Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary
Lonely Planet review for Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary
About 19 miles southwest of Caye Caulker, the vast Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary spans nearly 9000 acres, including Swallow Caye and some parts of nearby Drowned Caye. Here the ocean floor is covered with turtle-grass beds, which support a small population of West Indian manatees.
For years, guides have been bringing tourists to this spot, in the hope of catching a glimpse of these gentle creatures as they chow down on the turtle grass. But the constant traffic put stress on the habitat, having the unintended effect of harming the manatees. After tireless efforts on the part of conservationists and guides, a wildlife sanctuary was finally established in 2002.
Now strict guidelines are in place to protect the manatee and to encourage them to stay in the area. Swimming with manatees is now forbidden by the Belizean authorities and signs have been posted to dissuade boat operators from using their motors near the manatees and from speeding through the area. (Propeller injuries are one of the chief causes of manatee deaths.) There is a permanent caretaker in these waters, although some complain that this is not enough to adequately enforce regulations.
Nonetheless, those who monitor the manatees are encouraged by the increase in numbers at Swallow Caye. Patient visitors are usually rewarded with several sightings of breeching and feeding manatees, often including a mother and calf swimming together.