Ranguana Caye, Belize, 1/23/2023, National Geographic Sea Lion
National Geographic Sea Lion
Belize & Guatemala
Today the National Geographic Sea Lion visited a private island known for having the second longest living reef in the world.
Ranguana is just one of many small islands in southern Belize. There was a nice beach with sun shelters, and this was our basecamp for spectacular snorkeling, which the area is known for. But there were plenty of diversions and snacks for guests who just wanted to chill on the beach.
After lunch, we returned to the beach for more water-based activities. We ended the day with our evening recap, where we reviewed the highlights some of us might have missed.
Shortly after National Geographic Sea Lion dropped her anchor, we awoke to very calm seas with overcast skies and a light southwest wind coming off the land. Our guests prepared for early morning adventures and headed out in Zodiacs and local skiffs to explore the meandering lower reaches of Monkey River, the largest estuary of southern Belize. Great blue herons and great egrets stood knee deep on the sandbars near the shore while yellow-crowned night herons and black vultures hunkered down in the drizzle that accompanied us. Guides and guests gazed up at the treetops, hoping to see green iguanas with the males in their bright orange breeding colors and perhaps a troop of Yucatan black howler monkeys. We walked the trails through the gallery forest a few miles upstream. Our luck was shining brightly, and several monkeys were sighted high above. We returned to the ship to savor the delicious brunch prepared by the amazing hotel department. Ranguana Caye was our base for the snorkeling and island activities this afternoon. Guests had a wonderful experience swimming among the bright and beautiful fish and the other tiny critters that live in the hard and soft corals of the fringing reefs. Parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and sergeant majors were some of the familiar friends seen. As the trip wound down to the final stages, contact information was exchanged among new friends, experiences were shared, and future trips were discussed. Guests bid farewell to the crew and staff. Glasses were raised, and a guest slide show put smiles on our faces.
What a day! After a full day on land yesterday, we were all eager to get in the water and see some good stuff today. Upon arrival to West Snake Caye, part of Port Honduras Marine Reserve, the wind was from the west. Within a half hour, it turned from the south. Although the waves came in at an angle, it didn’t stop us from snorkeling. Our Belizean snorkel guides were ready and waiting, and we used their three boats to separate into advanced, intermediate, and beginner groups. We went to the leeward side of the island, where we observed and photographed soft corals, hard corals, fish, and marine invertebrates. A couple intrepid kayakers ventured out. They stuck to the calmest corner and had a very relaxing time in the shallows near the mangroves, which is an ecosystem unto its own. By noon, we returned to the ship for lunch. We changed anchorage to position the ship closer to the labyrinth of Payne’s Creek mangrove forest. Before setting out by kayak or Zodiac, we enjoyed learning from a great visitor. Augustin Cho, a ranger from Payne’s Creek National Park, joined us on board to explain the park’s important role in the conservation of the diverse habitats found in this part of Payne’s Creek National Park. The afternoon found us traveling under a very light mist. The temperature was perfect. Explorations of the mangrove were varied. We observed spotted eagle rays feeding off oysters on red mangrove roots, boat-billed herons nesting on small islets, and clumps of red mangroves. With the quiet and gentle weather and almost no wind (an anomaly these days), I had trouble convincing the kayakers it was time to come in. No one was ready for the adventure to end, but daylight was fading.
Day two of our voyage was multifaceted. We started with an exciting hike up the foothills of the Maya Mountains to see scarlet macaws. We had a chance to take a wonderful float in an inner tube down a mountain stream. We enjoyed a lunch buffet with a plethora of local flavors. Next, we hopped on the “Hokey Pokey” water taxi to Placencia, where an art festival was in full swing. Our guests took the opportunity to appreciate artwork made by many local artisans. Finally, we danced the night away to the rhythm and beats of the Garifuna Collective.