+44 (0)207 697 8598
Chapman, J.K.. 2014. Blue Ventures Conservation Report
Published in Conservation reports
Radio - Lee Mcloughlin-cropped

16th April 2014, Belize: In April Jennifer Chapman, Belize Country Coordinator, appeared on LoveFM's Making Waves radio show, where she talked about the lionfish invasion

Here are some frequently asked questions about our Belize expeditions. Please also feel free to give us a call on +44 (0)207 697 8598 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your questions.

Booking your expedition

How do I join a Blue Ventures expedition?

1. Complete and submit our online application form.

2. If we’re able to accept your application, we’ll send you an email offering you a place on your chosen expedition with a link to download our detailed pre-departure briefing documents.

3. If you request to speak to us about joining an expedition, we’ll give you a call at a time that’s convenient for you and answer any of your questions over the phone. You’re also welcome to come and visit us at our London office.

4. Once you’ve decided that you’d like to join a Blue Ventures expedition, you’ll be asked to confirm your place by paying a non-refundable deposit and agreeing to our booking conditions. This allows us to guarantee you a place on your chosen expedition, with the full balance of your expedition fees due at least 6 weeks before departure.

5. Once your place is confirmed, you’ll be asked to complete and submit various forms, including medical forms to be completed with your doctor and details of your travel insurance policy, flights and emergency contacts. We’ll be on hand to provide any guidance you need, and are always happy to answer any questions as our volunteers prepare for their trip.

Why should I choose to go with Blue Ventures?

There are plenty of reasons why we stand out from the crowd! From our high quality accommodation and rigorous science training to our conservation impact, find out more about what makes us different, and check out our award-winning responsible practices.

Don't just take our word for it... these volunteer stories give a varied glimpse into life on our expeditions, and we're always happy to put prospective volunteers in touch with our expedition alumni in order to be able to hear first-hand about their experiences.

If I’m unable to join the expedition at the last minute, will I be eligible for a refund?

We ask for a non-refundable deposit in order to be able to guarantee you a place on your chosen expedition, and the balance of your expedition fees is due at least 6 weeks before departure. In the unlikely event that a volunteer isn’t able to join the expedition and has already paid their balance, their travel insurance company should be able to offer a refund. Volunteers who pull out 4 weeks or less before the start of an expedition will not be eligible for a refund. Volunteers who pull out more than 4 weeks before the start of an expedition will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. 

When do the expeditions start throughout the year?

Please check out the dates of our expeditions.

How long can I stay?

Generally expedition volunteers stay for 6-12 weeks, but if you’re enjoying yourself and we’re enjoying having you, essentially the stay can be as long as you wish! The longer a volunteer stays, the lower the price of the additional weeks.

What’s included in my expeditions fees?

Please check out what’s included in the costs of our expeditions.

Volunteer profile

Can anyone join a Blue Venture expedition?

Anyone can join a Blue Ventures expedition providing that they’re in a reasonable state of fitness and good health; we require volunteers to go for a medical check with their doctor prior to departure, with a medical form that the doctor must sign. Volunteers must be able to swim 400 metres confidently and tread water for 2 minutes unaided.

I’m not a UK citizen - can I join a Blue Ventures expedition?

Absolutely! Blue Ventures has alumni from all around the world; Canada, France, Belgium, Sweden, Australia, India, etc! Anyone is welcome to join a Blue Ventures expedition providing that they’re able to speak and read English, as all dive and science training are in English.

What is the average age of a Blue Ventures volunteer?

Typically our volunteers are aged between 17 and 60, but there’s no upper age limit. Every expedition group is made up of people with a wide range of ages, and the average age of our volunteers is 28. We insist that all volunteers who wish to scuba dive are at least 17 years of age, although we accept volunteers under 17 years of age to participate in non-diving activities (so long as they’re accompanied by an adult), and families are welcome to join too.

Will I meet my fellow volunteers before the expedition starts?

Volunteers are put in contact with the rest of their group 6 weeks before the expedition starts. This allows them to get to know each other a little, and even coordinate travel plans if they would like to travel out to Belize together or to the site together once in Belize. 

Do I need previous marine science or diving experience to go on a Blue Ventures expedition?

No! With a high staff to volunteer ratio, our expeditions team are on hand to support you to develop your marine science and diving skills. Half of our volunteers have never dived before, and our PADI dive courses represent excellent value for money. 

Pre-departure preparations

How do I get to Belize?

You can easily fly to Belize City via Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Houston. Overland travel is also possible from Cancun, in Mexico. We provide detailed travel advice for all of our volunteers, so you don’t have to plan your journey from scratch.

How do I get to Sarteneja from Belize City?

Belize is a small country with good local transport options. You can get to Sarteneja from Belize City by public bus or water taxi.

Do I need insurance?

Yes, we require you to have two forms of insurance: basic travel insurance and specific dive insurance provided by Divers Alert Network (DAN). They are our chosen partner for our scuba emergency evacuation plan, so we insist that all volunteers have a DAN insurance policy.  

What vaccinations will I need to visit Belize?

Before you join an expedition, you should see your doctor or an accredited travel clinic who will advise you on the vaccinations that you need to visit for Belize. As a guide, the standard vaccinations are:

• Polio, tetanus and diphtheria
• Meningitis A & C
• Typhoid
• Hepatitis A
• Yellow fever (only if staying in a yellow fever country en route to Belize)  

Diving

Do I need any diving experience to join a Blue Ventures expedition?

Both qualified and non-qualified divers are welcome to join our expeditions, with the PADI Advanced Open Water course offered to those without this qualification, including a Peak Performance Buoyancy adventure dive. Dive training is carried out during the first two weeks of expeditions, so that all volunteers are qualified to participate in underwater surveys once they have successfully completed their science training.

Experienced divers who have not dived in the six months prior to their expedition are required to take a refresher course with us, to ensure that they are confident and well trained. We also offer the PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications. 

What if I have diving accreditation through BSAC, NAUI or another organisation?

All of our volunteers must be trained up to PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent to participate in our underwater survey dives, so please contact our London-based expeditions team to check your qualification level if you’ve trained with a different scuba agency.

Do I need my own diving equipment? 

You’ll need to bring some personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, dive torch (for night dives!), delayed SMB and underwater slate (for our research work). You’ll be wearing your wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins almost daily for 6 weeks so it's very important that these fit well and are comfortable. We provide the scuba equipment you need including buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders. It is also a requirement by PADI that every student taking a dive course has their own manuals so please bring these with you if applicable.

How much diving will I do each week?

While in Bacalar Chico we dive six days per week, and you’ll normally dive once or twice per day. The majority of our dives are science-related, for example, including training sessions, recording fish and benthic transect data, or surveying new reef sites. Diving is strictly weather-dependent due to safety concerns, and subject to logistical restrictions.

Which dive courses are offered while on expedition?

All expedition volunteers are trained up to PADI Advanced Open Water level. We also offer the PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications. 

Please note that volunteers must be on site for a minimum of 12 weeks to complete their PADI Dive Master and must complete in this order: Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and finally Dive Master.  

Science training

What do expedition volunteers learn? 

All of our volunteers complete an intensive two-week science training programme run by our field scientists at the beginning of each expedition, involving numerous snorkelling and diving excursions as well as informal lectures, small group discussions and practical exercises on coral and fish species identification. All training materials are provided on site.

Will I be tested? 

Yes, all of our volunteers are tested on coral and fish species identification in order to ensure that the data we collect is scientifically robust. Tests involve point-out dives, where volunteers find and identify a variety of coral and fish species. Most volunteers pass these tests by the second or third week of the expedition, before moving on to underwater survey dives with our field scientists.

Life on site

How much money do I need to take with me?

While at our base in Bacalar Chico there will be little or no opportunity to spend money - one of the benefits of being in such a remote site! We recommend budgeting around £50 per week for things like drinks, snacks, souvenirs and telephone/internet credit while in Sarteneja.

How can I be contacted while in Belize?

Our dive camp in 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 in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (our dive camp) if weather conditions are bad. For emergency purposes, we have satellite telephones and a 24-hour messaging service. We do have a public telephone 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 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. 

What will I eat in Belize?

Due to the various ethnic influences in Belize, food will be a mixture of western, Caribbean and Mexican. For breakfast you can expect tortillas or fry jacks with spread as well as cereals, tea and coffee. For lunch rice and beans are common with salad and vegetables. For dinner you may get rice and beans, salad, stews, vegetables, fish and a dessert. We're normally able to cater for those with specific dietary requirements, particularly vegetarians, please just make sure you mention this at the time of applying. Treated drinking water is freely available on site, with bottled water and other beverages and various snacks available to purchase at times. Volunteers are given the opportunity to learn how to make traditional snacks, such as fry jacks and tortillas.

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. 

What can I do in my spare time in Belize?

In their spare time at our base in Bacalar Chico, our expedition volunteers can be found exploring the mangroves, playing games on the beach, snorkelling or relaxing in their hammocks. While in Sarteneja, there are opportunities to visit nearby Mayan ruins and Shipstern Nature Reserve.

How does Blue Ventures ensure the safety of its volunteers?

Safety is our top priority when working both above and below the water in remote environments. Our volunteers are required to complete a medical check with their doctor before joining an expedition with us, and we aim to have a qualified medic on site at all times, with additional 24-hour medical support provided both from our UK based medical and within each expedition country. 

Rest days (decompression days) are incorporated into our schedules, and conservative dive profiles allow for a large safety margin. Communications can be difficult on remote expeditions so our field sites and research boats are connected by VHF radios and/or mobile and satellite phones at all times, and our research boats carry medical oxygen on all diving trips.

We have worst-case scenario emergency protocols in place, supported by 24-hour contact with our head office staff and medical advisers. All of our expeditions staff are experienced divers, with training in first aid and practical rescue management skills.

Further travel in and around Belize

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's well worth staying for a few more weeks and exploring a bit more of the region. 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.

Belize

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 programme which is focused on rehabilitating manatees and various species of jungle mammals. If you just want to relax and enjoy the community then a few more 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 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.

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. Hidden 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, as these are sometimes the best way to get into the depths of the jungle.

Guatemala

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 UNESCO 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 incrediblely lush jungle. Picture sitting in a Mayan temple at treetop level gazing out at the setting sun while howler monkeys cry in the background - an amazing experience!

Honduras

If you'd like to do even more diving then Roatan Island, off the north coast of Honduras, would 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. It is expensive but well worth it!

Yucatan Peninsula

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 100 metres of 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.

Published in Belize
lionfish-media

25 March 2014, Germany: Blue Ventures' work on invasive lionfish was featured in a short film, From reef to plate - Belize combats the lionfish, on the Deutsche Welle website. Film by Katja Döhne.


lionfish

27 September, 2013: Belize Fights Back Against an Uninvited Guest is featured on National Geographic's Ocean Views. 

Monday, 07 October 2013 11:15

7, 9 and 16 day lionfish projects

If you're looking for more than just a dive holiday or 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 and direct efforts to protect Belize's stunning reefs


"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

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, 9 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 16 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.

DayActivities
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
Day9 Day trip 
in mid Sept 2014 only
Activities
1 Sat 13 Sep Meet at San Pedro and transfer to Bacalar Chico Dive Camp – introductory briefings
2 Sun 14 Sep Science lectures - background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna 
Tune-up dive
Lionfish survey training dive 1 
3 Mon 15 Sep Science lectures - background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna 
Lionfish survey training dives 2 & 3
4 Tues 16 Sep Lionfish population survey dive 1
Lionfish culling dives 1-3
Lionfish dissections 
(San Pedro resupply run)
5 Wed 17 Sep Lionfish population survey dives 2-4
Lionfish dissections
Assist with preparing outreach activities
6 Thurs 18 Sep Lionfish population survey dives 5-7
Lionfish culling dives 4-6
(San Pedro resupply run)
7 Fri 19 Sep Lionfish population survey dives 8-10
Lionfish culling dives 7-9
Lionfish dissections
8 Sat 20 Sep Lionfish culling dives 10-12 
Review week's findings and assist with preparing outreach activities 
9 Sun 21 Sep Depart for San Pedro for onwards travel

Costs

7 days: £600, discount for volunteer medics

9 days: £850, 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
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 14:38

Invasive species

Lionfisheries – stimulating a new market for invasive species 

Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, were accidentally released into the Atlantic in the 1980s and first documented in Belizean waters in 2008. 

Published in Conservation

9th July 2013, Placencia, Belize - Along Belize's world heritage site-listed barrier reef, coastal communities are making waves in fight against a rapacious predator.

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