Our travels to Belize were off to an early start. The connecting flight departed at 6:30 am, so the whole Belize crew needed to get to the airport at 5 am. A long night of packing and preparing, plus the excitement of the trip meant that most of us only got a few hours of sleep. Checking in our bags was an adventure as well. With two free checked bags allowed for international travel, along with the two carry-ons allowed on all flights meant that some of us (definitely me!) were dragging along 4 large bags. Scuba gear and scientific equipment take up a lot of space!

After 4.5 hours of flights, 3 hours of bus travel from Belize City to Dangriga, and 1 hour by boat to the Glover’s Reef atoll, we were thrilled to finally be able to drop our bags and start exploring. The island is pretty small (the nature trail around it takes about 15 minutes to walk), but the views are gorgeous! We’re sleeping in dorms that are right on the water. The crashing of waves on the reef break will help us fall asleep even faster than the exhaustion alone.

After a delicious dinner and some planning by the adults, the kids had their first science meeting. We went over some assessments (basically quizzes) the kids had taken on the plane ride over to Belize. Instead of regular quizzes in school, though, it’s ok to get most of the answers wrong on this assessment. It’s to give me an idea of who knows what about the various topics, which include identifying corals, geology, geography, sampling methods, and reef structures. Sounds like a lot, but these ‘nauts know so much already! And now I know what to focus on for the rest of the trip.

Tomorrow begins our first day of diving, and none of us can wait to get in the water. We know the dive sites and reefs will be very different from what we typically see on the Springs Coast of Florida, but no one knows exactly what to expect. We’ll be amazed!

~Julie Galkiewicz, Education Officer, SNI Tarpon Springs Chapter

It is so different here than at home. There aren’t any real “cities” the same as we picture them. There are huts pieced together and not many cars. Everything looks a bit run down and I can’t imagine there are many modern accommodations. On the island, they use solar power, recycled rain water, and compostable outhouses. Electricity is limited. It’s strange not being able to turn up the AC or flush a toilet. Comfort isn’t the same here. It’s not awful though. It’s actually very beautiful and strangely relaxing not to rely on electricity and instant comfort when the slightest thing goes wrong. (I’ll still be thankful for all I have at home though!) Poverty seems to be the norm here, as opposed to at home where it’s the exception.

~Madison Hayes, Tarpon Springs SCUBAnaut