Cruisin' on the Sibun

Guest post by student Linda.....

During our visit to the Belize Zoo, our SUNY Cortland group went on a kayaking adventure down the Sibun River. Our adventure started with a half-hour bus ride that brought us to our starting point. Peter Hererra, our wonderful tour guide, would be navigating the group down the river. Each kayak held three people, so we broke up into groups that spread out the more experienced paddlers. Stanley, our bus driver, and his assistant Daniel saw us off saying they’d meet us later when we arrived at our final destination.

The weather was glorious for kayaking. The voyage was serene and peaceful. Trees, birds, large rocks and iguanas greeted us along the way. Few signs of human life were present. Peter explained that the rainy season had ended about one month earlier and how the river had almost overflowed its banks. All along the trip, he pointed out places that evidenced the height of the water.
Peter, Wendy and I paddled the lead kayak but occasionally dropped back to wait for a straggler or help out when a kayak tipped over. Luckily only one of the six kayaks overturned.
At one point, Wendy noticed some odd-looking bumps on the tree trunks. Peter replied, “Those are bats.” He told the group that they are proboscis bats, a bat which is harmless to humans. “Proboscis mostly eat insects,” he said. He added that during the daytime, this is typical behavior. The bats are known for roosting head-down in a vertical line on the undersides of tree trunks that lean over the water. A proboscis bat is well-camouflaged because of their grizzled, brownish fur and small size, making them difficult to notice against the tree bark.

The three of us paddled closer to the tree so I could take a picture of the bats. We stopped the kayak within four feet of the leaning tree where the bats were roosted. Just after snapping a couple of pictures, the colony of bats flew straight at us. I wonder if the others in the group can still hear my frightened scream!

At another location, Peter noticed some foot prints along the bank. The thick mud indicated the footsteps of a tapir that had come down to the river to bathe. We paddled the kayak closer and observed the footprints more closely. We stopped for a short swim and "mud-painting"
about halfway through our trip, then we paddled for another couple of hours and landed at our destination for a delicious picnic lunch.

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