Getting into the Belizean swing of things

My first week in Belize was a wild ride! After arriving in Belize City, three members of my cohort and I headed to Caye Caulker for a couple nights before arriving at Dr. Roy Young’s nature resort located in the Community Monkey Sanctuary at Bermudian Landing to meet up with the rest of the students from Vancouver Island University. On Caye Caulker we had the joy of experiencing the famous Belizean Caye as well as Belizean hospitality. Both were fantastic! The experience of living in the Caribbean while being immersed amongst the interplay of the growing tourist industry and the continuously budding culture of the local community was one I won’t soon forget. A specific highlight of mine was making friendships with many of the locals operating informal businesses right near our cabanas.

After our stay at Caye Caulker, we met up with the rest of our group in Belize City and hopped on a van bound for Bermudian Landing. The Community Monkey Sanctuary is an amazing place; the land is privately owned by more than 200 Bermudian Landing community members who have made voluntary pledges to protect and enhance the ecosystem of the native black howler monkey population. In this way, the sanctuary is able to not only protect the local ecosystem, but also provide increased tourist income for the local businesses and homeowners, as well as a unique tourist experience, in the sanctuary lands. It is currently managed by the Women’s Conservation Group.

On our first night we were treated to a tour of the monkey’s home. Our group watched them swing, hang, and eat from the low hanging branches. The best part was hearing the alpha monkey’s incredible roar! Our tour guide informed us that the howler monkeys roar was used as a sound effect in Jurassic Park; how could such a small creature let out such a deafening sound?

Our stay at Bermudian Landing was capped with several beautiful meals, including traditional Belizean staples such as black & red beans with eggs and jacks for breakfast, rice and beans with plantain for lunch, and fresh river fish for dinner. All meals were complimented with local hot sauce and jam from Marie Sharp, SO GOOD!

After our time in the Community Baboon Sanctuary, we were dropped off at our respective summer research and internships locations. Our bus ride featured stops at several Belizean cities and villages including Belize City, Belmopan, Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, and Punta Gorda.

Before my arrival in Hopkins, where I will be living for two months while completing my research on stakeholder involvement in the evolution of waterfront development, I have been given a brief, but powerful, exposure to Belize. Caye Caulker is a great example of how, to date, the local culture has been left relatively intact despite a significant increase in tourism development, while the Community Baboon Sanctuary offered a great example of voluntary grassroots conservation.

I feel grateful for these early lessons and look forward to what the rest of the summer will bring!

Devan Cranshaw, Community Planning, VIU

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