I was expecting a week of hot, sticky air, throngs of bugs everywhere, hard work, and some unfriendly relations. I was on the plane headed for Belize with my tropical ecology college class. We had met four times previously to go over the basics of what we would be studying and to prepare for the trip.
None of us got very good first impressions of the situaition from these meetings. Stepping off the plane, however, led us all into a completely unexpected situation. The air was fresh; pollution free and clear.
The jungle loomed overhead with old-growth trees, and vines as big as trunks. Birds colored the sky with their many flourescent colored wings, flying over the tops of mountains. It was completely the opposite of anything I’ve seen (being born and raised in Florida).
It was breathtaking. It was Belize. From the first step off the plane, things began to exceed expectations.
We journeyed through the rainforest for miles over the next couple of days, witnessing nature in all its grandeur. Even simple things like leaf cutter ants presented an experience in just watching them. Possibly the best scene of forest that we came across during this time was a waterfall high in the mountains; swimming and jumping into it filled the participants with a feeling of euphoria.
The work part was easy; it came as second nature to take notes on all the beauty that we were witnessing, and everyone came together as best friends and work partners from seeing the unbelievable.The rainforest-hiking ended after three days, leaving us in awe and anticipation of what we would see next. It turned out to be more than anyone could have hoped for. An island a mere mile long, covered in palm trees and mangroves, surrounded on all sides by shallow patch reefs, became our home for the next five days.
The water was clear enough to see the bottom, no matter how deep. We went snorkeling and kayaking everyday (seeing multitudes of parrotfish, grouper, and beautiful corals, to name a few sights), and had freshly caught sefood for every meal. Hammocks lay between trees everywhere for anyone willing to kick back and relax for a while.
The natives that lived and worked on the island were quite possibly the most friendly people I’ve ever met, willing to chop open a cocnut or cook a conch whenever asked. And after a long hard day of relaxing, we retreated to our cabins with a view of the ocean and a cool breeze blowing through. Everywhere was an occasion to go barefoot and shirtless.
Basically, it was a tropical paradise. When, after eight days, we stepped back into the airport in Belize City, the only thought on everyones’ minds was when we could go back. It felt impossible that we were leaving; as impossible as it had felt at the beginning that we were going to enjoy ourselves.
I came home with a passion for travelling so strong that the rest of my summer booked up with trips around the country, and I began researching bigger trips around the world. Beliz showed me much more than a rainforest and a tropical island, it began showing me the world.
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