Jan 6th Stream Ecology

Stream ecology

SO, today we went down to the Sibun River to get some water samples. The water was about luke warm, and we had yellow nets on sticks to catch macro-invertebrates i.e. “bugs”.  We were using the bugs to study and figure out if they were pollution sensitive or pollution tolerant.   Anywho, I collect an awesome snail family of nine. Their names were Jeffery, his girlfriend Shelia, and their children: Leia, Tatiana, Alejandro, Rosemary, Alberto, Benji and Grandpa Joe. They were so adorable and I touched one!!! Go Me! Also, we collected some really gross bugs but one was super huge, it had like a billion legs! Some of the group could not figure out this one worm like thing. SO, basically we discovered a new species! Hehe Seriously…. Most of the bugs were pollution sensitive which is good because that actually meant that the water was not polluted. In the end, I think overall it was a great experience and something that is a must when you go to Belize with your class!!

Rori J

Identification of macro invertebrates in the research lab.

After conducting our stream ecology test, we interviewed several of the lodge’s employee that were of Mayan descent.  Emily and I interviewed a manager of the Sleeping Giant whose name is Geovanii .  Our questions mainly focused on his Mayan culture and the ecotourism of Belize.   He talked about how the ecotourism is negatively affecting the rainforest and coral reefs of Belize.  The interview was very interesting and helped shed light on many aspects of Belize and the Mayan culture.  When our interviews were done, we hiked up to the observation tower by the Sleep Giant Lodge.  Even though it started raining halfway through our hike, it was amazing to get to the top of the tower and look out over the valley.  The view was amazing and overall today was a great day!


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Zip Line Day 1 Jan 3rd

On our first day in Belize, spur of the moment, we decided to go zip lining in the forest. When we first arrived, all of the staff were very friendly and helped all of us get our gear on. Then we made our way through the forest to our first zip line. The view while we were flying through the air was absolutely amazing. Everything was so beautiful and so different from anything that is in the U.S. Our guides that took us through the forest to our next lines were so friendly, and they taught us a lot about what things grow there, and what the uses are for them. One of our guides named Glen would always be the first to go down the zip line and he would make jokes before he went down which everyone thought was very funny. Overall, the day could not have been better! So excited for the rest of our trip!



Getting “hooked’ on zip line

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Jan 5th 2014

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Saturday at Tikal

Austin hiking in a little mud

Today, we journeyed to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal National Park in Guatemala.  We started the day by loading a bus at 5 am to head to Guatemala.  Along the way, we stopped for breakfast at a local restaurant featuring fresh goat cheese, fresh pineapple juice, and Guatemalan coffee.  After a long drive along some “rough” roads, we reached the ancient Mayan city of Tikal.

Hiking through the beautiful jungle to the temples, we had the opportunity to view amazing rain forest species – among the highlights were the howler monkey, the allspice tree, mahogany, the white nose coati, and the spider monkey.  AND a bird that we upset threw fruit at us.

But the true high light of the day were the Mayan ruins.  We started out hiking between amazing temples, towering towards the sky, and then we had a fantastic climb to the top of Temple 4.  Our journey through mud and rain led us to the Grand Plaza, a gathering place of nobles during the Classic Period of Mayan culture.  It was an amazing journey!

Tomorrow, we will head for a medicinal plant tour and a caving tour.

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on our way

we are about to board the plane to BELIZE!

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2014 Trip Planned

Students from 2011 trip collecting stream specimens.


Muskegon Community College students to learn about Rainforest Ecology and Mayan Culture in 2014. Ten students and two instructors are heading for Belize in the new year. We have an adventurous trip planned. Check out our tentative itinerary below:



Fri., Jan. 3 Arrival & travel to Sleeping Giant Lodge Evening safety presentation and activity.
Sat., Jan. 4 Awake early for trip to Tikal National Park in Guatemala. Breakfast in Guatemala. Explore this large excavated Mayan site and learn about the history / culture of the Mayan civilization.
Sun., Jan. 5 Hike in the jungle to learn about medicinal plants from one of our guides. Also a guided trip down a river (tubing) to visit a cave with Mayan artifacts.
Mon., Jan. 6 Complete a stream ecology and water quality study of the Sibun River. Hike one of the trails at Sleeping Giant. Conduct a cultural interview with local Belizeans. Trip to local area establishment.
Tues., Jan. 7 Visit two other very different Mayan ruins (Cahal Pech, Xunantunich). Shopping and other tourist activities in San Ignacio. Concluding the evening with Dinner together at specified restaurant.
Wed., Jan. 8 Visit the Belize Zoo: see native Belizean animals in a naturalistic habitat and learn about jaguar conservation. Depart for Houston, TX.

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Belize Videos

Click here to see some short videos from our Belize trip

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A lesson in giving

Our students were so thoughtful. After they met some of the staff’s children, one student, Alyssa purchased soccer balls and a doll to leave for the children.

Here is Alyssa’s story: “On Wednesday during lunch I had noticed that a few of the tour guides were playing volleyball, and being a volleyball player asked to join. Carlos one of the tour guides started making jokes with me saying they are pro so it’s going to be tough to compete with them. During the “game” I saw a few kids running around. I started talking to the little boy who is about 8 years old named Jaimito. I asked him to join in on the game and he hopped right in. Eventually the game had ended but I was still hanging around and met the two little girls, one named Sumi who is 11 and Mirani who is 2. After a few minutes of playing volleyball with the children I had to leave for our next trip but had promised them that when I came back I would hang out with them again.
As promised when we got back I ran up to them grabbed the volleyball and we started playing again. As we played they seemed to be more comfortable with me and started talking more. Sumi could speak the most English and was helping me learn Spanish. I tried talking to Mirani and I forgot it was only Spanish she spoke and she was also only two so it was very few. I would say hola and she would make an adorable face and noise at me, and I would try saying whats up in Spanish and she would do the same. I then tried tu bonita (you are beautiful) and she shined a smile my way and said Si (yes).
I introduced the kids to Katy and my other roommate Jessica and we all started to play another game of volleyball. We were running around and all acting like children. At one point Jaimito started whispering to Sumi about me. I demanded to know why they were giggling so much and pointing at me. As I soon found out Jaimito gave me a nickname. Nades Sonas (big nose) I started laughing as well. He also gave Katy and Jessica nicknames. Like, big ears and big mouth. For the next few hours we were making jokes back and fourth and having a ball. They were some of the coolest kids I have ever met.
I noticed as the days past when we would play the kids had some real talent at soccer and volleyball but they had told me that they really enjoyed soccer. My next plan was when we would go shopping in San Ignacio I would buy a soccer boy for the oldest kids and a little doll for Mirani.
After we got back Saturday with two soccer balls and a doll in my bags I had found out that the children went home because their mom had been in labor and had her fourth child, a girl. We all signed the ball for the children and had Pablo deliver those. We also signed the schools name on the other ball and left it for the resort. Something that I can look forward to seeing to when I come back next year (hopefully)” – Alyssa

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Sunday Jan 8, 2012

We are very excited and very sad on this last day of our trip.  Excited to see all the animals at the Belize Zoo and sad that we have to leave this wonderful place.

“The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center was started in 1983, as a last ditch effort to provide a home for a collection of wild animals which had been used in making documentary films about tropical forests.  Today, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is settled upon 29 acres of tropical savanna and exhibits over 150 animals, representing over 45 species, all native to Belize. The zoo keeps animals which were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated animals, or sent to The Belize Zoo as donations from other zoological institutions.”  – http://www.belizezoo.org/

Entrance to the Belize Zoo

The biggest thrill at the Zoo would have to be meeting Junior the Jaguar.  Born shortly after his mother was brought to the zoo because she was killing sheep, Junior has quickly become a star.

Monica & Autumn petting Junior

For a small fee visitors can enter a cage within the jaguars enclosure and get really close to Junior.  Instructor Kathy Tosa even got a “kiss” on her forehead from Junior!  Alyssa also enjoyed holding a boa constrictor.

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Saturday Jan 7, 2012

Although the internet was not available during the last few days of our trip.  I am posting a brief description and some photos for Saturday Jan 7th, 2012.

On Saturday we visited two different Mayan Sites near San Ignacio. Xunantunich and Cahal Pech.

Climbing the stairs

Our Group

Xunantunich is locate atop a ridge above the Mopan river within sight of the Guatemalan border. The pyramid known as “El Castillo”, the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol), at some 130 feet tall. Its name means “Stone Woman” in the Maya language (Mopan and Yucatec combination name), and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is currently unknown. The “Stone Woman” refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892.

Hanging out on top of the temple



The views of both Belize and Guatemala were just amazing!





Cahal Pech

Cahal Pech

It is a collection of 34 structures, with the tallest temple being about 25 meters in height, situated around a central acropolis.

Corbel Vault

The structures were much more intimate with small rooms and walk ways and arches known as corbel vaults. There is a small museum with a real skeleton!

One of the most exciting things we saw at Cahal Pech was a real excavation in progress!

The primary excavation of the site began in 1988. Restoration continues under the leadership of, Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the National Institute of Archaeology (NICH), Belize.

Excavation in progress!


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