We had just arrived at St. George’s Caye Resort in Belize and thought we would wander around a bit, get a feel for the tiny little island about 8 miles from Belize City. The whole thing is just about two miles long and a stone’s throw wide, so there wasn’t really much to explore.
Our hosts suggested we visit the St. George’s Caye Aquarium. They told us to walk south on the beach and we would see the sign. Although it was not at all what we expected, the aquarium quickly became our favorite part of Belize.
It turns out that the St. George’s Caye Aquarium was founded by and operated by Karly Ricky Bischof, who, at the time of our visit, was 10 years old. English, we learned, is one of four languages that the boy spoke, and he would be our tour guide. His fresh-faced exuberance at his responsibilities was worth the $3 admission fee.
Karly wants to be a marine biologist when he grows up, so with just minimal help from his father, he built an aquarium to study sea life in the boathouse on his parents’ property. When we were there, he had more than 100 different fish. He knew their Latin names and how big they would get, how long they would live, what they ate and who their predators were. He told us all about it in impressive detail, whether we asked or not.
Karly’s aquarium is located just a few hundred yards from a rusty cannon on the beach. St. George’s Caye was the site of an important battle in September 1798 when the inhabitants of the region fought off a Spanish invasion. It’s such an important part of Belize’s history that the scene is represented on the nation’s paper currency.
I’m thinking in another few years, we’ll see the image of one of Belize’s most respected citizens engraved on its coins. I think I’ll call it “the Karly coin,” just for luck.
Photos by Bruce N. Meyer