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Jul 22, 2004

Airboat tours offer thrills and education

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If you’ve travelled the Western Highway between Belize City and Hattieville it’s hard to miss. A thatched roof palapa, a roadside canal…and some of the strangest looking boats you’ll ever see. News 5′s Janelle Chanona has more.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

From the demand for new and diverse tourist destinations in Belize, emerges this latest attraction on the entertainment scene: airboat tours.

From it’s location at mile eight and a half on the Western Highway, Bak-a-Bush adventures is only a month and a half into operation, but the company is militant about guiding guests through lagoon, mangrove forest and marshland ecosystems. But first, the tour begins with a brief orientation on dry land.

Reymundo Heredia, Airboat Captain

“Ear-protection will be handed out to you as soon as you enter the airboat, which must be worn while boat is in motion if not advised by first mate or captain.”

That’s right, “ear-protection” because if you haven’t figured out it yet, airboats are really noisy.

The forty-five minute tour covers approximately five miles of wetland, with guides pointing out numerous birds, plants, trees and even what?s supposed to be a crocodile nest.

Most of the airboat passengers have been tourists off cruise ships and they have rave reviews for the tour.

Guest #1

“It was great, exciting, and very knowledgeable.”

Guest #2

“They showed us all of birds and Ken?s a lot of fun.”

Guest #3

“The airboats are phenomenal, that’s awesome right there. That?s a lot of fun.”

Janelle Chanona

“And the tour?”

Guest #3

“The tour itself was great, we saw a lot of birds, we didn’t get to see any manatees or crocodiles, but the birds, there’s a lot of real pretty marsh birds out there.”

Guest #4

“It was really fun, we got to see a lot of cool stuff and the boat?s really fast.”

According to Captain Noel McCord, what makes the tour unique is being able to take guests where no other boat can go.

Noel McCord, Airboat Captain

“Well, The hull itself is designed in Florida and it’s a flat bottom, it draws about an inch of water when it’s running. So it will not hit anything, it?s completely flat on the bottom, there’s nothing touching anywhere. It doesn?t hit the manatee. We see some manatee when we do go out there; we see some crocodiles that come on the trail and there’s one big crocodile that has a nest in there.?

Rita Coley, Operations Manager, Bak-a-Bush Adventure Tours

“They do get some of the fifty miles an hour once they are on the lagoon so it’s like wow, there’s so much nature, and man, what a ride!”

And according to operations manager Rita Coley, environmental impact to the area is minimal.

Rita Coley

“On the lagoon, they are able to see a variety of wildlife, we are not going to guarantee you that every day you’ll get to see a manatee, but there are manatees, crocodiles and about fifty species of birds.”

“These airboats make no impact on the environment. The waterways that we go through are naturally occurring waterways so we don’t cut through tracks to create trails. We follow the existing trails that are there now. And the fuel that we right now in the boat is an environmentally friendly mixture of propane and butane. So there’s no negative impact at all.”

Positive reaction to the airboats has already convinced the owners to expand.

Rita Coley

“The business is still young, a month and a half, the response has been phenomenal and very soon down the line we will be looking to getting additional airboats, we have to because of the response.”

“We were excited when we had thirty people coming through here, just yesterday we had a hundred and fifteen people coming through here. So, it is growing leaps and bounds.”

As for prices for airboat tours, right now Bak-a-Bush is offering special introductory rates for Belizeans which are thirty dollars Belize for adults, twenty for children. Tourists pay twenty-five US for adults, twelve fifty US for children. The company does not advise pregnant women and children under six to take the tour. Bak-a-Bush is a joint initiative between local businessman Tom Wilson and Chukka Adventures in Jamaica.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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