+44 (0)207 697 8598
tusktalk2014 AHarticle-1

17th July 2014, London, UK: Dr Al Harris writes about Blue Ventures' integrated approach to conservation in Tusk Trust's Tusk Talk magazine

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
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
16-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
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