This morning, we awoke as the ship cruised to Laughing Bird Caye. This national park is named for the laughing gulls that make themselves heard from just about anywhere onshore. In the morning, we motored ashore the small 1.8-acre white sand paradise where we relaxed, kayaked and snorkeled. Laughing Bird Caye is unique not only for its national park protections but also for its active coral restoration zone. After a thorough exploration of the reef, we got back on the ship to reposition to the Silk Cayes. These “islands” are mostly beautiful reefs with a pile of protected sand in the middle, with hardly a palm tree supported. Local lobster fisherman were cleaning their catch in the shallow sandy bottom, and we were treated to a feeding frenzy of rays, turtles and sharks, all eager to pick up scraps discarded by the fisherman. After snorkeling, we swam ashore to bask in the sun and drink cocktails. It was the perfect end to an ocean-filled day.
National Geographic Sea Lion
The sun rose today with the promise of a fantastic day. As we swung on the mooring on the south side of Half Moon Caye at Lighthouse Reef Atoll, we observed the 50 feet drop-off below us, which dropped 1,500 additional feet to a deep cobalt blue. Everyone was excited as we sped six miles north to the Great Blue Hole. A beautiful rim of shallow corals surrounds a 1,000-foot wide marine sinkhole, a collapsed cavern in a now submerged cave system. Purple sea fans, green rope sponges and various mounds of stony corals are home to fish of so many shapes and colors. The highlight was a great hammerhead that swam into the Blue Hole just 20 feet below a group of snorkelers. Back at Half Moon Caye, baby red-footed boobies have grown quickly and become more active. The birds move around their flimsy nests in the orange-flowered ziricote trees. Unfortunately, the nests become unstable sometimes, and a baby falls. Today, two baby birds were rescued from the forest floor and taken for rehabilitation to the Belize Audubon Society’s field station and then to the Belize Bird Rescue. In a few weeks, the boobies will return to their home for a soft release back into the wild. With a painted sunset, the day ended for happy explorers onboard National Geographic Sea Lion .