Birding Belize 2006
Journal 18 Jan 06
|We were up at 7:00 AM or so to pack for the boat trip back to Dangriga and the air charter from there to Gallon Jug. About 2:00 AM a fitful wind had begun and by 2:30 AM there was a gale under weigh with 35-45 mph winds out of the northwest - exactly along our boat route. After a windy outdoor breakfast and some initial confusion about whether there would be a boat and which one, we and our gear were loaded into an open 16-foot long boat, headed out into 1.5 meter waves. Out of the shelter of the caye and en route to Tobacco Caye to pick up some other passengers, the waves grew to 2.0-2.5 meters. Big water; very big water for an open boat. We had been loaned rain gear and we needed it, but we could have used better seat padding. The slamming across troughs was brutal. We were hammered. I think there were times the entire boat was in the air.
The trip to Tobacco Caye was especially rough when we passed openings in the reef, where the waves from the open Caribbean slopped into the wind-driven storm waves from the northwest. It probably took three times as long to get to Tobacco Caye as it had yesterday. We loaded a young couple at the Caye and then headed almost due west, straight towards the mainland. The result was probably less rough than running straight to Dangriga, but it was still extremely turbulent. Once we reached the lee of the mainland, the ride up the coast from Hopkins to Dangriga was comparatively calm.
My tailbone is bruised and my previously cracked ribs are sore again. I was very worried about Nancy's herniated vertebrae, but she was able to adjust to the motion and ease the hammering. But as a result her leg back muscles are sore. If you travel to Southwater Caye, keep in mind the ride back can be difficult. All of our gear, including my camera, made it through fine.
Once at Pelican Bay Resort, we got a chance to dry ourselves off in a borrowed room and then walked over the airstrip and boarded a Cessna 185 and, in calm, blue skies had an uneventful, scenic ride from Dangriga to Gallon Jug. The flight was about 45 minutes, and most of it was over undisturbed or regrown jungle. The flight path took us over the northern end of the Maya Mountains and some pretty stunning limestone ridges and escarpments. Most of the flight was at 2,900 feet, so the viewing was pretty good.
After Belize International, the strip at Gallon Jug is the nicest we have seen in Belize. Gallon Jug itself seems to be a model farm/ranch. Everything is clean, groomed, well cared for and ecologically prudent. But after a brief ride around the edge of the farm, we drove up through perhaps 4-5 miles of jungle to Chan Chich Lodge. The Lodge is even nicer than reports make it. Perched on the lower plaza of a Mayan ruin, it is clean, immaculately groomed and filled with birds. Nancy took a nap on arrival while I wandered around a bit, awaiting the arrival of the rest of our group. Immediately east of the lodge grounds is the Upper Plaza of the ruins.
I found our friends Jeff Blunt, Dave Haenni, Ron and Mary Teel and their daughter, Wendy, on my return from my walk. They had an uneventful flight from Belize International. We did some late afternoon birding along the River Trail to the confluence of Rio Bravo - a damp slough now - and Chan Chich Creek. Good birding, including two excellent views of Gray-necked Woodrails. Unhappily, the light was to low for photos.
After a very nice supper we did a night birding tour. Only a Barn Owl and a few Common Paroques for nightbirds, but we did find and have excellent views of a roosting Ornate Hawk Eagle. Nancy rallied enough for the night bird tour, but was only at half speed.
Click on the thumbnails below for a larger photo
This site © 2006 Jim & Nancy DeWitt
All rights reserved
All photos by Jim & Nancy DeWitt except as noted