Monday, 18 March 2013

You’ll Go Bananas!

Driving north of the Placencia peninsula it is difficult to miss the acres of bananas. It is true that Placencia is known for its perfect barefoot beaches, its diverse cayes located between Placencia and the Great Barrier Reef, its tranquil tours through the Monkey River, the jungle, Maya ruins and the unbelievable snorkeling and scuba diving reserves such as the Silk Cayes, Glover’s Reef and Laughing Bird Caye National Park. However, these are only a few of the activities Placencia has to offer. Recently, the Sagitun Farms located near Riversdale on the Placencia Peninsula has opened its doors to the public offering a fantastic opportunity to learn all about growing bananas while walking amongst acres and acres of bananas. The billboard on the Placencia roadside reads “you’ll go bananas!” and I concur, you will go bananas, after visiting the banana farm!

Super fun, educational, interesting, awed, are but only a few words to describe the tour around the plantation. Bananas are one of the only fruits that bear all year round and it is commonly found all over Belize, and the world. However, did you know that bananas were once considered a rare fruit in North America & Europe? History has it that bananas didn’t reach North America until after the Civil War. Consequently, it then became the number one selling fruit in America!

Our tour on the banana farm was booked and we were ready to go bananas! Entering the Sagitun Farm I was taken by surprise, they were lines of bananas the entire road in, it seemed to me as a hidden community/village! They had everything in this area from housing, schools, churches, to a police station. We met with Evin, our tour guide, who made us feel right at home.  The tour started with a brief ten-minute video on the history of the banana production in Belize and around the world. It is here that I learned that bananas are not grown on trees, as it is commonly believed. Bananas are actually grown on herbaceous plant (herb), not a tree!

We were then taken out in the farm where we walked amongst the bananas and met with the Farm Manager. The walk down the banana trail was very informative and interactive. We witnessed firsthand what it really takes to grow and harvest bananas to be sent off for exportation to the United Kingdom. Sagitun Farms takes pride in producing quality bananas; therefore the fruits that are processed, packed, and shipped all meet the very high standards of the European Union Commission Regulation (EC).

For me and for anyone that enjoys natural healthy snacks you will enjoy the end of the banana tour. After all the walk and learning about bananas your tummy will definitely be calling out for some bananas! Evin was kind enough to take us back to the main office where she surprised us with crunchy, delicious banana chips accompanied with a drink of our choice. The tour was incredible, it is definitely worth visiting the banana farm near Placencia!

If you are planning to spend some time on-land in Placencia be sure to have Patty book the nearby inland tour with Sagitun Farm!

It is bunches of fun for all ages!             

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

How to Spot A Whale Shark (Part I)

Spring is near and while many are looking forward to the blooming of flowers; in the Caribbean, we sea lovers are looking forward to the arrival of the gentle giants of the sea. When we hear about sharks our first thoughts may be “danger-man’s predator”, but there is no need to fear. The whale sharks are not voracious creatures, on the contrary they are known as passive, easy-going, sea-dwellers.

Whalesharks are one of the most magnificent and mysterious creatures of the sea. It is not unusual to spot a 40-foot whale shark.  These humongous creatures are known to grow up to 60 feet in length and to live for 100 years. Little is known of the great whale shark but what we do know is fascinating. It may be a scary thought to scuba dive or snorkel alongside the largest fish of the sea, but it is certainly an experience never to be forgotten and one that certainly needs to be on your bucket list as a diver.

The whale sharks are considered migratory creatures and are capable of travelling thousands of kilometers. Preferring warm waters, the Belize Barrier Reef is fortunate to host the whale sharks once a year. Just 30 miles east of Placencia is a unique and captivating area called Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve (GSSMR) where there are spawning aggregations of several species of snapper every year at the time of full moon in March, April, May and June.

The local Fishermen of Placencia were the first to notice the amazing whale sharks feeding at the Gladden Spit. Whale sharks may be found in other tropical areas but the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve is one of the very few areas of the world where you can reasonably predict their appearance and dive with them. Marine biologist, Dr. Will Heyman of the Natural Conservancy describes Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve as “a place so magical, so wonderful, and intact.”

The Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in Placencia has undertaken the necessary steps to preserve Gladden Spit as a natural habitat. SEA is responsible for the development of the Whale Shark Working Group, Whale Shark Tourism Interaction Guideline, and implementation of licensed Whale Shark Guides and Boat Captains.

Patricia Ramirez, co-owner of Splash Dive Center, is an active member of the Whale Shark Working Group. Patty, as many of her friends call her, not only offers the incredible whale shark tour to the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve but also offers a PADI Whale Shark Specialty Course. The PADI Whale Shark Specialty Course will enhance your Whale shark scuba diving and snorkeling experience.

The chance to experience the natural wonders of the sea alongside the most magnificent creature and a variety of fascinating schools of fish is now!

Stay tuned to find out more about my first whale shark experience and the exhilarating chance in spotting a whale shark in the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserve.