Archive for August, 2014


by Bernard Barbour, photos by Tammy Barbour.

A canal in Seine Bight Village is now sporting a new look.

A Seine Bight Village mangrove planting project was carried out Saturday morning August 30. Over 20 kids from the village of Seine Bight participated in planting 121 mangrove seedlings in the canal. The kids worked very hard and took a great deal of pride and satisfaction in their work. “ I’ll be back tonight to check on my mangrove” said one of the kids. Another chimed in “Number fifty is mine” as he counted the freshly planted seedlings lining the canal. After their work was complete, they were all treated to a great lunch for their hard work. There was also a demonstration by Central America Overland Expeditions, who provided two volunteers, explaining the importance of ecological conservation and displaying their expedition vehicle. The roof top tent certainly proved to be the highlight of the day as many of the children clamored up and down the ladder to check it out, and hear stories about camping the jungles of Belize.

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The Southern Environmental Association (http://seabelize.org/who-we-are/)  SEA, in association with the Global Climate Change Alliance (http://www.gcca.eu/national-programmes/caribbean/gcca-belize) sponsored the event. Starting at 9:30 AM and lasting about 3 hours, it proved to be challenging and rewarding. Abigail Parham-Garbutt, Annelise Hagan and Arreini Palacio-Morgan from SEA were on hand to provide leadership and organizational support. Also Mr Ellis Guzman was present, providing support and encouragement, a community member of Seine Bight Village.

This project, “Enhancing Belize’s Resilience to Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change”, launched in September 2012 is being implemented by the United Nations Development Program in partnership with the Government of Belize and Southern Environmental Association. With funding from the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance, the GCCA  aims to enhance adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change in national policies and demonstrate action in support of effective governance of climate change and climate change related impacts in the water sector in Belize.

Like coral reefs, mangrove forests are extremely productive ecosystems that provide numerous goods and services both to the marine environment and people. “Mangroves provide vital nursery grounds for many fish species, as well as crabs, shrimp, mollusks and more” said Annelise Hagan. “The dense root systems of mangroves also trap sediments flowing down rivers and off the land, thereby helping to stabilize the coastline and preventing erosion from waves and storms” she added.

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Prior to Saturday’s activities, SEA conducted educational training to the kids that were involved in the project. Abigail Parham-Garbutt tested the children’s knowledge prior to planting the seedling. “How deep do you have to dig the hole, how do you handle a mangrove?” were just a few of the many questions that the kids blurted out the correct answer to in unison before the first seedling was planted.

By the end of the morning, after inspecting and approving of the work performed,  Arreini gave the word it was time to eat. We didn’t waste anytime.  While you may not have mangroves where you live, there is plenty you can do. Think globally, and act locally.

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Coffee at Café Casita del Amor on the Hummingbird Highway
My wife calls it a cottage, I call it Victorian, or maybe you’ll think it’s a miniature castle. One thing you will notice though it’s eclectic funky psychedelic appeal will draw you in. Café Casita Del Amor is one of the most unusual eateries you’ll find in all of Belize. Painted in striking shades of blue, purple and orange with a metal roof it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens. Situated between two one lane bridges at mile marker sixteen and half and across the road from the entrance to Billy Barquedier National Park along the Hummingbird Highway you can’t miss it. Although we had passed by Casita Del Amor many times before, this particular day was going to be different. Enroute from Placencia about an hour into our drive, a friend suggested we stop in to have breakfast. Once we entered we knew we had come to a special place. You can feel the romance and the uniqueness.

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The soft music playing, the inviting and calming colors and the large heart painted on the ceiling, somehow it all works. Now inside, we were warmly greeted by Wendell, who refurbished the Café Casita Del Amor and has before and after pictures hanging on the wall. He’s very proud of what he has accomplished, and you’ll appreciate it too once you see all the handmade furniture, paintings, and structural architecture of the building. The cozy colorful café only seats about 10 people and offers sandwiches, crepes, omelets, fresh squeezed juices and more. Just prepare to wait after ordering as all the meals are made to order and Wendell is a one man show. While waiting it’s a great time to chat with him and hear his story and history about the Café Casita Del Amor. “I remodeled the building both inside and out” said Wendell, showing us the pictures on the wall. If you’re looking for something sweet, try a milkshake made from flavors like papaya, banana and coconut. From the full menu you can also have coffee, espresso or even a latte. By the end of our meal, we had fallen in love this little place! Who knew a funky purple, orange and blue miniature castle with eclectic décor would capture our hearts. We’ll definitely be back. We enjoyed the romantic atmosphere, the soothing music and the hints of love (hearts) displayed throughout the architecture of the building.


Camping glamorously= glamping. We make it easy for you. Go ahead, play in the sand, snorkel, dive, fish and more. When you’re done, dinner will be ready, a roaring fire going and your sheets turned down. Sleeping to the sound of the ocean waves, we’re sure you’ll have the best nights sleep ever. Make your vacation unforgettable.

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“Nim Li Punit”  I had to say it a few times to get the pronunciation right. But getting right to these spectacular Mayan ruins wasn’t much of a problem. After a quick drive from Placencia down the Southern Highway, we finally saw the sign to take a right up a long steep unpaved hill. Stopping to make sure the Land Rover was locked in 4×4 low before climbing the hill to get to the site, we admired the beauty of the all the thatched roofed homes we passed. Southern Belize is truly Mayan country. Additionally tourism is new to this region, and you will be seeing sites and experiencing nature and cultures as few have.

Although the drive is less than a mile after turning off the highway, driving up to the entrance of the site is quite steep. However, the view from the top is quite rewarding, with a clear view of the Caribbean to the east and the Mayan mountains in the backdrop of the ruins.

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Not as impressive as Lubaantun, Altun Ha, or Xunantunich, Nim Li Punit still holds it’s own and is totally worth checking out. It will make a great side trip if you’re making your way to Punta Gorda, or any other points south in the Toledo district. We love Southern Belize as it is virtually under developed and untouched. There are seven major parks and reserves in the Toledo district, and all are protected and pristine. Rainforests, estuarine environments, and protected forest abound with incredible biodiversity. There are a variety of caves, sinkholes and waterfalls  that are scattered beneath the forest canopy throughout the district as well.

Nim Li Punit was discovered in 1976. It’s not a very large site and can be fully explored in about an hour. Many Mayan archaeological sites are unexcavated and largely undiscovered in southern Belize. Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun are the only Mayan sites in Toledo that have tourist facilities.  We enjoyed exploring the site and were the only ones there when we arrived. The tranquility, the wildlife, the location, it’s easy to reset your mind to imagine a when the site was in its heyday. Make plans to visit, you’ll be glad you did.You can get more detailed information here:   http://southernbelize.com/nimli.html

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We’re not going to write a long story here about why we love Placencia Belize. Surely you can imagine some of our many reasons.  The beach, it’s laid back atmosphere, the wonderful people. So as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Enjoy!

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We’re always looking for recommendations from friends, blog followers, locals, travel magazines/guides and more for our next adventure while here in Belize. Surprisingly, we found an attraction right here close to us in Placencia, a banana farm tour. Recommended by friends, we emailed Evin Zabaneh who is in charge of the tours and set up an appointment which is required. Funny thing is we drive up and down the road from Placencia to Southern Highway and always often see the sign. We had been curious anyway.

On the day of our tour, we were warmly greeted by Evin at the entrance to the farm directly off the Placencia Peninsula Road. The entrance is clearly marked, you can’t miss it. We followed her down a well maintained dirt road for a few miles to the actual farm.

The tour began in the air-conditioned comfort of the main office with a brief history of banana production, both in Belize and worldwide and how the banana gained popularity in United States and Europe. We were shown a video that was extremely informative, entertaining and filled with interesting facts we did not know about Belize’s agriculture. After the film and a little more information gathering we headed out into the fields.

As we toured the banana fields, one thing we can say about Evin is that she is very prepared for her tours with sunscreen, bug spray, and even rain coats if necessary. Cold water and restrooms are also available at the main office which we came to several times during the tour. It is obvious to us from the beginning that a great deal of thought has gone into this tour, and we were in for a treat.

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Walking through row upon row of banana plants was interesting and fun. It certainly gives you a different perspective than driving down the road and seeing them from your car window. The smells, looking at the direction in the way they grow, and realizing how fast they grow was eye-opening. Every step of the way, Evin pointed out unique things about the banana plant and what it takes to get a banana to your table. She is extremely knowledgeable, articulate, and engaging. We found the tour very informative, and at times we found some humor in the work.

At several points we saw a worker riding what seemed to be a conveyor belt type machine hauling bananas, and also saw bananas being put in diapers. There were demonstrations all along the way.  We also discovered how fast bananas grow. The process is quite complex and surprisingly laborious. The bananas do not just grow quietly from the plant without a great deal of effort and consideration.

A highlight of some of the things we learned were, banana plants grow daughter plants that have to be nurtured and controlled. Black Sigatoka, a disease caused by a fungus is a constant issue, and the timing for harvesting is very critical for a quality banana. Evin currently has an article published about “Bananas in Danger: TR4 Panama Disease” in the Nov 2013 –Jan 2014 issue of the BelizeAgreport.com magazine. She’s an expert in her field.

Watching the workers pruning in a methodical manner, determined in the past by trial and error, the banana bunch is placed inside a blue plastic bag. This helps to keep the pesticide on the bananas, protect the bunch from sunburn, and aid with the faster development of the bunch. It takes approximately 8 weeks in the bag before the bunch can be harvested.

Once a bunch is ready for harvesting, it is cut off from the plant. A worker carries the bunch which can weigh between 40-80 pounds and hangs it on a special made conveyor belt system that will carry the all the harvested bunches to the processing area. Our tour then proceeded into the shaded area of the banana processing facility where the fruit is processed, packed and shipped. This area is full of many skilled workers along an assembly line of measuring, cutting, spraying, weighing, and packing.

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There are usually four harvest days per week (weather cooperating) with 2000 boxes of bananas being harvested, sorted, and packed ready for transport each of those days. All of the bananas from this farm are exported to Great Britain.

Finally, a delicious sampling of fried bananas topped off the tour back in the main office. This banana farm tour and our tour guide, Evin, exceeded our expectations. We learned a great deal, enjoyed the demonstrations all along the way, and developed a much greater appreciation for the iconic banana.

We highly recommend that you come and see for yourself how the world’s most popular fruit makes its way from the field to the shelves of your local grocery store. Evin is a delight as a tour guide so you will not be disappointed.

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Bunches of Fun Banana Farm Tours are set on Sagitun Farm, just minutes away from resorts on the Placencia Peninsula and a quick drive from Dangriga and Hopkins. They are Belize’s exclusive banana farm tour.

Tours operate on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Tour times are 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. Tours last 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Bookings are essential!

Contact information: Evin Zabaneh

Email:  bunchesoffuntours@gmail.com       Belize phone number:  501-624-4297

Posted: August 21, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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“28 nests last night. (one poached).”  Joslin Carson posted.
I woke up to this message this morning posted by San Pancho Turtles on my Facebook page. I immediately went into a panic! 28 turtles laying eggs on the beach last night, wow right? Figuring each nest holds between 80 to 120 eggs I could only imagine how much the volunteers at San Pancho Turtles must be over worked, tired and probably burnt out after a night like that. I do believe there are less than 10 volunteers right now and normally only three of them work a four-hour shift at a time. Did the turtles not get the memo, no more nest than 10 nest a night por favor? Additionally there were 19 nest a few nights before and they are coming strong this year. I’ve got to admit, reading “28 nest last night” brought back memories of the time I spent there and when we would have 10 -15 nest a night and how much work that was. Many of those nights turned into long days working well past your appointed shift time to get everything wrapped up, then a little sleep and back on shift again. You see the real works begins as soon as those momma turtles pat down and hide those nest. If you’re not standing right there to see where she disguised the nest, it’ll take you an additional 2-5 minutes to follow the tracks, locate the eggs, dig up the nest (15 min.), inventory and document the location (date time group) etc. Then they have to be transported, placed into containers, documented and placed in the nursery (15 – 20 minutes per nest). As you can see by the chart posted below and doing the numbers, multiply the number of nest by the time it takes to attend each nest ( 28 nest X 35 minutes= 980 minutes divided by 60 + 16.3 hours) and it’s a whole lot of turtle shift……. and there is a shortage of volunteers, reports Joslin. Additionally the nursery is filling up, there have been problems with the dune buggy and a lot of extra supplies have had to be purchased this year because of the increase. Help is needed all around. But mostly, they need volunteers!
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“Unfortunately several volunteers have canceled at the last moment, as they do almost every season, but this time it has left us seriously short of help during the peak nesting month of August (and perhaps during a peak nesting year).  We urgently need help in August.  If you or anyone you know can help us, please contact us. We have two bedrooms available in apartment #1.”saysJoslin Carson, Coordinator, in their newsletter.

Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, marine turtle preservation project

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Joslin continues “At the end of July, 2012, we had collected a record 115 nests.  This record was surpassed by 180 nests by the end of this July 2014.  If this trend continues throughout the season we will have on our hands a staggering problem. If you do the math, it means that by the end of this season we may end up with over 2,195 total nests.  This is about double the 1,190 we collected last season.  In any case, to date, 163 nests were placed in the box nursery.”
So any of you out there that have the time, please volunteer. San Pancho is an easy flight into Puerto Vallarta Mexico and Frank Smith, the director would be pleased to pick you up. From most US cities PV is less than a four-hour flight. Ideally if you could spend a month or more would be great. Lodging is affordable right there at the nursery, and this is sure to be an experience you’ll never forget. Also if you can’t find the time to volunteer, a monetary donation would be greatly appreciated as well.
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Contact
Joslin Carson
Frank D. Smith
Director,
Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C.
http://www.project-tortuga.org
Tel. 311-258-4100

We missed a spot!

Posted: August 18, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
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On our quest to get to Belize we missed checking out some of the towns along the Costa Maya.

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Well, we’re back for a few days to see what we missed. Glad we came back. Enjoy this pics.

 


Asking most Belizeans where do they go for vacation and the answer is Hopkins. Of course our inquisitive minds wanted to know what it’s all about, so we set out on a road trip to uncover and discover why Hopkins.

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As we turned off of the Southern Highway onto the road that leads to Hopkins, we put our windows up, turned up the A/C and slowed our pace as the bumpy dirt road that leads into town is being graded to prepare it for being asphalted. Less than 10 minutes later we arrived in Hopkins. No major fanfare here, just a few roads, lots of places to stay in all budget ranges and the traffic mostly consisted of bicycles. Instantly we fell in love. The quietness, the beautiful blue-green turquoise water, the friendly people and doing things the slow and easy way.

We saw Garifuna drums for sale and later learned that Hopkins Village is considered a cultural center of the Garifuna population in Belize. Additionally the Belize Barrier Reef is only 20 minutes away from Hopkins Belize making Hopkins one of Belize’s fastest growing dive destinations. If you are interested in fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving in Belize then Hopkins is an excellent choice. The Village is traditionally a fishing community, and the people are very skilled fishermen who will ensure a great fishing experience. Also from a business perspective, we think it would be a great opportunity to open a large professional dive  shop because of Hopkins closeness to the Reef.

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After seeing most of the village we decided to get something to eat and had read reviews about Driftwood Beach Bar & Pizza Shack. What a great call my wife made. Turns out we had some of the best thin crust pizza since we’ve been in Belize and had a great time chatting it up with the owner, Denise McCreary.

“Mouth-watering pizza, as good as you’ve ever had, is made with the freshest ingredients — and in a style that’s on par with some of the world’s top pizzerias.” is what it reads from their website (www.driftwoodpizza.com), and we found that true. Also combining your pizza with a with cold beer (and other mixed-to-perfection drinks), and a location that’s right on the beach, and you’ll have a sense why this spot is a favorite for locals and tourists alike.

 

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All in all we had a great day exploring Hopkins, meeting people, making new friends,exploring and discovering.

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