|EcoFlight takes passengers flying over Ambergris Caye to get an aerial view of the natural marine reserves in an effort to educate the people of its importance and challenges it is facing.|
|Among the passengers on Monday's 9:00 a.m. flight were Mayor Elsa Paz, Antonio Arceo of Fishermen Stakeholders, Alicia Eck, Manager of Bacalar Chico, and Tammy Summers, Peace Corps Volunteer at Green Reef.
On Monday, March 20th, the environmental air force known as EcoFlight flew Mayor Elsa Paz, Antonio Arceo of Fishermen Stakeholders, Alicia Eck, Manager of Bacalar Chico and Maria Novelo, The San Pedro Sun reporter, for an educational ride over Ambergris Caye to get an aerial view of the natural marine reserves in an effort to educate the people of its importance and challenges it is facing.
EcoFlight is a non-profit organization that was found in 2002 by President Bruce Gordon, which focuses on educating people of their own backyards, not only in Belize but all over the world. Gordon hails from Aspen, Colorado and has been involved in Conservation flying for more than 17 years. Gordon believes “to have a sustainable future will require a sustaining vision of the future, necessitating unwavering commitment, compassion and sacrifice. […] And these are no ordinary people, they are our friends, neighbors, dedicated conservation partner organizations and countless others who have committed themselves to true freedoms and preservation of our natural and wild places.”
While in Belize, EcoFlight has joined forces with the Peace Corps to provide the US Ambassador’s office with a flight over the Bacalar Chico Terrestrial and Marine Reserve. EcoFlight’s mission is to “advocate for the protection of remaining wilderness and wildlife habitat through the use of a small aircraft and to provide educational programs designed to stimulate an environmental stewardship among citizens of all ages.” The reserve is a world heritage site on the northern tip of Ambergris Caye and is comprised of 15,000 marine acres and 12,000 acres of terrestrial lands. This park is accessible only by sea and includes ruins from major Mayan trading centers, extensive mangrove lagoons, coral reefs and extensive sea grass beds. Nearly 200 bird species, 40 species of mammals, including all five of Belize’s cats, 58 reptile and 22 amphibian species are protected here.
The early morning tour began with Gordon a slight briefing which included informing passengers of the slight turbulence of his Cessna 210 plane and a run down on using headsets and ensuring the use of the seatbelts.
In the air, passengers got a panoramic view of the precious island and its priceless reserves. Alicia, manager of Bacalar Chico kept everyone informed of the places below, giving a little history of the reserves. “We came out today to take pictures of the current infrastructure of the visitor center at the reserve so we could compare and contrast its uses, changes and developments. We are trying to get as much people as possible to be familiarized with our mission and endless commitment to our conservation.” All tour passengers were truly amazed on the scenery and its lush marine reserves, the lagoons and of course, the Barrier Reef. It was approximately a 20 minute ride whereby we flew over Bacalar Chico, the cut that separates Ambergris Caye and Mexico, Mexico Rocks, Basil Jones and more. From the air, boundaries and misconceptions melt away and passengers with opposing viewpoints often find common ground from which to work together. “That is what we want, the sole purpose is to get people informed and educated on these pressing issues and it is designed to encourage an environmental stewardship ethic among people of all ages,” stated Gordon.
Among others, the Guardians of the Reef members were also given a tour which proved to be both fascinating and enlightening. The Guardians of the reef included Kirah Forman, Isabel Badillo (winner of the Green Reef essay competition), Ana Varela and Helen Pinot. “We recently conducted a clean up campaign at Rocky Point as we are conserving and protecting our fragile reserve, the kids loved every minute of it”, commented Tammy Summers, Peace Corp for Green Reef. The EcoFlight team are on a ten day agenda and will leave shortly en route to Aspen, Colorado. The team leaves with the promise to come back and continue the ongoing trend to familiarize people on the mission and alert them on its biodiversity and importance of conservation of these natural habitat/reserves. The team is dedicated and committed to work closely with other organizations in San Pedro, as well in Belize and other parts of the world. For more information on team EcoFlight’s mission in Belize and its other conservation efforts visit their website at www.ecoflight.info or contact Green Reef at 226-2833.