The first stop for coral reef exploration was the Coral Gardens.
The marine life is so plentiful and colorful. There were mountains of brain coral, fire coral, staghorn coral, among others going on for miles. The area we snorkeled in is known as patch reefs which are like suburbs to the main barrier reef that is close by out to sea.
Every night for class here in Ambergis Caye we play a game called "Name that Species". The game entails each snorkel team (consisting of 2-3 people) naming a species of marine life that they saw that day and hasn't been mentioned any of the previous class periods. The first few days have been easy because the biodiversity is incredible, seeing things like Yellow Spotted Eagle Rays, Fairy Basslets, Spotted Trunkfish, Trumpetfish, and even our first shark (the friendly Nurse Shark, that is), but things are getting more interesting as the days progress and we find more reclusive species among the coral.
Our boat captains guided us out to the Coral Gardens, which are not considered a reserve or a park. It is interesting to experience the area with very few restrictions because the eco tourism industry here is still in its infancy and much of the exploration is unregulated. The guides basically let us run free and the responsibility to be environmentally conscious was internal. It makes the experience more individually fulfilling, but without close watch could be debilitating to the longevity of the area considering not all eco-tourists are as mindful as we are. The reef is still in very good health at this point in time, but without careful observation, the unregulated use could prove destructive over time.
As we have studied in class, if the environment begins to suffer, eco-tourists will cease to flock to the area, and the economy of Belize will also suffer. More regulation may be in the best interest of the country and anyone involved in the industry long term.
The day opened our eyes to the beauty of the coral patch reef ecosystems, and fueled our passion for exploration, finding new experience under every rock and patch reef.
Day 2 of reef action starts in 30 minutes.