Weekend at Hopkins

Friday, May 20

After a morning of birding at Lower Dover, we packed our bags for a weekend trip to the village of Hopkins on the coast. About an hour into our road trip, we made a brief foray into Billy Barquiedier national park. The undergrads forged ahead, eager to make it to the waterfall, while the more disciplined of our group took their time identifying plant and animal species along the way. We passed by a jaguar trail and a Mot Mot trail, which were intriguing but not what we came for. When we arrived at the waterfall, we all swam to cool off. The water was glittering with fish scales, and the rocks surrounding the pool were covered with vines.

From left to right: Nick, Linsey, Emily, Jack, and Rosie

We trekked back to the van after cooling off, and continued our journey to the coast. When we arrived at the Coconut Husk hotel, we were immediately hit with a thick wave of sargassum in the air, brought in by the winds that day. The hotel staff offered us fresh coconuts (with coconut rum added!) which were a much needed balm after the long journey. The undergrads drank our coconuts on the beach while listening to music, getting in the mood for our drumming lesson in the evening.

We got in the van once again for our lesson, which started with all of us choosing between small (primero) and large (segundo) drums. Our instructor lead us through different drumming patterns, adding complexity as we went on. Upon finishing our lesson, we moved our chairs off of the stage and onto the bar floor into a semicircle formation. We then had the privilege of watching the professionals show us how it’s done. We were encouraged to dance by the drummers, and with the help of some Garifuna women (and Belikin!) we all came out of our shells and danced in a circle. Exhausted from dancing, we sat down for an amazing dinner of barracuda in a coconut sauce with some fufu. We returned to the hotel in high spirits, and enjoyed the air conditioning for the night.

Saturday, May 21

The day started with some birdwatching in the wetlands behind the hotel, now fully free of the sargassum smell thanks to strong winds. Of note were the Roseate spoonbills. Breakfast was a traditional Belizean breakfast with fresh orange juice and fluffy fryjacks, which was eaten quickly in our excitement for the day’s snorkeling excursion. We split our group into two to fit onto two boats, which took us on a bumpy ride to a barrier reef. Our guide identified many species of fish, as well as corals, a sea cucumber, rays (including a large eagle ray), worms, and nurse sharks. Despite our liberal application of sunscreen, we all got a little burned.

The aforementioned nurse shark; while startling to see, it ignored us entirely

Emily, Rosie, Abdon, and Kat stayed behind on the island we took our lunch (Belizean chicken) while the rest of us went on to snorkel some more. Jack flexed his fish knowledge skills, asking about the species of angelfish and coral we saw. We collected the rest of the group after exploring the reef some more, and headed back to the mainland. With stinging skin we headed to Ella’s Cool Spot for dinner, where we ate some of the best food thus far on the trip. Everyone got drinks, so when a group of young boys (around age 13) started drumming for us, we decided to dance. The fun continued when we passed by (and lager joined) a particularly lively party, which turned out to be a wake. According to Dr. Selcer, wakes can be nine day affairs. We turned in late, once again enjoying the sound of waves and the cool AC.

Sunday, May 22

The day started like every other, with some birding. We trekked to the wetlands again, and while we didn’t see any spoonbills this time, we saw a variety of herons and about ten million grackles. Abdon took some particularly striking photos.

A green heron, we saw its better half as well (mates nest together)

We had an amazing breakfast at the hotel bar once again, this time with breakfast burritos and pancakes. We recouperated for about an hour then piled into the van for the return trip. We all nodded off periodically and took extremely restorative naps when we arrived back at the Lower Dover Field Station. The rest of the day was slow-paced, setting mammal traps and doing independent research. The beach was a wonderful change of pace, and it was fascinating to see the differences between Garifuna and Mayan culture.

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