Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 10 - Farewell Belize!

 Our final day here in Belize! After breakfast, we loaded up our luggage and headed back to Maya Center to kill some time before our flight. Later, we returned to Dangriga and said our final farwells to Kimo and his family. We'll miss you guys!

All aboard! The little plane is a Cessna C208 Caravan, a 12-seater. It was a quick and turbulent-free flight to Belize City--and onwards, transferring from there back to Dallas.

The shortest of us sat in the back of the plane

Goodbye Belize!

Thanks for checking out the blog and enjoying all the culture, fun, and adventure that Belize has to offer with us! We had an amazing time and an unforgettable experience.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 09 - Cockscomb

The next day we traveled to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. After settling in at our dorms, we headed out to hike up to Ben's Bluff.

Along the 4 kilometer long trail, we crossed a small stream and observed leafcutter ants, stingless bees and a giant damselfly. The trail got more challenging during the latter half as it weaved around the rocky terrain of the mountainside. Once we reached the summit, we had lunch and enjoyed the view.

It was an exhausting hike, but on the way down we took a break by a small waterfall. The water was cold and provided some relief from the hot, humid jungle.

Our day wasn't over yet! We stopped by the camp, grabbed some intertubes and trecked back to Stann Creek for some river tubing fun! There might have been a few hazards along the way (butt-crushing rocks, a hive of wasps, a tube blow-out and missing sandals) but we made it down the river unscathed.

Finally, that evening, we set up some black light traps and UV lights. Scorpions were a common occurrence that night at the camp, as well as loud and disorderly teenagers...

It was quite an adventure-filled day! We can't believe it, but tomorrow marks our last day at Belize. Check back soon!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 08 - Maya Center

 The following morning we headed to Cabbage Haul Creek to sample, which required a little bit of hiking through the denser part of the jungle to reach. Quite a few of us collected mosquito and no-see-um bites as we sampled for insects here. Aquatic nets were the most efficient at capturing aquatic bugs, and aerial nets were great for nabbing up butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies near the bank.

Sampling with sweep nets

Checking out some insects along the bank

Dr. Bundy shows off a river crab

We stopped by Julio's chocolate factory in the afternoon. Julio guided us through his process of creating delicious chocolate and coffee straight from the harvested bean to the finished product. We enjoyed sampling a variety of chocolate (milk, 80% dark and coffee) and were quick to purchase some for immediate consumption and as gifts for friends and family.

Che'il, meaning "wild Mayan", tributes to the Mayan ways of using cacao

Kimo grinding cacao nibs on a Mayan grinding stone

Later, we stopped by the Maya Center Woman's Gift Shop, which boasts a variety of beautiful hand-made Mayan crafts for purchase.

Our evening was spent checking out the black light traps for more insects, and we weren't disappointed! Brittny snapped photos of the more impressive and colorful insects we discovered, such as these moths:

At some point someone found a tiny snake!

Too small to take a nip at us, fortunately!

More updates to come...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Foods of Belize Part II

Here's our meals during our 3 day stay at Tobacco Caye.

A personal favorite, conch soup!

Chicken, beans, steamed coconut rice and zucchini stir-fry

Eggs, toast, cheese, sausage and beans

Salad, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, curry conch, and mac

Eggs, beans, ham, johnny cakes and pineapple

Pasta, garlic toast, and watermelon

Rice and beans, fried fish, fried plantain and zucchini stir-fry

Fry jacks, sausage, eggs, beans and papaya

Day 07 - Maya Center

After breakfast, we bid farewell to Mel and Tobacco Caye and hitched a boat ride back to Dangriga. Next, we played an expert-level of suitcase Tetris to fit all our luggage into Julio's van. Our next destination: Maya Center Village!

Mel and the crew (we might have had the sun in our eyes..)

Veronica and Kimo are pretty impressed!
Nuuk Chiel Cottages

Once we were settled in, we scoped out a small trail around the area for good sites to lay out pan traps and a dark light trap. Ernesto then escorted us to his cacao orchard and taught us all the ins and outs of cacao farming for organic chocolate production. We collected insects with sweep and beat nets along the way, of course.

Ernesto, showing us his cacao orchard

Inside the cacao fruit. The white flesh is edible and sweet, but encases a very bitter cocoa bean.

Cultivated cacao beans laid out to dry.

Later that night, we checked our black light traps. We saw significantly more insects drawn to the trap than we did at Tobacco Caye and the Trek Stop. Some of our best finds was a large scarab beetle, an intimidating triatomid (known as the blood-feeding kissing bug) and a multitude of colorful and unusual moths. A tarantula was discovered nearby, hiding in its den.

Tons of flying insects are drawn to the light.

A large scarab beetle.

A tarantula, which quickly withdrew to its shelter.

Next time: Julio shows us how he transforms his roasted organic cacao beans into all-natural, delicious chocolate at his factory! Check back soon!