Day 12 was all about atoll structure. We did two snorkeling swims today on different parts of the atoll. In the morning, we visited what is known as the fore reef, which is the part of the reef outside of the atoll’s ring of reef crest. The afternoon’s snorkel was on the back reef, the section of the reef near the reef crest on the inside of the atoll.
The fore reef snorkel was incredible, up until the point where I started feeling sea sick and had to lie on the floor of the boat (along with all the other nauseous people) for the rest of the trip. Before that, though, I got to explore the deeper reefs of this area. Three southern stingrays were seen on the sandy bottom between sections of reef. The coolest sighting of the day was of a huge spotted eagle ray near the deepest part of the reef. At one point the creature flipped around, ate something, and then swam off into the depths.
After finishing some data analysis for our reef health study from yesterday (relatively inconclusive), we took to the waters again, this time to explore the shallower, calmer back reef. The area was a mix of sea grass, sand, and coral areas, and the species were very diverse. I saw many bluestriped and French grunts swimming between the corals, along with a five-foot long barracuda! I also saw a sharptail eel swimming around in the rubble, another southern stingray, and a smaller barracuda chasing after some unknown species of fish.
Today was also special in that we got a very interesting presentation from Javier Garcia about the history of Belize’s people. It’s incredible how diverse both the human and wildlife populations are here!