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
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

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 and the more newsy 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 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.

2 thoughts on “Follow little Madi as she snorkels the Belize barrier reef from end to end

    Dode Juelfs said:
    February 14, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    What about the damage the tourists do to the reef? I’ve been on numerous snorkeling tours and the guides tell you to not stand, that even a brush up against a live coral will kill it, but people stand all the time and damage the reef. But I guess that’s ok since the Belize people make money from that.


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 15, 2017 at 5:05 am

      Sure, I’ve seen people stand on reef, too. I’ve even inadvertently touched coral myself — try as hard as I might to stay clear of it. The fact that you have “been on numerous snorkeling tours” suggests that you too may be part of the problem, Dode. Do you wear sunscreen when you snorkel? Scientists now say oily residue from sunscreen and even natural body oils can damage the reef.

      I think Belize is doing a good job trying to minimize the impact of people on the reef. Visitors, for the most part, are channeled to a few small areas — Hol Chan, Shark Ray Alley and Mexico Rocks. Having designated snorkel areas gives the rest of the reef a chance to regenerate. Frankly, having sharks and rays come to the boats in the sand & grass domains behind the reef keeps people from going to the reef. Call it bait & switch but I think it is a sly effort at conservation that gives people a wow experience and keeps the pressure off the coral.

      Most guides I have encountered here are very sensitive to the fragile nature of the reef. I’ve seen them admonish swimmers who stand up in the reef, even if the swimmer isn’t touching the coral. It is their livelihood and if the reef goes away, so does their way of life.

      What I’ve never seen is a reef guide who drives around in a Mercedes or lives in a mansion. So, no, I seriously doubt that they would destroy the reef in order to make a few bucks.

      What is destroying the reef is climate change, rising temperatures cause by Americans who drive big automobiles, consume gas and oil in vast insatiable quantities. What happens in Nebraska hurts Belize. And of course what happens in China, Europe, India ….. It only takes a rise in water temperature of a couple of degrees for coral to start bleaching. Let’s not even begin to talk about the Industrialized world’s plastics and other trash that floats into the reef. Neither are we big fans of the American oil companies that want to sink rigs on the reef so swimming pools will be properly heated back home.

      I know your concern is real and heartfelt, but I don’t think we can lay off the reef damage solely to Belizean tourists and guides.


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