Cayes and Manatees

After a day’s rest from snorkeling the reefs, we boarded the Goliath for a long day on the seas. Destinations for the day: the manatee channel, Caye Caulker, Coral Gardens (a garden of coral). We raced boats of other inquisitive swimmers to the sea cow resting grounds and arrived earliest. Once in the water, we crept up towards the resting animals. As a crowd gathered, the manatees began to take notice and fled to more open waters. It’s mating season here off the Belizean coast; <3 was in the waters today.

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Affording the manatees their private space, we swam to a sunken barge arrived at theoceans floor after a tropical storm. The wreck, resplendent fire corals and gorgonia (soft corals) was home toschools of grunt, butterfly fish and the residence of a  8 foot long nurse shark that wallowed in its rusting bowels.

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Lunch for the day brought us to the nearby island of Caye Caulker. The sun beat down upon the still waters obscuring the horizon in all directions aside from our destination. The railings were crowded as we peered through the crystalline waters to the sandy bottom littered with sea stars, the occasional turtle, and skipping needlefish. We dined on chicken sandwiches at the Happy Lobster and lazily walked along the rustic shops and road-by stands back to the dock. This small island community, with the motto “Go slow”, provided rest to more foreigners than inhabitants.

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Our brief stay ended with the class comparing trinkets back on the boat as we readied for research preparations at coral gardens. We spent the boat ride to the dive site discussing potential research methods with Dr. Greer and soon-to-be Dr. Doss. The afternoon sun began to fade, but we were nevertheless eager to cool off in the waters of Coral Gardens. With our dive slates fitted with waterproof paper, we submerged with the purpose of evaluating percent coral cover. A keystone of Rapid Reef Assessments, this protocol served as a practice assignment within our research groups. Scrambling back on board just as the sun began set, the Goliath cranked its motors back to port.

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The day concludes with fresh coconut opened by yours truly and we prepare for the day ahead.

-Forrest, Will, and Grayson

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