The highlight of a child's year as a 6 year old attending the Caye Caulker Roman Catholic School is their school trip. For those who are unaware of the process for these activities, the Government schools are heavily under funded and for many of the children's necessities (including their holiday celebrations and excursions) come very much fall on the parents. PTA committees are set up for each class to offer assistance by raising funds through a variety of events such as food sales and raffles- thus has been the process for raising the funds for this specific trip.
The Belize River, once a location for the logging industry, now a tourist attraction in its own right as the lush forest that fringes the river holds dense flora and fauna. Such was the choice of Infant II for Friday's school outing - a decision that had been made some months ago by the parents and one that did not disappoint.
The morning was a sultry hot morning with little to now wind as the entire class was accompanied each by a parent (and may be even an additional child) for the 7am departure at the water taxi. There was definitely excitement in the air as this particular excursion is one attraction not undertaken by many of the Caye Caulker residence and therefore eagerly awaited. After an a minor mix up with boats, we were off at a slightly later than anticipated 7.30am to Belize City. There was a small change of boat in Belize City (plus a quick toilet break for those who required it) and we were off to our destination - the mouth of the Belize River itself.
On route, just to show that this class was truly blessed, a small pod of Bottle Nose Dolphins decided we were their interest for the morning. For this class, many of whom had never seen a dolphin before, were mesmerized by the families display around the boat as they swam around us for some time!
And then we were on to the Swallow Caye Reserve - home of the wonderful Indian Manatee. Our boat was too big to be 'poled' through the actual reserve itself so we went around, however, this did not stop all on board (after our wonderful dolphin display) feeling that luck was on our side and a manatee sighting was almost expected. For manatees today was not the day for us, not without trying - perhaps that will be next years school trip??
The boat slowed down to a snails pace whilst traveling up the meandering river and our fantastic Tour Guide, Dario, took us through the sights and sounds of this majestical place. As we travelled we we learnt about the trees and animals that we encountered on our journey - turtles, huge iguanas, many crocodiles sun bathing in the hot sun and even a family of howler monkeys. When we were not watching the animals in this habitat we were studying the trees from mahogany to bukut and bullet trees and the list goes on!!
The sun was hot and there was little wind and after well over an hour all were tired but more than happy with what they had seen. The journey's end was the Black Orchid Resort in Burrell Boom up the Belize River. From here were were served lunch under the shade of the trees beside the river. The children, although many had been slowly feeding on snacks throughout the morning, still found appetite for the healthy portions of burgers, chicken fingers and even rice and beans, all washed down with grape juice!
After lunch finished the pool beckoned. We had not been expecting any water relief but a few had hoped for a swim break and brought their swim attire in hope (or some would say in efficient preparation for the tour!!!). Those that had were rewarded in a swim in the pool - those that had not (which was the majority), fell into tears!! Very soon, the resort managers broke their own rules and allowed these hot and excitable children jump to do something that they do not do very often on Caye Caulker - swim in a pool - and for most of them, they were wearing only their underwear!!!
This water relief on an extremely hot day was quite the icing on the cake for the children (and many of their siblings) of Infant II as it cooled them off for their hour and a half journey home by boat, directly to Caye Caulker.
For many the boat ride was an opportunity to take a quick sleep but definitely for all the journey back for these weary adventurers was more subdued than the journey up the river!!
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