Every year, approximately ten thousand tourists visit the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye Natural Monuments. Unfortunately, of that number, very few are Belizeans. As part of ongoing efforts to have Belizeans enjoy Belizean resources, this weekend, Oceana, in collaboration with the Belize Audubon Society, organized a visit to the these World Heritage Sites for two Belizeans who had never been to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll: wife of the Prime Minister Kim Simplis Barrow and their daughter, Salima.
During their visit, mother and daughter were able to appreciate the stunning aerial views of the Great Blue Hole. In describing the experience Simplis Barrow shared, “I knew I was going to see it and I knew what I was going to see but just approaching the Blue Hole and seeing it for the first time was an experience I can’t explain to you in words…what it really felt like. To see this magnificent natural wonder right there in front of you was an incredible experience. To me, it’s important to show Salima what it is we have in Belize; the natural wonders we have and the importance of conserving it.” Simplis Barrow says she is all too aware that conservation is as much about future generations of Belizeans as it is about this one. “And they deserve the same experiences we are having today. We as Belizeans should really be proud of what we have and be proud of Belize.”
Salima Barrow enjoying her preferred pastime - snorkeling!
During the one day visit, Salima Barrow was also able to enjoy her preferred pastime. “Snorkeling is my favorite thing to do. I like looking for different kinds of animals, fish, sharks and coral.” The 9-year-old also had sage advice for her fellow Belizeans. “The water is beautiful and clean; even if you are afraid, you have to conquer your fear. It belongs to everybody in Belize.”
According to Oceana’s Vice President Janelle Chanona, coordinating such experiences is central to the organization’s mission in Belize. “Seeing Belizeans enjoying Belizean resources is truly priceless. All of us are culturally and economically connected to the beauty and health of our country’s amazing marine resources. Belize is indeed very blessed with a number of sites that are important both nationally and globally. It is our collective responsibility to act accordingly. Oceana’s advocacy efforts are rooted in that reality.”
Kim Simplis Barrow at Lighthouse Reef Atoll
The Half Moon Caye and Blue Hole Natural Monuments are among the oldest protected sites in Belize. “The Belize Audubon Society’s partnership with Oceana gives BAS the opportunity to highlight the “on-the-ground conservation work we do,” says Amanda Acosta, Executive Director of the Belize Audubon Society. “The BAS staff works diligently on the day to day management and research at the Half Moon and Blue Hole Natural Monuments. And we are always excited to welcome Belizeans to these sites.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in Asia, North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.