Karly Ricky Bischof, 10, is the owner, operator and founder of the St. George's Caye Aquarium.
ST. GEORGE’S CAYE, Belize — The sound of scurrying feet and a few hurried phrases in Spanish followed the sound the buzzer made as we rang for admission to the St. George’s Caye Aquarium in Belize. “Un minuto,” a boy’s voice called out.
In a few minutes, the boy himself appeared, his hair freshly combed back and wearing a bright yellow shirt with the aquarium logo on it.
His name, he told us in fluent English, was Karly Ricky Bischof, but we could call him Karly. English, we learned, is one of four languages that the 10-year-old speaks, and he would be our tour guide. His fresh-faced exuberance at his responsibilities was already worth the $3 admission fee.
As it turns out, Karly was not only our tour guide, but he also is the owner and founder of the aquarium that fills the boathouse on his parents’ property on the southeast end of St. George’s Caye. He wants to be a marine biologist when he grows up, and if his impressive little aquarium and his knowledge of the 100-plus fish inside is any indication, he’s going to be a good one.
Karly and his aquarium are two of the best reasons to visit Belize anytime, but this year, a visit to the Central American country is even more special. It’s the country’s 30th birthday. Karly’s parents were infants when Belize, formerly British Honduras, became an independent nation.
Always up for a party, parade or celebration of some kind, the Belizeans plan a big celebration Sept. 21, their official Independence Day. While much of the celebration takes place in Belmopan, St. George’s Caye also plays an important role in the nation’s history. It was there on Sept. 10, 1798, that the inhabitants of the region fought off an invasion by the Spanish. A rusty cannon not far from Karly’s aquarium is the only reminder of that historic day.
As a part of the Independence Day celebration, and to support the educational goals of Karly, the owners of St. George’s Resort, the only lodging facility on the caye, will pay the admission for their guests to Karly’s aquarium for the remainder of the year. The resort is one of many offering dive packages.
As the home of the world’s second-largest barrier reef, Belize is renowned as a diving paradise. The reef, located along Ambergris Caye, also creates perfect conditions for fly-fishing, a unique offering in most Caribbean getaways. Guests at the Tranquility Bay Resort on Ambergris Caye can snorkel right up to the reef.
Archaeologists and historians are equally devoted to Belize for its more than 600 archaeological sites still being discovered in the rain forests just a few miles from the coastal developments. Belize is also famous for the world’s first preserve dedicated to protection of the jaguar. Located in southern Belize, the Cockscomb Wildlife Preserve was established 25 years ago, when Belize was just 5 years old.
Guests at Tranquility Bay Resort on Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize can snorkel up to the world's second-largest barrier reef.