Tag Archive: Belize


The Octopus and the Pufferfish

During our recent expedition to Belize, we were able to observe Caribbean Reef Octopus nightly as we explored the intertidal near our water huts on the edge of Glover’s Atoll.
We watched in fascination as the octopus fished under coral rubble by elongating their arms  ladened with sensory suckers which can taste their food once captured. Their beak/mouth is positioned at the base of their 8 arms and as Erica Berg keenly observed, their mouth is in their armpits!
We noticed a small sharpnose pufferfish become momentarily trapped by a sucker then quickly released as the octopus likely detected the unfavorable catch. Puffers contain tetrodotoxin, a powerful neurotoxin which protects the puffer from predation. Bobbing to the surface, the tiny puffer inflated it’s body and wobbled away.
Our group of women were such keen observers! We learned from each other sharing our daily observations during our 12 day blue water adventure! Join a natuarlist-led adventure at http://www.bluewaterventures.org!
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Each year during our Caribbean programs in Belize and the British Virgin Islands,  our group is invariably drawn to the Caribbean Reef Squid, Sepioteuthis sepioidea. Even seasoned snorkelers become overwhelmed by the explosion of colorful activity found on a coral reef. Suspended in blue water, an erie feeling that something is watching you creeps into your consciousness. A quick glance around reveals a squadron of reef squid. Swim away and they follow. Move towards them and they quickly change color, a deep red if near the reef or pale if over sand, masters of camouflage.

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They may even create false eyes on their posterior end as seen here. The eyes will instantaneously vanish once the threat of a predator is gone. Quite incredible.

 

The  picture  below reveals an unusual white blotch across the dorsal side. I have watched reef squid for decades and have rarely seen such coloration. It appears as though we may have interrupted the amorous intentions of a courting male.

 

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Reef squid not only expand and contract the chromatophore cells embedded in their skin to conceal themselves, but do so as part of their mating ritual. Males may flash an impressive zebra pattern to the female who is revealing a blotchy saddle indicating her sexual receptivity. Mate selection is a serious business to a female reef squid. She will die soon after depositing her fertilized eggs in a safe corner of the ocean floor. Like most cephalopods, the life of the Caribbean Reef Squid is relatively short. They are thought to live for one year, mate and die.

Join Blue Water Ventures on a naturalist-led adventure to the reefs, rain forest,  kelp beds and beyond!

www.bluewaterventures.org

In 1988, I was traveling through southern Belize and visited the remote Mopan Mayan village of San Antonio. It was there that I was mistaken for a Duende, a forest dweller, trickster and dwarf. Duende lives deep in the jungle. He is thought to slumber in a forest cave and emerge during daylight hours to sheepishly observe humans. Two legged kinds be weary if the trickster appears near the sacred Ceiba tree. Perched among the buttressing roots, Duende may strum his guitar for you, an intoxicating ploy. It is highly recommended to respectively wave your four fingers but hide your thumb. Duende may wish to acquire your opposing appendages as he is missing his own. The forest dweller often wears a wide brimmed hat and stands a mere three feet tall which accounts for my mistaken identity.

Encouraged by the peace corp volunteer, my traveling companions Korinn Saker, Patty Smith and I threw together a skit for the Mayan Community. We chose a childhood favorite of mine that I fondly remember as “Little Nemo”. Concealed by a sheet, Korinn wrapped her arms around my waist becoming my arms, my arms were my legs and my head sported a wide brimmed hat. Voila, a tiny little creature had emerged on stage and sloppily performed such antics as brushing one’s teeth.

Korinn, unable to see my face kept missing the teeth and polishing the brow, an act which I alone found hilarious. After having my brows polished and my composure retrieved, I glanced out at the audience expecting cries for an encore. Instead, I was met by a solemn crowd. There was not a smile, snicker or unpolished eyebrow raised in an exclamation point among the 100 or so brows in the audience. I felt like shrinking, but that was part of the problem so I quickly took a bow and retreated behind the makeshift curtain. Tucked away in our hammocks that night, we were told by our host family that Little Nemo was thought to be a Duende. Ah…..it all made sense now as I instinctively checked in with my thumbs!

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Offering naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations designed to be relaxing with an educational component for women. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985

Sincerely, Kim of Blue Water Ventures


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As I pack up for our upcoming Baja Adventure, I reflect upon what an amazing year we had in 2011. There were so many outstanding highlights some captured in these photos. I have led trips to Caribbean Reefs for decades and was extreme tidepooling as a kid long before I coined the term. What fuels my soul are the people who join my Blue Water adventures.

Taking 10 year olds snorkeling with eye level views of sea otters or plunging into a Sierra stream is pure bliss, medicine for the soul. I’ve shared Elkhorn Slough with wonderful families who really care about the ecological wonders of one of California’s last wetlands.

My trips for women are more like adventures with great friends. I feel so lucky to have an amazing following of women, many who return for every adventure I throw their way. We have spent a day underground kayaking below the Belizean rain forest, snorkeled at night with bioluminescence draped over the reef, sailed the blue and thrown ourselves off granite rocks in the Sierras. Its been an unforgettable year of wildlife encounters……baby manatees, massive whale sharks, gray whales and tiny frogfish, all so awesome in their own right. Kayaking among the Humpback Whales of Santa Cruz last fall was a lifetime high point.

Funniest trip moment? Dr Ruth finding herself trapped in a broken elevator with a keg of beer, Florida Springs trip. The Ocala firefighters were on it!

I am faced with some personal challenges as I care for Mama Bear and juggle time spent with her and travel. My trips are healing during this challenging journey. I treasure each day I have with Bear. Having her in my life is truly a gift. On my Blue Water adventures, I am rejuvenated by sharing the wonders of the world with those who follow.

In 2011, I loss a dear friend, Jim Bitler who I dedicate this year to. Jim was one of the greatest naturalist and historians of modern times. Jim was an inspiration, friend and devoted partner who enriched my life and countless others.

I thank my Blue Water Ventures community for these memories and lessons I’ve learned from each of you along the way.

May the Wild-Life be with us in 2012!

Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: 831-459-8548
www.bluewaterventures.org
email: bluewaterventures@sbcglobal.net
108 Mason St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060

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Join Blue Water Ventures as we travel the world teaching coral reef ecology in Belize, Baja, British Virgin Islands and beyond!

On our recent “scouting” trip to Oahu, we were just finishing up a kayak surf session off of Kailua Beach, when a Spanish Dancer stole the show! These flamboyant sea slugs are amazing swimmers that feed on toxic sponges. Their scientific name, Hexabranchus sanguineus literally means “six-gills blood-colored”. As a type of nudibranch, their gills are exposed on their dorsal side and they enjoy a hermaphroditic life style. Lurking within the velvety tissue of the Spanish Dancer lives The Emperor shrimp, Periclimenes imperator which earns its keep by cleaning the “naked gills” of this “nudibranch”.

www.bluewaterventures.org
Imagine fine tuning your eskimo roll on a remote deserted island in the Caribbean. Join Blue Water Ventures on an all women’s adventure to Belize. We will kayak through ancient Mayan ceremonial caves, dance with the Garifuna children of Hopkins Village, snorkel over acres of coral reefs and fine tune your eskimo roll (or watch the show under the shade of a coconut palm tree!)

Look for the next blue adventure at: http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Belizean Piranhas

Known as Pica Culas (ass biters) in Costa Rica, The Mayan Tetra, Hyphessobrycon compressus has a voracious appetite! They belong to the large freshwater family, Characidae which includes the notorious Red Bellied Piranha of the Amazon Basin. While kayaking underground in the heart of the Belizean rainforest, we provided a meal for the Pica Culas!

A soft layer of hair expands the surface area of a fishing spider allowing it to “walk on water” as it seeks its prey. Capturing a bubble of air, the spider submerges breathing though its book lungs, as it hunts for fish and aquatic insects. It may remain silent on a rock above the water’s edge detecting subtle ripples across the water. As its fore legs sense vibrations, it lunges towards its prey injecting it with venom. I first encountered these impressively large spiders while backpacking through the heart of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. On our recent expedition to Belize, we kayaked through a series of underground caves encountering fishing spiders, roosting bats and “Pica Culas” or Ass Biters, a small voracious fish that shares the same family as the Red Bellied Piranha, Characidae.