BRIEF SCHEDULE in BELIZE - for more detail and links to web sites about where we'll be, look below the next snazzy blue-and-pink line
Day 1 - 4, Sunday - Wednesday 6/11 - 6/14
Leave Cincinnati ~ 6:00 a.m., arrive in Belize around 2:30 p.m. Travel to La Milpa field station for three days of rainforest ecology. While here we will immerse ourselves in the rainforest - hiking morning, afternoon, and night, with meals, presentations, journaling and free time sandwiched in. Our first visit to an ancient Maya site will be here, as we do some ecology and birding in an undeveloped archeological site.
Day 4 - 6, Wednesday - Friday 6/14 - 6/16
Travel from La Milpa to Crooked Tree Village. This is a great birding site, and we will live in the Creole culture as well as visit another, more excavated ancient Maya site.
Day 6 - 9, Friday - Monday 6/16 - 6/19
We'll leave Crooked Tree and, stopping along the way at the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the Belize National Zoo, will head toward the Spanish Lookout Mennonite colony. During this section of the trip we will learn about the Mennonite culture in Belize, actually getting to stay with these hospitable folks in their homes, as well as more Maya culture and ecology.
Day 9 - 12, Monday - Thursday 6/19 - 6/22
This morning we will head out for another day trip, to Caracol, a fantastic ancient Maya site (and beautiful undisturbed rain forest!) and end the day at our next lodging. The Trek Stop, a field station in midwest Belize, will be our home base during this leg of the trip.
Day 12 - 15, Thursday to Sunday 6/22 - 6/25
Everyone's favorite part of the trip - Wee Wee Caye! We'll spend the days snorkeling, the evenings figuring out what we've seen and how it all fits into the big picture of marine ecology, and the nights trying to keep away from the mosquitoes!
Day 15 - 16, Sunday - Monday 6/25 - 6/26
After a last early-morning snorkel, we'll head for Manatee Lodge, where we stand about a 99.9% chance of seeing these wonderful creatures at a freshwater spring in the middle of a lagoon. Then it will be one last night in a VERY civilized setting (the plushest lodging of the trip!), so that we can head for Belize City and home refreshed and ready to meet our families!
April ? (Fri.-Sat.)
Our trip unofficially begins with an orientation weekend (barring totally unworkable schedules).
This quick weekend trip will hopefully give you all you need to know to get ready to go to Belize. The time we spend will be much like our whole trip - fast and furious, lots of information in not much time, and hopefully a lot of fun! At this point we are planning to leave Friday evening and get back by noon on Sunday, but there's a possibility that we'll only stay one night and will come back late Saturday evening. Here's the schedule:
We'll leave Oxford by 5:00 or 6:00 PM on Friday, for the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve (operated by The Nature Conservancy; about an hour east of Cincinnati in Adams County, Ohio).
Once there, we'll have an introduction to the facilities, settle in and introduce ourselves, and then have an evening lecture and/or night hike. We'll sleep overnight in a very nice lodge on the preserve to get ready for a full day on Saturday.
On Saturday we'll start with an early breakfast, then have morning lectures on workshop requirements (e.g., passports, liability forms, field gear, etc.) and tropical ecology. After a break for lunch and probably a hike in the forest, we'll continue with more presentations on Belizean climate, geology, soils and cultures, all the things you will need to know to get the most from your Belizean experience. We'll finish the day with dinner, some free or question time and/or night hike.
The next morning we'll do an early morning bird hike (required this time, so bring your binoculars), have breakfast, and finish with some time for questions and final instructions before we head home. We'll be back in Oxford by noon on Sun., if not before.
June 11 - 14 (Sun. - Wed.)
This will be a BIG travel day. We'll leave the United States early in the morning and arrive at the Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City by mid afternoon. Then we'll head out for La Milpa field station.
Then we'll head out for La Milpa Field Station. We'll get a great look at the lowlands of Belize, with their gradation from sea level to just above - that is, we'll travel from mangroves at sea level to savannas as the elevation rises just a bit, to rainforest around the La Milpa field station. Once we've settled in, we'll have an orientation to the field station, dinner, and an evening introduction to Belize and the Programme for Belize.
The next two days will be spent at the field station immersing ourselves in tropical ecology. This is everyone's favorite terrestrial stop - great dry rainforests, lots of diversity of forest types and ages, other habitats, plants and animals and all that stuff most of us go to Belize to see, excellent naturalists, and (believe it or not!) cool sleeping quarters. The dorms here have the greatest method of catching any wind that is moving. While there, we will do, in some order, most or all of the following:
Early morning birding (some optional).
Night hikes and rides - to look for insects and frogs, and maybe to spotlight for larger animals. We saw a jaguar 3 years ago, and a tapir with her baby 2 years ago, and several kinkajous last year, but I wouldn't count on such spectacular sightings! You just never know what we'll see.
Hikes in several types and ages of forests.
Lectures by and/or visits with the Rio Bravo research staff.
Have time to collect data for group research projects.
On the way out, we'll stop for a Mestizo lunch in August Pine Ridge, and watch some traditional dances performed by some beautiful young ladies in San Felipe.
June 14 - 16 (Wed. - Fri.)
After leaving the La Milpa area, we'll head to Crooked Tree Wildlife Refuge. If you're into water birds, you'll love this place! But regardless, if you want to just hang around the lodge or walk around the village to get a taste of this small village's lifestyle, you should have some time to do so.
We will arrive at Crooked Tree village in time to eat, rest a bit, walk around the village if desired, eat dinner, and have some evening presentations and a night hike if we're up to it. The next day we will take a trip down the New River to a more excavated ancient Maya site, Lamanai, for some more rainforest and Maya culture. That night we'll definitely do a night hike - we had lots of great sightings last year! From Crooked Tree, the next morning we'll head toward the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the Creole Heritage Center. Both of these organizations have very interesting histories in respect to conservation in Belize. We'll eat a box lunch somewhere along the way this day, probably at the Belize Zoo, a great conservation story all by itself, complete with legendary characters like Sharon Matola and April the tapir. We'll get a chance to see some of Belize's native charismatic megafauna so that when we see them in the wild, you'll know what you're seeing!
June 16 - 19 (Fri. - Mon.)After our zoo adventure, we'll head toward Spanish Lookout, take a look around the community's industries, and end the day with a pot luck supper with our hosts. This is a very special opportunity - we get to stay with these folks in their homes. What a way to get to know their culture! We'll tour their community, attend an evening presentation on astronomy, and hopefully have great visits with our Mennonite host families. We'll also take a couple of day trips, first visiting a botanical farm, then going to a beautiful creek and cave, and on the second day visiting another cave and the valley rainforest that lies downhill from it.
June 19 - 22 (Mon. - Thurs.)
We'll head out from Spanish Lookout in the morning for another day trip before returning for the night to the Trek Stop. We'll probably start with a day trip to Caracol, the most extensive ancient Maya site in Belize, with a stop at the end of the day to cool off in one of the area's rivers (if we have time). We'll have a day to enjoy the Trek Stop's facilities, bird, night hike, do some more presentations and hopefully get to spend some time in a small modern Maya village, San Antonio, in the home of a good friend, David Tzul. The following day we'll head to the first and only jaguar preserve in the world, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This will be the wettest rainforest of the trip - and last year it was certainly wet - it poured on us for most of the afternoon! I'm sure this year will be great, and even if it rains like it did last year, will have an unbelievable time. Staying at Cockscomb Basin will put us in a great position to head out the next morning to Wee Wee Caye, only about an hour's drive to meet the boat.
June 22 - 25 (Thurs. - Sun.)
This morning we will head on to meet the boats that will take us to Wee Wee Caye Marine Lab, on a small island about 12 miles off the coast that we will have all to ourselves! Once there, we'll have an orientation, do an introductory snorkel, eat some lunch, snorkel again, have dinner and evening lectures on marine ecology, then head out to sit in the ocean breeze on the east dock.
On the two full days that we have at the caye, we'll explore mangrove ecology, sea grass beds, and coral reef ecosystems, snorkeling various areas of Belize's barrier reef each morning and afternoon. Marine ecology topics that will be included on our snorkels are reef zonation, marine invertebrates, types of reefs and what produces them, and the differences between high-energy and low-energy systems. We'll hopefully get a chance to head out to Man-of-War Caye to see Magnificent Frigatebird and Brown Booby rookeries, quite an amazing sight and ecological lesson, whether you like birds or not.
June 25 - 26 (Sun. - Mon.)
On Sunday, early risers will get one last morning snorkel before breakfast, then we'll all head for Manatee Lodge. The facilities here are a bit more upscale than we will have had during most of the trip, so everyone should be able to get a good night's sleep before we head back to Belize City and home.
After a good clean up and night's rest we will head through some of the country's rivers and canals to Belize City - much nicer than the 3-hour bus ride we've had in the past! If we have time, we will head into town to do a little shopping and see a different side of the country than we have had a chance to see until then. The trip home is a little shorter - or so it seems. We'll leave Belize mid afternoon and be home late that evening.
Some time after we get home, we'll have a post-trip celebration (location and time TBA). There you'll turn in your research papers/lesson plans, field journals (see Course Evaluation), and assignments, as well as reminisce, swap photographs and slides, and reflect on the trip experiences - a good time to be had by all.