We began our explorations in Belize this morning. After a delicious breakfast, one of the rangers from Payne Creek National Park visited to explain a little bit of the history of this important national park. Payne Creek has an extensive mangrove estuary that has built up over time, and it protects the coastline of this part of Belize. Evidence of a Mayan presence has been discovered in the area. The Mayan people inhabited this part of Belize some 1,200 years ago; they practiced fishing and the extraction and distribution of salt. Stone structures and pottery preserve well over time. It is interesting to note that the sea level and lack of oxygen in the ground have helped preserve wooden artifacts in this area, such as a paddleboard. The protection of the endangered yellow-headed parrots is important here. In the afternoon, we had a lot of fun snorkeling in the warm, rich waters of West Snake Caye.
National Geographic Sea Lion
Shortly after National Geographic Sea Lion dropped her anchor, we awoke to very calm seas with overcast skies and a light southwest wind coming off the land. Our guests prepared for early morning adventures and headed out in Zodiacs and local skiffs to explore the meandering lower reaches of Monkey River, the largest estuary of southern Belize. Great blue herons and great egrets stood knee deep on the sandbars near the shore while yellow-crowned night herons and black vultures hunkered down in the drizzle that accompanied us. Guides and guests gazed up at the treetops, hoping to see green iguanas with the males in their bright orange breeding colors and perhaps a troop of Yucatan black howler monkeys. We walked the trails through the gallery forest a few miles upstream. Our luck was shining brightly, and several monkeys were sighted high above. We returned to the ship to savor the delicious brunch prepared by the amazing hotel department. Ranguana Caye was our base for the snorkeling and island activities this afternoon. Guests had a wonderful experience swimming among the bright and beautiful fish and the other tiny critters that live in the hard and soft corals of the fringing reefs. Parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and sergeant majors were some of the familiar friends seen. As the trip wound down to the final stages, contact information was exchanged among new friends, experiences were shared, and future trips were discussed. Guests bid farewell to the crew and staff. Glasses were raised, and a guest slide show put smiles on our faces.