Many conservationists can identify a formative childhood experience, such as a trip or wildlife encounter, that sparked their interest in nature and got them involved in protecting it. “The bug sets in early,” says CI Chairman’s Council member Mark Breier. “As a child, you pick up the cause and understand the issues very quickly.”
With this in mind, Breier set out on a CI-Sojourn through Belize with friends Tyler Johnston and Dave Laukat and their children. “We were three dads and four sons on a whirlwind ecotourism adventure,” he explains. “As it was over the winter holidays, we called our trip ‘Belize Navidad.’”
Each leg of the journey came with its own rich experiences. They visited remote, recently discovered caves containing artifacts dating back to the Mayan period. A snorkeling trip took them near Laughing Bird Caye, a marine reserve renowned for its fish aggregations. Breier recalls, “These giant schools were new to us and opened our eyes to the threat of overfishing during this crucial spawning period. We were told as many as 10 fish aggregations had collapsed due to such activity.”
The trip also gave them the opportunity to meet with CI partner Friends of Nature, a local conservation group charged with managing the reserve. With CI support, Friends of Nature recently purchased Little Water Caye, an island adjacent to Gladden Spit, enabling them to better monitor and control tourist traffic and protect the waters from illegal fishing.
Further to the south, the group stayed at remote jungle accommodations run by Belize Lodge and Excursions, a partner in CI’s Verde Ventures program, which invests in businesses that promote biodiversity conservation. “We were in the middle of nowhere, in beautiful accommodations, surrounded by howler monkeys, iguanas, leaping poisonous snakes and spiders,” Breier says. “The boys loved it.”
One night the group decided to take a midnight ride downriver in a dugout canoe. “The imagination takes over in a setting like that,” says Breier. “The sounds, the eyes in tthe forest canopy. … You wonder what is hiding in the darkness. It was unforgettable.”
Equally memorable was the time spent with their sons. “It was great, as fathers, to share our passion with our kids,” he says. “We felt we were planting the seeds for the next nature evangelists.”