We’ve been running volunteer projects to Belize since March 2010.
Our research dive camp is located at Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (BCDC). You will spend the first and last week of your project in Sarteneja (our community base), and the 4 weeks in-between at our dive camp at BCDC.
Read on to find out about this incredible opportunity to join a new project and contribute to the development of new conservation and research initiatives!
On this page you’ll find an overview of life in Belize with us. We also recommend downloading our Volunteer Guide, which also contains details of our other projects.
A view of Bacalar Chico Dive Camp
Who volunteers on the Belize project?
We welcome applications from volunteers of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities to join our conservation projects.
Since 2003, we have worked with more than 1,700 volunteers from all over the world, many of whom have no scientific or biological background or training. Our volunteer projects provide a challenging, educational life experience that provides all volunteers with a comprehensive understanding of marine environments and coral reef ecosystems, and the local community’s impact on these resources.
Volunteers work closely with our project team to survey new areas and establish projects with local organisations. In your downtime, you can explore Mayan ruins, rainforests, mangroves, turtle nesting sites and salt-water crocodile habitats.
We also host independent researchers on-site who may be completing their dissertation projects. If this sounds of interest to you, please see the undergraduates/graduates section below.
How many volunteers will be on my project?
We have, on average, 12 volunteers on site at any one time, and never have more than 3 volunteers per staff member. In our experience this is the perfect number to maximise research and ensure that every volunteer has a close involvement with each project. Larger groups would mean fewer diving trips and less opportunity for a hands-on experience.
Why Blue Ventures?
We believe that the overall quality of our expeditions, the experience that our volunteers gain by joining our marine conservation projects at remote field camps in Madagascar and Belize make us market leaders.
Our success with industry awards isn't the only measure of success but supports our confidence in our expeditions. In 2012 Blue Ventures won the 'Best Volunteer Organisation' category at the British Youth Travel Awards and we’re the 2010 winners of the ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’, awarded in the Responsible Tourism Awards. We’ve been recognised in these awards an incredible six times (in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010), and in many other international awards for our social enterprise, eco-tourism and conservation work.
Our projects are focused in environmentally and culturally sensitive regions of the world. All our visitors are required to be aware that we are privileged guests in our host countries, towns and villages.
- Find out more about our responsible practices »
We continually re-assess the impact of our work. Our volunteers come away from our projects with field research skills and expertise, and unique experiences. We maintain alumni networks with our past volunteers and many continue their involvement with Blue Ventures after their trip.
- Find out more about why we think volunteers should choose a Blue Ventures expedition
Where is Belize?
Belize is a small Central American country, bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the west. Despite a small population (only a little over 300,000 people), Belize is extremely culturally and linguistically diverse, with Creole, Mestizo, Garífuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Mopan Maya and Kekchi Maya forming the main ethnic groups. The official language of Belize is English, though Spanish and Kriol are most commonly spoken.
The Belize Barrier Reef, the heart of the second largest barrier reef in the world, is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Our research site is located at Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, located at the northern extreme of Ambergris Caye; a large, palm studded island shouldered by white beaches and backed by mangroves that fade to the west into Corozal Bay.
Belize lies at the heart of the Mesoamerican "biodiversity hotspot", with an extensive, interconnected system of protected areas.
Click on the interactive map below to zoom in and out of the region. Our dive camp is located within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve:
View Blue Ventures Belize in a larger map »
We’re based in two main locations. The research location is the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (home to our Bacalar Chico Dive Camp, BCDC), where most of your field work will take place. Our volunteers love the communal cabanas that face out onto the Caribbean Sea!
The community location is in the village of Sarteneja. Located on the shore of the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, a large shallow lagoon lined by mangroves and home to the country’s largest population of Antillean manatees, Sarteneja is the largest fishing community in Belize, and local handmade wooden yachts are a familiar sight as they sail the entire coast of Belize to gather their catch. Sarteneja is also adjacent to the spectacular Shipstern Nature Reserve where our volunteers spend time experiencing the flora and fauna of hte reserve during day and night walks and overnight stays in the guest house within the reserve.
What kind of wildlife will I see there?
Turtles, rays, nurse sharks, dolphins and giant moray eels are all regularly spotted on dives, and between November and January, manatees are frequently spotted in the mangroves. Bacalar Chico National Park and Shipstern Nature Reserve are home to a variety of wildlife, ranging from the more-frequently-signed racoons and peccary, to the once-in-a-lifetime jaguar or puma sighting. Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve (BCNPMR) is also a nesting site for many birds, including rosetate spoonbills, whiteibis, boat-billed herons and magnificent frigate birds.
Who does Blue Ventures partner with in the region?
Our main aim for the region is sustainability. Our plans focus on improving the quality of life for local communities who depend on these marine resources, while maintaining the biological diversity and productivity of the reefs. Our NGO partners include the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development and Wildtracks, a manatee rehabilitation centre.
All data are collected in collaboration and with the guidance of the Belize Fisheries Department and the National Coral Reef Monitoring Network and are in line with the methods detailed in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems(MBRS)Synoptic Monitoring Programme (view complete report).
How do I get there?
You can easily fly to Belize City via Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Houston. Overland travel is possible from Cancun, in Mexico (and from Belize City). We provide detailed travel advice for all our volunteers, so you don’t have to plan your journey from scratch.
How will my research be used for conservation planning?
Volunteers travelling with Blue Ventures to Belize collect the data that is key to our conservation activities, differentiating us from other eco-tourism operators. Many of the species that we study are on the IUCN endangered species list.
In Bacalar Chico, during your six diving days each week, you will be recording data on benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms and reef fish. Between dives, you will be involved in monitoring the status of manatee and bird populations. Depending on the time of year, some volunteers have the chance to get involved in lionfish, water quality, lobster, conch, seagrass and/or sea urchin surveys.
Our research aims to:
- Assess the effectiveness and provide technical input for the science-based management of existing marine protected areas (MPAs);
- Collect data studying the threat posed by environmental disturbance and climate change;
- Contribute towards regional efforts to understand the status, potential spread and impact of invasive lionfish.
- Develop best practice guidelines for development.
- Study the populations of keystone and flagship species.
What activities can I get involved with in Belize?
Belize is renowned as one of the most beautiful places to dive in the world. Varying from shallow patch reefs, spur-and-groove reef formations forming swim-throughs and channels, to deeper reef walls. The sites we visit offer experienced and new divers alike the chance to encounter a wide range of the habitats and species that you will learn more about during your time with us.
Water temperature ranges between 23 and 31 degrees Celsius (Farenheit). Depending on the weather, conditions, and time of year, underwater visibility generally varies between 10 and 30m.
Depending on local weather and sea conditions, each volunteer should be able to complete, on average, one or two research dives per day. This is only a guide, and depends on local conditions and group numbers.
There are also recreational dives and we need to build up our photo library, so if you have an underwater camera, we very strongly urge you to bring it with you!
By the end of your stay on the expedition you will be both skilled and experienced in the underwater identification of Caribbean fishes, corals and invertebrates. You will see a huge diversity of abundant marine life, both in the protected waters of the reef flat and in the deeper waters on the exterior of the barrier reefs.
The dive site of choice is ‘Canyons’. Spectacular topography, rich fish life and beautiful corals – a fantastic dive!
All divers are trained to at least PADI Advanced Open Water standard before taking part in research activities in the water. For those who have never dived before, Belize is a fantastic place to learn: why learn in a pool when you can learn in the warm waters of the Caribbean?
Initial dive training to Open Water level is undertaken in the first week of the dive camp, giving new divers the chance to rapidly progress to diving with the more experienced divers on survey and reconnaissance dives. Further dive training to Advanced Open Water level ensures that all divers on the expedition are confident in the water and able to dive at some of the deeper sites visited during research dives.
For divers who arrive on site already trained to the level of PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent, your initial dives will be a chance to refresh your diving, and a chance to start exploring the reefs of Belize.
If you are a qualified diver who has not dived for more than six months, to refresh your skills you will need to take a PADI SCUBA tune-up either before your expedition or on arrival.
Additional dive courses
There is also the opportunity to further your diving qualifications during your site visit. Each expedition, several volunteers complete the PADI Emergency First Response and Rescue Diver courses.
For those who intend to stay for a second expedition, training to Dive Master level is also available. This is the first step on the professional dive ladder, and involves training in leading certified divers, assisting with students, and dive theory (please note: Rescue Diver is a prerequisite for Dive Master, so if you are not trained to this level, you must also register for the Rescue Diver course).
There is a charge for additional dive courses taken in the field, and it is possible that volunteers will have fewer science dives during the training period.
Science training begins during the first week in Sarteneja, and then alongside dive training when we get to dive camp. The duration of the science training period is weather dependent, but typically lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.
The course, taught in an informal and relaxed manner by our experienced field staff, has a strong practical component, and is designed to give volunteers an introduction to the natural history of the region, imparting a strong working knowledge of some of the issues and driving forces affecting the management and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems in Belize, focusing in particular on Bacalar Chico and Corazol Bay.
Volunteers are encouraged to prepare for the scientific component of the expedition by taking time to study some of the material that will be covered during the science training weeks. The Blue Ventures Marine Science Training Handbook will be sent to you before your expedition.
Volunteers are taught how to identify the coral and fish families that are likely to be encountered during the course of survey dives. Training also includes underwater research techniques and how to put these skills into practice.
Identification skills and survey techniques are practised throughout the science training programme, and at the end of this period volunteers are given a series of computer-based and in-field tests to validate the accuracy of the data collected. Experience has shown that volunteers who spend time reading through the training materials before the expedition pass the science tests earlier and, on a personal level, get much more out of the project!
Outside of diving, expedition life remains very active! Alongside research projects there are a large number of activities to keep you occupied, from trips to the mangroves, games on the beach, wildlife trails through the forest, snorkelling or relaxing in your hammock.
The remote location of the dive camp means you’ll have beaches to yourself. Whilst in Sarteneja, there are opportunities to visit nearby Mayan ruins and Shipstern Nature Reserve. While there isn’t the same array of nightlife you might be used to at home, the team atmosphere, watching life go by from Pablito’s bar and Belizean music mean that the evenings are as much fun as the days. Please feel free to bring games, books, sports equipment or DVDs to add to the collection.
In Sarteneja, we sometimes assist in the activities of other NGOs, such as Wildtracks, a manatee rehabilitation centre, or the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD). SACD need assistance in their community education initiatives and community development projects, such as conservation classes in local schools and mangrove workshops. As part of our commitment to local communities, we strongly encourage you to take part in these initiatives, which helps to promote conservation and alternative livelihoods for fishing families.
"Sartneja seeking solutions" by SACD.
During your last week in Sarteneja, you will have the chance to present conservation lessons to children in local schools on subjects we have arranged with teachers to complement the school curriculum. Dive camp is the perfect opportunity to prepare!
In a community so reliant on marine resources it is vital to instil conservation ethics in the younger generation.
Volunteers are also highly encouraged to share skills with local staff and the local community. Many of the children here will leave school early to start on their father's fishing boats or help their mother at home, so imparting new skills is an important step towards achieving alternative livelihoods.
Manatee are grazing marine mammals, living in shallow water where seagrass is the dominant vegetation. They are common in the shallow waters between the Belize mainland and the barrier reef. Manatees are one of the flagship species of Corazol Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and we help SACD to gather opportunistic sightings data and monitor their activity at resting holes. We also conduct manatee photo-identification at Bacalar Chico, with the goal to eventually build a library sufficient to determine populations size, use and movements.
These waters are heavily used by motorboats and it is not uncommon for manatee to be injured or killed by boat strike. Wildtracks is an organisation that rehabilitates the animals injured or orphaned by these incidents. The care of these animals can be very labour intensive, particularly when the animal is a young juvenile that requires constant care and bottle-feeding. Blue Ventures volunteers have the opportunity to visit the rehabilitation centre and, depending on the stage of rehabilitation, view the manatees and assist Wildtracks with projects.
Each year in January and February our specialist Manatee and Bird project carries out surveys within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve.
This area of Belize has diverse and abundant bird life, and it is common to see the roseate spoonbill, ospreys, great egrets, and blue herons. Whilst in Sarteneja, we assist SACD with bird nesting colony counts, and we carry out bird surveys every expedition in Bacalar Chico, feeding into best-practice guidelines for the planned tourism developments in the area.
Each year in January and February our specialist Manatee and Bird project carries out surveys within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve.
With the extensive shallow waters in Belize there are large areas of seagrass beds. These are a vital part of the ecosystem, providing coastal protection and supporting a wide variety of animals, including the gentle manatee. Seagrass beds are threatened by coastal development, pollution, land runoff and dredging. Monitoring efforts are important to identify these potential threats early and volunteers assist the Belize Fisheries Department in their seagrass surveys.
Mangrove monitoring and education
Mangroves play several key roles in the coastal environment such as securing the shoreline against storm damage and providing a protective nursery environment for juvenile fish.
Every year, with Associates Degree students from the Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College, we carry out surveys within the mangroves surrounding Sarteneja, helping the students who are investigating human impact and development threats.
As is the case throughout the Caribbean, the invasive lionfish is causing significant problems in the marine environment. These colourful predators decimate the populations of juvenile fish and invertebrates from the mangroves and shallows, through the barrier reef, to the depths.
It is now impossible to remove this introduced species from the environment, but through regular culling operations we hope to slow their population spread and reduce their impact upon native fish populations. We also dissect culled lionfish to investigate reproductive status and feeding habits.
We are also strongly involved in market development for lionfish meat, as sustainable alternative to depleted native fisheries. Not only do we eat the lionfish that we catch whilst at BCDC, but we make sure to save some for Sarteneja – when we return, we hold safe handling demonstrations and taster events to encourage consumption.
Although only staff are allowed to catch and handle the fish due to their sharp, venomous spines, we still ask that you assist us by buddying staff on lionfish dives, and help us run awareness days in the local community.
In May 2014 we are launching a new Lionfish project that offers divers the chance to contribute to regional research and participate in licensed culls of this invasive species. This 1 week project is an ideal opportunity to join a short expedition and to dive with a purpose.
Volunteers are also given regular Spanish lessons by our staff, and are encouraged to take part in English lessons in Sarteneja. Staying in homestays in Sarteneja offers the perfect opportunity for language learning exchange!
How will my volunteering benefit the local community?
Volunteers have the opportunity to spend time in local schools in Sarteneja. In the sixth week of each project phase, volunteers present lessons on conservation, based on their experiences gained at our dive camp on Bacalar Chico.
We work closely with local teachers in preparing lessons to complement the local curriculum. Skill-sharing is encouraged as a great way of integrating with the local community. Spanish lessons are offered during your stay in Sarteneja and in return you will have the opportunity to give lessons in English. Any other areas in which you may have particular experitise is welcome as a chance to enrich educational opportunities in the area.
Partners - what do they say about Blue Ventures?
"As someone who is living and working in Sarteneja, I can say that Blue Ventures has an excellent relationship with the community, and has had since it was established in March 2010.
Blue Ventures has partnered with us, at the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD), as well as the Belize Fisheries Department and Wildtracks, and makes a significant input into the local economy.
It has supported the Sarteneja Womens Homestay Group, which became established in 2010 through the SACD Sustainable Development Program, allowing 13 fishing families to create a second supporting income from opening their homes to guests. This is also a major step towards increasing the number of beds available for tourism development in Sarteneja, identified as one of the barriers to tourism development in the area
Blue Ventures has an 'employ locally' policy, with all support staff being employed from Sarteneja. The volunteers and staff also provide year-round, direct financial inputs to local restaurants, shops and bars, and technical support for local tour guides in areas such as CPR training.
It has ongoing activities with all the schools in Sarteneja since its establishment in March 2010, raising awareness and complimenting and strengthening the work we at SACD are doing, as well as participating in community clean ups, conservation summer camps and other similar activities
I know they also work closely with Wildtracks, and ensure their activities are tied into the local and national conservation priorities. They have provided fuel and people for activities such as the Sawfish project in Corozal Bay, and people when extra hands are needed to help with the manatee rehabilitation center
At Bacalar Chico National Park, they have helped us with field trips, teaching women and children more about the reef, and ensuring their first snorkelling experiences are safe and fun, and helped us with making the Sarteneja Seeking Solutions video (see above).
They also provide valuable monitoring input into Fisheries Department for Bacalar Chico, requiring an above 98% recognition rate(I don't remember the actual figure, but it was impressive!) from their volunteers before they are allowed to participate in data collection for monitoring work. Their first report will be ready at the end of this month - I've seen the draft, and it is of high quality with sound data.
So do they live up to their promises? For us, in Sarteneja, they do, and we welcome them into our families and into our community."
- Joel Verde, Executive Director of Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development, February 2011
Will I have the chance to relax?
Our projects are hard work, but your downtime is yours to enjoy! You can relax on the beach, snorkel, or explore wildlife trails.
Find out what our previous volunteers have been up to! Check out:
- Our image gallery
- Recent videos
- A 'day in the life' of our previous volunteers
- And our Belize blog (written by staff and volunteers)
A short distance from our dive camp is a snorkelling site with prolific fish life, appropriately named ‘Aquarium’!
- Prices vary according to your current diving qualification (the more experienced you are, the cheaper your expedition. However, please don't let this put you off, as half of our volunteers have never dived before!).
- Discounts are given for trained medical personnel fulfilling the role of Expedition Medic. Find out more about being a Volunteer Expedition Medic.
Prices listed are per person.
|Expedition period||You are a PADI Advanced Open water (or equivalent) diver||You are a PADI Open water (or equivalent) diver||You have no diving certification||Under 18s||Expedition Medic|
|2 weeks - short dive break||£1150||£1250||NA||£1,000|
|1 week Lionfish project||£495||NA||NA||£400|
|Bird and Manatee project||NA||NA||£650, £895 or £1,595
Discount of £200 for 2014 5 week expedition - £1,395
|£650, £895 or £1,595
Discount of £200 for 2014 5 week expedition - £1,395
|£550, £750 or £1,150|
|12+ weeks||£300 per additional week||£300 per additional week||£300 per additional week||£200 per additional week
||£3250* (18 weeks)
*additional costs apply for dive courses (Open Water - £100, Advanced Open Water - £50)
Included in your expedition cost:
- Expedition accommodation for the duration of your stay in beach-front eco-cabins, maximum of 4 people per cabin
- Three meals per day, including tea and coffee at breakfast and lunch, during the expedition dates. All meals are provided by Belizean chefs using fresh local ingredients
- Science Training with our team
- SCUBA Diving
- SCUBA Diving equipment: Buoyancy Control Device (BCD); Regulators; weight belt; weights and cylinder
- Comprehensive logistical support and pastoral care from our team of permanent staff
- Health and safety provision from our Expedition Manager and SCUBA Diving Manager
Not included in your expedition cost;
- Flights, the nearest international airports are Belize City and Cancun, Mexico.
- Internal travel to Sarteneja.
- Personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, knife, dive watch or dive computer, delayed Surface Marker Buoy and A4 dive slate.
- Personal field equipment: e.g. sleeping bag; torch and mosquito net
- Malaria prophylaxis and some vaccinations, please contact your family doctor or local travel clinic for the latest information and prices
- Visa costs
- Travel insurance, comprehensive policies are recommended, prices vary depending on your home country
- Divers Alert Network membership (which includes comprehensive dive insurance) available from £25 (depending on your region)
- SCUBA diving training manuals, if you are taking additional dive training
- Carbon offset payment.
- Spending money for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
- Hotel accommodation before or after your expedition dates
|Project start date||Project end date||Status|
|7-Jan-14||10-Feb-14||2,3 and 5 week Bird and Manatee project (non diving) - spaces|
|14-Feb-14||27-Mar-14||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|31-Mar-14||11-May-14||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|17-May-14||23-May-14||NEW 1 week Lionfish project - spaces|
|24-May-14||30-May-14||NEW 1 week Lionfish project - spaces|
|7-Jun-14||18-Jul-14||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|26-Jul-14||5-Sep-14||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|8-Sep-14||21-Sep-14||2-week trip - spaces|
|26-Sep-14||6-Nov-14||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|10-Nov-14||21-Dec-14||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|7-Jan-2015||10-Feb-2015||Bird and Manatee project (non diving) - spaces|
|14-Feb-2015||27-Mar-2015||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|31-Mar-2015||11-May-2015||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces|
|16-May-15||26-Jun-2015||6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
|6-Jul-15||19-Jul-15||2 week trip - full|
Frequently asked questions - Belize
Volunteers find that the more knowledge they arrive armed with, the more they gain from their project. We’ve put together the most frequently asked questions for Belize. Please make sure you read it thoroughly.
1/ What do I have to learn?
We take each and every volunteer through a detailed training programme so you can recognise the species that you will be researching. There’s a lot of independent learning and learning by doing. You’ll gain these skills by completing snorkel and dive ‘spotting sessions’ with other team members and with our research personnel.
2/ What are the tests for?
Our data has to be scientifically viable and we want to make sure that we are carrying out our research in the best way possible. We also want to make sure that you’ve become familiar with the different species that you will be researching. You will be surprised at how quickly you learn.
3/ How do I get there?
Getting to Belize isn't as difficult as it may seem. There are regular flights via Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Houston to Belize City, or you can fly to Cancun in Mexico and travel overland very easily by bus to Sarteneja, where our project begins.
4/ Once in Belize, how do I get to Sarteneja?
Belize is a small country with good local transport infrastructure. Once you have booked your trip, we’ll provide detailed instructions (covering a variety of travel options) on how to get to our project site. If you have any questions, please telephone our London office.
5/ What will the weather be like in Belize?
As Belize is situated in a sub-tropical latitude the weather is always warm by northern hemisphere standards. Although there are dry and rainy seasons, there is almost always sun and warmth to offset any rain! As a guide, it rains most from June to November and is drier from February to May. We’ll provide you with detailed information about the equipment and clothing that you’ll need for the time of year that you travel.
6/ How safe is travelling in Belize?
Belize is a safe country to travel in provided some laws of common sense are observed – as you would when travelling in any country. Bus and air services are reliable, making internal travel easy.
7/ Will my degree be of use to me during my project?
If you’ve studied a course related to environmental science, you’ll find that our on-site Marine Science Training Programme touches on many aspects of your study. So whilst any previous experience is certainly beneficial, a degree is certainly not a pre-requisite.
8/ Can I use the data I collect on a Blue Ventures project for my university dissertation?
9/ Do I need previous experience to volunteer?
No. With an extremely high staff-to-volunteer ratio, we employ fully qualified staff to tutor you in dive training and aspects of marine ecology in which you will be working on a daily basis.
10/ How can people contact me while I’m in Belize?
Belize is a remote location. Please be advised that while we have a permanent phone on site you may not be contactable when you’re on the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (our dive camp) if weather conditions are bad. For emergency purposes we have satellite telephones and a 24-hour telephone messaging service.
We do have a public telephone on-site at our dive camp, which you can use if you purchase a local phonecard. When you’re on the mainland (in Sarteneja), for private calls you may prefer to bring an ‘unlocked’ mobile phone that will work with other phone networks with a locally available SIM card.
Internet is not available at the dive camp, but you may be able to check your emails once or twice during the course of your trip, depending on the availability of transportation to nearby San Pedro.
11/ How does Blue Ventures ensure the safety of its volunteers?
Due to the remoteness of all of our field sites, we must have rigorous safety procedures in place. We only employ professional staff with the training required to ensure safe expeditions.
On site, the Expedition Manager is in charge of safety for all the volunteers and staff. The Dive Manager is a fully qualified professional capable of dealing with onsite diving emergencies until outside help is reached.
12/ What happens in an emergency?
In the event of an emergency, we have prearranged emergency procedures, such as evacuation plans. These emergency plans can be put into action at a moment's notice. The Expedition Manager is in 24-hour contact with the London office, allowing staff to liaise directly with their base. If you would like to see any of our Health and Safety protocols or evacuation plans please contact us.
13/ What inoculations will I need when visiting Belize?
Before you volunteer with us, you will need to see your doctor or an accredited travel clinic who can advise you on the relevant inoculations and medications necessary for Belize.
As a guide the standard inoculations and risks are:
- Polio, tetanus and BCG (Tuberculosis)
- Yellow fever (only necessary if staying in an at-risk country en route to Belize)
- Hepatitis A
Ready to apply online?
Or if you have any questions, please contact us via email, or give us a ring (all our details are on the contact page too).
We are able to assist student volunteers wishing to carry out undergraduate and postgraduate research projects during their time with us.
Projects are wide-ranging, and include: marine ecology & biodiversity research; GIS & remote sensing; socioeconomic assessments; fisheries surveys; and anthropological studies. Our academic support network includes on-site scientists and world experts in a number of relevant fields, able to provide additional guidance during your time with us.
- For more information, or ideas on potential research topics, please see our Independent Research section.
We offer unique group expeditions to Belize. These group expeditions are suitable for schools and universities wishing to visit a tropical location, with expert guidance and wide-ranging activities.
The itinerary can be tailored to the needs of the group. Students can spend time in the village of Sarteneja with the local fishing community, receiving lectures and workshops from conservationists in the region, visiting the local manatee rescue and research facility, taking part in a school exchange and visiting ancient Mayan ruins. After the community phase of the trip the group will transfer to our remote research site in the Marine Reserve at Bacalar Chico, where students will get the opportunity to learn about the rich coral reefs, receive SCUBA training, snorkel, kayak, and carry out snorkel and/or dive surveys. Within the reserve there is also the opportunity to visit important mangrove habitats to study manatee and bird and populations.
It is an once-in-a-lifetime adventure for students to experience new cultures and habitats.
- To find out more about our group expeditions, please contact us directly, or view our groups section »
Want to explore Belize and Central America after your project? We’ve put together this section to give you some ideas.
Central America is on your doorstep when you complete your expedition. It is well worth staying for a few more weeks and exploring some of the other regions. The following is certainly not exhaustive but provides a list of some of the experiences that staff and volunteers have enjoyed in the past. All of these sites are easily accessible by bus from Belize City or Sarteneja unless otherwise noted.
You shouldn’t forget that Sarteneja and Belize have some wonderful opportunities on offer. Sarteneja also offers some special experiences for you. Wildtracks has their own volunteer program which is focused on rehabilitating manatee and various species of jungle mammals. Assisting with the spider monkeys and howler monkeys is the most rewarding of these but requires a longer term commitment as the monkeys are very sociable and form a strong bond with their carers.
If you just want to relax and enjoy the community then further nights in your homestay are a great way to go, particularly if you want to immerse yourself in learning Spanish.
The Blue Hole, Turneffe Atoll and Gladden Spit offer some unforgettable diving. Caye Caulker is a wonderfully relaxed location to base yourself for diving the Blue Hole or Turneffe Atoll, and from the vibrant community of Placencia, with its 3-mile, half-moon beach, is the right place to stay if you want to dive Gladden Spit in search of whale shark. They gather here between April and July every year to feast on fish eggs during the spawning aggregations off Gladden Spit, an elbow in the Belize Barrier Reef.
Diving amongst sharks and giant stalactites at the Blue Hole in Belize.
On land there is a wealth of adventures to sample. The south of the country is mountainous and cloaked in rainforest. Throughout the country there are Mayan sites, but the most spectacular has to be Caracol. Secreted in the depths of the jungle, this site is well off the beaten track and can be explored fully with only a few other tourists dotted around the ruins. Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), in the Cayo District, is a must-see for all of Belize’s visitors. Do also look into river tubing trips and river tours – sometimes the best way to get into the depths of the jungle.
Tikal is a spectacular Mayan site a relatively short distance across the border into Guatemala. Buses from Belmopan or Belize City can transport you to this World Heritage Site in a day. Not only does the trip offer you the opportunity to explore some of the best preserved Mayan architecture in Central America (including the highest temple), but is also surrounded by incredible, lush jungle. Picture sitting atop a Mayan temple at treetop level gazing out at the setting sun while howler monkeys cry in the background - an amazing experience!
If it is further diving you’d like then Roatan Island, off the north coast of Honduras, will serve you well. This island is easily accessible using local propeller-driven airlines via San Pedro Sula from Belize City. The island itself is a beautiful setting, forested with lush vegetation and precipitous ridgelines, while the coast is surrounded by stunning reefs. The west also offers the unique opportunity to go on a deep dive in a submarine to see what lives well below scuba depths. This is the only commercial deep diving submarine available for recreational trips in the Atlantic (stanleysubmarines.com). It is expensive but well worth it!
A short hop across the border into Mexico will open the Yucatan Peninsula for you to explore. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef extends from Bacalar Chico up through Cozumel to Cancun in the far north and offers many opportunities for spectacular diving. Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Cancun all offer a variety of dives depending on what you fancy. Inland, the freshwater cenotes that can be dived from Tulum or Playa del Carmen are highly recommended. The water in these caverns is incredibly clear, offering up to 100m visibility. Coupled with the spectacular caverns and caves, this opens a completely new diving world to sample. Gran Cenote, Angelita and Car Wash are just a few of the unusual dives to choose from. Additionally the Yucatan has a multitude of Mayan culture to sample, including the legendary Chichen Itza.