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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 10th, 2017
Caye Caulker, Belize

Day #7: A trip to the island that time forgot

We set out today knowing that it was our final day on the island. All of our research was done, our data was collated, and lab reports were being frantically written.

The seas were once against stormy with winds blowing from the north. We knew pretty much from the outset that snorkeling was not going to be possible today:

We gently motored on the Goliath to a nearby island called Caye Caulker (or Key Corker or any one of several other variations):

Caye Caulker is an incredibly mellow place that caters almost entirely to tourists. The island is filled with art shops, snorkel tour operators, shell collectors, barefoot vagabonds, ramshackle inns, and seafood restaurants. We wandered through the town, shopping and chatting up the locals:

Everyone was universally friendly and mellow. We all enjoyed lunch at The Happy Lobster Restaurant followed by ice cream:

The students were given the opportunity to feed some of the local wildlife, giving whole sardines to pelicans and a large school of tarpons who hang out in a pool on one end of the island:

But mostly what we did was soak in the Caribbean cheeseburger-in-paradise vibe of the place. Caye Caulker is the kind of place where you can lie in a hammock to sip a coconut drink, and next thing you know it's a week later. Everyone is super friendly and offers to braid your hair or sell you some local fish or art.

On our way back, we stopped to observe manatees and dolphins; the students love those charismatic megafauna!

After returning to TREC, we all walked back into town for a final dinner on the island. One new experience that all of the students tried and many embraced during this trip was ceviche made from conch or fish. My description of it during the semester made them all a bit queasy, but everyone tried it on the island and most professed to like it.

After dinner, the students walked through town, visiting some of the local shops (always in large groups). It was a nice way to say goodbye to the island, one that we enjoyed so much over the last week.

Everyone is happy and healthy (although there have been a few who came down with a 24-hour type stomach bug, but nothing that was a real problem) and fully embracing the experience. They are working hard and having fun, and to a person have been able to maintain a proper balance between those two priorities.

I have been reading aloud all Comments and messages that are sent, so keep them coming if you care to.

Tune in next blog post for the story of our trip to the mainland!

Best wishes from La Isla Bonita,

- Prof. Eric J. Simon

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