We sailed south out of Belize City during the night and many guests aboard National Geographic Quest arose early to catch the sunrise and morning stretch class in a new destination. Excitement buzzed through the air as we awoke on our first day in sunny Belize! We had our first outing at Moho Caye, a beautiful island filled with coconut palms. This was our first opportunity to splash beneath the blue waves and explore Belize’s underwater world. Belize hosts the world’s second largest barrier reef, and the world’s largest healthiest barrier reef; we feel privileged to be experiencing such wonder. We marveled the underwater beauty and especially loved viewing the parrot fish that were munching on coral, and the gracefully swimming angel fish. As we swam amongst the hard and soft corals, our minds wandered to thoughts of coral reef health worldwide. What a shame it would be to lose such important, beautiful animals. The bird-watchers enjoyed a morning of viewing a variety of species including osprey (and a nest), yellow-crown night heron, green breasted mango, mangrove warbler, white crowned pigeon, and more!

Our morning seemed to fly by and before we knew it, we were on a new island-Laughing Bird Caye. This small island is the southern-most island in the central lagoon of the local barrier reef. We were happy to learn that Laughing Bird Caye is part of a national park and protected area; the vibrant reefs and laughing gulls are worth protecting. We once again had the opportunity to snorkel and we enjoyed seeing two different underwater environments in one day! Luckily for us, our fabulous local guides from Splash Dive accompanied us to our afternoon destination. Many of us saw species of fish and coral we had never seen before. For those who felt snorkeled-out, other water activities such as stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking were offered. Nothing quite says serenity like being on a paddleboard on calm, brilliantly blue water.

Outside of water activities, we enjoyed a little R&R with books and hammocks on the white sand beach. And, of course, we had a cooler full of local beer to sip in the sun! Our evening winded down with short presentations about the wildlife we encountered and a leisurely dinner chatting to friends and the natural history staff. Next stop: Guatemala!