Study Abroad

Welcome to Paradise

May 27, 2014

Our morning started at 7:30 a.m. with a wonderful breakfast of eggs, cereal, and fried jacks, which are similar to fried dough but without all of the sugar. We then headed down to the office where the bus was ready for our departure. We looked back sad, but relieved that our days in the jungle were finally over. We were both excited and anxious for what Tobacco Caye would bring. As we boarded the bus, the music of Christopher Martin greeted us and we sang along to our new favorite reggae version of “Let Her Go.” The trip roughly took us an hour and a half with a stop at a local souvenir shop. We arrived at the marina where the ferries were set to bring us to the much anticipated island. Surprisingly, the ferries weren't exactly what we had expected. They were actually small speed boats with just enough room for six people and our luggage.

speedboatThe ocean was pretty choppy because it was extremely windy so we started off at a slow pace and eased into the waves and then picked up to what felt like full speed. We were told the ride would be a little bumpy, but none of us expected it to feel like an amusement park ride. At the end of our half an hour “ferry” trip, salt covered our faces, our clothes were dripping, and our butts were sore, but more importantly, we were in awe of the island where we had just docked. As we exited the boats, we entered paradise…literally. Tobacco Caye Paradise Lodge (which is just a few rustic cabins on the water) owned by Miss Louise and her husband, feels (and looks) like heaven, especially in comparison to the past couple of places we have stayed.

cabinThough we had a lot of fun at Monkey Bay and Cockscomb Basin, we were ecstatic to finally be at the beach. Miss Louise gave us a short orientation of Paradise Lodge and showed us to our cabins, which are right on the water. Each cabin has between one and three beds, a bathroom, and a deck that overlooks the ocean with a hammock hanging right over the water. It feels like luxury compared to our jungle accommodations of the past couple days.

After we got settled into our new rooms we had our first meal in Paradise. During lunch we met Jen and Mathilde who will be our snorkel guides for the rest of the trip. They then proceeded to give us a tour around the island which is approximately 5 acres. We stood in the center of the island and could literally see water on all sides of us. As we looked over the ocean we saw the Belize Barrier Reef which she told us is the second largest reef in the world surpassed only by the Great Barrier Reef. When asked how long it is was they didn't know off hand and said only that it is so long that it stretches from Belize to Mexico. We then headed to another point on the island that overlooks South Water Caye, which is 7 miles away. We were told that this island and all of its surrounding islands are 470 kilometers with only 5 marine stations to manage the entire strip.

presentationFrom there we headed over to the Tobacco Caye Marine Station (TCSM) where we got our first presentation on hazardous marine creatures. The presentation started off with us learning to only look and never touch the marine life. They told us to “take only pictures and leave only bubbles.” The sea creatures we learned of consisted of hydroids, which are many different types of coral, fire worms, jellyfish, nurse sharks, sting rays, eels, barracuda and the biggest problem for marine life, the lion fish. We were informed that the lion fish was the only fish that they encourage people to get rid of, as they are native only to the Pacific and Indian oceans, but were released by people who had them as pets in Florida and now are dominating the Caribbean and killing many other species. Jen said that maybe we would be able to eat one during our time here. After that presentation, we had a short lesson where we were given our snorkel gear and taught the proper way to get water out of our goggles and snorkels.

Our journey of snorkeling started with applying the proper techniques from the classroom in shallow water. We then went to another dock on the south side of the island and started our snorkeling adventure. For the next hour we saw many of the creatures that we had learned about, including a barracuda and about 8 different sting rays. As we left, we were told that we are going to have another adventure tomorrow and maybe we could even do a night snorkel.

We were surprised and delighted that we were having fish and rice with salad for dinner. It was delicious and most of us ate it right down to the last bone. After dinner, we went back to TCMS and had a lesson about climate change and how it will affect Belize and the rest of the world. Our instructor said that they hypothesize that all reefs in the world will likely die off within the next 100 years. We left the presentation in shock and concerned about what we can do to help stop this from happening. We are now headed off to bed because we have a long and hard day of work tomorrow, but before we do, we would like to say happy Memorial Day to everyone in the states and that we hope everyone had as great of a day as we did!