It's a beautiful day in Belize

“It’s a beautiful day in Belize,” our local guides kept telling us. They weren’t kidding. I grew up on a boat and spent lots of time fishing, so I jumped at the chance to experience the same in Hopkins. Four VIU students (myself, Devan, Taylor and Kala) and three locals piled into our boat and we set off for a Sunday of snorkeling and fishing out on the reef.

Our time in the boat was just as amazing as our time in the water. The people of Hopkins are incredible with their generosity and cultural pride. They have taught us so much about Garifuna traditions, music and even some phrases and words!

Once we arrived at the reef we immediately dove into the crystal clear turquoise and blue water. The increased salinity of the water here makes it very easy to swim. It was amazing to float effortlessly above the coral and fish and see so much colourful underwater life. The flip side of the coin was seeing firsthand the degradation and bleaching of the reef system. As with most things, seeing is believing. I sincerely hope that the mitigation strategies and restoration practices help the reef to remain something that can be enjoyed for generations to come.

As for the fishing, it was great! Kala held the rod as we trolled and caught a barracuda and a mackerel. She was the fish-catching superstar of the trip! I was the unlucky soul catching only one tiny fish for bait, but my bruised ego didn’t deter me from having a wonderful time. As we fished, Jabbor, our friend (and master drummer) from the Lebeha Drumming Center, snorkeled the reef in search of conch. Within a short time he had about six conch in the boat. The rest of the afternoon was filled with swimming, fishing, and plenty of laughs. On our way back we stopped at Willow Caye to visit the resident pig, named ‘Piggy’, and to say hello to the caretakers. The whole island was littered with old bits of coral, and hermit crabs were everywhere. It was so cool!

We came back to Hopkins and began prepping for the night’s feast at the drumming center. All of our fish and veggies were barbecued up to perfection. We spent the evening enjoying our spoils and talking about our research with Mick, an involved local who is part of the fisherman’s association here. The night ended with a fabulous jam session; everyone had an instrument and Jabbor led us with some sweet tunes. There is so much to learn and see here, and I can’t wait for what the coming weeks will bring.

Teunesha Evertse, Community Planning, VIU