My college has awesome programs called “360’s”. During the Spring of 2015, I had the chance to travel to Belize with my 360 group – Coasts in Transition – to study the effects of human activity on coastal mangroves and tropical fish populations. Over Spring Break, my college group traveled with IZE Belize to both a tropical forest site nestled in the mainland as well as a small island 40 minutes off the coast.
Our first stop in Belize was in Blue Creek where IZE Belize had a compound with everything we’d need for our stay – most notably this incredible view of the creek.
They had everything you could think of: kayaking, swimming, forest walks, zip lining through the canopy, and even cave swimming (thankfully sans bat guano).
These green cabins were our homes for a few days in the forest. You had to be careful whenever you stepped out or else you’d run right into a tree with massive spikes!
Local villagers cooked incredibly delicious meals for us 3 times a day. Some of my fondest memories from this trip include the nights spent by the river talking late into the night over warm food and Belizean beer.
On the second day, we went on a nature tour with a local man who showed us how plants in the forest can be far more useful to heal wounds and ailments than modern medicine available in the area – if you know what to look for. He described how on numerous occasions he used a native plant to cure fever, to stop bleeding, and even to create a needle and thread to stitch up severe cuts. This man claimed that he often healed patients in his village more effectively than the doctors. Considering his extensive knowledge of the area’s plants, I really don’t doubt that. Those plants are medicine in their purest form and knowledge of their properties can save lives during long journeys in the forest without access to proper medical attention. He also told us the story of how he raised a jaguar cub after finding it next to the body of its deceased mother… an incredible tale I’ll save for another time.
During our stay, we also were fortunate in that the villagers of Blue Creek welcomed us into their homes to teach us about their daily lives. They shared their crafts with us, showed us their cacao farms, and taught us how to make flour tortillas on a stone cook-top. We even had a furry friend join us as we cooked.
After a few fun-filled days, we hopped back on the bus and trekked a few hours out to the coast to take a boat to South Water Caye. We spent the remainder of our trip on a tropical island, and it was nothing short of paradise.