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BBN person of the week: Basilio Mes

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2018. 1:08 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff:Born in a humble Maya family in Santa Cruz Village in the southern lush jungles of the Toledo District, Basilio Mes grew up to do what he loves to do – birding, spending time in nature, and tour guiding.

Mes, is a professionally licensed guide in Belize and brings to his tours a strong sense of Maya tradition and heritage carried down from his ancestors.  Language is no barrier, as Basilio speaks English, Spanish, and Mopan Maya fluently.

You can find no better tour guide than a Maya man who grew up surrounded by his rich culture and the pristine natural beauty of the jungle ecosystem.  With every word he speaks, you will hear pride and love for Belize.

Birding and caving are his passion and he says – “I am proud to say that I am one of the very few tour guides license to guide at Actun Tunichil Muknal. Two years ago, I also completed my Advance Level in Bird Guides in Belize.”

Mes has more than 14 years of experience with adventure tours in the country.

BBN asked him to share with us more about himself.

Here are some of the questions we asked him.

Why did you choose to be a tour guide?

I love traveling and I wanted to travel the country.  The best way you can travel is by traveling with tourists who visit your country to know more about it so I became a tour guide.

What are three top things you love about your job?

I love sightseeing. I love educating guests visiting Belize about nature and its beauty. I love showing guests some of the most amazing birds that we have here in Belize. I love educating guests about our Maya culture and traditions. Sharing our food with them and yes ‘bigging’ up Belize.

You shared with us that you love bird watching, name three areas that are the best destinations for bird watching in Belize?:

Three areas I highly recommend for anyone to go bird watching in Belize are:

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary – Cockscomb offer unique forest birds. Some birds on the top list here are the Keel-billed Toucan and the 4 species of trogons can be found while hiking the trails. Not to forget, the Lesson’s Motmot is common sound in the morning in the area as well and late in the evening, the jungle starts off with the last call of the Great Tinamou.

Hopkins Wetlands – Those interested in Shore Birds, Waders, Rails and Crakes? Visit the Hopkins Wetlands. Hopkins wetlands is located just west of the Garinagu Village of Hopkins.  Be patient as the American Bittern may fly off from its hiding place in the grass. Listen to the call of the Sora and sometimes if you are lucky, you can see the Jabiru feeding in the distance.

Mountain Pine Ridge is also a favorite birding destination of mine as in the higher elevation you can find some rare avian species such as the elusive Sedge Wren. Its also worth going to Slate Creek Lookout. Some rare species can be found there as well, such as the Lovely Cotinga and the endangered – Orange-breasted Falcon

List 5 amazing birds that are found in Belize.

Five amazing birds found in Belize are:

Keel-billed Toucan – This is our National Bird and is common pretty much all over.

Scarlet Macaw – Once at the very edge of extinction in Belize, they are now making a come back.

Yellow-headed Parrot – These birds are in decline in population in Belize. This is due to poaching of the young ones. I encourage Belizeans to stop poaching these beautiful treasures and protect them. Who don’t like to see them flying free in the wild? Or you like to see them locked up for life in a cage?

Orange-breasted Falcon – This is one of our amazing raptors in Belize. This endangered species is very vital to Belize’s Birding Tourism and Economy. Only a few dozens remain of this species and most of them can be found in the Mountain Pine Ridge. Birds of prey (Hawks and Falcons) are beneficial to all of us as they help control pest such as rats and mice that may bring dangerous disease to us.

Great Curassow – These ground birds are fast declining in population. This is due to hunting in the jungles of Belize. These birds need to be protected if we want to encourage tourism and eco-tourism in Belize.

List 3 amazing attractions in Belize that Belizeans should explore.

Belizeans should explore more of this country! One of the things I would recommend is to go camping at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary or even climb the Victoria Peak if you are in shape.

Visit the Toledo District, there is so much to explore here. Most people are unaware that we have some amazing archaeological sites such as Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun. Visit the Blue Creek Cave too!

Go fishing or snorkeling on the Barrier Reef. You can picnic on one of the secluded islands and fish offshore. You will never be disappointed.

Remember to bring your trash back with you and let’s keep Belize clean.

What is one thing you would like Belizeans to know about the tourism industry?:

The tourism industry is still in its infancy stage in Belize.  We need to protect this industry. We need to start to think ahead about how to make a little more income for our families. There are numerous ways where we can make a little more income in the industry, some examples are: become a tour guide and start your own tour operation, reforest your area – plants trees that can attract birds and at the same time plant other trees that can be extra income for you like Cacao and Coffee. Its called agro-tourism. If you have an extra house to rent, advertise it on VRBO or Airbnb.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

I hope that one day, I will be operating a small birding lodge as this is a growing industry in Belize and in the world as a whole. I encourage lodge owners to invest into birding and train their guides to become avid birders. I also encourage other tour guides to invest in themselves and educate themselves.

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