Help Is On The Way For Australia And Belize’s Spectacular Reefs With The “Sister Reef” Project

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Australia and Belize boast the two longest, most spectacular barrier reef systems earth, and between 8 March and 29 March 2018, people around the world have a unique opportunity to join in protecting these magnificent natural wonders – along with a chance to win one of over 40 “Belizean Experiences”, including luxury accommodation at The Lodge at Chaa Creek, the popular Belizean eco-resort’s owners say.

Belize's Magnificant Half Moon Caye

Half Moon Caye is just one of hundreds of islands within the Belize Great Barrier Reef system

It’s a great example of thinking globally and acting locally

The world’s longest and second longest reef systems; Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Belize’s Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, are both set to benefit from the Sister Reef Project, an innovative project driven by a partnership between the people of Belize and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s owners.

Mick and Lucy Fleming, who have gained global recognition for their environmental and sustainable tourism work in Belize, applauded the Sister Reef Project as they donated a stay at their Belize eco-resort for the project’s online fundraiser.

“It’s a great example of thinking globally and acting locally, and something we’re very happy to join so many of our Belize tourism colleagues in supporting,” Ms Fleming said.

The Sister Reef Project is a joint initiative by the World Wildlife Fund and Belize Tourism Board (BTB), created to raise awareness and funds for the Australian and Belizean reef systems through an online fundraiser supported by a number of Belizean organisations and tourism stakeholders, Ms Fleming explained.

“The level of participation has been enormously gratifying,” she said.

According to a BTB media release, travellers are encouraged to buy credits that go towards protecting both reef systems while offering the buyer chances to win various Belizean “experiences”, including adventure and cultural experiences, Maya temple and ceremonial cave exploration, round trip air travel, and accommodation at over a dozen participating Belizean resorts.

The online fundraiser began 8 March 2018 and closes midnight, 29 March 2018.

Chaa Creek marketing administrator Roberto Harrison said the two-night stay for two guests in one of Chaa Creek’s luxury cottages also includes canoeing, visits to the onsite Natural History Museum and butterfly farm, guided birding and nature walks through the popular Belizean jungle lodge’s 400-acre private nature reserve, and other activities.

“We’ll be sure to give those guests a very special welcome for participating in this worthy project,” he added.

Other Belize experiences include a three-nights sail along the Belize Barrier Reef on a luxury catamaran, five nights stay with traditional drumming lessons in the Garifuna seaside village of Hopkins, tubing through an ancient Maya cave system, flights over the Great Blue Hole, and collections of Belizean music from Belize’s Stonetree Records.

To participate, people register at the “Sister Reef Project” website and donate US$5.00 or more before 29 March 2018, with all proceeds going towards WWF work on both Australia and Belize’s reefs.

“For a mere five dollars people not only contribute towards saving two of the most spectacular and important biospheres on the planet, they also have the chance to win some pretty incredible experiences,” Mr Harrison said.

“And the more you donate, the more you help, and the more chances you have to enjoy one of these experiences,” Mr Harrison said.

With the world’s reefs increasingly at risk from climate change and other factors, awareness and protective measure are more important than ever, Ms Fleming said.

“People need to be made aware of just how important our reefs are to the health of the planet, and to humankind in general,” she said.

“Millions of people depend directly upon reefs for their livelihoods, and many more benefit indirectly.

“In addition, innumerable plant and animal species simply could not survive without reefs, which also act as giant filtration systems to keep the oceans clean, help keep the planet’s carbon levels down, protect entire countries from erosion, and feed millions of people.

“The incredible biodiversity of reefs also plays a role in the development of medicines for treating HIV, cardiovascular disease, leukaemia, and other illnesses. And coral may become invaluable as a source of material for bone grafts,” Ms Fleming said.

The Belize Barrier Reef system is the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, sheltering over 400 small islands, or cayes, and three of the world’s largest atolls. Containing seven protected marine reserve zones, it is home to some 500 species of fish and marine life, a hundred species of hard and soft coral, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996.

After a “Peoples' Referendum” in which 96 percent of almost 30,000 participating Belizeans voted against offshore oil drilling, and following a Supreme Court ruling, the Government of Belize imposed a moratorium against oil drilling and oil exploration on the barrier reef as of December 29, 2017, showing, Ms Fleming said, how strongly Belizeans value their majestic reef system.

The participation of so many businesses and organisations in the Sister Reef Project will go a long way towards raising global awareness, and is another example of the importance Belizeans and people around the world place on the planet’s reefs, she said.

“Reefs are some of the planet’s most spectacular natural wonders, and the more we learn about them, the more we appreciate how important they are to all of us,” Ms Fleming said.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi-award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize. It was recognised by National Geographic with first place honours at the 2017 World Legacy Awards held in Berlin.

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Mark Langan
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