Follow little Madi as she snorkels the Belize barrier reef from end to end

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Madison Pearl Edwards is snorkeling the 190-mile Belize barrier reef to highlight the dangers of oil exploration to the country's greatest natural resource. She is 11 years old. (Photo courtesy of amergristoday.com
Madison Pearl Edwards is snorkeling the 190-mile Belize barrier reef to highlight the dangers of oil exploration to the country’s greatest natural resource. She is 11 years old. (Photo courtesy of ambergristoday.com)

Madison Pearl Edwards is about the most delightfully precocious youngster you’ll ever encounter in Belize.

I mean, it takes a lot of precociousness — and courage — to snorkel the entire 190-mile length of the Belize reef, from north to south, to publicize the dangers and absolute stupidity of off-shore oil exploration.

Even for an adult.

Madi is 11 years old.

And, yes, the prospect of setting up oil rigs on or near our world heritage site reef is a very real thing.

Time and again, the people of Belize have rejected proposals to sink rigs on the reef and time and again the country’s government, like a pot-licker dog, keeps coming back — with proposals, maps, studies, exploratory proposals . . . often in the “dark of night” in which so much seems to get done in Belize.

You kick the dog and it backs away, just out of your reach, and the moment you turn your back an oil-sponsored ship is sonar mapping the reef  “for the good of the nation” or a proposed change to the nation’s environmental map suddenly shows vast swaths of reef  and atolls have become a “Red Light District” for oil industry whores.

With her family, Amber Edwards and Dorian Nunez, Madison wants to show the world what is at stake here.

It is a stunt. Sure.

But if this stunt opens the eyes of the world to the incredible beauty and vibrancy of this reef then I say “Madi, walk on water if you can!”

Madi, Amber and Dorian set out on Sunday, Feb. 12 in a wind-driven sailboat with local Reef Angel activist MJ Leslie and environmentalist Tina Kokkinis, who will swim beside Madi during the trek. Leslie will also serve as the in-house marine education resource, teaching Madi and the world about the vast resources at stake on the reef.

Along the way they will be picking up marine trash — “bottles, fishing nets, fishing lines, anchor ropes and other marine debris.” Leslie recently started the Reef Angels project which finds kayakers and canoers trolling the reef for trash off of San Pedro. Their free-dive forays have yielded some stunning piles of marine junk, and the reef has become just that much more pristine.

The Belize reef was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is the longest living barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and is exceeded in size only by the Great Barrier Reef off Australia. Its extraordinary value to Belize as a source of food and the prime draw for tourism can not be calculated.

So Madi and her crew want the world to know what is at stake here. Here is the Ambergris Today summary of Madi’s adventure. And this is Madi’s video introducing her newest adventure:

And I have to say, she is the real deal.

I had the pleasure of sharing lunch recently with Madi and Dorian and a few other local writers and bloggers. Madi, Dorian and Amber comprise the super-prolific blogging team of the tourism promotional  itravelBelize.com and the more newsy ambergristoday.com. Sure, this photogenic crew is a bit too obsessed with selfies for my taste, but Madi  holds her own at a table full of adults, with astute observations and sparkling conversation.

Also, she is no newcomer to the fight against oil exploitation in Belize. Whenever the people gather to speak out against Big Oil, you will find Madi, Amber and Dorian in the crowd.

You can follow Madi and the crew at www.iTravelBelize.com/Madi or on social media @iTravelBelize and @MadiBelize. Expect lots of photos and videos along the way, and a whole new take on Belize’s most natural of resources and its most valuable treasure.

As Madi states in a recent post on the adventure: “Please don’t stay quiet, staying quiet says that you are ok with our sea life being sick or disappearing! Don’t be shy, know that you are doing it for your country! I love Belize, I love our Belize Barrier Reef and I say NO to offshore oil exploration!”

From the mouth and heart of an 11-year-old. That is passion.

Hockey in Belize? Why not? Go Buccaneers!

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San Pedro Buccaneers and Withrow Park (Toronto) Tropical Knights  come together for a group shot at the end of the tournament. Two things that I heard and liked a lot: "Wait until next year!" and "We'll bring more teams!"
San Pedro Buccaneers and Withrow Park (Toronto) Tropical Knights come together for a group shot at the end of the tournament. Two things that I heard and liked a lot: “Wait until next year!” and “We’ll bring more teams!” At San Pedro High School.

They called the tournament the inaugural Caribbean Coconut Cup and the grand prize was an artfully carved and lacquered Belizean wood-and-coconut trophy.

The program cover described it as an “International Friendly Ball Hockey Tournament.”

And it was indeed friendly — after the games. At Wayo’s or some other fine beachside drinking and socializing establishment.

During the games? Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: Looking a bit more like the Paradise we always imagined

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Look, Ma! No trash! A rare and joyful sight on Ambergris Caye, after yesterday's First Friday trash cleanup.
Look, Ma! No trash! A rare and joyful sight on Ambergris Caye, after yesterday’s First Friday trash cleanup.

Moppit and I walked to Ak’Bol and back this morning and for the first time in a long time this always beautiful walk dazzled me.

And I know why, too.

Not only is the shoreline almost completely recovered from Hurricane Earl but the beaches are as full and lush as I’ve ever seen them.

But, most noticeably, THERE IS NO TRASH TO BE SEEN. This is a rare and incredible sight because even the most charming sections of beach up here are usually littered with plastic refuse and bottles. I urge you to take a walk north from the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge as far as you can up the beach. Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha gonna do?

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Singer-songwriter Kelly McGuire  sits in with a gang of rowdy fans at the Dive Bar on Saturday afternoon, shortly before all the "excitement" broke out.
Singer-songwriter Kelly McGuire sits in with a gang of rowdy fans at the Dive Bar on Saturday afternoon, shortly before all the “excitement” broke out.

Saturday afternoon, the Texas-based singer Kelly McGuire was commanding the stage at the Dive Bar singing about island life, broken dreams, healing hearts, fresh hopes, sailing away and the joy of a good guitar.

We were sitting at the back of the crowd, next to the dock, where the cool breezes were floating in on the rippling blue Caribbean. Read the rest of this entry »

In Belize: Close encounters of the aquamarine kind

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Mexico Rocks boasts the most precocious turtle in the world.
Mexico Rocks boasts the most precocious turtle in the world.

Do not adjust your set. The ridiculously fluorescent blue water you see in these pictures is correct. The water on the reef just off Ambergris Caye is that blue below the surface.

Up above is a different story. There, as you look out from shore to reef, the color can change numerous times, shimmering between emerald and azure.

The other day I joined friends for a trip around the island, with a little snorkeling at Mexico Rocks thrown in at the end.  Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: Last sunrise of 2016, first sunset of 2017 and stuff in between — some fake, some real

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Last sunrise of 2016 on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Last sunrise of 2016 on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

The last sunrise on Ambergris Caye for 2016 was a real beauty. A diaphanous gold, like spun cotton candy, filled the air out to the reef as an early morning sun shower cleansed us, washed away this most unusual year.

Happy New Year to you all! May your every dream find its path to fulfillment in 2017.

Thanks to the recent addition of Moppit to the household, sunrises are becoming a daily thing. In pre-Moppit days, I would awaken at a civilized hour and think, “Wow. That must have been a nice sunrise. Maybe tomorrow.” Read the rest of this entry »

And it isn’t even noon yet, on a glorious day on Ambergris Caye, Belize

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A Poinsettia sunrise three days before Christmas in Ambergris Caye, off the coast of Belize. Good morning! May all your days start inside your heart like this!
A Poinsettia sunrise three days before Christmas on Ambergris Caye, off the coast of Belize.
Good morning!
May all your days start inside your heart like this!

Read the rest of this entry »

Truck Stop’s Taste of Haven makes pizza taste like heaven

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The new Slice of Haven pizza truck -- OK, shipping container -- at The Truck Stop on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
The new Slice of Haven pizza truck — OK, shipping container — at The Truck Stop on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

“Hey Bob! Any interest in joining the media taste test of the new pizza truck today at 1 pm?”

That was Ben. Ha! Ha!

Pizza?

Duh.

Ben Popik’s Truck Stop on Ambergris Caye has a new food truck, called Slice of Haven. Just opened on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »

Come together: Pier 366 dining is a communal affair

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The display inside Pier 366 pretty much lets you know the dining experience ahead will be a memorable one.
The display inside Pier 366 Seafood House pretty much lets you know the dining experience ahead will be a memorable one.

When is a meal more than a meal? When it is a communal gathering of family and friends.

You can sit at a lovely table, with a gorgeous view, and have the best meal in the world but if there is no one around to share it with, no one to talk with as you eat, then, what’s the point?

Good food is nourishment for the body. Good companionship while eating it is nourishment for the soul.

Oh, lord, I could go on and on. These are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind while sharing a remarkable lunch with a great group of folks at the new Pier 366 Seafood House at Banyan Bay Resort on the south side of San Pedro Town, here in Belize. Read the rest of this entry »

Dooley Bear drops in on Holy Cross Anglican School students and a pizza party breaks out

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Lisa Cyrier reads from one of the Dooley Bear books to students at Holy Cross Anglican School on Wednesday during a holiday party for literacy program students and volunteers.
Lisa Cyrier reads from one of the Dooley Bear books to students at Holy Cross Anglican School on Wednesday during a holiday party for literacy program students and volunteers. That’s the big Dooley, unfazed by celebrity,  sacked out on the floor behind Lisa! 

Dooley Bear, a gregarious chocolate Labrador with a penchant for travel and the subject of more than a few books, dropped into Holy Cross Anglican School in the San Mateo neighborhood on Wednesday for some petting and pizza.

Dooley brought along his literary partners, Ronnie and Lisa Cyrier, so that they could read some of the books about his adventures to a special gathering of students.

The occasion was the first Christmas Party of the newly resurrected volunteer literacy program which is designed to help students of all grade levels to enhance their reading, pronunciation and comprehension skills. The program is operated by a dedicated group of volunteers from the San Pedro community under the leadership of Susan Barkhouse and Brittney O’Daniel. Read the rest of this entry »