Exploring Belize, the Land of Adventure | Subtitled Documentary
For a long time, Belize has been shrouded in mystery. Avoided by the conquistadors, it was not until the 17th century that pirates crossed the reefs and landed on these forbidden shores. A vast expanse of solitude stubbornly resistant to human presence. Isolation is an intrinsic part of the country's identity. There are countless sanctuaries, reserves, and protected areas. In this realm, nature makes the rules.
We're just a few kilometers offshore in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. Declared a protected area in 2000, it offers a myriad of islets covered in mangroves. These plants form a rampart against erosion. They are also a haven and breeding ground for a wide variety of animals. They call this spot the nursery of the Caribbean.
Kash knows this maze like the back of his hand. He's been roaming through here as long as he can remember. I had a very special childhood, it's something I'll never forget. I grew up on an island. I used to work on the mangrove. I grew up having fun.
Just watching birds walking on the mangrove. That was a good feeling. I used to watch the different species living in holes in the mud. The crabs and other fish living in the mangrove. We are away from the city. It's so quiet, so peaceful, you can't get better than this area.
Back in the day, there was a lot more people. They want education, jobs, they want to uplift themselves. However, if you want to stick to nature, this is the place to be, within Port Honduras.
The spirit here helps you to have the courage to stay. Kash is the youngest of eight siblings. His mother, a fisherwoman, supported the whole family. She has passed on to him her experience and lore of the islands. [Spanish spoken audio] [Spanish spoken audio] When we were growing up, we had exciting moments.
I used to always run away from my mom, she'd think I was going out fishing or going out somewhere. Yes, sometimes I got a whipping. It was freedom in some way. I think growing up like that did help us. Keeping us away from all the negative things.
From bad influences that we have around us. That's the good part of it. In my days, everything was free, not like today. Going to the sea, picking up gong.
You'd catch a fish, you'd catch a lobster. Nobody to tell you: "No, you can't do it." It's good in one way because everything is done. We have to protect the areas.
This is my life, when I reach the island, there is peace and joy. Especially, the sea water is clear and beautiful. It's something very good and I feel nice about it. I'm proud to be a fisherwoman. Before laws were enacted to preserve these waters, Port Honduras had long been overexploited. In the 1970s, fishing with nets was widespread in the zone.
It was urgent to take action in order to save this haven sheltering so many species. With this idea in mind, Kash became a ranger. He lives alone on this spit of land lapped by the waves. To the east, we have Honduras. To the north, we have Mexico. If you go along the coastline and follow it, you will find Chetumal.
It goes right up to the Mexican waters. The Barrier Reef joins with the Mexican Barrier Reef. This is the Gulf of Honduras.
All of this, as you can see around here. Here we're at Abalone Quay. This is the ranger station within Port Honduras. Here were in the tower.
From here we can do tower surveillance to monitor the area. I love the sea and that's the reason why I'm a part of this right now, being a ranger. What you can do within the reserve, you can fish to eat and to sell.
You're not allowed to use certain methods within the reserve. The reason why I love the job I'm doing is because I spent all my life here. I also want to take care of what is ours. If we don't take care of it, we will not have it in the future.
In his free time, Kash likes to trade his Rangers boat for a dory, the traditional craft of the quays as the islands are called in Belize. Port Honduras is now protected. However Lobster fishing is authorized a few months a year. No need to go very far, you can catch them just a few meters off the beaches. Many men who sought refuge on these islands manage to survive, thanks to this abundance.
Today's modern world needs landmarks and sentinels. On hunting quay facing the Barrier Reef, Dando ensures that the lighthouse is always functioning. Roger one, eight, I hear you clearly.
Come in, over. If we have problems with the lighthouse, it will take about two or three days before I can get help. Our navigation needs the lighthouse. This is the end of the Barrier Reef. Boats come in from Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize through this channel that goes out to the Caribbean.
This is the most important lighthouse here in Belize. It's a way of life. I feel freer. I go where I want to. I do what I feel like, go swimming, go diving.
When I'm here, I feel like I'm somewhere. The Barrier Reef is beautiful. It's more than a treasure, it's a heritage.
I want my great-grandson, my great, great grandson to come and enjoy what I'm enjoying today. Dando has known Kash since he was a child. Today he waits for him impatiently. He needs his help to keep up the lighthouse. Time is short for nightfall is approaching and the wind is getting stronger.
Hey, Kash. I have a battery here for you. You said you have to change it because you have a problem? Yes, man.
I need help in the lighthouse. - Yes, man. Thanks for helping me with this battery. When I was a kid we used to go to the lighthouse. We would dare each other to see who was brave to climb up there. The one who'd get up there would say, "Yes, I'm a man and you are just kids."
That made us feel good. Sometimes we would drop down and go hiding from the guys that took care of the lighthouse. If they saw you, they would yell at you and say, "You can't go up." We took those chances as kids. It's something that we really enjoyed.
Do you want to carry this one up? -Yes, this end. Take your time. [Spanish spoken audio] Those are rain clouds between Honduras and the mountains. [Spanish spoken audio] When I meet other people from the reserve, it's like a home and a small place for everyone.
We help each other in everything. If you need something, you get it from me, if I need something, I get it from you. That's the way it works all through the islands. We look out for one another.
You can't just go anywhere and trade the same way we do. Here we work together with a community spirit. Here on the outer limits of this mint green expanse, isolation brings people together. The elements forge an identity, the soul of the Belize Islanders. A space outside of time.
The San Ignacio region in the west of the country near the Guatemala border is a paradise for those in quest of the absolute. Jungle as far as the eye can see. Here, everything is a call to adventure. Those are some old teeth. Tapirs are a mixture of horse and rhinoceros. It's a very old animal.
It's actually the only one in its group. There are four different tapir species worldwide. This is the Central American species. It's also the national animal of Belize. Isabelle, a Franco-German veterinarian, landed here eight years ago with her backpack and her very young child. She came to work with the wildlife.
She is committed to protecting endangered species Here in Central America, she has found a way of life that corresponds to the ideals she has kept from her Bohemian childhood. There are many highly motivated people like Isabel in Belize, working to maintain the equilibrium between the wildlife and the environment on the land, in the sea, and in the lagoons. There they got him. -Now we don't. Hold on. That's what I would like to know.
Chris, Sherry, and Vince take care of American saltwater crocodiles. The most common species in Belize. These reptiles are usually left to live in peace here, but in some regions where human activity is more intense, the co-habitation can be quite problematic. All right, go ahead and go. Can you believe this? Somebody has chopped this animal's tail off. Yes, it's disgusting.
They get about $17 a pound for this. For him to come so quickly for chicken, he's obviously been fed, used to humans. Obviously, someone coerced him to come to the bank, gave him some chicken, but then lopped his tail off.
We're going to bring him up north and let him go. Let him be a crocodile where there are no human beings around, no one to feed him or chop at him. He'll do just fine because his natural diet is fish or raccoons, not chicken. Such severe wounds show that this great predator can also be a victim.
In cases like this one, it's Isabel who takes over. Hey. -Hello. How are you doing? -Good.
Good trip? -Yes. Hello. -Glad to be here. Glad you could make it.
That's the guy you caught last night? -Yes, this is him. We're glad that you're here with us, because his tail was amputated. By a machete. It's great to have a vet here to help us assess the severity of it. Releasing a crocodile back into the wild is always very moving. The worldwide population of American crocodiles is estimated at 15,000.
Belize is one of the last places where their habitat is still protected. It doesn't really appear to be infected, I don't think, It was really nicely healed until she robbed this. You got her face? This is an exciting moment. We're about to release this girl back into her natural environment without human disturbance, so it's quite exciting. As a wildlife veterinarian with a passion for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, this is about as good as it can get to bring an animal back out into the wild. I get to do it all the time.
Ready you go. -One, two, three. The recovery time is pretty quick, that's a very healthy animal. The recovery time after they've been held overnight like this one has, can be quite slow, sometimes up to five minutes.
The profession is often very rough and very difficult. However, for example, the moment of releasing an animal that we've been able to heal back into the wild, an animal that we have bred and rehabilitated to go back out, that is truly the biggest reward. It makes me feel like we achieved some sort of harmony. Belize is a really small world.
There are about 340,000 inhabitants and six major cities. Our capital is Belmopan. The last count was 6000 people living there, which made it the smallest capital in the world. It really adds to the lifestyle in Belize and everybody knows everybody. The whole country is like a small village.
I cannot see myself live in a city, in a concrete jungle at all. There are very few things on this planet that would take me away from here, and it would have to be closely related to conservation. Nature is my church. That's where I go to get new energy and recharge. The tamandua was found as a baby after a flood.
She was orphaned. There was no mother around and she was flushed down the river. They raised her from a baby with a goal of releasing her once she is ready to be released. They are very specialized animals, and they eat ants and termites. It takes five or six hours per day for them to get enough time to get enough food.
They're very labor-intensive. We're just looking to see what she does. She looks like a normal tamandua and if she can find her food.
That looks pretty normal. I love the daily challenges. It never gets boring. You have to improvise and figure out how to deal with a new situation compared to a normal veterinarian in a normal veterinary practice where after a couple of months you've seen what you will see every day. It gets boring quick.
My work never gets boring. If we ever had to restrain her, we would grab her by her front legs because that's what she uses for defense. What you saw a little earlier when she did this, that was really good to see because we want her to not like humans. Mission accomplished, and Isabelle is already back on the road. Vince and Sheri have called her in again.
This time, the crew is planning a night rescue. We're going to try to capture the two crocodiles That have been deemed problematic and or because of future development from this area down south. Once we capture both crocodiles, which we believe to be a mating pair, we're going to, by boat, bring them up north. We'll probably come out here and go off onto these mangrove areas where there's no people and no development. We can't go that far anyway, that's the furthest we're able to go.
The further up you go, the better off it's going to be. You go too far, then you don't want to enter Mexico. How far is Mexico? It's only about 20 miles.
Belize is a paradise for people like me wanting to work in conservation because we still have 60 percent of the country covered in native forest. We have a humongous biodiversity here. A lot of the problems that I saw in the US or in other places before was illegal trade. Once we see a wild animal in Europe or in the US, there is no way we can bring it back.
So one of my goals or missions in life was to work on site in one of these developing countries where we still have biodiversity and nature left. All the eye shines you see that are orange and this color, we know that is a crocodile staring at us right now. He can hear, smell, see, and sense us. You've got a head there somewhere? -I can't see the head.
I have a tip of the tail here and the mid-body is right here. Two o'clock from the head. Feel right her, her head's right there. -Okay, wait. Her head's coming towards you now. -Wait, wait. Right up in there.
Go to another corner. -Hold on, hold on, she's coming up. All right, let go of the rope. -No, no. I'm telling these to give you a slack. I've got it, I've got it. Go.
All right. Too late. -Got it. Okay, hold on.
We can't tape her head, we've to let her expel some of that water. That sucked. Good job.
Yeah, I know. This is from a croc fight. It's a hell of a gash. She will heal rather quickly. Crocodiles have enormous capacity to heal. As much as it looks like a big gash, it's a minor wound for her.
Adrenaline is working on me, too. Believe me, if she starts moving and shaking and I fear that Chris is losing control, I will be out of this area within a split second. Living in tense experiences in close contact with the Wild Kingdom.
Here in Belize, Isabel's dream comes alive again with each new day.