Belize has amazing wildlife. From snorkeling with nurse sharks and rays or visiting the jaguars at the Belize Zoo to the fat iguana who suns himself by the beach, your trip to Ambergris Caye can involve some pretty amazing adventures – big and small.
One exciting but lesser known tour takes you searching for one of Ambergris Caye’s threatened species – the American Crocodile. At night, you can cruise through the beautiful mangroves and explore the lagoon on the back side of the island. The tour is called “CSI” or Crocodile Scientific Investigation and not only do you search for crocs but you capture, measure and tag them.
For the outing, I met Chris, our guide, in downtown San Pedro at a lovely spot on the lagoon – a gorgeous place to watch the sunset while we waited for night to fall.
Super interesting fact: Chris is not only a croc enthusiast and expert – his grandmother and her family moved to Ambergris Caye in 1959 – when there were only a few hundred people living on the island. Chris’ great-grandparents bought the very land that our resort, Grand Caribe, is built on. And he, his grandmother and her husband still live on the property just south of us.
Back to the crocodiles! As the island becomes more and more developed, the crocodiles start to lose their habitat, the brackish water of the mangrove trees, and are forced closer and closer to humans. Crocodiles comfortable with people is bad for the crocs and for us.
So Chris helps to gather data, monitor the crocodiles and help out if they ever get too comfortable around people. If they become a real nuisance, they are relocated to the far north of the island or to the mainland.
As night fell, we headed out…
…shining the light in front of us to spot the crocodiles. When the lights hit their eyes, they glow like red Christmas bulbs.
And when they did, Chris jumped into the water (AT NIGHT!) to capture the crocodile and bring him or her on the boat. But only those of manageable size.
This guy was estimated to be about 3 years old – and he was just about 3 feet long.
This one (below) caught a bit later was smaller…and we took a look at the health of his teeth and recorded his measurements. Both crocodiles had been captured before, so Chris was able to record their information for later comparison.
Tracking the number and health of these island residents is important research but CSI is also a very fun trip. It’s beautiful being out on the water at night, seeing the crocodiles as well as large herons and tons of fish jumping in the spot light.
And I know that it is a different tour each time. Some trips they see and capture larger crocodiles, sometimes traps are set for those that are considered problematic and almost always, you get a chance to touch a crocodile. Big or small, kids would absolutely love this trip.
As will adults. After two hours, you are dropped off again after watching a real life crocodile hunter jumping into a dark lagoon and wrangling crocs. I must admit – it’s pretty exciting stuff.
And it was one gorgeous night.