Eco-Tours to Bacalar Chico to be established

by Lydia Chuc

The Bacalar Chico area was designated a National Park and Marine Reserve in 1996. This reserve is situated on the northern most tip of Ambergris Caye and is only accessible by boat. The region encompasses intra-island lagoons, mud flats, sink holes, mangroves forests, savannahs, semi-deciduous forest and is home to many different animals. There are about eight different Mayan sites in the Bacalar Chico area two of which (San Juan and Chac- balam) have been partially excavated and have been made somewhat accessible by trails. Bacalar Chico Rangers are presently working on establishing an eco-tour of the reserve in order to generate funds to help with the upkeep of the reserve, to provide business opportunities for tour guides in San Pedro and on the mainland and to educate the public about the reserve.

On Sunday, February 23rd, 1998, Dylan Gomez of Bacalar Chico conducted a tour of the reserve and explained the plans they have to develop the Bacalar Chico eco-tour. Gomez said that it is important for tour guides to learn more about the reserve and to be able to navigate vessels safely through the waters in and around the reserve. "Bacalar Chico has great potential and only needs to be marketed properly." He mentioned that tour guides from X'calak, Sartenja and Corozal have expressed their interest in carrying out this eco-tour and that San Pedro tour guides need to be encouraged and made aware of the gold mine sitting in their back yard. Gomez also said that they were working on having the Statutory Instrument which states the boundaries of the reserve amended so that the Santa Cruz Mayan site could be included in the reserve. The site boarders Bacalar Chico. Gomez said that he has received suggestions from tour guides and would like to know what guides would need in order to conduct a tour of the reserve. Several guides have requested a palapa or picnic area and accommodations for guests for overnight trips. Gomez said that they would try to do what was in their capacity and while they would like to be able to provide overnight accommodations such would not be available for some time. The tour Gomez conducted was of the northern leeward side of the island, the Bacalar Chico Ranger's station, the area along Billy's Island and Cayo Chelem (which belongs to Mexico) and the Bacalar Chico Channel, which separates Mexico from Ambergris Caye - Belize. This channel is said to have been originally dug by the Mayans to allow easy access to Mexico on their trade route and then later dredged by Mexicans. The channel is also said to have been used by pirates and buccaneers. Patches of dwarf red mangrove (dwarf, because of the lack of phosphate in the soil in certain areas), white and black mangrove line the channel. Traveling along the channel east to west Mexican mangroves are on the left and Belizean mangroves are on the right. The boat ride although slow, is great for bird watching. Great blue herons, white ibis, egrets and other magnificent birds are commonly sighted along the channel. One inlet along the Bacalar channel leads to the "seven positas" or seven little pools. These "positas" are seven holes that lead into one great cavern. The area is ideal for snorklers and divers. Snapper, Needle fish and southern sting rays are plentiful. The second inlet along the channel leads to Rio del Bacalar, into the Bacalar Chico Lagoon, through Rio de Cantena and then into Laguna de Cantena. The Bacalar Chico channel leads out into the sea to the Barrier Reef. On the front side of the reserve is the Bacalar Chico station that was built by Raleigh International. The station is situated only about 8 minutes away from X'calak.

Tour guides that are interested in learning more about Bacalar Chico and the eco-tour are asked to contact Dylan Gomez or Aurial Samos through the Hol Chan Marine Reserve office in San Pedro Town at 026-2247.

Eco-Tours to Bacalar Chico to be established

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