Snorkeling at Mexican Rocks and Mata

This morning we left to explore portions of the reef that exist north of Ak'Bol. Both of the sites that we visited today were marine protected areas, but are not part of the National Park system so that don't benefit from the same level of protection as Hol Chan. The first spot that we snorkeled at this morning was called "Mexican Rock" and had an abundance of higher coral formations that are home to many different kinds of marine life. I think the most interesting thing seen at this site were al the large organisims including a rainbow parrotfish and a multitude of southern stingrays. 

The second site that we visited was much less popular to tourists and was called "Mata". This site was a break in the reef and had many more, spread out formations of coral. It is an unprotected area and a lot of fishermen visit this site because it doesn't benefit from the same protection as a lot of the other sites that we have visited. The water here was much shallower in several places so we were better able to dive underneath the water in order to examine things up close. Under one of the large overhangs in a coral bed we found a large lion fish. These fish pose one of the greatest threats to the reefs around Belize as they are large competition for the local species of fish because they have a huge appetite which causes them to eat their way through the reef. Their venomous spikes make it dangerous for fishermen to catch, but the lion fish have delicious meat so resturants are starting to pay for this catch. There is a resturant not too far from our resort, so maybe some students will try it tomorrow when we enjoy a land-based day off the reef. 

Sophie, Cydney and Katie snorkeling at Mexican rocks.
Purple fan coral seen at Mexican rocks.
Henry by some elkhorn coral seen at Mata. Elkhorn coral is especially susceptible to damage from snorkelers.
Sophie by a brain coral seen at Mata.
Southern Stingray seen at Mexican rocks.
A Trumpet Fish spotted at Mexican Rocks. As as defense mechanism, Trumpet Fish position themselves in a vertical position to camouflage themselves when they detect danger.