Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tips When Visiting Belize...

Most vacationers who are looking at Belize as their destination, and have never been before, struggle a bit with deciding about the many locations and activities available in this small country. They also are sometimes put off by the warnings about the roads and driving that still are prevalent in much of the (now outdated) guide books and online forums. The highways, although not of the four lane divided variety, are mostly well paved and easy to navigate. Highway directional signs are much improved. A four wheel drive vehicle is really only needed by those doing more adventurous back road destinations.

Try to figure out broadly what you might want to do as a group or family during your stay. Is this a mostly "kick back and relax" visit? Or will you be doing a bunch of tours and excursions? It's not critical that you decide before you come, but it does make it somewhat easier to decide your location and plan your strategy. 

Many of us tend to think and plan their vacation in a week long chunk. And that may well be all that is available. For those with some flexibility in their plans, we have clearly seen that a stay of 8 to 14 days allows for much more leeway in planning for and enjoying all that is available. A seven day visit, with two days of airline travel, really means only five days to "vacation." So if you can, try to stretch it a bit... make those airline tickets really count!

When you are deciding whether to rent a car, you should think through your plans. Tour companies will transport you to the tour sites. This cost, of course, is reflected in the per person fee. If you transport your group via your rental vehicle (ie. to the cave tubing site or Mayan ruins) you will save a fairly significant amount... and not be a part of a larger group. Many Maine Stay guests rent a vehicle on arrival in Belize and drive to Placencia. Also, having the vehicle gives you greater flexibility and allows for much more spontaneous activity. And, by the way, driving is on the right hand side (as in the US) and all that is needed to rent is a valid US or Canadian driver license and passport. An International Driver License is not necessary.

This brings us to your "vacation location." Will it be the mountains of the Cayo District, the night life of San Pedro, the wildlife of northwestern Belize, or the beach and reef delights of the coast? If beach and ocean activities are a significant part of your group plans, then finding a happy medium to coordinate seaside and inland excursions is an important issue. The Placencia Peninsula offers a great location as well as excellent roads. The nearby Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve is a great example of a wonderful day trip the group can do on its' own... or on up the Hummingbird Highway to Caves Branch for tubing and zip-lining, or to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hanging On By A Thread...

One of our security guards, Bayron noticed a nest hanging from one of the palm tree fronds on the beach right in front of one of the Cabanas. There are 3 babies in it snuggled in tightly. What is remarkable about this is the very slender, tenuous threads that attached the nest to the underside of the frond. How does it stay there? Click photos to enlarge...


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It Mattered To Belize... And For Two Generations They Cared.

The passing of an era... 

This is an extremely well done production that highlights in beautiful and subtle video the many contributions of the British Army helicopters of the 25 Flight Army Air Corps.  
"Thirty-nine years of the British Army's Aviation history has drawn to a close in Belize, with the final flight from a Bell 212 helicopter from 25 Flight Army Air Corps... video commemorating this which was posted on youtube by the air Corp. British Army helicopters have been in the skies over Belize since 1972 - at a time when the sound of a British Puma Helicopter meant security for a nation under sustained territorial threat. The direct military threat has subsided, and the british army itself has entered another area - but no matter what the case, for med-evacs and BDF troop transport they will he missed. We close our news by honouring their contribution tonight." 
From Channel 7

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bicycles, Laundry and Toilet Paper...

So we had an older, but still quite serviceable, 40 foot container that we ended up deciding to not use in the new workshop plans... and we had a need for a place for storage for bicycles and supplies for The Maine Stay cabanas. But it certainly didn't need to be 40 feet! So I said to Jose... can you cut it in half? He said "sure." So we did some measuring and some head scratching about where to put this thing... and a few days later Jose used the acetylene torch and, believe it or not, mostly a Skil Saw to cut the container in half! Of course, both halves were not in the place we needed them to be... so they had to be moved... a story I told you about earlier. Now in place, it just needed to be fixed up...

The open end was framed in and closed with zinc roofing, and a bathroom for the security guards makes up one end. 


A shed roof allowed the bike storage area to be made, and the inside of the container was fixed up to make the laundry/storage area. 

And voila... the new Bicycle, Laundry and Storage building... which we shortened to "The Bike Shed."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Harpy Eagle Update...

Ya'axché Conservation Trust 
Harpy eagle chick progress report

It has been 10 months since the discovery of a harpy eagle chick in Bladen Nature Reserve, the furthest north that a breeding pair of harpy eagles have ever been confirmed. The harpy chick was then satellite tagged in May by a group including the bird team from Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE). The team was led by Angel Muela, a seasoned harpy eagle tagger, and William Garcia (BFREE). Ya’axché rangers Victor Bonilla, Pastor Ayala and protected areas manager Lee Mcloughlin were present in an observational capacity. The whole expedition was filmed by internationally renowned wildlife film maker Richard Foster.

After the tagging BFREE’s bird team noticed that the adult female and male had not returned to the nest to feed or nurture the chick. As a result the chick became malnourished, weak and then after a few failed attempts at flying fell to the forest floor where it risked being attacked by predators and actually had a close run in with a troop of spider monkeys. This situation led to the tough decision of whether or not to intervene in nature. The decision was made to intervene and return the chick to its nest before it was killed on the forest floor. BFREE’s bird team also took the unusual step of providing food, in the form of dead chickens. Eventually, to train the chick to kill, live chickens were introduced to the diet. This continued over two months, throughout which time the parents were still not once observed returning to the nest.

We then received the wonderful news from BFREE that in early July the adult male had been observed with the chick on a tree near to the nest where he was seen feeding the chick and standing watch over the chicks increasingly frequent flying attempts. The bird team withdrew their support for the chick and monitored the situation before being forced to leave the site due to the advent of the famous heavy rains of Toledo’s wet season.
This did not mean that monitoring could not continue. Due to the satellite tag, which had been attached to the back of the chick, the bird team could continue to determine its movements. They were able to confirm that the chick, now a juvenile, had left the site of the nest and moved to a nearby valley where she stayed for 5 days. It seems she is doing well as it is unlikely such movements would be occurring in ill health. It also suggests she is becoming more comfortable and skilled at flying.
This is by no means the end of the story; the chick will depend on the support of her parents for the first TWO years of her life. BFREE are working on GIS mapping to produce interpretive maps to keep the public informed and particularly for use for educational and scientific purposes.



Hilarious... if you live in Belize

I'm sure my three offspring will appreciate this...
Politics Daily is part of The Huffington Post. Thanks to Ruth Armstrong for passing this on. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Placencia Development Happenings...

We all tend to think of development on the Placencia Peninsula's (what I will call) "hard land." Or the land which existed before anyone thought to do significant dredging and "land building." This aerial photograph and labels of the various projects very usefully shows the lagoon developments that not many of us have known about... or at least paid much attention to...
From Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development website...
Las Brisas
As shown above, Las Brisas is located in the Placencia Lagoon near the southern end of Placencia Village.

Las Brisas is a residential subdivision of either 17 or 19 lots (theEnvironmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for Las Brisas is contradictory on the number of lots) on 3.913 acres of land to be created by dredging and filling. 
The development will also include 2 "small" boating canals on the western side of the property to be created, a boat dock for 5 boats, public open space and possibly a commercial lot.  Water will be obtained from the Placencia Village water supply and garbage will be deposited into the Placencia Village solid waste dump. 

The developer for Las Brisas is Las Brisas Placencia, Limited.  John Stothart signed the Las Brisas ECP as principal of Las Brisas on 1 April 2011.

The Department of the Environment did not require the developer to do an Environmental Impact Assessment for the development.

The Las Brisas ECP includes the following authorizations and obligations:
  • 32,000 cubic yards of fill may be dredged from the Placencia Lagoon.  (Fill material will be used to create land to a height of 2-3 feet above mean sea level.
  • No mangroves may be altered except to construct the boat canal.  Mangroves must also be planted in areas with no trees.  However, the developer is not obligated to use mangroves instead of a constructed seawall.
  • A 30 foot reserve must be created on the western side of the property. 
Placencia Lagoon - Las Brisas
Portion of Placencia Lagoon being
dredged and filled for Las Brisas