For my first 8 years on Ambergris Caye, I existed almost solely in a few mile radius – within a few miles of San Pedro town – the only “urban center” on the caye. My experience with land based wildlife was limited – mostly to iguanas and mosquitoes.
But Ambergris Caye is a BIG island – the biggest in Belize – at over 25 miles long. And while building is booming, there are still huge amount of land that is unpopulated and rarely visited.
Last year I moved north – to about 7 miles north – still less than half way up the island. And I now spend some of my time on the reef side – the east side – the windward side – and some of my time on the west side. Near one of the leeward entrances to Cayo Frances Lagoon at Cayo Frances Farm & Fly.
And while living on an coastal island of Belize surprises me in some way every single day – life is much less ordinary at an off-the-grid lodge – where the daily visitors are mostly birds (many wading birds nest on this side of the island) and fish with a flyfishing boat once in a while.
Here are some of the extra-ordinary things I’ve encountered over the last few months, things that show me how big and special this island really is.
One day there was a ruckus in the mangroves over the lagoon…a bird squawking and screaming. Closer inspection and…it was a green vine snake with a bird’s neck in his mouth.
One of my favorite birds was this bare-throated tiger heron. Drying his feathers on an old mangrove stump. He looks like a flasher opening his raincoat.
The property is almost all black dirt – which is pretty rare on a coral reef island. While digging, this was found.
After a bit of internet research, it’s been identified as the teeth of a giant parrotfish. To grind coral, their throats are lined with these grinders.
One of my favorite sightings was these GORGEOUS eagle rays in just 2 or 3 feet off water at the entrance to Cayo Frances.
We’ve seen a peccary (also known as a javelina or a skunk pig) swim across the lagoon…and just last week, we had a deer dropped off at the camp. A flyfishing guide and his guests spotted a fawn in distress – wading in the lagoon, lethargic.
After watching him for over an hour – looking for the mother – the fawn was picked up and delivered to our “doorstep”. We rushed over from the other side of the island to pick him up and bring him to medical help.
We named him Frances. Poor guy did make it to safety where he was thought to be about 4 months old and seriously dehydrated, weak and in severe shock.
Little Frances didn’t make it. I wonder how many deer are left on the island – I would imagine not many.
What a beautiful animal.
Note: To hunt, a PERMIT from the Forestry Department is NEEDED. Without it, it is ILLEGAL.
Also spotted south of the camp was this gorgeous mother tamandua feeding her baby. Seen from a kayak in a far lagoon.
Quick to leave so they are not disturbed.
Seeing tamanduas and deer is extremely extremely rare. These animals are shy of people and, I would imagine, that, on this island, they are very limited in number due to hunting and quickly declining habitat.
As the island continues to grow, maintaining a balance is a huge challenge – if it wasn’t organizations like our humane societies, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize Bird Rescue, Wildtracks, the Belize Zoo and more – I’m not sure where we’d be.
It may not seem like a big deal to have a handful of deer and ocelot, nesting sea turtles and reddish egrets on the island – but it’s what makes this country INCREDIBLY special.
So…I thought I’d highlight some things in our own backyard.
If we turn the island into Cancun or Orlando or AnyVacationSpotThatISCheapAndEasyToGetTo, people are going to go there.
And I’ll just finished with my three legged dog Elsie.
Elsie reclining in today’s heat by the fan. After spending her first few years in horrid conditions (she weighed half her current weight when she was found), she is now a dog of leisure. And man…does she deserve it.
Elsie on a cooler day at her camp.