Oh manatee! Oh manatee! Where could you be? Our mission in search of an Antillean Manatee (West Indian manatee or “sea cow”) in the waters of the Northern Cut (Caye Caulker Channel) had failed. Two hours of combing the area, and not a single sighting of one of my favorite marine mammals. But the trip was not a complete loss- after all I did get to spend the day out at sea and visit our sister island: Caye Caulker.
Our journey in hopes of spotting one of these gentle giants started early on a Friday morning. I had been invited by a friend to tag along on the trip, and we departed San Pedro a little after 9AM. The skies were cloudy, and it was quite humid (common weather conditions for Belize I would say), but nevertheless our hopes of getting to swim with a manatee was high.
As we approached the boundaries of the Caye Caulker Channel (you are not allowed to swim with manatees within the Swallow Caye Marine Reserve, so your best bet to get close with this species is within the channel 10 minutes from Caye Caulker), a couple snorkelers had already had the privilege of seeing a manatee. We quickly put on our gear and plunged into the water, but by the time we made it to the area, the manatee was long gone.
We continued snorkeling the area hoping that Meredith would grace us with her presence. Yes, she had a name! Tour guides often see the same female frequenting the area, and apparently she is very friendly, and loves the company of her two legged friends- a perfect Meredith. There are large patches of manatee grass (species of seaweed) in her favorite spot, which makes it a perfect feeding ground for these animals. After about a half hour in the water, there was still not even a hint of the sea cow. What I did get to see was a lot of fish, corals, a spotted eagle ray and even jellyfish! With depths of about 30 feet, the channel offers great snorkeling and diving opportunities, teeming with marine life.
Exhausted from being in the water, I headed back to the beat where we decided to head to Caye Caulker Village and return to the area on our way back to check again on the manatees. We docked at the split (one of my favorite spots in Caye Caulker), which is also the site of The Lazy Lizard Bar.
Of course, a trip to Caye Caulker would not be complete without a Lizard Juice. I have no idea what is in it (nor do I want to know), but it is so good!
At around 2PM we decide to head back to San Pedro, swinging back to the channel for a peek. Still no signs of a manatee! Since it was raining, we decided to give up on our quest. You win little manatee! I was not too disappointed however, because I know that I will be back! I’m already planning my next trip, and this time, the manatee will not evade me!
If you are planning on taking a trip in search of the elusive manatee it, is good to remember that this species is protected by law. DO NOT TOUCH!!! When you see a manatee in the channel, it is best to not move and just float in the area. Manatees are naturally curious, so they may come to you. Do not dive, approach or make a sudden movements towards the manatee. Just relax and enjoy the magical moment!