Belize Marine Conservation & Diving

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1. In Brief

Nestled in Central America on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize lies at the centre of the Mesoamerican "biodiversity hotspot". Pristine subtropical forests provide a refuge for wildlife and conceal ancient Mayan ruins whilst the warm clear waters of the Caribbean lap sandy Cayes offering access to the world’s second longest barrier reef and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; renowned for its spectacular snorkelling and diving.

Infused throughout is the country’s culture influenced by Belize’s Afro-Caribbean roots, creating a fabulous laid-back atmosphere.

‘No shoes, no shirt, no worries’ is the infamous motto for the Cayes off the east coast of Belize, and you will have the opportunity to discover infamous barrier reefs, dive the Blue Hole in your free time, marvel at an extraordinary array of colourful reef fish and rays, sea urchins, anemones, octopus and even sea turtles feed at luxuriant sea grass beds. You can explore this exquisite, untarnished underwater world as you learn to dive off the Cayes of Belize.

You will explore, chart and monitor extensive areas of pristine coral and vast seagrass beds, record populations of reef fish and commercially important invertebrate species, and assist in annual reef health check. On shore you will explore the lushforests of red, white and black mangroves; the unique ecosystem which bridges the land and the ocean.

Your days will be eventful; the work will be challenging, rewarding and fun. Your discoveries will be of huge benefit to the conservation of these fabulous coral reefs and you will gain immense satisfaction from knowing that you have helped protect these precious natural resources for future generations.

The results from your investigations will supply vital baseline information on the Belizean coastline to enable the sustainable management of natural resources in the region and the protection of the marine wildlife in partnership with the Belize Fisheries Department.

  

  

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

  • PADI dive training and qualifications available
  • Opportunity to dive in some of the world's best dive sites (e.g. Blue Hole, Turneffe Atoll, Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef, and many more)
  • Take part in a long term marine monitoring and conservation project
  • Make lifelong friends and return with incredible stories, photos and memories

PROJECT REQUIREMENTS

  • Intermediate level of English

FAST FACTS

Location Belize
Activities Diving regularly (weather permitting)
Locating, mapping and studying coral reefs
Collect baseline biodiversity data collection on fish, benthic and commercially important invertebrate species to meet national and international protocol
Opportunistic cetacean and manatee sightings
Annual Reef health checks
Work with local Belizean partners and conservation organisations
Vegetation surveys on mangrove species
Contribute to the Cayes Management Plan and the overall Belize National Resource Management Agenda
Transport Airport pickup and transfer to the project site is provided for free if you arrive on the 1st Monday of the month.
If you want to join the project at any other time, you can book an airport pick up and transfer from Frontier for an additional $100USD / £65GBP.
Accommodation Beach camp at research station on Caye Caulker

 

WHAT'S INCLUDED

 

Before you go Pre-departure support
Travel & medical advice & documentation
Equipment advice
Advice on visas and equipment
Discounted medical kit
Free Frontier t-shirt
UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training FREE for 10 week+ volunteers (US$168 per person for those participating for less that 10 weeks)
In-country Food
Accommodation
Airport pickup and transfers to project site(for first Monday of the month arrivals) alternative start date possible
Local orientation and training
24-hour international HQ back-up
Vocational academic diploma or certificate qualification in Tropical Habitat Conservation available
Dive training courses run monthly starting on the first Wednesday of the month. Dive training for PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water price includes PIC cards, PADI membership, and use of Frontier project equipment and diving equipment including tanks, regs, BCDs and weights.
Dive training PADI Open Water available at extra cost (subject to availability)
Dive training PADI Advanced Open Water at extra cost (subject to availability)
Further dive courses available in country: PADI Emergency First Response, PADI Rescue Diver, and PADI Divemaster qualifications

 

QUALIFICATIONS

A variety of qualifications are available on many of our projects. For example, BTEC certificates and diplomas on our Group conservation projects and TEFL certificates and BTECs on most of our teaching projects. You may also be able to gain a CoPE to support your university application. For more information on these qualifications, please see the qualifications section of our website or ask your volunteer advisor.

PADI DIVE TRAINING

On the Frontier Marine Conservation Group Projects, we will train you to PADI Advanced Open Water before you begin undertaking important biological surveys. Depending on how long you spend on the project, you may also have the option to take further courses up to Divemaster!

Please see the "Dates and Costs" tab for dive qualification prices or ask your volunteer advisor for more information.

Find out more about PADI qualifications.

2. The project

WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?

Although Belize is distinguished from its neighbours in being the only country in the region with a British colonial heritage, it also has strong ties to Latin America as well as to the Caribbean. With one foot firmly planted in lush interior forests and another foot in the laidback and colourful Caribbean Sea, Belize’s animal and plant life are the stars of the country, thanks to conservation efforts from national and international bodies.

The Belizean government is now working with national management partners and international conservation and aid agencies to protect the county’s invaluable biodiversity. Co-management partners work alongside the Belizean Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development with long term aims to protect and conserve key marine and terrestrial hotspots. This is achieved through local conservation awareness, scientific monitoring & research, community support programs and implementation of protected areas co-management plans, and Frontier volunteers are an integral part of this effort.

Record marine biodiversity

To aid decision making and implement protected areas co-management plans, co-partners in Belize require long-term environmental monitoring to be in place to meet both national and international protocols, and for the establishment of more detailed research projects that can provide vital baseline data.

Through marine SCUBA and snorkel surveys you will survey fish, benthic and commercially important invertebrate species using a number of common methodologies currently used in Belize plus taking part in simple community level assessments of these environments. Diving under the supervision of a lead scuba diver, you will become confident and comfortable underwater. Your results will determine the sheer biodiversity of these waters and help formulate long term, sustainable management plans to protect this sensational caye.

Other activities include surveying mangroves, a vital buffer against storm surges caused by cyclones, and an important part of the coastal ecosystem, opportunistic sightings of manateesand cetaceans, beach clean ups, forest restoration work and monthly surveys of conch and lobster.

Belizean culture & communities

Working alongside the Belizean people will give you an insight into their colourful and laidback culture. Community work may include environmental education in local schools to explain Frontier's work, and interviewing local communities on their awareness and knowledge of the local marine reserves, particularly with regards to boundaries, zones and rules and the levels of involvement of local stakeholders in decision-making.

WHAT WILL I BE DOING?

Soak up the chilled out, Caribbean atmosphere of Belize whilst taking part in a long term and sustainable marine research and conservation programme. The Frontier Belize programme is run in association with the Belize Fisheries Department, and this research and conservation project aims to provide the local communities, stakeholders and government bodies with the baseline biodiversity data they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of this pristine marine ecosystem.

To gather the data needed you will undertake rapid sampling diving and snorkel surveys, underwater line and belt transects (weather permitting for all diving), mangrove surveys and opportunistic mammal sightings with one day off each week. Your activities will involve locating and mapping the extensive, pristine coral reefs and studying the various communities existing on them. The number of dives completed each week on the project depend on the quarterly science plan and itinerary as set by the Frontier field staff. If you require dive training, this is available in-country upon your arrival at the Frontier camp.

Whilst diving and snorkelling in this Caribbean odyssey, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from colourful reef fish species to nudibranchs, sea cucumbers to cushion stars and spiny urchins to octopuses. By the end of your project you will be capable of identifying a wide range of colourful and patterned reef organisms, as well as being an experienced and competent diver. Although the work is intense and challenging you'll get immense satisfaction from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this marine environment.

Volunteers who join the project for less than 4 weeks may not be able to participate in the full range of project activities and surveys, but will still be able to make a valuable contribution to the work. You will return home with vast numbers of photos, lots of new friends, a wealth of fascinating stories and extraordinary memories.

You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and conserving nature. Your staff will be a friendly and welcoming group who are highly experienced in their research field and many of whom will have been Frontier volunteers at an earlier stage in their career.

Sample Itinerary*

7:00 a.m. – Breakfast at the volunteer house, prepared by the volunteers!

8:30 a.m. – Volunteers leave camp by boat for dive training, or science training at the volunteer house 

12:30 p.m. – Volunteers break for a packed lunch (lunch prepared by volunteers when at the volunteer house)

2:00 p.m.  -  Volunteer work at the volunteer house for the afternoon (beach cleanups, camp maintenance, science training, snorkeling) 

5:00 p.m. – The working day comes to an end. Volunteers are free to catch up on anything, plan for the next day’s work and socialise.

6:00 p.m. – Dinner at the Volunteer house prepared by volunteers!

7:00 p.m. - Socialising… party on a Saturday!

*This itinerary should only be considered as an example of the kind of activities and timescales to expect.  Actual itineraries may vary depending on the season and the requirements of the project.

3. What to expect

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I ARRIVE?

Volunteers arriving before 2pm (local time) on the first Monday of the month will be welcomed by a Frontier representative at Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport. From here it's a short minibus or taxi ride from the airport to Belize City where you will then transfer to the project site via water taxi and be introduced to the Frontier-Belize programme.

You will meet the staff, receive some initial briefings, including an introduction to the science programme and techniques used, as well as health and safety lectures, so make sure your medical kit is complete and start reading your safety and medical briefs. Dive theory training will in part be completed during time on camp and in part at a local dive centre.

At the end of your stay we will transfer those of you who are on the monthly program back to Belize City from the camp in time for you to head back home or continue on your independent travels. If you are joining for less than 4 weeks you will make your own arrangements to return to Belize City at the end of your stay, from where you can continue your own independent travel or return home.

Independent travellers arriving on dates other than the first Monday of the month can arrange a separate airport collection (extra cost; $80USD / US$116GBP) by contacting the camp staff in Belize.

WHERE WILL I BE STAYING?

During the project you'll live in the beach camp alongside other Frontier volunteers and staff. We aim to provide you with a unique and memorable living experience. The project is situated on the north island at a research station, with living space, toilet, shower facilities and communal living and cooking areas. Camp life is very simple, unsophisticated and fun.

You will be staying in an indoor sleeping area in hammocks or on roll mats, your "shower" will be a jug or a bucket of water and you cook using a simple stove: so prepare for the basic, virtually footprint less, unencumbered lifestyle! 

WHAT WILL I BE EATING?

Food on camp is simple, nutritious and consists largely of locally sourced fresh vegetables and fruit, rice, beans and noodles, all of which are purchased from nearby communities thereby helping to support the local economy. Luxuries such as chocolate, peanut butter, soda and other drinks are available in Belize City, so make sure you stock up before heading to your field camp or at nearby stalls accessible only by boat on weekends.

Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking. Creating spectacular meals will become second nature: so get your cookbooks out now and start thinking up recipes! Also, with luck you'll be invited to local feasts and festivals – a great way to engage with local communities and discover local cuisines and cultures.

4. The reviews

IT'S AN UNBELIZABLE ADVENTURE  | 12 Mar 2015
This project is a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you will meet lots of amazing people and se...

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MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE  | 23 Feb 2015
I had just completed my degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology and I decided to go...

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EXPERIENCE IF A LIFETIME  | 6 Feb 2015
I have been in Caye Caulker with Frontier Belize for two months now and I already feel l...

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BELIZE WAS A MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE  | 9 Sep 2014
I was looking to do something meaningful during my career break, apart from just seeing more of t...

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TAKING A CAREER BREAK IN BELIZE  | 17 Jul 2014
I was looking to do something meaningful during my career break, apart from just seeing more of t...

Read more


THIS HAS BEEN A FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE  | 10 Jun 2014
Spending time in Caye Caulker, getting PADI certified and scuba diving has been an amazing experi...

Read more


CHILL IN A HAMMOCK AND ENJOY THE BREEZE  | 28 Apr 2014
I've done a lot of travelling in the past few years, and I must say if I ever imagined island...

Read more


THE TIME HAS FLOWN BY  | 22 Apr 2014
I can’t believe my time here in Belize is coming to an end already! The time has flown by b...

Read more


'NO SHIRT, NO SHOES...NO PROBLEM'  | 12 Mar 2014
'No Shirt, No Shoes…No Problem' - You will hear this motto everywhere you go in Be...

Read more


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5. Gallery

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6. Extras

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

The Frontier-Belize camp is fun and in your spare time you'll have opportunities to swim and snorkel, go bird watching, play beach volleyball, enjoy the incredible sunsets and stargazing. Alternatively you may enjoy a traditional Saturday night themed camp party, play card games or join in a camp quiz night. After a long hard day of snorkelling and diving you may prefer to relax with a drink and sway in the camp hammock, or sit around the campfire and chat to your new friends.

You will have weekends to enjoy the local culture, excursions, hostels and restaurants. Visit neighbouring Cayes such as San Pedro, Caye Chapelor the wider area of Belize City. Local tour operators offer the chance to dive at the famous Blue Hole, learn to kite surf, windsurf and sail or relax on locally built boats on sunset tours. These can be organised in country via the Frontier-Belize staff. Alternatively you can travel back to the mainland to visit the renowned Belize Zoo, famous Xunantunich Mayan ruins or lush tropical forests. 

Dive courses run monthly commencing on the first Wednesday of the month

*Medical certificate is mandatory for participation in dive courses

Modern conveniences

Caye Caulker

  • Banks / ATM; Atlantic Bank, St. Francis Xavier Bank
  • Bars / cafes
  • Bicycle hire
  • Daily sailing excursions
  • Hostels
  • Internet cafe
  • Local and traditional restaurants
  • Medical clinic
  • MoneyGram
  • Outdoor cinema
  • Pharmacy
  • Post office
  • Supermarket
  • Western style restaurants

Belize City - 1 hour water taxi at your own cost

  • Attractions; Belize Zoo, Museum of Belize, Belize Tourism Village, Government House
  • Banks / ATMs; Heritage Bank, Atlantic Bank, Belize Bank, First Caribbean International Bank, and Scotia Bank
  • Bars / cafes
  • Bureau de Change
  • Cinema
  • Dentists
  • Hairdresser
  • Hospital
  • Internet cafe
  • Local and traditional restaurants
  • Medical clinic
  • Pharmacy
  • Post office
  • Supermarkets
  • Western style restaurants
  • Western Union

7. Dates and Costs

COSTS

1 week US$1,895

2 weeks US$2,745

3 weeks US$3,245

4 weeks US$3,795

5 weeks US$4,295

6 weeks US$4,845

7 weeks US$5,345

8 weeks US$5,895

9 weeks US$6,395

10 weeks US$6,945

Extra week US$645

PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water training US$1,428, PADI Open Water training US$735, PADI Advanced Open Water training US$693

DEPARTURE DATES

First Monday of the month throughout the year

Alternative dates available on request

DURATION

You can join this project for a minimum of 1 week

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Before you go

  • Pre-departure support
  • Travel & medical advice & documentation
  • Equipment advice
  • Discounted medical kit
  • Free Frontier t-shirt
  • UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training FREE for 10 week+ volunteers (US$168 per person for those participating for less that 10 weeks)

In-country

  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Internal ground transfers & in-transit accommodation (for volunteers arriving on the 1st Monday of the month & joining for 4+ weeks)
  • Local orientation
  • Project training
  • Project equipment & materials
  • Dive training PADI Open water  US$735
  • Dive training PADI Advanced open water  US$693
  • Advanced dive courses available
  • FREE use of Frontier dive kit including Regs, tanks, BCDs, weights, compressor
  • In-country emergency support
  • 24-hour international HQ back-up

AIRPORT INFORMATION

Nearest airport(s): Belize City Goldson Intl Apt (BZE)

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Flights

Flights are not included in our trip costs. However, we have partnered with an experienced and professional team of travel experts to help our volunteers find the best flight deals for their trips with us. This travel specialist operates in the tailor-made, long haul multi-stop travel market, arranging complex airfares and transfers for independent travellers. They provide expertise, security and a vast product range along with a Travel Butler service which is a single point of contact and support whilst you are overseas.

We recommend that you obtain a quote using the following contact details rather than book online, as our partner will offer you the most competitive fares. To receive your quote or to seek any advice for your flights, please contact our dedicated team of travel experts on 0800 082 9994 (or +44 800 082 9994 outside the UK) or email frontier@flightcentre.co.uk .

Visas

For fast, efficient and up-to-date visa advice please contact our recommended visa consultancy partner:

Depending on your destination country and your country of origin, you might require a visa. Please see the appropriate country consular website for details or contact our affiliate visa consultancy service. Please note that your visa will usually start on the date that you enter the destination country regardless of when it was issued. Please check with the relevant embassy or high commission. If you are purchasing your visa or paying entry/exit fees in-country you will probably need to pay in US Dollars. If you have any questions please consult the relevant embassy or high commission. Please check the visa information regularly, as changes often happen without warning.

Insurance

You'll need to buy appropriate travel insurance covering your participation on the project. You won't be able to go without the right travel insurance so double check to avoid disappointment. Please make sure that you're covered for the whole duration of your trip – from the day you leave the UK to the day you return. It's also best to get your travel insurance at the same time as paying the deposit for your project. Depending on your policy, this will cover you for any unexpected cancellations.

Your insurance should include the following:

  • Medical cover, including medical emergencies and medical evacuations (up to USD$3,000,000 / GBP£2,000,000);
  • Personal liability (up to USD$1,500,000 / GBP£1,000,000);
  • Cancellation and curtailment of your trip (up to the value of your project contribution).

If you are going to be scuba diving you should get coverage for scuba diving up to 30m, including hyperbaric therapy treatment (unlimited). You should consider obtaining insurance to cover you for any additional activities which you plan to do during, before, or after your Frontier project. We recommend that you obtain cover for your baggage and personal effects.


LEGAL STATEMENT
Frontier Partner Projects and Frontier group projects are run in partnership with in-country NGOs, small community based organisations, local research institutes, academic organisations and conservation agencies. Project descriptions and information are supplied directly by our partners or field staff and are accurate at time of publishing.

We aim to keep information up to date and accurate, however, the nature of our projects and in particular the fact that they are constantly evolving and developing in response to changing needs means that project activities, travel schedules, tour itineraries and daily timetables can change overnight and without notice.

8. How to apply

To apply for this placement, click on "Apply Now" below. Fill in the short application form and one of our advisers will then call you back to answer any questions and make sure this is the perfect placement for you. Applying doesn't cost a penny and you won't pay anything until you're completely happy and you're ready to reserve your place.


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