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Turtles and Plastic

August 3, 2017

The tropical breeze blew gently in through our rooms as we welcomed the new day. Many of us met

Baby turtle

Baby turtle making its way to the ocean

out on the beach so we could watch the beautiful sun rise on the horizon. A large ray surprised us as it came close to the beach, while pelicans flew overhead looking for their breakfast. A short time later, while enjoying the first cup of coffee for the day, we were alerted by another guest that the baby turtles were making their way out to the ocean. Excitedly, we ran to the edge of the island where a nest of baby turtle eggs revealed that many of the babies had already left. The last five baby turtles slowly and carefully made their first steps from the nest towards the water. All of us were on hand to watch this amazing event, some of us filming, some of taking pictures, all of us quietly cheering. Our conversation at breakfast was about the baby turtles and the beauty of what we had just witnessed.

After breakfast, we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed out for the day. We were excited to be headed to the Carrie Bow Research Station, a short boat ride from the island. The station manager gave us a tour of the station, where they are doing coral reef research. Following the station tour, we headed over to snorkel in the mangroves. What an amazing experience! While below, we looked at the root structure of the mangroves and looked for life in the water. A spiny looking Cushioned Sea Star was spotted, something we would not ever see closer to home. Schools of what we later found out to be sardines, swam busily below the surface. A mangrove crab climbed on the branches just above the water. As we made our way back to the island, we were entertained by the dolphins swimming nearby.

DSCF1735

Shredded Plastic as far as the eye could see

After a delicious lunch, we had an opportunity to make final trip into the water for snorkeling. While some remained in the warm waters, known as the “pool,” several of us ventured out past the turtle grass into the open waters. Final underwater images were captured, fish and coral identified, as we enjoyed our final time in the waters of the Caribbean. As we began to make our way back to the shore, we were devastated and heartbroken to swim into a massive amount of plastic floating in the ocean. Words cannot describe the feelings we had as we had to swim through this terrible mess. The plastic appeared to have been in the ocean for a while, and stuck to us and to our masks as we made our way back to shore. It’s hard describe the size of this awful mess, but the time we were swimming would be about the length of a football field. Even harder to imagine was the fact that the baby turtles we witnessed making their first trek into the waters this morning, we going to have to face this. The entire experience of the plastic was disheartening and almost terrifying. We climbed from the waters, very upset at what was still passing by us in view of the coast. It was not something any of us had ever experienced. Our evening meeting included conversation about this experience and our experiences of the day. which started off with something as beautiful as the baby turtles and was ending with something as disturbing as the plastic. After our final Belizean dinner, we were entertained by a drumming group and singers, learned some dances native to Belize and enjoyed each other’s company. Just before we finished for the day, we were alerted to another turtle making a nest for her eggs. We hurried to the beach, in time to see the turtle making her way back into the water and into the path of the field of plastic still progressing through the area. We looked for the nest and for other turtles in the area before retiring for the day. Many of us sat in the darkness, listening to the sound of the surf. This was our final full day in Belize.

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