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Caye Caulker's Ras Creek Could Have Saved "Crocodile Hunter's" Life
Report by Andrew Steinhauer

Last week internationally known celebrity cum naturalist Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin was killed by a stingray off the coast of Australia while filming one of his 'living-dangerously-in-nature" specials.
Irwin achieved international celebrity-dom from the television program "The Crocodile Hunter", a popular wildlife documentary series co-hosted with his wife Terri Irwin.
On September 4th 2006 the Crocodile Hunter was fatally stabbed in the chest by a stingray spine while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, at Batt Reef,
which is located off the coast of Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia. Irwin was in the area filming his self-produced documentary-video, to be called The
Ocean's Deadliest.

According to reports in the press cited by his friend and colleague, John Stainton, Irwin swam too close to one of the stingrays. "He came on top of the stingray
and the stingray's barb approximately 30 cm (10 inches) went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart" reported Stainton.

There is a seasoned veteran conversationalist and pioneer tour guide on Caye Caulker named Bert "Ras Creek" Nicholas who could have saved the Crocodile
Hunter's life. Ras Creek has developed a rapport with several stingrays in the nature preserve Shark-Ray Alley" over the 15 years since he first discovered that popular hangout for all forms of aquatic wildlife located adjacent to the reef about half-way between San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.

Ras Creek in an exclusive interview with the BELIZE TIMES at the Split where his Robinson Crusoe-seque vessel "Heritage Cruz" is docked noted that normally
stingrays are very wary of humans; they have a natural skittishness when interacting with divers. He observed
that Irwin should have shown the ray more respect and not invaded the animal's immediate territory. Rays are normally docile creatures that prefer fleeing rather
than fighting but get very defensive when they feel cornered. Creek's advice to the Crocodile Hunter would have been, "don't rush the brush, know the ray's style and psyche before cavorting with them. And never
approach one from behind". Ras Creek is a pioneer in marine tour guiding. He was
heading up tours starting in 1991. He is a seminal figure in discovery and development the Hol Chan Marine Reserve better known as Shark-Ray Alley and the Sea Horse Ranch on the lee side of Caye Caulker into
must-see tourist destinations. Those two naturalist spots have helped immeasurably in putting Belize on the tourist destination map. Hundreds of other tour
guides have followed in his footsteps.
Ras Creek went on to explain that there are three stingrays at Shark Ray Alley that over the last decade he has altered their cautious attitude to one of camaraderie. He has named his three ray cohorts: 'Sharktail', 'Soon-Come' and 'Baby Soon-Come'. All three are part of the "twisted spine" southern ray
family that Ras refers to as Spotted Eagle Rays.

Soon-Come is a huge ray with a eight foot wing span that has been caught on video by a National Geographic photographer nuzzling up to Ras Creek, affectionately putting its nose against his mask as a kind of cross
species kiss.

Ras Creek is a historically important figure in the evolution of tourism in the Jewel. A trailblazer who is still educating and thrilling his tourist clientele
with his naturalist wisdom and his capacity to pull off a hell of a party simultaneously. His tours both instill awareness of the environment and generate good vibes galore.
In spite of Ras Creek's historical significance, he has not been given the props he deserves by the at times fickle tourist industry. Believe it or not there
are some philistines in the tourist biz that harass him on a regular basis. A true disservice to a man that had the vision to create something novel in a highly competitive field where new ideas are few and far between. Ras Creek might come off like some kind of Belizean-Hippie-Rasta, though underneath that bohemian look is an astute mind with a wealth of information on the sea life that lives in the waters
near his home base Caye Caulker. A colorful, mythic character that knows his stuff.

[This message has been edited by Auxillou Beach Suites (edited 09-22-2006).]

Wendy Auxillou
Auxillou Beach Suites
Caye Caulker, Belize