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OCEAN HEROES: Jamal A. Galves (Manateeman)

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Our new series, Ocean Heroes, showcases the fantastic marine conservation work done by individuals and groups around the world. In this edition we talk to Jamal A. Galves, also known as Manateeman.


Jamal is from Belize, specifically a small coastal village outside of Belize City named Gales Point Manatee where he grew up. He went to school at St John’s Junior College & then went on to study at the University of Belize.

Caroline: How did you get involved with marine conservation? 

Jamal: I have always been fascinated by manatees. As a young boy, I would stand on my grandparents’ lawn in Gales Point Manatee and observe manatees swim through the lagoon. I would spend long hours sitting on the dock, dreaming of one day being able to work with the gentle herbivores. At the age of 12 this dream became a reality.

I caught the attention of a field research team, led by renowned manatee conservationist Dr. James “Buddy” Powell, that visited my village every year to study manatees. The team noticed how enthusiastic I was about manatees and brought me along on their boat to observe. That one trip out resulted in me coming back day after day, eager to learn more and help wherever I could.

I have volunteered with the team since then and my dedication and commitment has only increased resulting in becoming a member of the team at age 16. Today I am the coordinator of the Belize Manatee Project Program for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, an organization that works to protect and conserve coastal ecosystems and species. Though I have had a fair amount of success I have seen the impact these animals faced due to human negligence and that continues to drive me to ensure these animals are protected

Though manatees are currently endangered, I am hopeful about the species’ survival. “As a child I never would have thought manatees would be endangered. However, I am very optimistic about their future. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do what I do.”

Ultimately, I wish to inspire the next generation through my efforts. “I believe that when young people decide to save a threatened species, it’s inspirational. That inspiration can be contagious and provide encouragement to others”. That is exactly what happened to me, Jamal, the boy who saves manatees.

Caroline: Tell us about the Belize Manatee Conservation Program

Jamal: In 1997, Dr. James “Buddy” Powell, Bob Bonde of USGS, Nicole Auil of the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and a Sea to Shore (now CMA Research Institute) associate research scientist, began the Belize Manatee Conservation Project.

Belize has the highest known density of Antillean manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, in the world. Unfortunately, because of rapidly increasing coastal development, human-related manatee deaths are rising quickly. Poaching, once the major threat to manatees in Belize, has been replaced by boat kills and destruction of habitat as the major concerns for the survival of the species.

CMA Research Institute scientists and collaborators provide the data, expertise and scientific exchange that are used by the Belize government to establish sanctuaries, speed zones, laws and regulations that safeguards manatees and other actions that help ensure the survival of manatees in this remarkable country.

I was just a boy at age eleven when I met Buddy at the dock preparing to head out for manatee health assessments. I asked if I could join the team and began volunteering in efforts to protect the manatee of Belize. After years of expressing his devotion, interest and passion for the conservation of the endangered manatees, I was officially hired as a Field Assistant in 2008. Today, I am the Belize Manatee Conservation program coordinator.

Program Activities

  • Conduct countrywide community-related education and outreach programs coordinate the Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
  • Serve as a resource and representative on relevant government and local committees, such as the Belize Manatee working group.
  • Track and monitor tagged, wild manatees.
  • Create public information brochures and posters on manatees and their habitat.
  • Communicate with the media and the public on manatee conservation issues.
  • Continue critical fundraising efforts for our programs and handle all aspects of managing, administering, and maintaining an active research and conservation program in Belize.

Examples of Program Success

  • Speed Reduction and No-Wake Zones

Implemented speed zones and installed and maintain no-wake zone signage in the waters off Belize City.

  • Decreased Poaching

Through research and awareness efforts we have decreased poaching incidents in the country. In 2010 a poaching incident in Belize was prosecuted. This is the first time anyone has been prosecuted for killing a manatee in Belize.

  • Population Monitoring

We have successfully captured and carried out health assessments on 164 individuals since 1997. The data set we have gathered over the years through consistent health assessments of this wild population is helping to provide vital information on the population’s status, and what measures and efforts still need to be taken to ensure manatees continue to exist.

  • Rescue, Rehab, and Release

Our Belize team has successfully rescued and transported many injured, sick or orphaned manatees to a rehabilitation facility for care, and have reintroduced and monitored those animals in the wild following recovery

Caroline: What is so special about manatees?  

Jamal: They are the only herbivorous mammals in Belize’s water ways and Belize has the last strong-hold on the population throughout its range.  Manatees provides critical role within Belize’s marine ecosystem as they are considered nutrients recyclers as they consume about 10% of their body weight daily which then turns to excretion that acts as nourishment for small fishes and crustaceans. I have to mention that they are very gentle, charismatic and cute.

Caroline: What success stories have you had? Can you tell us more about the baby manatee you recently rescued?

Jamal: On July 13 2020 I, Associate Research Biologist, and a team of volunteers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, rescued a male orphan manatee calf in Belize that is estimated to be two to four weeks old. The calf was observed the previous day alone and showing signs of distressed. The baby manatee was later taken to the rehabilitation centre, to receive around-the-clock care. The young male was only 36 lbs when it came in and has shown great signs so far. He will spend the next 3-4 years in rehab until he is fit and ready to be returned into the wild.

Watch the rescue video here:

Caroline: What is the biggest threat to manatees in Belize?

Jamal: Watercraft collision, entanglement, habitat destruction, pollution and poaching

Caroline: If you could persuade people to change their lives in one way, what would you ask them to change?

Jamal: I would ask them to change their appreciation and kindness for the environment and all wildlife.  As by simply changing that and having an appreciation for those things one will naturally change other behaviours that impact both the environment and wildlife and will realize by doing so it also benefits human livelihoods.

CRB: Where can our readers find out more about the work that you do?

Keep up with Jamal Galves’ work with manatees on Instagram and Facebook.

Learn more about The Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute by clicking here, or by following them on Instagram here.

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Diving with…  Pablo Calderon Cadiz, Takata Experience, Mahaual, Mexico

CJ and Mike

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

Pablo Calderon Cadiz

What is the name of your business?

Takata Experience

What is your role within the business?

Owner / General Manager

How long has the business operated for?

6 years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

I have been diving for 16 years; I am a PADI IDC Staff Instructor

What is your favorite type of diving?

I really enjoy all types of dive but deep dives and dives with crazy topography are by far my favourites.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

We are a dive center and also a research center, so we merge both into one big idea.  When you dive with us you also benefit the reef, as we put part of that money into our restoration program. We are also one of the only dive centers in the world that has a full research center working together with us. That’s why our official hashtag is #Divewithpurpose

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

My favorite dive in Mahahual is Piratas, because of the beautiful topography and the amount of big animals you can see, such as turtles, manatees and sharks.

What types of diving are available in your location?

One of the best things about Mahahual is that there are dive sites for all levels, from shallow reefs with beautiful life to walls that can go down to 150 meters within 5 minutes from the shore. You can always choose what you want, if you are looking for biodiversity, topography, shallow sand patches or very deep walls, we have them all.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

The diving industry is an industry that is constantly evolving and from my role I am able to always bring that to Takata.  I am always looking for ways to create a solid business culture, to make sure the people that work for us can always develop themselves from a professional perspective, but also from a personal one. We have created many different programs that are unique to us, where we merge the dive and research center. All that is possible because I can take those decisions. To see how your dream becomes true is the biggest reward ever.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Sharks are my number 1, and if I can be more specific, Hammerheads!!!

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

I feel that many dive centers in the world don’t  know yet what makes them unique, so the way for them to attract people is to charge very low prices, sometimes that is very difficult, because the one that is next to you can charge 30% less than you for the ¨same service¨. I believe we should always find what is unique to us and to create a value on it. We should all focus on the professionalization of our industry.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

As I mentioned before, we have a full research center, our director has 2 master degrees and our 2 biologist both have PhDs. Actually our research center was name as Actor for the UN Decade On Ecosystems Restoration for the next 10 years.

Our research center works together with the Mexican government to ensure a sustainable development in the area and to implement big scale conservation and restoration projects in Mahahual.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

As we are a new company, there are always exciting thing coming our way, in these years we became an IDC center, UN partners, we did a small hotel and we are looking forward to develop our research center even more.  We would like to become the biggest research center in Mexico which is very ambitious and to become leaders in diving, restoration and everything that involve costal ecosystems. We dream big because we love what we do.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I think the industry is doing ok but not great.  For sure freediving has grown a lot in the last 10-15 years. There are several organisations around the world who do great work, but we need more people and businesses looking to do the exceptional.   Sometimes talking with diving friends around the world, we all agree that this is probably one of the few industries where the prices we charge are the same or even cheaper than 5 or 10 years ago. We urgently need to proprofessionalize the industry and put the correct value on our product and services.

Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

If you guys are looking for a unique immersive experience where you can mix your passion for diving with deep understanding of marine and costal ecosystem, then we are your choice.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

You guys can follow us on IG: Takata.experience 

FB: Takata Experience                                                                                

Our website is: www.takataexperience.com

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Discover the Best of Belize with Dive Worldwide

American DTA Team

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This June marks the 25th anniversary of the Belize Barrier Reef becoming a World Heritage Site! To celebrate, Dive Worldwide have rounded up their top trips to Belize which includes a resort-based stay, a liveaboard special and a twin-centre with neighbouring Guatemala – perfect for soaking up some culture. 

Reefs, Atolls & Mayan Ruins

The only English speaking country in Central America, Belize is warm, welcoming and offers unbelievable adventures. This gem has plenty for divers from incredible nature and topside activities to magical diving opportunities. Belize has the second longest barrier reef in the world and three of the four atolls in the western hemisphere making it a popular choice for divers.

If you missed the Dive Worldwide Belize talk in January you can catch up here.

Belize Discovered

Spend a week diving the remarkable barrier reef from Ambergris Caye before enjoying a few nights exploring the jungle with its Mayan ruins and caves.

Underwater there’s plenty on offer, with canyons, drop offs and swim throughs in addition to a unique topography and relatively easy conditions. You’ll be accompanied by a kaleidoscope of reef fish as you marvel at the array of sea fans and sponges adorning the seabed. Highlights include nurse shark, stingray, grouper, angelfish, turtle and dolphin. 

You then head off-the-beaten-track in land where you stay at an eco lodge in the heart of the Belizean jungle. Here there are a multitude of activities on offer including hiking and cave tours or you can immerse yourself in Mayan culture and visit a number of nearby ruins for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Departs: Jan-Dec

Duration: 13 days

Price from: £2,945 per person

Belize Liveaboard

Dive the Lighthouse and Turneffe Atolls from a liveaboard and experience the very best diving Belize has to offer. Located in the Lighthouse Reef there will be the opportunity to dive the Great Blue Hole. This atoll is full of marine life with angelfish, Creole wrasse, butterflyfish, barracuda and sponges found here.

Turneffe is the largest of the three atolls and offers a mixture of shallow reefs and sheer walls with a variety of reef fish and beautiful underwater scenery. Turtle, eagle ray, reef shark, snapper and jacks live on the healthy reefs. Dive sites of note include Half Moon Caye – another UNESCO World Heritage Site – and Painted Wall where you can find macro subjects such as ghostfish, crabs, blennies and invertebrates.

Departs: Jan-Dec

Duration: 10 days

Price from: £3,475 per person

Guatemala & Belize

Begin your holiday with some topside cultural discovery in Guatemala. This country packs a punch with its colonial architecture, Mayan ruins nestled in the verdant green jungle and stunning vistas. Don’t miss a visit to Lake Atilan, widely renowned for being one of the most beautiful lakes in the world with its volcanoes, thermal springs and incredible sunrises.

After a few days in Guatemala it’s time to go diving in Belize! Explore the barrier reef and spend time diving the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Blue Hole – the largest of its kind in the world and one of the top reasons to visit Belize. Here the waters are crystal clear, the topography is impressive with large coral and rock formations and the marine life is prolific with reef and black-tip shark in addition to large grouper.

Departs: Jan-Dec

Duration: 14 days

Price from: £3,495 per person


If you want to experience the world class diving and topside highlights of spectacular Belize, contact the Dive Worldwide Team.

All prices are per person and include flights from the UK, liveaboard or accommodation, diving, most meals and airport transfers.

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