Blackadore Caye, Belize: Restoration and Development, I Think I Finally Get It
Yesterday, I snagged my first invite to head over to Blackadore Caye with the Jim, who works in Environmental Protection & Restoration, Juan, a head biologist and a crew of Belizeans including a student in Biology at University of Belize to learn about Blackadore Caye.
The caye is 2.5 miles long and lies north to south parallel to Ambergris Caye between our caye and the mainland. It is pencil thin – at no point during my trekking could I NOT see the other side.
And while buffered by the reef and Ambergris Caye, it is subject to the heavy currents coming from the north and the Bay Of Chetumal. It’s a sandbar, that became an island with proper mangroves and littoral (or coastal) forest and now Blackadore is on her way back to sandbar status due to a few factors. Some human and some environmental.
I will not profess to be an expert – AT ALL. But I went to the EIA meeting a few months ago to listen, I went to the island yesterday to look around and listen and here is what I think:
- The island is exceptionally beautiful – I mean CRAZY STUNNING EYE-POPPING EXHAUSTINGLY GORGEOUS.
2. It is in a state that we see all along the windward coast of Ambergris Caye – erosion and decay. The very few trees on the island are falling into the water and what is behind them? Acres and acres of shallow rooted savannah grasses that won’t keep the remaining soil on the island. There is literally ONE mangrove tree left. ONE.
3. The team is doing an amazing amount of research – from water and soil checks around the island to mammal studies to currents and tides… This will one of the best documented, well researched areas in Belize.
4. Yes, they want to build a resort/complex but they also want to restore the island to a healthier state. They REALLY do. And the scrutiny they are under because a big name is associated with it is intense. Scrutiny, by locals who know the area is needed, wanted. But we are allowing crazy things to happen on OUR island…mangrove removal, dredging and hideous resort construction – way too close to the quickly receding shoreline. Maybe it’s all too common to over-scrutinize what’s happening on the other side of the fence as opposed to your own yard? Maybe.
We arrived at about 9:30 – it’s about a 25 minute ride from town. The day started cloudy but was turning absolutely gorgeous.
The caretaker’s residence.
The old dock on the leeward side of the island. Stunning.
Juan and I took a short walk to look at the THICK needled grasses that covered thousands and thousands of crabs – the main residents of the island. Because of the grass, they really have no natural predators. Land of the crabs – crabs that basically eat any seed or seedling or anything they can.
Mangrove clay along the shores that are mostly sick, small and/or dying trees. Mangroves were here at some point – and as far off shore as 300 to 400 feet this clay has been found.
Step back a bit and it’s all grass…80% of the island. Grass hiding crabs and grass that, when a storm passes through, basically just falls into the water.
And then a dead zone – soil/sand so salty that nothing grows.
They’ve spent many nights camping on the (surprisingly pesty insect free yesterday) caye – and have a pretty nice eating set-up.
It was time to head up north with the crew to check the wells that had been drilled. The team is hopeful that there could be a large supply of fresh water under the island and will be working to discover it through some technology that I certainly don’t understand (yet).
Despite the fact that it was about 100 degrees away from the breeze, the views were absolutely amazing. The shore line is higher than the center of the island and while it is beyond stunning…let’s pause for a second to gawk…I spent about 2 hours doing it….
The sea grass has bleached completely white, like coconut, in the salt and sun.
And the behind us…
And the testing areas. We hit 6.
And by “we” I mean everyone that was wearing long pants…this grass is MEAN!
The boat returned to pick us up on the shore line, took us back to camp where we were very well fed by the caretaker’s family…
The look north…
There is a ton of work to do here to make the island more sustainable. There will be no seawalls – they only cause erosion from underneath and erosion of areas near them. The Blackadore team will be strategically planting mangroves, filling and raising the entire island with organic manner, rejuvenating the totally “dead areas” where salinity levels are so high that only algae can bloom and more.
This project will employ hundreds of Belizeans – and when it comes to the high-tech specialized jobs, they will surely need foreigners, but the team plans to open a training center as well.
A new EIA public meeting will be re-scheduled. And they have already scratched the idea of the over the water building at the protest of the local fly fishermen protecting their flats. These guys seem EXTREMELY willing to work with the public, share their latest scientific knowledge when it comes to conserving our beaches (WHICH WE NEED) and want to do this problem right.
I say that for a privately owned island? This is as good as it gets. WAY better than a half done, ponzi scheme set-ups that we’ve seen so often – especially on the lagoon side of Ambergris Caye.
But then…that opinion is just me.
This is not a sponsored post – all I received was a free boat trip and a big plate of rice & beans. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments remembering that this is the biologist/research team and not necessarily the funders or developers…
For another look at the gorgeous leeward side of Ambergris Caye, take a gander at this video recently made by Bote Boards. Wow x 10000.