Beauty and adventure of Glover’s Reef Atoll weans teen daughter off Wi-Fi
These comfortable beachfront tents were the accommodations on the Southwest Caye of Glover’s Reef Atoll. Inside the tents were comfortable beds and furnishings.
It was our first night in Belize and things were not starting out well.
“You didn’t tell me we were camping!” exclaimed my 16-year-old daughter Kelsey. “I would never have agreed to come if I had known we were camping.”
She had a point. I hadn’t used the word “camping,” because to me camping means a sleeping bag on the floor of a tent. We were in a comfortable wooden cabana with beds, mattresses, pillows and sheets. There was electricity and a central shower area with running water and flush toilets. This wasn’t really camping.
I suspected the underlying problem was really a slight case of nomophobia, or fear of being out of cellphone contact. With no cellphone signal and no Wi-Fi, the cabanas were practically prehistoric — in a teenager’s mind, anyways. When I booked the trip with Island Expeditions, I had hoped that a few days away from technology on a mother-daughter adventure trip would be good for both of us.
The adventure began the next day with a half-day guided river tubing and caving tour. We were transported by bus to a lush rainforest area where we each selected an inner tube, a life jacket and a hard hat with a headlamp. Our guide pointed out unique flora and fauna as we hiked along a well-travelled trail through lush rainforest. When we stopped for a short rest, our guide pulled a rust-coloured stone from the river and painted everyone’s faces Mayan style. He said it would bring good luck in the caves.
Eventually we climbed aboard our tubes and rode them down the river and into a limestone cave system filled with stalactites, stalagmites and other fascinating rock formations. With nothing but the light from our headlamps it was sometimes eerie as we floated and hiked our way through the caves — no wonder we needed that good luck.
After a hearty lunch at a local restaurant, we visited the Belize Zoo to get a first-hand look at their jaguar rescue program and meet the jaguars close up. Island Expeditions is a big supporter of the zoo’s conservation efforts and it was good to know that our travel choice was going to support a worthwhile conservation initiative.
The next day, we travelled cross-country by van and then boarded a boat to make the one-hour journey to the tiny island of Southwest Caye on Glover’s Reef Atoll. One of the richest marine habitats in the Caribbean Sea, Glover’s Reef is considered by many to be one of the world’s top snorkelling and diving areas. Using the tiny island as a base camp, we planned to spend the next six days exploring as much of the reef as possible.
This time we were staying in actual tents, making it difficult to argue with Kelsey’s assertion that I should have used the word “camping” when describing the trip.
On the upside, the large tents were beachfront and equipped with beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows and furniture. Toilet facilities were another matter.
“I miss plumbing,” she said when she realized that she would be using a composting toilet and a solar-powered shower for the next few days. Once again, there was no Internet and no cellphone access at the base camp.
It didn’t take long to get into the routine of camp life, which began with a daily sunrise yoga class led by a professional yoga instructor under the shade of coconut palms, and ended with a delicious dinner in the main dining lodge.
In between there were snorkel tours, kayaking expeditions, kayak sailing, stand-up paddleboard lessons, a guided fishing excursion and plenty of time for hammock surfing with a good book.
Each night after dinner, Kelsey and I made a habit of lying out on the boat dock and gazing up at the magnificent star-filled sky. There is virtually no light pollution when you are on a tiny island in the middle of a vast expanse of ocean.
On our last night in Belize, while we lay on the dock trying to locate the Big Dipper, Kelsey spotted a falling star — her first ever.
“I really loved this trip,” she confided as we made our way back to our tent a few minutes later. “Maybe camping really is my thing.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she hadn’t really gone camping — not by my definition anyways.
A new generation of threatened hawksbill sea turtles is thriving in the protected waters of Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize, evidence that efforts to protect these and other marine species in one of the world’s great barrier reef systems are working, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and the Belize Fisheries Department.
In a recently published study in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists have reported that the coral reefs surrounding the atoll are home to more than 1,000 juvenile hawksbill sea turtles– good news for a species.
The authors of the study titled “In-water assessments of sea turtles at Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize” are: Samantha Strindberg, Virginia R. Burns Perez and Janet Gibson of WCS; Robin A. Coleman of WCS and Sawfish Consulting Ltd.; Cathi L. Campbell of WCS and the University of Florida, and Isaias Majil of the Belize Fisheries Department.
“The findings of our research show that juvenile hawksbill turtles are thriving at Glover’s Reef– extremely good news for this endangered species,” said Virginia Burns Perez, WCS Technical Coordinator in Belize. “Strongholds for the species such as this one should become a model for other foraging and nesting areas that are important for the hawksbill turtle.”
Belize's Glover's Reef providing refuge for new generation of sea turtles
A marine scientist is holding a hawksbill sea turtle. Researchers from WCS and the Belize Fisheries Department have uncovered a thriving population of juvenile hawksbill sea turtles living in the waters of Glover's Reef Atoll. Credit: K. Holmes/WCS.
A new generation of threatened hawksbill sea turtles is thriving in the protected waters of Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize, evidence that efforts to protect these and other marine species in one of the world's great barrier reef systems are working, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and the Belize Fisheries Department.
In a recently published study in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists have reported that the coral reefs surrounding the atoll are home to more than 1,000 juvenile hawksbill sea turtles- good news for a species.
The authors of the study titled "In-water assessments of sea turtles at Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize" are: Samantha Strindberg, Virginia R. Burns Perez and Janet Gibson of WCS; Robin A. Coleman of WCS and Sawfish Consulting Ltd.; Cathi L. Campbell of WCS and the University of Florida, and Isaias Majil of the Belize Fisheries Department.
"The findings of our research show that juvenile hawksbill turtles are thriving at Glover's Reef- extremely good news for this endangered species," said Virginia Burns Perez, WCS Technical Coordinator in Belize. "Strongholds for the species such as this one should become a model for other foraging and nesting areas that are important for the hawksbill turtle."
Glover's Reef Atoll is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere. The Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, in particular, is important to both the fishing economy of Belize and the region's marine biodiversity. In order to safeguard this natural wonder, WCS worked with the Belize Fisheries Department and other local stakeholders to initiate a conservation plan for the site. The hawksbill sea turtle was selected as one of several target species for conserving the larger seascape.
Researchers conducted a snorkel survey of sea turtles in and around Glover's Reef Atoll. Credit: WCS.
"A healthy population of hawksbill turtles at Glover's Reef has positive implications for recovery of the species in Belize and the wider Caribbean region," said Nicole Auil Gomez, WCS Belize Country Director. "Once these young hawksbills mature they leave the Atoll and can travel incredible distances."
Meanwhile, Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade stated that "This study validates the importance of the Glover's Reef Marine Reserve for the survival of such an iconic species. The thriving Hawksbill turtles are a wonderful success story for the government and people of Belize and its partners in their efforts toward the sustained management and conservation of the Glover's Reef Atoll."
The newly published study is the result of field research between 2007 and 2013, during which time 12 snorkel surveys on sea turtles were conducted in the coral reefs around Glover's Reef Atoll. Safe and tested methods were used to catch, examine, tag, and release sea turtles. From 2009 onward, for the first time ever for in-water assessments of turtles, a technique known as distance sampling (visually spotting sea turtles along a transect line and estimating distance between the turtle and the line) was used.
Complementary monitoring methods provided a comprehensive assessment of turtle population status and dynamics, while accounting for the proportion of turtles that were not caught or seen. "Our turtle monitoring protocol is based on robust survey and analysis methods," said WCS Scientist & Wildlife Statistician Samantha Strindberg. "This allows us to more confidently assess the effectiveness of conservation management for this important population of hawksbill turtles now and in the future."
In addition to snorkel surveys along underwater transects, the research used established methods to catch, examine, tag, and release sea turtles during the study, which lasted between 2007 and 2013. Credit: R. Coleman/WCS.
Results of the study found that the abundance of juvenile hawksbill turtles was estimated to be more than 1,000 individual animals, with much smaller numbers of green and loggerhead sea turtles. The research team also determined that the probability of survival for the hawksbills was reassuringly high, another reason for optimism about the persistence of sea turtles at Glover's Reef Atoll.
"The discovery that Glover's Reef Atoll is an important habitat for young sea turtles is an important find, one that will enable regulatory agencies to fine-tune already effective management policies to safeguard a highly threatened species and its biodiverse habitat," said Jason Patlis, WCS's Director for Marine Conservation.
"This is great news on two levels: the discovery of a robust population of juvenile hawksbill sea turtles means a brighter future for this highly endangered species, and the protections afforded this population within the Glover's Reef Atoll once again demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of well-managed marine protected areas," added Patlis.
Glover's Reef Atoll is also the focus of a 167,000-gallon tank located in the New Conservation Hall and Glover's Reef exhibit at WCS's New York Aquarium. The exhibit replicates its diverse coral reef namesake in Belize and is home to marine creatures including eels, rays, hogfish, and many other species. Through powerful graphics, visitors are introduced to WCS's Glover's Reef Marine Research Station along with WCS studies on coral diversity, bleaching, and other conservation topics.