Based on a tiny island 45 minutes from mainland Belize, this is a unique volunteer experience that focuses on conserving and preserving the stunning marine environment of the Caribbean. As a Marine Conservation volunteer, you will assist local marine biologists to gather data, conduct surveys and remove invasive species.
The project involves going on at least two scuba dives per day in various locations doing a range of tasks. Those who don’t have current open water diving certifications are able to get PADI qualified on the project, before starting your volunteering in earnest. See below for more details.
Marine volunteers receive comprehensive training to prepare conducting valuable underwater research. This involves identification training for marine wildlife, including lionfish, corals, whale sharks and queen conch. You will also be taught how to spear fish, collect data, and carry out coral surveying - a key skill in marine conservation as a universal approach to monitoring the state of coral reefs.
Volunteers can expect to take part in 13 dives each week: two dives on Monday (the first dive is a check-out dive), three dives on Tuesday through to Thursday, one dive on Friday, and at least one night dive. The activities you can expect to be involved in are:
Coral Reef Surveying - Climate change is causing the coral reefs to change and volunteers play an important role in collecting data about these changes, which can then be shared with conservation groups. You will be observing affected corals to gather information on how the warming waters are bleaching the coral.
Invasive Species Removal - Lionfish are indigenous to the Pacific and Indian Oceans and are destructive in the Caribbean. They have no natural predators, feed on native species and reproduce at a fast rate. You will be assisting with the removal of the Lionfish by spearfishing and taking the fishback to the island. Lionfish are tasty to eat and the speared fish are given to local restaurants.
Marine Species Survey - Lobster surveys are conducted regularly as the population has decreased significantly over the last few decades. Lobsters are measured, their gender checked and if the lobster is female, they are checked to see if they are carrying eggs. This helps to gather information on how to boost lobster numbers.
Queen conch surveys - Queen Conch is a large marine mollusk that is often overfished due to the commercial value of its large spiral shell. Increasing numbers of conch are heading into deeper waters to breed in an attempt to avoid fishermen. The data of these surveys is to provide scientists with data on the migration paths, breeding patterns and populations of Queen Conch.
Whale Shark Research - Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and can grow to 14 meters in length. Sadly, whale shark numbers are declining as they are an easy target for their fins and meat.
While it can’t be guaranteed that you will see a whale shark during your time on the program, if you do, it will certainly be an amazing experience! Volunteers can take photos and notes on each Whale Shark’s unique skin pattern, size and other identifying factors. Following a sighting, you will record your findings in an online database that is used for comparisons by other scientists all over the world.
An Open Water Dive Certification is required to participate on this project and can be obtained at the start of your project, or in advance of your trip. Belize is a wonderful place to learn with calm clear waters and little current. You will also need to complete an online e-learning course, which is an additional cost, and must be completed prior to arriving in Belize.
The PADI dive certification courses offered in Belize are as follows:
- PADI Open Water Certification (3 days) – $150
- PADI Advanced Open Water Certification (1 week) – $200
- PADI Rescue Diver Certification (1 week)– $250
- PADI Dive Master Certification (4 week minimum stay) – $400
- PADI Specialty Course: Invasive Lionfish (3 days) – $100
- PADI Specialty Course: Coral Reef Conservation (3 days) – $100
- PADI Specialty Course: Fish Identification (3 days) – $100
- PADI Specialty Course: Deep Diver (3 days)– $100
- PADI Specialty Course: Emergency First Response (2 days)– $100
- PADI Specialty Course: Underwater Photographer (2 days) – $175
When you apply for this project, please specify whether you are Open Water Dive certified in your application or whether you will be taking the Open Water Dive certification course, or if you wish to take additional dive certification courses with the team in Belize.
All dive equipment is available for hire for an additional $25 per week, which is paid directly to the local team in-country. Please note, this EXCLUDES mask with snorkel, booties, wetsuits (long or short, 3mm minimum), and dive fins, which volunteers must bring themselves.Apply now