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Monday, 07 October 2013 11:15

7 and 16 day lionfish projects

If you're looking for more than just a dive holiday for a short break, then our lionfish project in Belize could be perfect for you! Join our expeditions team at our beautiful dive camp in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve in order to:

  • Improve your dive skills
  • Learn about the marine environment
  • Survey, hunt and dissect invasive lionfish
  • Contribute to valuable research 

"If you truly want a unique and adventurous experience, you need to put this on your list of things to do." - Jeff Gillam, United States

lionfish photo
Since March 2010, we have been conducting coral reef monitoring and research in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, filling a much-needed data gap for one of the most remote marine protected areas in Belize. One of the focuses of our research is investigating the impact of lionfish on the world heritage listed Belize Barrier Reef and on juvenile reef fish, as this invasive species has no native predators outside its original home in the Indo-Pacific, and therefore poses a huge threat to Belize's reef fisheries. 

Join us in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve to assist with this research monitoring the progression of the lionfish invasion in Belize, and directly contribute to efforts to combat its spread through participating in lionfish culls while scuba diving. 

Our lionfish project volunteers are based at our remote dive camp in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, which is a large, palm-studded island shouldered by white beaches and backed by mangroves that fade to the west into Corozal Bay. Volunteers love the communal bungalows that face out onto the Caribbean sea!

"The BV team at Belize site were very engaged and made us all feel the excitement of the lion fish expedition. I learned much from the team and their attention to safe diving practices was always at the forefront of every dive. I would recommend a 2 week mission as it would give you more time for lion fish surveys, the exciting culling of lion fish and taking the bio data from each fish. I would highly recommend a volunteer adventure at BV Belize site." - Bill Battersby, United States

Bacalar Chico Dive Camp
Our lionfish project volunteers receive training about invasive lionfish, their behaviour, competitors and prey. They also learn about marine megafauna, sighted frequently on dives and recorded to monitor abundance. In-water training includes lionfish detection practice and safe, environmentally-sound methods for hunting and removing lionfish from coral reefs.

The survey data collected by volunteers is used to monitor the progression of the lionfish invasion, population status, diet and reproductive rates, as well as to test hypotheses on specific impacts and recommendations for management. 

Lionfish Tournament Hagan[Photo credit: Annelise Hagan]

There are so many advantages of joining us at Bacalar Chico for this lionfish project as opposed to going on a normal diving holiday! If you're a scuba diver who wants to understand more about marine ecology then this trip is a fantastic way to learn, contribute to our research and most importantly assist with protecting the stunning coral reefs that you'll be diving in. 

If all of this isn't enough, it’s a great way to meet a diverse group of like-minded people from all over the world, and during your time off enjoy snorkelling, beach sports and other fun activities!

Bacalar Chico Dive Camp

We require all participants for this short dive trip to have at least a PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) certification, but this can be completed at your local dive centre if you're not already qualified, or during a standard expedition with us beforehand.

The expedition is 7 or 16 days including the arrival and departure days, and the pick-up and drop-off point is the town of San Pedro, which is less than two hours by boat from Belize City and our dive camp in Bacalar Chico. Below are guides of what you can expect to do during your expedition. Details of the 17 day project will be uploaded soon but it will consist of similar activities with the focus on the last week being around the Placencia Lobsterfest. Volunteers will have the opportunity to develop ideas for our stand and then go on to enjoy the community event in Placencia where they will stay at the end of their expedition.

1 Meet at San Pedro and transfer to Bacalar Chico Dive Camp – introductory briefings
2 Science lectures - background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna
Tune-up dive
Lionfish survey training dive 1 
3 Science lectures - background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna 
Lionfish survey training dives 2 & 3
4 Lionfish population survey dive 1
Lionfish culling dives 1-3
Lionfish dissections 
(San Pedro resupply run)
5 Lionfish population survey dives 2-4
6 Lionfish population survey dives 5 & 6
Lionfish culling dives 4-6
Lionfish dissections
Review week's findings 
7 Depart for San Pedro for onwards travel


7 days: £600, discount for volunteer medics

16 days: £1,350, discount for volunteer medics

Included in the cost:

  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay in beach-front eco-cabins with a maximum of four volunteers per cabin
  • Three meals per day including tea and coffee at breakfast and lunch - all meals are prepared by local chefs using fresh local ingredients
  • Transfers between San Pedro and our dive camp at Bacalar Chico at the beginning and end of the week
  • Science training with our team of field scientists and researchers
  • PADI scuba tune-up course with dive instructor on arrival
  • Scuba diving
  • Use of our scuba diving equipment including buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders
  • Comprehensive logistical support and pastoral care from our large team of permanent field staff
  • Health and safety briefings from our expedition medics and dive managers

Not included in the cost:

  • International flights (the nearest international airports are Belize City and Cancun in Mexico)
  • Domestic travel to San Pedro; there is a regular water taxi from Belize City
  • Entry visa for Belize
  • Malaria prophylaxis and vaccinations
  • Travel and dive insurance
  • Personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, delayed surface marker buoy, dive torch and underwater slate
  • Personal field equipment: sleeping bag, torch, mosquito net
  • Scuba diving training manuals
  • Spending money for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
  • Hotel accommodation before or after your expedition dates

Next steps

Check out these FAQs for more details abour our Belize expeditions or get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , our UK-based expeditions coordinator, who will be happy to answer all of your questions. When you're ready, you can apply here.

Published in Belize