The sun descends behind the lush foothills of the Mayan Mountains to the west, outlining them in relief against the brilliant tropical sunset. The sunset reflects on the calm water of this vast seaside lagoon. From the east, a few fluffy clouds chase each other in from the Caribbean Sea, against an impossibly blue sky. Two evenings stars emerge as prelude to the upcoming drama of tonight’s Milky Way.
No boats disturb the lagoon. No airplanes cross the sky. No vehicles are heard. Herons fly home for the night as their nightbird replacements call across the water. Howler monkeys “woof” in treetop jungle. The tide is coming in, and with it a cruising tarpon swirls under overhanging branches. After dark I sit on the dock watching the big dipper slowly turn. A faint glow on the northern horizon indicates the closest civilization, Belize City. It’s only twenty-three miles as the heron flies, but it might as well be on another planet. In the full dark, the vast Milky Way reaches across the sky, from sea to mountains.
We are here, quiet and secure. Smells of supper waft down from the kitchen. Our boat is docked right here, in this pristine estuary – an IUCN Category IV Wildlife Sanctuary. Its nearby beaches are the most important Hawksbill Turtle nesting grounds in the western Caribbean. Fed by seven pure jungle rivers, its surrounding mountains and forest support a primordial ecosystem that has nurtured flora and fauna in natural abundance for eons.
All five varieties of Central America’s ‘big cats’ thrive here. And Tapir and Peccary. The largest and the smallest species of the world’s Kingfishers skim the creek surface. Jabiru storks and Aracari. Blue Morpho butterflies. Yellow-bill Parrots, hummingbirds, brilliant jungle birds. Tiny melodious frogs of yet-undetermined Linnaean classification sing in the dark. Exotic bromeliads and wild orchids festoon the cliffs and savanna.