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Today I am flying to Belize for a week long caving expedition. This will be the third trip there as part of a project to complete the mapping of a well known and very spectacular cave located in St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park
As I did on the previous two trips, first in May 2016 and second in February 2017, I will continue to post on Behind the Black, though my posting will generally occur in the evening when we get back from the caves. I will also do at least one Batchelor appearance from Mayan Mountain Lodge in San Ignacio, where we will be staying. The lodge has been gracious enough with each visit to let me use their office and phone.
I very much want to finish the map this trip. The local cave guides, who depend on keeping the caves in pristine condition so that they can show off their beauty to tourists, need the map to help protect the cave. They will be helping with the survey, as they have previously. As I noted after my first trip in 2016,
Because Belize’s law puts the ownership of all caves under the jurisdiction of the Institute of Archaeology, which generally lacks the resources to protect them all, this work by the tour guides is essential. For example, Barton Creek Cave is a major tourist river cave that requires a canoe to see. Though the property surrounding the entrance is privately owned, the landowner, Mike Bogart, cannot prevent access to the cave to others. He offers tours, using the canoes he provides, but others can do the same and access the cave by canoeing up the river past his property. They need only get a government permit.
Thus, under this socialized system, with no single owner responsible for each cave, the only way the caves can be protected is for the tour guides and operators to band together to protect the caves themselves. In fact, their effort to flag the trails these past few weeks was begun expressly because they all saw the damage that uncontrolled visitation was causing, and wanted to stop it
Hopefully, their effort will bear fruit, and the caves and their guides’ livelihoods will prosper for years to come. And if the cave maps we Americans produce can help contribute to that success, then my short trip to Belize will have accomplished a lot more than provide me a few days of vacation pleasure.
On to Belize! The image below, of one of the many caves there, will give you a taste of their beauty.