Belize Wildlife Research Expedition

Join us for a unique volunteer trip to Belize. You’ll have opportunities to participate in research of bottlenose dolphins, hawksbill sea turtles, manatees, and more. Spend 4 nights at St. George’s Caye, participating in research on hawksbill turtles, dolphins, and manatees, and explore reefs and marine protected areas including the beautiful Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Then spend 2 nights at the Crystal Paradise and go cave tubing and rainforest hiking and visit the incomparable Tikal National Park in Guatemala. 

Profits from this trip will help to save at least 100 hatchlings at a turtle nesting beach per participant.

2017 Date: June 24 - July 1 

Price: Coming soon, contact us at right to receive updates when ready.

Includes: In-country transport, meals, lodging, activities, guides, and a donation to turtle conservation.

Excludes: Airfare to Belize, airport exit tax, personal items, and tips for the guides.

Notes:

  • Minimum recommended age is 12 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
  • Monthly payment plans available up until 3 months before departure.
  • This trip can be done as a student field trip. Contact us here to inquire about dates and prices.

CONTACT US TO REGISTER, REQUEST MORE INFO, OR ASK A QUESTION

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Register by phone at 800.215.0378


ITINERARY

DAY 1 - ARRIVE TO BELIZE

The group will be picked up at the airport and transferred to a boat to head to the EcoMar Research Station on St. George’s Caye, located about 10 miles from Belize City near the Belize Barrier Reef. After we arrive, we will have an orientation to the facility and research that we will be participating in. If time allows in the afternoon, families can swim/snorkel at the station after settling in and test out their gear.

The waters around St. George’s Caye provides important habitat for endangered green, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles and Antillean manatees. As a volunteer on this program, you will work side-by-side with researchers to conduct in-water sea turtle, dolphin, and manatee research surveys. The Research Station has rooms with bunk beds (2-4 people per room) with a mix of shared and private bathrooms. Each room has fans but there is no air conditioning or hot water. Dinner is served buffet-style and vegetarians are easily accommodated. 

DAYS 2 - 4 - OCEAN WILDLIFE SURVEYS & SNORKELING

Over the next 3 days, the group will do two activities per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with some down time around meals and late afternoon. In some cases, the group will split up and rotate activities. Which activities are done each day will be decided on site based on the weather, ocean conditions, and group preferences. The evenings will include presentations on ocean wildlife, the rich history of St. George’s Caye, and more. There are also several kayaks that can be borrowed to paddle during down time at no charge.

Sea Turtle Surveys

EcoMar has been conducting in-water snorkel surveys to assess sea turtle abundance and diversity at Gallow’s Point since 2009. The surveys are done by boat along shallow fore and patch reefs. With help from skilled local fishermen, sea turtles are captured by hand and then measured, sampled, and tagged to help scientists track their movements and understand population dynamics. Traditional fisherman have become important conservation assistants since they spend their days on the seas and have the skills required to swim quickly and dive deep to capture the turtles. This activity requires strong swimming ability to participate (though the full group will be able to see the turtles once caught). Since catching a turtle can be difficult, we cannot guarantee that a turtle will be caught during the activity.

Manatee Surveys

The Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) is an endangered subspecies of the West Indian Manatee; less than 2,500 mature individuals of this subspecies are thought to remain. Belize is home to the largest population of Antillean manatees in the world. We will observe them from the boat at the mouth of the Belize River and elsewhere, recording their sounds and images by drone and photographs. 

 

Manatee drone research video 

 

Dolphin Surveys

In 1992, Oceanic Society began a long-term study of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) aimed at documenting their abundance, distribution, and behavioral ecology in Belize. The research will focus on dolphin behavior in the context of specific habitats. You will accompany the researcher to known dolphin “hotspots” within the atoll to look for small groups. Our goal is to determine habitat use, and our days are spent working in small teams recording dolphin behavior on standard data sheets, plotting location, and identifying individual dolphins.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

You will also spend a day visiting the famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve to explore the shallow patch reefs and compare the fish abundance between reefs inside and outside of the reserve. Hol Chan is located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye and is Belize’s oldest marine reserve. Due to its protected status, what was once adepleted fishing area has now been allowed to regenerate, providing an unparalleled diving/snorkeling experience for visitors and an important refuge for marine life along the northern section of the Barrier Reef. More than 160 species of fish have been identified in the reserve, along with nearly 40 species of corals, 5 sponges, 8 algaes, 2 seagrasses, 3 marine mammals, and 3 species of sea turtle.

DAY 5 - CRYSTAL PARADISE

After breakfast, take the boat back to the mainland and catch a private bus to go inland to the rainforest area of Belize. On the way, the group will stop at the Belize Zoo to learn about the wildlife of the country and after head to the Crystal Paradise Resort. After lunch, there will be an optional canoe tour of the Macal River, a calm river.

DAY 6 - CAVE TUBING & ZIPLINES

One of Belize’s most popular tours. After breakfast, you’ll ride about 1.5 hours to the Nooch Chen cave. Start with an easy 45 minute guided jungle walk, learning about rainforest plants and animals along the way. Swim in the cool clear water and hop on the tube for a fun ride through the caves, checking out beautiful stalactites and jungle views along the way. Afterwards, fly through the forest on 7 zip lines for a different view of the forest.

DAY 7 - TIKAL NATIONAL PARK

Early this morning, the group will head across the border to visit the extraordinary Tikal, one of the most prominent Mayan sites in the world. Spend all day walking through the park, learning about the Mayan culture and seeing the impressive thousand year old structures. 

DAY 8 - RETURN HOME

Head to the airport after breakfast in plenty of time for your return flight home.

Is This Trip Right For Me?

Belize is a safe and beautiful country and tourism is its top industry. This trip is based at a simple but comfortable research station on St. George’s Caye, a small island about a 30 min. boat ride from Belize City. We will spend a lot of time in boats and in the water, so those who get seasick may have issues (though most of the time the water is very calm). Previous snorkeling experience is helpful but not required but participants should feel comfortable in the water. Be prepared for heat and bad weather, which can affect which activities are available each day. Meals are simple but home cooked with love (vegetarian options available). Most rooms have private bath with cold water showers and fans. Electricity is available from 5:30 in the evening until 8:30 in the morning.


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Photos: Elbert Greer (banner image), Linda Searle/EcoMar, Crystal Paradise Resort