Belize changed my life. It might be a small country, but it is full of character and I could have stayed there for ever. I came to Belize to volunteer in Wildtracks, a wildlife rehabilitation center, that have both a Manatee and a Primate programs. I came for the manatees but lived for the primates, with the Spider monkeys in particular.
I loved Belize for the first minute I set foot on it’s ground. The local people were too kind and friendly. I got so caught up in a conversation about manatees in the bus station, that I had missed the last bus to Sarteneja. But my new found friends took control and got me a ride to Orange walk, where they promised I could catch the old bus. And as their promises came true, the ride on the old blue school bus to Sarteneja was a happy one, with new friends, Belikin beers, and kind traveling offers I had to decline, for I had to start my duties the next day.
The rehabilitation center approach of hands on, jump right to the water (literally), suit me just right. First days I got to know the gentle giants, the manatees, taking them on “swims”, trying to encourage them to exercise in their rehabilitation pools. But no time for thoughts like “Oh my god! that is a manatee swimming next to me!”, there was too much to do. And on the third day I found my calling, the spider monkeys, my troops, my new found religion, and I never looked back.
My first greeter was Frolic, the new father now (!), who giggled fondly as I came by, and set the course of my later interactions with his kind. Soon I was amazed by the great structure of the spider monkey complex, three satellites enclosures, all connected to a huge main enclosure build around a large tree, where the ever in motion spider monkeys can learn the basic skills of climbing, swinging, jumping and playing around. That might be the cornerstone of the rehabilitation process, as most of the primates were brutally taken from their natural habitat as babies, and never climb a tree in their lives. So many sad stories behind mischievous eyes.
Photos taken by Eran Gissis while volunteering in Wildracks.
Since the first moment I didn’t looked back and completely fell in love with the spiders and nothing else matters. Though times were hard at parts, that never seem to mind the staff nor the volunteers, the sense of purpose just took control, and we all join in a common mission. I was amazed by the uncompromising devotion and dedication of the staff that also transfer to the volunteers. Nothing could stand in the way of the Wildtrackers from reaching an animal in need.
I can keep on going on for ever. I could write about all the monkey tricks and games, as they never get old and never seize to surprise. Or maybe about roaming the surrounding jungle with a local legend, jungle life buzzing around in full bloom, in a never ending search for browse to feed the primates? Well, even John Steinbeck could not accurately portray T’ getting Ramon branches from a 20 meters tree. You just had to be there! The magnificent wildlife all around: Tokens, Owls, Foxes, Snakes, Armadillos… Still can’t believe I have missed the puma that been spotted shortly after I left. There is just too much to tell.
But my experience in Belize was not limited to Wildtracks. Belize might be a small country, but there is so much to do and see. For me it was mostly the Cayes. Caye Caulker to start with. “GO SLOW”. Where it’s just endless fun, clear water, the best Fried Jacks to find, and even an encounter with a wild manatee while snorkeling. Or Half-moon Caye, Far into the ocean, great nesting site for seabirds, sandy beaches with coconut palms and beautiful reefs.
What struck me the most about Belize- The abundance of birds and other wildlife? The Mayan ruins? The jungle? The beautiful beaches and all the marine life? The friendly locals? The great food? It seem like Belize got too much to offer, and I just could not had enough.