Our Belizean excursion is coming to an end. The final three days of snorkeling flew by, and by the end, we still had plenty of species left to play in our nightly "Name the Species" game. The grand total of played species was upwards of 65 species and only one species of coral was played. I'm sure if we stayed another week the list would still be growing. Then another week. We may have to stay for the sake of our research.
Our time in Belize has taught us many things about the ecotourism industry and how it has affected this unique country. The industry is still growing, and it is rewarding to see how local entrepreneurs benefit from tourists around the world as they all get their own little slice of Belize.
The future for Belize looks bright. As we have discussed in class, for a tourist destination to be successful in the global market, the destination must have a way to differentiate itself from other potential destinations. We believe Belize has the potential to do this with the unique attractions such as the Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest reef in the world, and the influential mayan archaeological sites that were centralized to the Mayan Empire. We know we loved our time in Belize and want the industry to flourish so we can come back in the future.
We have witnessed first-hand the fragility of reef systems and the importance of responsible observation of these diverse ecosystems. We discussed in class how the paradigm of coral reef systems has shifted from stable, strong networks to fragile, unstable animals that require care and preservation. We witnessed care for the reef at many levels, and for the sake of all of us, we hope the regulation continues to move in the right direction.
The future of Belize's ecotourism industry as well as millions of organisms depend on the health of the barrier reef, and it's conservation is of the utmost importance.
Sadly, the end is near. Tomorrow we travel back to the land of the ice and snow. Hopefully we will be able to flaunt our newly bronzed bodies for a few days before the subzero temperatures suck every last pigment back into oblivion. We all may be feeling a little bit angsty, but all good things must come to an end. Belize will miss us and the feeling is mutual. Until next time, Ambergris Caye.
Stay tuned for updates on our journey homeward.