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Save The Frogs Day: April 25th, 2015

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Frogs & Toads of Belize

Ever since I was a young child it had been a fantasy that one day I would experience a pristine lush rainforest. The opportunity arose when I learned that SAVE THE FROGS! was making their inaugural eco-tour to Belize in the summer of 2013! Excitement was at a fever pitch as I packed myself and my teenage daughter up for the trip of a lifetime. Peering out of the little airplane window as we circled before landing, the verdant greens swirled into the bright blue skies. First impressions were a jostling of sensations; the heat, the vibrant colors, the pungent aroma of fruit and flowers mixed with wet soil. I at once had a feeling of 'coming home'. And this was my first visit to Central America!

I couldn't have asked for a better way to experience Belize than with Michael Starkey, who organized and led the eco-tour. His passion and dedication was refreshing, but more than that it awoke a sense of wonder in the natural world around us. Making it even more special was the presence of Dr. Kerry Kriger, whose knowledge and wit made for an informative and fun experience.

We traveled by bus through the varied countryside, between rolling hills, forests, and coastal areas with mangroves. Archeological masterpieces such as Xunantunich, the site of Mayan ruins that still whispered of majestic times, were a fascinating way to feel the soul of a country with a rich history. For me, perfection was seeing howler monkeys swinging through the trees around the ruins; my friends have heard me bemoan life in USA often saying 'what kind of a place has no monkeys?'

The Tropical Education Center, was our first stop. July in Belize is the tail end of the heavy tropical rainfall. And I mean heavy! The skies emptied buckets on us periodically. But after the rain, the very earth would come alive with frogs calling, bats flitting, birds singing, even the spiders came out to bask. The iconic red-eyed tree frog was spotted on my first day in Belize; I was in heaven! The Belize Zoo, famous for it's conservation and rehabilitation efforts was nearby and a good introduction to the more elusive and nocturnal native fauna.

Second stop was the indescribably stunning Blue Creek preserve in southern Belize, nestled within the rainforest. I had found my place on earth! The cabins were at the creek edge. The entire camp area was surrounded and canopied by the forest. The shades of green were so varied and vivid, my eyes watered. In every direction I wandered, I was humbled by the age and vastness of nature and the planet we call home. Under leaves and rocks, the soil teemed with life - glistening bugs, spiders of all colors and sizes, shy lizards, and frogs, so very many frogs. We were a small group of humans amidst the vast moist forest. And it was a privilege to be there. It was fascinating to meet the indigenous people, who have spent generations living off the land in the village nearby. I learned how to treat snake bite and anxiety, or calm morning sickness, and to quench thirst from seemingly hard nuts, from an ethnobotanist, the local medicine man - who learned it all from his father before him. During night walks we learned of the local evil spirits that blow through on the winds, while I searched for enormous tarantulas and the elusive Tommy Goff (Fer de Lance snake).

Third stop was the sublime T.R.E.E.S., Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society, located off the delightfully named Hummingbird Highway. The orchards, swimming hole, excellent cuisine, and delightful hosts, will always be remembered! Hummingbirds hovered in gangs around us as we ate! Strange creatures with peanut shaped heads lurked in the darkness. Grasshoppers as large as my palm watched silently as I went on solitary rambles into the forest. Each trek under canopied foliage felt as though I was the only human alive. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to be walking where no person may ever have walked before me; and then there was a rustle...I immediately went into stalking mode, silent, eyes peeled, barely breathing… and then I saw it a mere couple of feet from my face, a 5 ft stunning black and yellow Tropical Rat Snake. For a moment we eyed each other; and then I slowly backed away to not threaten or frighten it inadvertently, as it decided I was of ambiguous intent and slid silently into oblivion amongst the trees.

There were toucans, and tree-climbing iguanas, bats galore and oh so many frogs in Belize; Vaillant's frogs, Maya Mountain frogs, Mexican tree frogs, Red-eyed tree frogs, Yellow tree frogs, Stauffer's tree frogs, Foam frogs, Rio Grande Leopard frogs, and enormous Marine toads that took up two handfuls!

My foray into paradise ended at South Water Caye, off the coast of Dangriga on the Belize Barrier Reef. The island is about half a mile long and privately owned by I.Z.E. (International Zoological Expeditions) with a marine biology research station. This was the perfect setting to relax and unwind after the heat and insects of the rainforest, with its white beaches, coconut trees and frangipani flowers. Snorkeling amongst the stingrays, colorful fish and corals, was a wondrous glimpse into the exotic underwater world. The local people were so friendly, warm and welcoming. And the evenings melted into starry nights with the strains of classical Indian music tinkling across the waters as Kerry and Michael played bamboo flutes on the beach.

If you want to experience a country, its people, customs, and especially the flora and fauna, you could not ask for better than an eco-tour with SAVE THE FROGS! It might change your life, the way it did mine!

Join our next Belize Eco-Tour!

Inspire to join us in Belize? Here's the information about the next SAVE THE FROGS! Belize Eco-Tour! See you in the tropics!

Together we can SAVE BELIZE'S FROGS!