I cannot remember the last time I went into the sea, to swim or snorkel. And no, I do not know how to scuba dive, although it’s something everybody is surprised to hear.
“You are from the island and you do not know how to dive?” is all I hear from others who do not live here. I know! I’m getting around to it, promise.
I do think that most of us who live on the island do take it for granted that we have this beautiful beach, sea and natural wonder of the Great Barrier Reef. It is so easy to get caught up in our busy schedules and forget to just kick back, relax and decompress. Others are submerged in it every day or weekend. So, every now and then I get a chance to do this and wonder why I don’t do it more often. My Isla Bonita is an amazing paradise.
This weekend I learned about these 20 students and five teachers from Guinea Grass Pentecostal School (from Orange Walk District) who visited Belize’s Barrier Reef for the first time, this courtesy of Oceana in Belize. I can only imagine how bright-eyed they were as they entered the water with their snorkeling gear! I’m taken back to my first trip to the reef, seeing all those beautiful colors, rich marine life and wishing I was a fish or dolphin to explore all that natural beauty.
Most of the time I assume that most Belizeans have visited San Pedro and/or our Great Barrier Reef and it isn’t so for many of them; why wouldn’t anybody have visited, its Ambergris Caye, right? Wrong!!!
So it was great to see that Oceana Belize gave these school children this wonderful opportunity. The event was part of Oceana’s community education and outreach campaign and was granted to the top 20 standard six students as a graduation treat in an attempt to expose them to Belize’s marine wonders and encourage them to learn more about, and help protect, their marine patrimony.
"Wow! I want to come back again tomorrow.”
"I am so glad I got to make this trip.”
These were some of the comments of the very excited students who explained that they learnt about some of these marine areas and animals in their science class but never thought it would be so amazing to actually experience it.
As part of the tour the students traveled to Caye Caulker on Saturday, May 26, where they were accompanied by Belizean tour guides who briefed them on what to expect and on the use of snorkeling gear, as none of the students had previously snorkeled.
The students were taken to three different tour locations, starting at Coral Garden, where they got to see the corals and their inhabiting marine life; then Shark Ray Alley, where they quickly overcame their fears and jumped in to swim with the rays and the nurse sharks. The final stop was Tarpon City on the fringes of the Caye, where from the boat the students were able to see a large school of tarpons and observe the biodiversity among the mangrove roots that serve as a nursery for the many fishes observed on the reef.
On the way back to Belize City and just before ending the day’s trip, they had the good fortune to come upon a pod of dolphins, which seem to enjoy putting on a show. The students were so excited and could not contain their gratitude for getting the opportunity to experience Belize’s marine life, which is very different from that of the river that passes through their Orange Walk village.
“It is only when our students experience the magnificence of our Reef and all our marine resources will they be able to appreciate what it is we must protect and why they have a patriotic duty to ensure our reef and other marine resources are managed responsibly for future Belizean generations”, explained Oceana’s VP Audrey Matura-Shepherd, who accompanied the students on this trip.
As part of Oceana’s continued work with educating young Belizeans about our marine resources, Oceana has pledge to donate a high school grant to the School’s top science student at their upcoming graduation ceremonies on June 21, 2012.
Kudos to Oceana Belize for their continued commitment in creating awareness and protection of our natural marine resources.