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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Visiting Belize

December 16th, 2011 · 7 Comments

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The only difficulty in visiting Belize was getting there. This tiny Central American country on the Caribbean Sea is only a two or three hour flight from Miami, Houston, or Dallas/Fort Worth. But my friend Sharon and I went there just before Thanksgiving, and even with booking reservations months in advance, the best we could arrange was a red-eye flight from Denver to Miami and a six-hour layover before our two-hour flight to Belize City.

We arrived tired, but perked up immediately as we headed to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Belize. We stayed for the next three nights at the Crooked Tree Lodge in a village completely surrounded by a lagoon. The Crooked Tree name comes from an old Bullet Tree that is no longer standing.

At the airport our tour guide, Glenn Crawford, met Sharon, me, and the only other participant on the Wildside Nature Tour that we had booked. Glenn is an avid photographer and is essentially a photography guide, rather than a birding guide. But he knows all the birds and where to find them. He has a most pleasant, helpful personality. We got a lot done yet were never rushed. He has his own cameras, vehicle, and boat.

Glenn Liked My Canon 7D SLR Camera

Glenn Liked My Canon 7D SLR Camera

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The tour was so well done that as soon as I returned home I signed up for another one from the same company. I will be taking the Wildside Nature Tour to the Galapagos and Ecuador next July and August.

That other participant on our Belize tour, Sandy Komito, was a trip in himself. Sandy is one of the greatest raconteurs I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. At age 80, he may know more about North American birds than anyone else in the world.

When I asked Sandy if he knew about the book and movie called “The Big Year,” he replied, “I inspired it.”

The movie of that name starring Steve Martin had just come out based on the wonderful book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. In fact, Sandy had set the record in 1987 by seeing 721 species of birds within the area of North America as defined by the American Birding Association (the 49 continental U.S. states, including Alaska; Canada; the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon; and nearby waters up to a distance of 200 miles from land or half the distance to a neighboring country, whichever is less).  Then, in 1998 he set the record again, this time at 748 species — still the most birds anyone ever saw in a North American Big Year. The book is about how Sandy and two other top birders, Al Levantin, and Greg Miller chased after Sandy’s earlier record.

Sandy taught me a lot about birds and birding. In turn, I taught him something that I know about photography. He had recently purchased a Canon 60D SLR camera, the predecessor model to my 7D. And he was using the same 100-400mm lens that I use the most.

Sandy, His Camera, and Sharon

Sandy, His Camera, and Sharon

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Just a couple of hours after the three tour participants arrived in Belize we were ensconced in Crooked Tree Lodge, where owners Angie and Mick Webb and family welcomed us. Their family consists of Cory, 6, Zach, 4, several dogs, cats, pigs, and an orphan cow, plus their one-month-old puppie, Wolfie. A most friendly family, but Angie is such a great cook that we all ate too much.

The Main Lodge Building

The Main Lodge Building

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The Lodge from the Dock

The Lodge from the Dock

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Cory, Angie, and Zach with Wolfie

Cory, Angie, and Zach with Wolfie

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Even as we settled in at Crooked Tree Lodge, we walked around its grounds and saw many birds, including this Green Heron.

A Green Heron in a Green Tree

A Green Heron in a Green Tree

Click on the picture above to enlarge

But it was seeing this Morelet’s crocodile that pleased me the most. It is an endangered species found only in the fresh waters near the Caribbean areas of Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala.

A Crocodile Has a Big Mouth and Sharp Teeth

A Morelet's Crocodile Has a Big Mouth and Sharp Teeth

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I was especially pleased that the crocodile didn’t come after me. That might have spoiled a wonderful trip.

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Posted in: Belize

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Fran Stearns // Dec 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    This IS a crocodile..wow!

  • 2 seashell // Dec 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I can’t understand why you weren’t able to get a flight from Denver through Houston to Belize City. My dive buddy is from near Colorado Springs and takes an early flight from there, to Denver. For example, a departure from Denver at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 10, would arrive in BZE at 3:59 p.m. same day. Current price is $503 Cdn, not including taxes.

  • 3 David Mendosa // Dec 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Yes, but my travel agent tried. All connecting flights through Houston (and Dallas/Fort Worth) were booked months ahead of time.

  • 4 seashell // Dec 24, 2011 at 2:30 am

    Well, hmmm, maybe for the time of year you required? But still, I’m amazed. It is Xmas that I travel, and haven’t ever had to do more than be a bit flexible on a departure date. On ocassion, I do stay over in Houston, by choice and that makes it a bit easier, and only marginally more expense. I’m sorry your flights were so uncomfortably routed. If you find yourself up against this again, while I can’t promise anything since I’m not a travel agent (only a frequest flyer), I’d be pleased to try and help you out. Having been on a few red eyes that absolutely could not be avoided due to distance, I know what it can take to get back into the wonder of the vacation, upon arrival. Best of the season to you.

  • 5 Bob Guetzlaff // Dec 31, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Great pix and experience. You certainly do find the neat stuff & places. Being of the same vintage as you, I couldn’t begin to follow your schedule. As you recall, I’m willing, but the body isn’t! The knees are BAD and the back isn’t much better. Plus, the cost of all this traipsing would bankrupt me!! (And just THINKING about airports and airplanes turns me off.) I think I’ll stick to my motorhome. There are plenty of places I can drive to and camp near. I’ve been to all 50 states several (or more) times, and still have lots to see and do. I won’t drive to Mexico any more for obvious reasons, but that still leaves many thousands of miles. Take care old friend and I’ll check out your many “sites” from time to time. Keep in mind: northern WIS. in the summer and FL in the winter and everywhere else in between!

  • 6 Joel Fein // Jan 18, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Could you just do the stick in the mouth trick and couldn’t you get a closer shoot of the mouth? I will be right behind you David.

  • 7 David Mendosa // Jan 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Dear Joel,

    I will try to get closer next time. But only if I am at a zoo.

    Namaste,

    David

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