kids about the invasive but delicious lionfish. Since most of us do not have a background in biology, we were given basic scientific lectures on the reef environment; from identification of exotic fish species to recognising the strange floral formations of coral and seagrasses. At the end of our first week we invited all the homestay families for an afternoon tea and played sports with the kids. I can’t believe how fast week one went by, obviously normal when you are having a good time with nice people in a lovely place – time really does fly when you’re having fun! I am now looking forward to going diving and putting my scientific knowledge to the test.