Yesterday (May 22nd) was a super start to our mini weekend. We spent it in transition from Turf to Surf, and did a few fun things along the way. No amphibians (or sponges) were spotted today because we were mostly in the cave or in the sun–two environments where neither of those are found.
After a bittersweet goodbye to Las Cuevas and the staff, we hopped on a plane and headed east for 3 hours. Then we reached the ATM Cave–its English translation is “The Cave of the Stone Tomb.” There was a 45 minute swim/wade in to the cave then we climbed barefoot.
The most interesting thing we saw was a nearly intact skeleton of a 16-18 year old–the namesake for the cave. Likely, this person was a human sacrifice for when the Maya civilization was in trouble, and they were desperate to please their gods.
Then we made our way to the Tropical Education Center, our home for the night. They put us in the adorable forest cabanas and fed us a lovely meal.
That night, we got the opportunity to get a night tour of The Belize Zoo! Of course, I LOVED it. There were so many species and wonderful nocturnal life. The highlight for me: Meeting Indy the Tapir.
We fed him carrots and watched his little nose trunk. He was SO CUTE!!!! What a great end to our night.
We woke up for a 5 o’clock breakfast today to leave Las Cuevas. I was glad to leave the mites, chiggers, and the constant fear of insects falling on me. However, I was sad to leave the place where I got to become more comfortable with insects, my fellow TFBs, and lowering my standards of hygiene. I fell asleep until we stopped by a general store at Santa Elena before we headed to the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave. We got there and left the vans at around 10 o’clock. We swam across a river, walked across another river, and had a 17-ish minute walk to finally reach the cave.
The inside of the cave was incredible. We saw multiple ceramic pieces partially swallowed by the ground, and I couldn’t believe that the artifacts were not harmed by looters or removed by archeologists. The most interesting find were the human sacrifice remains, including the near-intact skeleton at the very end of the cave. The other remain had a very neat skull where I could visibly see the slanted forehead and the remaining tooth.
After we got out of the cave and had lunch, I had a bit of a mishap, but it was all good once I got into the van. We were in the van for about an hour and a half, so I bolted out of the van as soon as we got to the Tropical Educaiton Center (TEC) to go pee. I ran around the TEC trying to figure out where the bathroom is when I saw two different agoutis. That was pretty interesting.
Once we finished eating dinner, we rode on the back of the pickup truck to go to the Belizean zoo. I got a boa constrictor on my neck, and her name is Queen Green. (I am scared of Queen Green) I think the most surprising things were how small Central American jaguars are, how funky the ocelots sound, how strange the gibnut looks, and HOW CUTE TAPIRS ARE. I was ecstatic that I got to pet Indie the Tapir. We could tell that he was very excited by the food we were giving him. I’m just happy that I got to pet them.
Ants. We’re not in Las Cuevas but we’re still not in Glovers, so here’s my taxon mojo:
At the end of the tour of the zoo, we saw a lot of small winged insects on the floor. Scott picked up one of the insects and it was a queen fire ant. The other insects were on their mating swarm as well.
Today was another travelling day. We left Glover’s in the morning to head back to the mainland. We did one last snorkel on the way back through the mangroves at Twin Caye. There, we saw a manatee, a yellow seahorse, a magnificent feather duster worm, and a lot of upside down jellyfish. I also saw some Caulerpa algae, and many of the algae species I’d seen around the patch reefs.
The other place we stopped on the way back was Carrie Bow Caye, the Smithsonian Research Center. It was cool to meet the volunteer station manager, Clive, and hear about the research going on there.
Once we got back to the mainland, we went back to the Tropical Education Center where we are staying again tonight. We spent the evening at the Belize Zoo and got an amazing tour. We saw five big cats, including a jaguar that did somersaults for us. We also fed a tapir and two crocodiles.
The last thing we did tonight was talk with Lucrecia, who is in Belize to do cat research and took EBIO 319 last year. It was good to see her because we ran cross country together in the fall but she spent the spring semester in Tanzania, and it sounds like she has been doing some really cool stuff.
Tomorrow we are going to a cave. I’m sure it is going to be awesome, but I’m still a little sad that we aren’t at the reef anymore.
Today we experienced some unforeseen vehicular complications but we all came our the other side as weathered tfb’s (tropical field biologists). We’re spending the night at this beautiful lodge right next to the Belize zoo. Last night we were taken on a night tour of the zoo to see all the nocturnal animals at their most active. This meant jaguars, a puma, an ocelot, a margay, paca, and a tapir. It was truly incredible, I feel very lucky to have gotten to get so close to these beautiful big-cats. The jaguars have huge heads to crush their prey’s skull, but you can’t appreciate how big and powerful they are until they’re right in front of you. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Tomorrow we make our way out to Glovers reef! Soon I will be updating you on annelids rather than amphibians (still no more of those by the way). If you are curious as to what those are, I’d look up christmas tree worms and social feather dusters. Those are my favorites and they are not at all what you would expect worms to look like, they’re actually quite beautiful.