The next leg of our journey brought us to South Water Caye, a tiny island about an hour from Punta Gorda. A tiny paradise, the island is full of palm tree, has a constant ocean breeze, greets you at morning and at night with knock-you-socks-off sunrises and sunset…. Should you want to kayak, go for it. Should you want to snorkel, just jump right off the dock and see what is in store for you.
The lodging was the nicest here compared to at Big Falls or Lime Caye. I shared a room with one friend, and there was AC (praise!!!) and wonderful water pressure in the shower. No more bunk beds for me!! I thoroughly enjoyed the communal spaces- a seating area in the middle of the island and also the lodge and dock where we got to journal and eat our meals. I like living an outdoor life, but this place provided the best of both worlds. The food was also excellent and the weather perfect.
Every day I woke up around 5:30 (I am just a naturally early riser) and got some coffee. Usually one or two people were up, too, and we developed a nice routine of drinking coffee, watching the sunrise, journaling, and sometimes even morning snorkels on the dock. Breakfast was at 7:30 each morning and then we had some time off to work on our research projects, have down time, etc. At 9 or 10 each day we all piled into our big boat and went on group snorkels. The reefs here were much more enjoyable than at Lime Caye… perhaps only because I had become more accustomed to snorkeling? But really, they were fantastic. The dense biodiversity of the reefs provided “oohs” and “ahs” at every turn of the head. Bonus: at this point everyone knew how to identify most of what we were seeing! Group snorkels usually lasted an hour or two and then we would have lunch. After lunch was a popular time to work on research projects and journal. Dinner was at 7:30 each night, right at sunset, and I loved always eating on the dock. Each night after dinner we had class in a small classroom, where the TA’s presented their theses, Dr. Steinberg lectured on conservation issues and we participated in Fish Quizes.
That was the general structure of each day, but every day came with its own fun and special activities. A few stand out to me: taking my research group to Carrie Bow Caye (there is a Smithsonian Field Research Station there), snorkeling in the mangroves (it scared me but it was cool), seeing manatees, stepping foot on a pirate island made of conchs, kayaking into the sunset with friends, and night walk adventures. Hands down the coolest place we got to visit was Glover’s Reef, where the reefs apparently look how other reefs looked around 20 years ago. There were tons more fish and coral, and the colors were more vivid than I had ever seen.
I learned so so much on this trip about conservation and about myself. 10000/10 recommend going on this study abroad!