Thanks for the checking out the blog for this Global Leadership Adventures program!
Here are a few things you can expect:
- We typically receive 2-3 blog posts per week here at GLA Headquarters from our program staff and students, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t see a blog post daily – that’s totally normal.
- Blog updates sent on weekends may not be posted until Monday.
- Due to many factors, including but not limited to internet accessibility, photos may not always be available to post onto the blog. Sometimes onsite program staff are only able to send text back to Headquarters, where our team updates the blog.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we hope you enjoy following along on these unforgettable adventures.
Cell Phone Policy: The GLA cell phone policy is currently in place this summer to help foster meaningful connections between students. This means your student’s phone will be collected every day and returned to them after activities are completed to have with them through the night. Actual tech times and regularity will vary greatly by program location and time zones. During designated ‘tech time’, your student may use their phones as they wish. Please note that your student may not always choose to use this time to get a hold of their parents. If you are not hearing directly from your student each day, you can assume that no news is good news! We strongly recommend you follow the blog to follow your students’ experience without talking to them every day. If you are a parent and would like to get in touch with your student directly, you can call us at +1-619-758-3031 and we can set up a formal time for you to connect with your student.
For frequently asked questions about the blogs, please visit our Program Blog FAQ page.
-The Global Leadership Adventures HQ Team
BLOG POST FOR JULY 19
This is your crew from Belize Manatee and Marine Conservation, and we are so excited to kick off session 2 (and the final session) of summer 2023!
Today is arrival day! Everything is ready for our students to arrive and start experiencing everything Belize has to offer! Most of the students were picked up at the airport in the morning/early afternoon at the Belize City Airport, with some students having flight delays. Our last student, Natalie, will be picked up tomorrow by GLA staff due to a flight cancellation! Students then took a 3-hour bus ride to the beautiful and rustic village of Sarteneja! Along the way, we stopped for lunch in a local town and visited the 123 supermarket to buy some snacks to fuel us for the adventures ahead!
At the home base, students were able to mingle with other students, explore their new home base, and rest/shower after a long day of travel! The students also ate dinner, met the GLA Belize staff, and played some icebreakers to get to know each other!
Although all of the students shared that they were exhausted from the traveling, they were super enthusiastic and looking forward to the adventure and service days to come!
We can’t wait for the next two weeks of service, learning, lifelong memories, and deep friendships that await.
We hope that you can use this blog to keep up with your student’s adventures and as a way to experience this journey with us!
From the excited GLA Belize team,
Serenity (International Director)
Dive (Local Director)
BLOG POST FOR JULY 20
Written by Marshall and Alex B.
Today we got to see the village of Sarteneja for the first time in daylight. We started the day off with an 8am wake up call to music. We got to enjoy some delicious breakfast of pancakes and oatmeal. Our day was mainly focused around orientation and settling in. After breakfast we started with icebreaker games to get to know everyone’s name and a little about them.
Then, we spent time learning the rules and pillars of GLA. As well as learning how to assimilate to Sarteneja, we came up with community guidelines at home base, such as making sure to turn off lights and AC after leaving a room to conserve energy and stay sustainable. We also learned about local customs throughout the community that we must follow as guests.
Next, we walked around Sarteneja and visited two local art stores. We had time to purchase handmade goods for ourselves, friends and family back home. After shopping, we changed into bathing suits and made our way to the pier where we got ready to go on the boat.
We all loaded the boat and headed to Warrie Bight, our service site and popular swim spot. Once we were there, we walked to shore and explored the area. We then prepared to conduct the swim test to ensure that we could all swim! Luckily we all passed! We then spent the next hour or so swimming around in the warm Belizean water.
We then headed back to home base where we got to meet the final member of our group, Natalie, whose flight was unfortunately delayed. After showering we had a delicious dinner. Then we got introduced to our mentor groups and first leadership activity. Finally, we got our phones back and an hour later headed to bed!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 21
Written by Indigo and Paige
Today, we woke up at 6:00 am blasting music to our friends. We had a quick breakfast of breakfast tacos.Then we headed to the pier to hop on the speedboat. Joma and Jema safely transported us to the heart-shaped traps to get a front row seat of the traditional way of fishing in Belize. We observed the Cruz family harvesting their daily catch.The traps are made from big sticks that lead from the shore to about 30 ft out. In addition, the sticks are placed into a heart shape that’s wrapped by mesh/chicken wire. The fisherwoman jumped in and wrapped the net in a clockwise motion to trap the fish and put it in the boat. Even though some of the fish jumped out, the family got a pretty good haul. We saw barracuda, snapper, romorrah,and spade fish. We even saw them abiding by the protected fish law, throwing back tarpon, bonefish, and permit fish. They also threw out stingrays, angelfish and catfish.
After, we went to the Cruz family home where we met the owner of the trap and got to learn how to scale and gut the fish. It was a really cool experience to learn how fish is usually prepared, and got the fortunate opportunity to eat the fish we personally prepared for lunch. The fresh fish was really good with chili, onions, beans, rice, salad, fresh fruit and lime juice to top it off.
Then, some staff from the SACD came to our home base and taught us how to identify different birds and fish in the Corozal Bay. We went on a walk in Sarteneja to put our new skills to the test. We saw magnificent frigatebirds, white-winged doves, both black vultures and turkey vultures. Our final destination of our birdwatching walk in Sarteneja was the SACD headquarters where we met the rest of the staff. In addition, to our surprise, we got beautifully painted tote bags hand-painted by a local painter, Mr. Chuy.
As the sun was setting, we enjoyed our walk back to home base with the weather feeling cooler as night approached. We were able to take a shower at home base to get ready for Belizean folklore night at El Fogon, a local restaurant in Sarteneja. For dinner, we had grilled chicken, salad, beans and rice. We also had the chance to try Belizean cokes. To end the night, the family who owned the restaurant told us some childhood horror stories of their encounters with the paranormal and funny stories from their youth. Finally, we went back to home base to sleep off our busy day!
-Indigo and Paige
BLOG POST FOR JULY 22
Written by Alex and Leila
Waking up bright and early, we headed to breakfast to get a good start to the morning.
The staff of SACD arrived at the hotel to teach us all about mangroves. We began with a rock-paper-scissors activity to wake us up. Learning about the three types of mangrove trees, we found out how to determine the difference. We used leaf shape, leaf color, roots, and seeds to differentiate. In addition, they taught us about the benefits of planting these trees in Belize.
After a delicious lunch, we headed for the pier. Everyone greeted our new friends and boat captains Jema and Joma. We went to the service site and helped with the mangrove nursery. We were split into three groups. One group built the shade, another collected seeds, and the last group planted the seeds.
We swam after a hot few hours in the sun. Some students played chicken fight and tag, while others relaxed in the warm water. Splashing around, we bonded and had a blast. Once we got back to the hotel, had some much needed showers and ate dinner, we met up with our mentor groups. Groups were divided in half and assigned a conservation topic. We created games and posters to prepare for the eco-camp the next day.
We got free/tech time after we finished our projects. Telling stories and making jokes, we had a great time learning about each other. We headed for bed and got some much needed rest.
See you later!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 23
Written by Maddie and Ebin
Today we were woken by a cool tropical breeze at 7:00am, and got ready for a day of teaching kids, activities and fun. We started the morning with a delicious breakfast and then headed off to the SACD office to meet the village kids, who had signed up for eco-camp. We played introduction games with all 30 kids, and presented on subjects relevant to the community, such as fast fashion, sustainable fishing, recycling and mangroves.
We then went on a walk around town with the village kids to complete a scavenger hunt. Although most of the GLA students had no clue where we were headed to, the group of kids led us straight to the last clue!
Next we had a wonderful lunch of fish, rice, beans and a much liked horchata juice. After lunch, we picked up trash around the community in the very hot belizean weather. At the end of the clean up we collected more than 200 pounds of trash from all around Sarteneja. Afterwards we played sports and other fun games such as bottlenose dolphin balance and jenga.
Then we said our goodbyes to the children of the community and went back to home base. After a quick rest we all went to the pier to go for a swim. Everyone had to get used to the feeling of the silt at the bottom of the water, but after we got over the strange texture we all had a lot of fun.
When everybody had showered and enjoyed some free time after our return, we all came downstairs for a tasty dinner of black soup called relleno. As dinner was finished we gathered in our mentor groups and discovered our leadership styles, as well as shared more about ourselves.
Then it was tech time and lights out after a long, sweaty, rewarding day.
Bye Bye for now!!
-Maddie and Ebin
BLOG POST FOR JULY 24
Written by Allie and Gigi
I was awoken by the bright Belizean sun peeking through the curtains. It was finally my turn to choose a song and wake the sleeping tigers. I reluctantly crawled out of bed earlier than the rest, and began to knock on doors. Once everyone was up and around, we ate a breakfast consisting of eggs and ham, pineapple, fry jacks, and a refreshing cup of ginger-cucumber-lime juice. Following the conclusion of our meal and chores, it was time to leave for the pier.
The journey from Sarteneja to New River took about forty-five minutes, and from there we discussed the wildlife living in the river as well as life on the river bank. We had the opportunity to witness the crossing of the first completely human operated ferry I have ever seen. From there we traveled to Cerros to see Mayan ruins where the mosquitos welcomed us with open arms. After lathering ourselves with several coats of bug spray and sunscreen, we made our way through the dense foliage where we climbed to the very top of the ruins. The remarkable construction gave a distraction to the swarms of bugs.
We needed to finish what we started at Warrie Bight, so we headed back to plant the remaining propagules. Our group was incredibly efficient, dividing the jobs into two in order to prolong our swimming time. Hearing the cool and refreshing water lap at the shore was a definite motivator for our process. After splashing around in the water for nearly two hours, we begrudgingly trudged back to the boat for our rough ride back to Sarteneja. After indulging in a little free time as well as cool showers, we sat down for some fun karaoke before a nutritious dinner for our drained bodies. After filling up we sat down for some chit chat time and then headed to bed to refresh for the coming day.
See you when the AC goes out!
Allie and Gigi
BLOG POST FOR JULY 25
Written by Sylvia and Jonah
Tuesday began slightly later than others which gave us and our fellow peers a chance to recover from an exciting monday. At a breezy 7:30, we woke up the campers with a boisterous knock or two so that they’d be down for a delicious breakfast at 8:00. Once everyone was downstairs, we enjoyed a selection of bean, cheese, and fish empanadas, a pineapple ring with some red grapefruit juice to wash it down. Soon after, we endured a cramped bus ride to Wildtracks Rehabilitation Sanctuary. Some of us were lucky enough to ride in a spacious truck driven by Joma, a fellow employee working with the SACD.
At Wildtracks, we were welcomed by Zoe, the founder of the organization! We were presented with two videos educating us on the process used to rehabilitate both manatees and primates after they were injured in the wild. We then exercised our knowledge with an activity where we broke down a threat to manatees, its causes, and solutions to them. Finally, it was time to see the manatees. We were taken to the soft release area of the sanctuary where the manatees were preparing to be released back into the wild. A member of the Wildtracks staff then fed a baby manatee a special manatee milkshake consisting of bananas, water, and lots of healthy protein. Following the feeding, we were taken over to the noisy monkey area where we were welcomed by the blaring howls of many howler monkeys in various stages of their rehabilitation. An animated spider monkey named Rafiki then treated us to a show as he swung from branch to branch in his habitat. Unfortunately, Rafiki was born with a condition in his spine creating a hump that prevents him from being able to be released back into the wild. Alas, it was time to head back to home base for a nutritious lunch.
After lunch, the group was provided with gloves to get ready to pick up trash all around Sarteneja village. We walked to the SACD office picking up whatever we could on the way. We then split into our two mentor groups and went our separate ways. After about an hour of hard work, Sarteneja was about 20 bags of trash cleaner and we were done with our service. Next, some of us grabbed a refreshing coke from the local store while others cooled off in the water at the pier.
As the sun started to set over Corozal Bay, we made our way back to homebase where we prepared for dinner and Chalupa Bingo at Raquel’s Kitchen! At 7:00, we walked a short three blocks to the restaurant. Prior to dinner, exciting rounds of chalupa bingo were won by Indigo, Maddy, and Natalie. Then, we were served chicken strips with barbecue sauce, rice, and salad. With full stomachs, we headed back to home base, showered, and headed to our rooms for some well needed shut eye after a long day.
Sylvia and Jonah!!
**Note: On 7/27-7/28, the students will be on Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, a remote island with limited cellular reception. Students may not be able to contact parents during this period of time!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 26
Written by Natalie and Maeve
Today we started our day at around 8:00 am with nice, late wake-up time. For breakfast, we had french toast with blueberries and it was delicious! Our first activity of the day was making lionfish jewelry and learning all about lionfish. We learned that lionfish is extremely invasive and overpopulated in Belize, which is why it is good to hunt and find another use for them, such as jewelry. With the help of the local Belioness artisans, we made earrings, necklaces, bracelets and key chains out of the lionfish fins. Once we finished constructing our jewelry, we hung them on branches and leaves in the sun to dry.
Then we went out into the village to visit the local art shops once again, such as Mr. Chuy’s art store and Tropic Art. As it was our last day in Sarteneja, we bought numerous paintings and souvenirs from these artists to take back home with us and give to our family and friends. After shopping, we went back to home base just in time for lunch, which was soup and rice. It was super scrumptious.
After lunch, we had about 2 hours of free time/packing time to get all of our stuff organized and prepared for Bacalar Chico (the remote island) and Tropical Education Center. Once free time had passed, we went to Dive’s Mom’s house to prepare the tamales that we would be eating for dinner. For tamale prep, we split up into stations with different responsibilities; one group was making tortillas out of the corn dough, another group was topping them with sauce, chicken and veggies, and the last group was folding the tamales.
To give time for the tamales to cook, we went back to home base to shower and rest before we went back to Dive’s Mom’s house for a tamale extravaganza! Although our stomachs were filled by the delicious tamales we had made, Dive’s mom also prepared 5 different desserts including bread pudding, lemon meringue pie, flan, cake and mangoes. With our stomachs full, we said thank you to Dive’s mom for the meal, went back to home base and all fell asleep.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 27
Written by Sophie and Simone
We woke up at 6:15am today to go to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve Island. After a short boat ride, we arrived on the island and had breakfast which consisted of eggs, beans, watermelon and tortillas. After breakfast, we settled into our new living quarters for the night. We got our stuff sorted out, got dressed, packed for snorkeling and then left to go to our last service activity: cleaning up a dirty, trash-infested beach. On our boat ride to the service side, we traversed through a Mayan canal that was half in Mexico and half in Belize, and we saw jellyfish and spotted eagle rays swimming in the water.
The beach was very filled with trash by tourist attractions, such as cruise ships and other resorts, that you couldn’t take a step without crushing trash. We filled up 35 bags of trash in total and pushed the sand backwards to smooth out/expose the sand so that the turtles can lay their eggs. After, we got back on the boat, and got ready to snorkel in the clear, blue Belizean water. We put on our flippers and snorkeling gear, and jumped into the warm water and saw all the different wildlife living in the coral reefs. We passed a nursing shark, and saw some lobsters, stingrays, and a manatee. We even got to hold a starfish and swam to different patches of coral in the area.
Once finished with snorkeling, we got back on the boat and headed back to the island. We had lunch, which was chicken fajitas and white rice. We also got Arizona Iced Teas as a surprise! After resting in the hammocks, chatted under the shade, and observed the baby chicks and iguanas on the island. Once our break was finished, we did a responsible and ethical photography workshop, and did a small activity to show what types of pictures are responsible/ethical compared to the ones that aren’t. We even got to take a nice swim in the warm water surrounding the Bacalar Chico pier, and just relaxed until dinner was cooked!
Dinner consisted of pork barbecue with pasta salad and tortillas. Once it got dark and the sun had set, all of us laid down at the pier, stargazed and saw a crocodile hidden in the mangroves. We then did a deep mentor group session called the “River of Life” to learn more about each other and our backgrounds. Then, we got ready for bed, and it was lights out!
BLOG POSTS FOR JULY 28-30
Written by Maddie and Taylor
Today we woke up to the sound of very loud roosters at 5:00am in a hot, muggy room. We went outside to watch the sunrise and ended up seeing a dolphin break the surface with its beautiful leap. We then got ready for a long day of travel after breakfast. Many of the students and staff were ready to leave the beautiful, yet unforgiving island. The sandflies and mosquitoes of this paradise proved to be worthy opponents for us.
We then got all packed up and gleefully headed off to the boat. After a peaceful and quiet boat ride, we stepped back onto the pier of Sarteneja for the last time. We had a final stop at the inn to gather our luggage and to the SACD office for a quick bathroom break before embarking on a 4 hour bus ride.
Two hours into the drive we stopped for snacks and stretched our legs, looking around at the changed surroundings. At last, after another 2 hours we arrived at our final residency, TEC, tropical education center. It was hidden in the jungle of trees and cottage type structures. We all learned the ground rules and got settled in our new rooms. We were graced with the sight of not one, not two, but 3 or 4 fans. A stark contrast to our prior conditions!
Some of us rested, others explored the new terrain, but all of us swam in the refreshing pool. We freshened up and ate a scrumptious dinner prepared by the lovely staff at this center. Barbecue chicken, baked beans and coleslaw graced most of our taste buds, and we washed it all down with freshly made watermelon juice.
Once dinner was delightfully consumed we all gathered together for mentor groups. We played a heated round of jeopardy all about our service and time in Belize, ending the day with fun group activity.
We then got all ready for bed and had a wonderful rest after a long day.
Written by Jonah & Alex F.
Saturday began early with a 6:30 AM wakeup. After a delicious breakfast of beans, eggs, pineapple, watermelon, and lime juice to wash it down, we were ready for a day of exploration. At 8 AM sharp, each of us had a day pack ready and made our way to the bus. We traveled for about an hour through green countryside, and several towns as well. After about an hour, we arrived at our first activity.
Xunantunich, a Mayan excavation site and temple, sat up a hill and across a river from our bus. Each of us had an opportunity to ride the hand-cranked operated ferry to pull us across the river. Once safely on the other side, the learning began! Guided by Zhawn and Giselle, we visited the ruins. Among the ballcourts, burial site, and astronomy structures, we all had the opportunity to climb an astounding 135 foot tall temple which gave us a view of both Guatemala, and Belize in one glance. Once finished, it was time for a much needed lunch. Our guide and host at TEC, Zhawn, brought us to his favorite restaurant to eat lunch. We were given delicious soft shell tacos filled with well seasoned chicken, pico de gallo, and guacamole too!
Following lunch, we traveled to San Ignacio to do some shopping. In the market, we found electric t-shirts, local souvenirs, sunglasses, and more. To conclude the day’s exploration, we visited an ice cream shop where we ordered splits, sundaes, or just plain old ice cream. By 4:00 PM, we were back at TEC with some time to relax. Some swam while others explored the trails around them. Dinner was served at 6:30, and by 7:30, we began a heated game of mafia as our second to last mentor group opportunity. Thankfully, Gigi, Natalie, and Maddie (the mafia) were caught and the townspeople won the game!
Overall, Saturday was packed with adventure, and by 10:00, we were knocked out asleep.
Written by Natalie and Indigo
Today began with a leisurely wake-up at 7AM. We walked sleepily over to the main house for a delicious breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and yogurt. With our bellies full, we departed for cave tubing at 9AM. We all had our bags full to the brim with the day’s necessities– our day was packed with different activities! The bus ride was long and scenic, with views of fields and mountains alike.
When we arrived at the site, it was about a half an hour walk to the actual caves. On our walk, we crossed bridges, snuck through caves, and saw huge tropical trees covered in termites– all while carrying our tubes! When we got to the tubing site, the water was cold and refreshing and we saw lots of little fish swimming about in the water. The caves were massive and we saw huge stalactites and even bats!
After cave tubing, we had an extraordinary lunch of barbecue chicken, coleslaw, and beans. We also got tortillas, and they were so good they gave us extra! We also spotted an ice cream truck, but we were so full from the delicious lunch we had no room. From lunch we excitedly headed to ziplining! To prepare, we got fitted for our harnesses and helmets, and were given two gloves: one for the brakes and one for holding on to the rope. Once we were ready, we hiked up a steep hill up to the first ziplining spot. We did six lines, with each one being a little bit higher and longer. It was such an adrenaline rush, and the last line was our favorite (which went over a river)! Some of us even got to hang upside down!
Once ziplining was over, we headed over to the bus for our quick trip back for some free time, where we took a quick snooze and showered. Some of us also went to the pool to pass around the ball, play marco polo and some other games. It was a lot of fun!
After showering, we were all starving and headed to dinner, where we ate cilantro slaw, beans, rice, and stewed beef. We also had pineapple juice that was sooo good! After dinner, we loaded onto the bus to head off to the Belize Zoo for our night tour. When we got there, we met the very nice zookeepers and saw all types of animals, including tapirs, jaguars, crocodiles and ocelots. We even spotted a wild boa constrictor roaming about the zoo (looking for a snack)! Our tour guide caught him and continued on with our tour.
Once we were finished looking at the nocturnal animals, we headed back to the front of the zoo to see captured snakes, which included the boa, rat snake and other venomous snakes. Finally, we got back on the bus, made it back to the Tropical Education Center, and ended off the night hanging and chatting with our friends!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 31
Written by Alex B. and Marcial
Buenos Dias for the final time!
Today we woke up at 7:30 to our final full day in Belize. We started our day with johnny cakes and jam for breakfast and headed off to our daytime zoo tour. We were split up into 2 groups. At the zoo we saw jaguars, vultures, spider moneys and more. Unlike last nights tour we focused on animals that are awake in the daytime. The zoo rescues all of its animals and only keeps those that cannot be released back into the wild. Many of the animals are either too used to human or too injured to survive on their own in the wild.
After the tour we went shopping in the zoo’s gift shop and ate lunch at their cafe. We spent about an hour and a half at the lunch spot before getting back on the bus. Collectively we made the decision to skip the blue hole because we were tired and were informed that the blue hole had lots of bugs.
Then we went to the art box. This was a local store with many different forms of local art and a cafe with tasty treats and drinks. Most of us bought souvenirs for ourselves or our family and enjoyed a snack from the cafe. After about an hour and a half we headed back to homebase. We then had free time from 3:30-5:00 to pack, relax and swim. Then, we had a mentor . group activity from 5:00-6:00. We then had our final dinner in belize, some delicious pizza and pineapple upsidedown cake.
After dinner, we headed back to mentor groups where we performed skits about the goals we took away from the trip. Once that was done we filled out a survey about our experience on this GLA trip. Our final activity of the night was an appreciation circle where we closed our eyes and took turns showing our appreciation for each other. After this we got a few hours after lights out to pack, dance, and say goodbye to each other.
BLOG POST FOR AUGUST 1
Today was a bittersweet day as we said farewell to the 17 students who made up the second and final GLA Belize “Manatee and Marine Conservation” program of 2023! As all of the students had flights departing from Belize City around noon, staff were able to drop off all of the students at the airport with a single trip! Students were successfully checked in and were escorted through customs with the help and support of GLA staff members. With final goodbyes and hugs exchanged, students said a final farewell to Belize as they headed for their respective flights. They should be arriving back home shortly!
On behalf of the staff, we want to thank every student that made this trip possible. The students’ incredible kindness, positivity, laughter and enthusiasm for conservation truly made this trip one of a kind, and we hope that they use their newfound conservation knowledge, leadership skills and incredible experiences/friendships in the future to become the future leaders of tomorrow and “be the change” that they wish to see in the world!
Goodbye for now!
Serenity (International Director)
Dive (Local Director)