NANFA-- Belize venture

Mike Bessert (
Tue, 30 Apr 2002 10:46:09 -0700

Hello all -

Belize trip highlights...

What a great time! I was down there to co-instruct a tropical marine bio
course w/another instructor and 20 students. We spent 3 days at a field
station (Possum Point) on the Sittee River approximately three miles inland.
Another seven days were spent on a small mangrove island (Wee Wee Caye
Marine Lab) about five miles from the coast. The reefs are still quite
beautiful, although there was plenty of coral bleaching. The staghorns and
elkhorns have really suffered in the past 10 years (at least where I was).
Some of the more noteworthy "events" included...

...seeing a 7 foot crocodile (Morelet's) from close range on the first
night. I was actually lying face-down on the dock at Possum Point - leaning
way over trying to catch a few cool brackish/fresh fishes with a hand net -
when I saw a largish movement off to the right. There it was - about six
feet from my head. I watched it for a few minutes before I went up to get a
few of my students. Of course, when they came down, it got spooked and
headed out into deeper water. I did catch a few interesting fish later
on... checkered puffer, inshore lizardfish, and a pipefish (species?) to
name a few. Unfortunately, I also tore some intercostal tissue (between the
ribs) when I leaned way out trying to catch a few others. Ah... the
price(s) that we pay. It sure made breathing (and snorkeling) a bit more

...seeing Rivulus marmoratus in the crab holes right below my cabin on Wee
Wee Caye. The four single occupant cabins on the island are built up on
"stilts" right among the red mangroves and at high tide there is water
under them. I spent a couple hours one afternoon teasing a few up to the
surface in some of the crab holes. Unfortunately, I didn't have hooks as
small as those used by Scott Taylor, Bruce Turner, et al., but I did get
some good looks anyway.

...swimming directly over (4-5' above) a large Caribbean ray (7'+
"wingspan") for about 20 yards out on a sand flat near the barrier reef. I
did manage to get a few good photos of it.

...snorkeling the barrier reef several times. I got several good photos of
juvenile fish (many Pomacanthids) on the reef crest.

...hiking 8k up to the summit of a peak known as "The Outlier" in Cockscomb
Basin Jaguar Preserve.

It really is a beautiful country. If you want to see at least one place
that is still reasonably pristine (relative to other areas anyway), I would
encourage you to consider a trek to Belize.

Mike Bessert
UNL School of Biological Sciences
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