+44 (0)207 697 8598
Friday, 25 April 2014 15:47

Taking the plunge

WT18 Volunteering page

25 April 2014, London, UK: Richard Nimmo, Blue Ventures' Managing Director, gives advice on how to choose the right organisation to volunteer with in May's editon of Wild Travel Magazine

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

Here are some frequently asked questions about our Madagascar 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 guide.

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 that 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.

If I can't go for the whole 6 weeks, can I still join an expedition?

Yes! We offer flexible start dates and expedition durations. If you can't join us for the full 6 weeks then please contact us to discuss how we can tailor your time on site.

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 together. We also offer a popular overland trip from Antananarivo to Toliara just before the expedition starts, so many volunteers join this trip and get to know each other on the journey.

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 Madagascar?

There are regular flights to Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, from London, Paris, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Mauritius. We recommend checking prices with SkyScanner; Kenya Airways, Air France and Air Mauritius tend to offer the most competitive fares from Europe.

How do I get to your field site in Andavadoaka from the capital city of Antananarivo?

Our expeditions formally start and end in the southwest regional centre of Toliara, which is a short Air Madagascar flight from the capital city of Antananarivo. Transfers between Toliara and our field site in the village of Andavadoaka take 6-8 hours by 4x4, and are organised by Blue Ventures.

As an alternative to the Air Madagascar flight, we offer a very popular overland tour from Antananarivo (Madagascar's capital city situated in the central highlands) down to Toliara on the southwest coast at the beginning of each expedition, and from Toliara back up to Antananarivo at the end of each expedition, covering 1,000 kilometres through beautiful scenery and some of Madagascar's most famous national parks, with plenty of opportunities for spotting lemurs! 

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.

Do I need a visa? 

Most nationalities need a visa when entering Madagascar, and this can be obtained at the airport for stays of up to three months. For further details please see our expeditions guide.

What vaccinations will I need to visit Madagascar?

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 Madagascar. As a guide, the standard vaccinations are:

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

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 with reel 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 PADI requirement that you have your own manuals for all the dive courses you are undergoing whilst on expedition so you'll need to bring these along too if applicable.

How much diving will I do each week?

We dive five 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 Andavadoaka there will be little opportunity to spend money - one of the benefits of running such a remote site! We recommended budgeting around £50 per week for things like drinks, snacks and telephone/internet credit. The women’s association in the village also sells a variety of inexpensive gifts and souvenirs, including necklaces with marine life pendants fashioned out of local silver coins. There is no ATM (!) in the village of Andavadoaka so all spending money should be withdrawn in the city of Toliara at the beginning of the expedition.

How can I be contacted while on site in Andavadoaka?

There is mobile phone reception in Andavadoaka, as well as (pretty slow!) mobile internet for sending and receiving emails. WhatsApp tends to be very effective, Instagram works most days, but Skype definitely isn’t possible. If you have a mobile phone that is unlocked to work abroad, you can purchase a cheap local Telma sim card in Antananarivo or Toliara and use this for your time in Madagascar. Telephone/internet credit is available to buy in Andavadoaka. You can also buy a internet dongle in Toliara to use with a laptop should you wish.

What will the weather be like in Andavadoaka?

Andavadoaka is situated on Madagascar’s dry southwest coast, where the weather tends to be very warm and settled. There are two main seasonal variations, the hot/wet season (November to March) when the temperatures soars, making diving very pleasant due to the water temperature, although occasional storms may be expected around February and March. The dry season (April to October) is slightly cooler, making a thin wetsuit necessary.

What will I eat in Andavadoaka?

Local chefs prepare three meals per day for our expeditions team and volunteers. Breakfast is fruit (such as banana or pineapple), freshly baked bread with honey or eggs (bring your favourite spread!) and coffee or tea. Lunch is salad, rice, spaghetti, beans, fish or meat, and vegetables. Dinner is rice, spaghetti, beans, fish or meat, vegetables and a dessert. We're normally able to cater for those with specific dietary requirements, particularly vegetarians. Treated drinking water is freely available on site, with bottled water and other beverages and various snacks available to purchase from the local restaurant or shops. Volunteers are given the opportunity to learn how to make traditional snacks, such as doughnuts and fish samosas.

What can I do in my spare time in Andavadoaka?

Lots! In their down time, our expedition volunteers can be found learning to sail with local fishers, exploring the baobab forest, taking a picnic out to one of the nearby islands where there is excellent snorkelling, relaxing in their hammocks, playing beach volleyball, etc.

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 a worst-case scenario medical evacuation (Medivac) plan, 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.
Published in Madagascar
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.


Monday, 07 October 2013 11:15

7 or 9 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 or 9 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.

Day 7 day trip in mid May 2014 7 day trip in late May 2014Activities
1 Sat 17 May Sat 24 May Meet at San Pedro and transfer to Bacalar Chico Dive Camp – introductory briefings
2 Sun 18 May Sun 25 May Science lectures - background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna
Tune-up dive
Lionfish survey training dive 1 
3 Mon 19 May Mon 26 May Science lectures - background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna 
Lionfish survey training dives 2 & 3
4 Tues 20 May Tue 27 May Lionfish population survey dive 1
Lionfish culling dives 1-3
Lionfish dissections 
(San Pedro resupply run)
5 Wed 21 May Wed 28 May Lionfish population survey dives 2-4
6 Thurs 22 May Thurs 29 May Lionfish population survey dives 5 & 6
Lionfish culling dives 4-6
Lionfish dissections
Review week's findings 
7 Fri 23 May Fri 30 May Depart for San Pedro for onwards travel
Day9 Day trip 
in mid Sept 2014
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
Thursday, 02 February 2012 10:15

Belize dates and costs

Belize expedition dates

We have spaces for our Belize expeditions starting and finishing on the following dates: 

Expedition start dateExpedition end dateStatus
7-Jun-14 18-Jul-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - current expedition - full
12-Jul-14 26-Jul-14 NEW 2 week Belize community expedition - spaces
12-Jul-14 8-Aug-14 NEW 4 week Belize community expedition - spaces
26-Jul-14 5-Sep-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - one space remaining!
13-Sep-14 21-Sep-14 NEW 9 day lionfish project - spaces
26-Sep-14 6-Nov-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
2-Nov-14 7-Nov-14 Private group trip - full
10-Nov-14 21-Dec-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
5-Jan-15 15-Feb-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
24-Feb-15 6-Apr-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
10-Apr-15 21-May-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
25-May-15 7-Jun-15 Private group trip - full
13-Jun-15 19-June-15 and 28-Jun-15 7 and 16 day Lionfish project - spaces
22-Jun-15 3-July-15 Private group trip - full
6-Jul-15 19-Jul-15 Private group trip - full
3-Aug-15 12-Sep-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
19-Sep-15 27-Oct-15 6 week marine conservation expedition- spaces
31-Oct-15 6-Nov-15 7 day Lionfish project - spaces
10-Nov-15 21-Dec-15 6 week marine conservation expedition- spaces

Costs (as of 1st July 2014)

Expedition prices vary according to your current diving qualification and length of stay. Half of our volunteers have never dived before and our PADI dive courses represent excellent value for money.

Expedition lengthYou are a PADI Advanced Open water (or equivalent) diverYou are a PADI Open Water (or equivalent) diverYou have no diving certificationNon-diving under 17
(accompanied by an adult)
Expedition medic
7 day lionfish project £600 NA NA   £500
9 day lionfish project £750 NA NA   £600
16 day Lionfish project £1,350 NA NA   £1,100
2 week community expedition £600 NA NA £500  £500
4 week community expedition £1,100 to £1,200 NA NA £1,000  £1,000
3 weeks £1,950 £2,050 £2,150 £950  
4 weeks £2,150 £2,250 £2,350 £1,150  
5 weeks £2,350 £2,450 £2,550 £1,250  
6 weeks £2,525 £2,625 £2,725 £1,400 £1,850*
7 weeks £2,825 £2,925 £3,025 £1,600  
8 weeks £3,125 £3,225 £3,325 £1,800  
9 weeks £3,425 £3,525 £3,625 £2,000  
10 weeks £3,725 £3,825 £3,925 £2,200  
11 weeks £4,025 £4,125 £4,225 £2,400  
12 weeks £4,325 £4,425 £4,525 £2,600 £3,000*
12+ weeks £300 per additional week £300 per additional week £300 per additional week £200 per additional week

£4,200* (18 weeks)

* Discounts are given for trained medical personnel fulfilling the role of expedition medic. Find out more here but please note that additional costs apply for dive courses (PADI Open Water - £100 and PADI Advanced Open Water - £75).

Our expedition costs include:

  • Transfers between the village of Sarteneja and the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve
  • 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
  • Science training with our team of field scientists and researchers
  • Scuba diving training and certification to PADI Advanced Open Water level (depending on your existing qualifications)
  • 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

Our expedition costs do NOT include:

  • International flights to Belize City or Cancun in Mexico
  • Domestic travel to the expedition starting point in Sarteneja; there a regular public buses 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, dive torch and underwater slate
  • Personal field equipment: sleeping bag, torch, mosquito net
  • Scuba diving training manuals
  • Additional dive training; costs are detailed below
  • Spending money for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
  • Hotel accommodation before or after your expedition dates
  • More information about all these costs can be found in our volunteer guide

Additional dive training

Volunteers wishing to undertake additional dive courses should inform us prior to the start of their expedition. It may also be possible to decide to take a dive course while on your expedition, subject to a supplement of 15% for the course manual and materials.

If you book a course in advance and decide during your expedition that you don't wish to take the course, the course fees will be refunded but not the cost of the course manual. Please note that it is a requirement for every student to have their own copy of the relevant course manual.

PADI Scuba Tune-Up - £49 (including manual and decal)

This course is designed for divers to tune-up their diving skills and safety knowledge before diving again. A PADI decal (sticker), attached to your certification card, denotes successful completion of the course. This is compulsory for all qualified divers who have not dived within six months of their expedition start date. You may chose to participate in a scuba tune-up before you arrive in Madagascar and we can help you to choose a suitable dive centre or instructors.

PADI Emergency First Response - £95

It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual. Contact us to buy this manual for £14 including delivery costs (alternatively you can purchase it from a local supplier).

PADI Rescue Diver - £245

It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual. Contact us to buy this manual for £24 including delivery costs (alternatively you can purchase it from a local supplier).

PADI Divemaster - £395

It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual.
 

 

Published in Belize
Thursday, 02 February 2012 15:44

Madagascar dates and costs

Madagascar expedition dates

We have spaces for our Madagascar expeditions starting and finishing on the following dates:
 
Optional overland tour (Antananarivo - Toliara)Expedition start dateExpedition end dateOptional overland tour (Toliara - Antananarivo)Status
25-Jun-14 to 28-Jun-14 30-Jun-14 10-Aug-14  12-Aug-14 to 14-Aug-14 Full
9-Aug-14 to 12-Aug-14 14-Aug-14 24-Sep-14 26-Sep-14 to 28-Sep-14 Last few spaces
22-Sep-14 to 25-Sep-14 27-Sep-14 7-Nov-14  10-Nov-14 to 12-Nov-14  Spaces
6-Nov-14 to 9-Nov-14 11-Nov-14 21-Dec-14  By arrangement  Spaces
30-Dec-14 to 2-Jan-15 4-Jan-15 14-Feb-15 16-Feb-15 to 18-Feb-15  Spaces
12-Feb-15 to 15-Feb-15 17-Feb-15 30-Mar-15 1-Apr-15 to 3-Apr-15  Spaces
28-Mar-15 to 31-Mar-15 2-Apr-15 14-May-15 16-May-15 to 18-May-15  Spaces
12-May-15 to 15-May-15 17-May-15 27-Jun-15 29-Jun-15 to 1-Jul-15  Spaces
25-Jun-15 to 28-Jun-15 30-Jun-15 10-Aug-15 13-Aug-15 to 15-Aug-15  Spaces
9-Aug-15 to 12-Aug-15 14-Aug-15 24-Sep-15 26-Sep-15 to 28-Sep-15  Spaces
22-Sep-15 to 25-Sep-15 27-Sep-15 7-Nov-15 10-Nov-15 to 12-Nov-15  Spaces
6-Nov-15 to 9-Nov-15 11-Nov-15 21-Dec-15 By arrangement  Spaces

Our expeditions formally start and end in the southwest regional city of Toliara, which is a short flight from Madagascar's capital Antananarivo. Transfers between Toliara and our field base in the village of Andavadoaka are by 4x4, included in the cost of the expeditions and organised by Blue Ventures.

We offer a very popular overland tour from Antananarivo down to Toliara on the southwest coast at the beginning of each expedition, and from Toliara back up to Antananarivo at the end of each expedition. The journey covers 1,000 kilometres through beautiful scenery and some of Madagascar's most famous national parks, with plenty of opportunities for spotting lemurs! It is also a great chance to get to know your fellow volunteers a bit before arriving in Andavadoaka. The tour departs at 7am on the first day so volunteers should book their flights to arrive in Antananarivo at least the evening before the departure date.

We understand that volunteers are not always available at the time when an expedition is scheduled to begin or for the full 6 weeks. We therefore offer mid-expedition start dates, and further flexibility for start and end dates can also be accommodated. Our mid-expedition start dates for 2014 are as follows: 

Actual expedition start dateFlexible expedition start date
30-Jun 7-Jul or 21-Jul
14-Aug 21-Aug or 4-Sep 
27-Sep 4-Oct or 18-Oct
11-Nov 18-Nov or 2-Dec

Please note that if you decide to join or leave an expedition midway through, as per the flexible dates above, you will be responsible for your transfer costs between Toliara and Andavadoaka. We can arrange a 4x4 vehicle with a driver for you, and the cost is approximately £200 each way, which can be shared with anyone else travelling at the same time. We do our best to coordinate journeys with other volunteers and staff to reduce the cost, but you should be prepared to pay the full amount if this is not possible.

Madagascar expedition costs (as at 1st July 2014)

Expedition prices vary according to your current diving qualification and length of stay in Andavadoaka. Half of our volunteers have never dived before and our PADI dive courses represent excellent value for money. 

Expedition lengthYou are a PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) diverYou are a PADI Open Water (or equivalent) diverYou have no diving certificationNon-diving volunteerNon-diving under 18Expedition medic
3 weeks £1,900 £2,000 £2,100 £1,000 £950  
4 weeks £2,095 £2,195 £2,295 £1,200 £1,150  
5 weeks £2,295 £2,395 £2,495 £1,400 £1,250  
6 weeks £2,425 £2,525 £2,625 £1,600 £1,400 £1,750*
7 weeks £2,700 £2,800 £2,900 £1,800 £1,600  
8 weeks £2,975 £3,075 £3,175 £2,000 £1,800  
9 weeks £3,250 £3,350 £3,450 £2,200 £2,000  
10 weeks £3,525 £3,625 £3,725 £2,400 £2,200  
11 weeks £3,800 £3,900 £4,000 £2,600 £2,400  
12 weeks £4,075 £4,175 £4,275 £2,800 £2,600 £2,750*
12+ weeks £225 per additional week £225 per additional week £225 per additional week £150 per additional week £150 per additional week £3,650* (18 weeks)

* Discounts are given for trained medical personnel fulfilling the role of expedition medic. Find out more here but please note that additional costs apply for dive courses (PADI Open Water - £100 and PADI Advanced Open Water - £75).

Prices listed are per person and for shared accommodation with four volunteers per cabin. If you would like your own cabin, please add a supplement of 10% for singles or 5% each for couples/two people sharing (depending on availability). We can also accommodate families and groups.

Our expedition costs include:

  • Transfers between Toliara and Andavadoaka for volunteers joining and leaving at the expedition start and end dates
  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay in beach-front eco-cabins - each cabin has a shower and toilet 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
  • Science training with our team of field scientists and researchers
  • Scuba diving training and certification to PADI Advanced Open Water level (depending on your existing qualifications)
  • 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

Our expedition costs do NOT include:

  • International flights to Antananarivo
  • Domestic travel to the meeting point in Toliara; we offer overland tours from and to Antananarivo for this journey (the cost is £185 for the 4-day / 3-night trip from Antananarivo to Toliara and £160 for the return 3-day / 2-night trip from Toliara to Antananarivo - including minibus hire, driver, accommodation, national park entry and guide fees)
  • Entry visa for Madagascar - this can be purchased upon arrival in country
  • Malaria prophylaxis and vaccinations
  • Travel and dive insurance
  • Personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, dive torch and underwater slate
  • Personal field equipment: sleeping bag, torch, mosquito net
  • Scuba diving training manuals
  • Additional dive training; costs are detailed below
  • Velondriake marine reserve entry fee
  • Spending money for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
  • Hotel accommodation in Toliara before or after your expedition dates
  • More information about all these costs can be found in our volunteer guide

Additional dive training

Volunteers wishing to undertake additional dive courses should inform us prior to the start of their expedition. It may also be possible to decide to take a dive course while on your expedition, subject to a supplement of 15% for the course manual and materials.

If you book a course in advance and decide during your expedition that you don't wish to take the course, the course fees will be refunded but not the cost of the course manual. Please note that it is a requirement for every student to have their own copy of the relevant course manual.

PADI Scuba Tune-Up - £49 (including manual and decal)

This course is designed for divers to tune-up their diving skills and safety knowledge before diving again. A PADI decal (sticker), attached to your certification card, denotes successful completion of the course. This is compulsory for all qualified divers who have not dived within six months of their expedition start date. You may chose to participate in a scuba tune-up before you arrive in Madagascar and we can help you to choose a suitable dive centre or instructors.

PADI Emergency First Response - £95

It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual. Contact us to buy this manual for £14 including delivery costs (alternatively you can purchase it from a local supplier).

PADI Rescue Diver - £245

It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual. Contact us to buy this manual for £24 including delivery costs (alternatively you can purchase it from a local supplier).

PADI Divemaster - £395

It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual.
 

Published in Madagascar
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 18:59

Volunteer expeditions in Belize

Join one of our marine conservation expeditions in Belize!

• Immerse yourself in Belize's stunning coral reefs and diverse coastal cultures 
• Assist with rigorous underwater research alongside our marine biologists and gain scuba diving qualifications
• Participate in our community education and conservation initiatives

"I would highly recommend an expedition with Blue Ventures - the diving was awesome and I met some fabulous people! The locals in Belize made me feel so welcome and I was very sad to leave." - Sandra Cheung, United Kingdom

Based in the fishing village of Sarteneja and the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, our diving expeditions offer volunteers from around the world a unique opportunity to get involved with Blue Ventures' marine research and conservation work. The Blue Ventures' dive camp in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve is on Ambergris Caye an island that was recenltly voted the best island in the world in the Trip Advisor 2014 Travellers' Choice Awards!

Bacalar Chico Dive Camp

Join our team surveying the second largest barrier reef in the world (a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site), and contribute to our efforts to conserve this spectacular ecosystem, including combating the threat of invasive lionfish.

Volunteers are immersed in the full breadth of Blue Ventures' programmes in Belize, including underwater marine research at our dive camp in Bacalar Chico and environmental education with local children in the seaside village of Sarteneja.

"My expedition was one of the most memorable and important experiences of my life. Your ideas are valued, your participation is appreciated, and English teaching at the local school is received with great enthusiasm." - Monika Calitz, United States 

Education3
From gap year students and university graduates to career breakers and retirees, our expeditions attract a diverse range of people from around the world, who share an interest in diving with the purpose of supporting our marine research and conservation work.

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. 

"Being able to identify so many coral and fish species has opened up an entirely new underwater world to me!" - Suzie Nott, United Kingdom

diving-belize-web
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 three weeks of expeditions, so that all volunteers are qualified to participate in underwater surveys once they have successfully completed their science training.

"The diving expertise of Blue Ventures' staff is excellent and I now feel more confident in the water."
 - Jodi Burley, Australia 

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.

Bacalar Chico Dive Camp
Our volunteers in Belize split their time between the fishing village of Sarteneja (during the first and last weeks of their expedition) in local homestay accommodation, and our beautiful dive camp in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (during the middle four weeks of their expedition) in beach-front bungalows. Volunteers are given regular Spanish lessons by our staff, and staying with local families in Sarteneja provides the perfect opportunity for language learning exchange!

Located on the shore of the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Sarteneja is the largest fishing community in Belize, near to the spectacular Shipstern Nature Reserve where our volunteers spend time experiencing the flora and fauna through day and night walks. The Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve is a large, palm-studded island shouldered by white beaches and backed by mangroves that fade to the west into Corozal Bay. Our volunteers love the communal bungalows that face out onto the Caribbean sea!

BCDC new huts
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 the Shipstern Nature Reserve.


You can use the interactive map below to zoom in and out of the region, including Sarteneja and the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve:

Turtles, rays, nurse sharks, dolphins and giant moray eels are all regularly spotted on dives, and manatees are frequently spotted in the mangroves between November and January. Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve is also a nesting site for many birds, including rosetate spoonbills, white ibis, boat-billed herons and magnificent frigate birds.

Manatees (grazing marine mammals, living in shallow water where seagrass is the dominant vegetation) 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 to gather opportunistic sightings data and monitor their activity at resting holes.

Every six weeks a new group of volunteers arrive at our site, ensuring year-round sustainability of our marine research. We host an average of 10-14 volunteers per expedition, and we never have more than three volunteers per staff member.


"What I learned and felt during my expedition with Blue Ventures helped propel me to and through a graduate degree in Marine Science. The people and places I experienced through BV were a wonderful start to my journey towards becoming a published scientist.
If I ever have kids, I'll be sending them on a trip with you guys some day."
- Geoff Hensgen, United Kingdom

Lionfish

As is the case throughout the Caribbean, invasive lionfish are threatening to decimate populations of juvenile fish in Belize's coral reefs. Blue Ventures is working with local fishers and seafood buyers to combat this threat by stimulating new markets for lionfish, as a way of increasing removals, diversifying traditional fisheries and reducing their impact upon native fish populations. 

We also conduct research that includes culling and dissecting lionfish to investigate their reproductive status and feeding patterns. In 2014, we launched a short lionfish dive trip that offers divers the chance to contribute to this research, and participate in licensed culls of invasive lionfish. 

Our team

Heading up our team in Belize is Jen, our country coordinator, who first started with us as a field scientist back in 2011! Shawn is our expeditions manager, a qualified and experienced PADI instructor responsible for coordinating dive activities and training. Research undertaken by expedition volunteers is managed and supervised by Winnie and Meira, our field scientists, who are tropical marine biologists, responsible for delivering science training at the beginning of each expedition.

The health and well-being of our volunteers is looked after by our expedition medics, who are trained medical personnel that join our expeditions and are available at all times on site in case of accident or emergency. Our community officer, Silvia, facilitates all of the environmental education activities that volunteers get involved with in Sarteneja.

Dates

Expedition start dateExpedition end dateStatus
7-Jun-14 18-Jul-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - Full
12-Jul-14 26-Jul-14 NEW 2 week Belize community expedition - spaces
12-July-14 8-Aug-14 NEW 4 week Belize community expedition - spaces
26-Jul-14 5-Sep-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - last few spaces
13-Sep-14 21-Sep-14 NEW 9 day lionfish project - spaces
26-Sep-14 6-Nov-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
2-Nov-14 7-Nov-14 Private group trip - full
10-Nov-14 21-Dec-14 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
5-Jan-15 15-Feb-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
24-Feb-15 6-Apr-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
10-Apr-15 21-May-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
25-May-15 7-Jun-15 Private group trip - full
13-Jun-15 19-June-15 and 28-Jun-15 7 and 16 day Lionfish project - spaces
22-Jun-15 3-Jul-15 Private group trip - full
6-Jul-15 19-Jul-15 Private group trip - full
3-Aug-15 12-Sep-15 6 week marine conservation expedition - spaces
19-Sep-15 27-Oct-15 6 week marine conservation expedition- spaces
31-Oct-15 6-Nov-15 7 and 16 day Lionfish project - spaces
10-Nov-15 21-Dec-15 6 week marine conservation expedition- spaces

Costs (as at 1st July 2014)

Expedition prices vary according to your current diving qualification and length of stay in Belize. Half of our volunteers have never dived before and our PADI dive courses represent excellent value for money.

Expedition lengthYou are a PADI Advanced Open water (or equivalent) diverYou are a PADI Open Water (or equivalent) diverYou have no diving certificationNon-diving under 17
(accompanied by an adult)
Expedition medic
7 day lionfish project £600 NA NA   £500
9 day lionfish project £850 NA NA   £650
16 day Lionfish project £1,350 NA NA   £1,100
2 week community expedition £600 NA NA £500 £500
4 week community expedition £1,100 to £1,200 NA NA £1,000 £1,000
3 weeks £1,950 £2,050 £2,150 £950  
4 weeks £2,150 £2,250 £2,350 £1,150  
5 weeks £2,350 £2,450 £2,550 £1,250  
6 weeks £2,525 £2,625 £2,725 £1,400 £1,850*
7 weeks £2,825 £2,925 £3,025 £1,600  
8 weeks £3,125 £3,225 £3,325 £1,800  
9 weeks £3,425 £3,525 £3,625 £2,000  
10 weeks £3,725 £3,825 £3,925 £2,200  
11 weeks £4,025 £4,125 £4,225 £2,400  
12 weeks £4,325 £4,425 £4,525 £2,600 £3,000*
12+ weeks £300 per additional week £300 per additional week £300 per additional week £200 per additional week

£4,200* (18 weeks)

    Please see our Belize expedition dates and costs page for precise details about what is and is not included in these prices.

    * Discounts are given for trained medical personnel fulfilling the role of expedition medic. Find out more here but please note that additional costs apply for dive courses (PADI Open Water - £100 and PADI Advanced Open Water - £75).

    Next steps

    Download our guide for more information about our expeditions, check out these FAQs 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.
     

    Gallery

     

    Published in Belize
    Wednesday, 19 March 2008 11:17

    What makes us different?

    Different expeditions and volunteering opportunities suit different people. The quality and type of experience varies considerably among different organisations, so you should make sure that you do a bit of research to find the right trip for you.

    You may like to consider asking some of the following questions:

  • What are the aims of the project, and how will your participation contribute to these aims?
  • If you’re looking to join a conservation or research project that claims to be achieving conservation goals, ask what results have been achieved and what research has been published, and how volunteers were involved in that work?
  • Who is running the expedition; the organisation you are booking with or a sub-contracted local partner?
  • What is the status of the organisation; charity, not-for-profit or private company?
  • How are your expedition fees spent; what percentage is spent in-country and what percentage supports head office costs?
  • How many staff does the project employ to provide training, support and guidance for volunteers?
  • Can I talk to ex-volunteers about their experiences?
  • What health and safety measures are in place?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements for volunteers? Some expeditions house volunteers in dormitories while others can offer private accommodation.
  • Are volunteers expected to cook for the group, or are local chefs employed to prepare meals?
  • Remember that an attractive website with appealing marketing does not necessarily mean that the expedition itself will meet your expectations, or give you the experience that you are looking for.

    Speaking to the organisation and asking a few direct questions can help you to decide which organisation to travel with. We are always willing to talk, so give us a call on +44 (0)207 697 8598 to discuss our expeditions in Madagascar and Belize.

    What makes Blue Ventures different?

    Our organisational structure

    Our award-winning expeditions are run by a social enterprise which fuels our marine research and conservation work in Madagascar and Belize. Profits generated by Blue Ventures Expeditions (a private company) are re-invested to maintain the standard of our expeditions and further channelled to Blue Ventures Conservation (registered charity number 1098893) in order to support the development of our innovative and integrated community-based programmes.

    grounded-in-science

    Our conservation impact

    We have hosted more than 1,800 volunteers at our sites over the last decade, resulting numerous reports and scientific papers being published about the state of Madagascar and Belize’s coral reefs, and directly contributing to the development of our marine conservation work.

    Our expedition volunteers also play a vital role in diversifying income-generating opportunities away from fishing within coastal economies, generating more than US$100,000 for local homestays to date in Belize alone.

    Our volunteer to staff ratio

    We limit the number of our volunteers on each expedition to a maximum of three per staff member (with an average group size of 12-14 volunteers) so that everyone receives a high standard of science and dive training and support, no matter what their background.

    Madagascar team

    Other organisations offering similar research opportunities and expeditions tend to accept greater volunteer to staff ratios but we feel that this can limit the learning experience, availability of facilities and diversity of activities that volunteers can participate in.

    Our expeditions are run by experienced staff recruited, trained and managed by our London headquarters to ensure we deliver consistently high-quality training, safety and expedition experiences. The teams consist of at least four international staff members (including PADI dive instructors and marine biologists) working alongside at least four local staff members.

    Our science and dive training

    All of our volunteers complete an intensive two-week science training programme run by our field scientists at the beginning of each expedition, to ensure that their knowledge is sufficient to carry out underwater surveys with our marine biologists coordinating the research.

    Science training
    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. PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses are also available for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications.

    Our health and safety

    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 professionals and within each expedition country.

    Health and safety
    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 a worst-case scenario medical evacuation (Medivac) plan, 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.

    Our accommodation and food

    Our expedition volunteers stay in beach-front eco-cabins at our dive sites in Madagascar and Belize, with a maximum of four people per bungalow. We offer private accommodation for a small supplement; ideal for couples, families or those wanting their own space.


    Coco Beach
    Three meals a day are prepared by local chefs, with plenty of fresh vegetables and seafood, and we are normally able to cater for those with specific dietary requirements. Volunteers are also given the opportunity to learn how to make traditional snacks, such as doughnuts, fish samosas and tortillas. Tea and coffee is available with most meals and treated drinking water is freely available on site, with bottled water and other beverages available to purchase from local restaurants or shops.

    Our value for money

    The cost of our expeditions is among the most competitive in the sector, and we believe that we offer the highest standards of science and dive training, accommodation and food. We don’t charge for dive kit hire (we have all of the expensive equipment that you need available for you to use at our research sites) and PADI dive courses are subsidised to keep prices low.

    Our expeditions help to finance our marine conservation programmes in Madagascar and Belize, and we want as many people as possible to join us, learn with us and contribute to this work. We recommend that you compare our prices, quality and reputation versus other marine conservation expedition providers in the market.

    Our responsible practices

    We are a member of the Year Out Group and all of our expeditions abide by their Code of Practice and Charter. We spend more than 70% of volunteer fees in our expedition countries, with the remaining sum used to support our UK-based team, marketing, insurance and payment protection.

    We have been recognised six times in the annual Responsible Travel Awards, winning the prestigious 'Best Volunteering Organisation' in 2010, and also winning the ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’ in the British Youth Travel Awards in 2012. As a leader in responsible travel, we have also been recommended as an ethical volunteering organisation by the Guardian and the Telegraph.

     

    Published in Volunteer
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