Volunteer in Belize
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- Unique Marine Conservation project
- Accommodation on a small private island, off the coast of Placencia
- PADI dive certification courses offered on the island
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from $690 for 1 week
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Belize to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Belize will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Belize with your new-found friends.
The Belize volunteer program is based on a small private island, 26 miles off the coast of Placencia in Southern Belize. Volunteer work takes place at sea and volunteers are accommodated in a well-equipped volunteer house on the island.
The program begins every Monday and volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 8 weeks. Accommodation on the island is covered from Monday to Thursday night and volunteers arrange and pay for their own accommodation on the mainland for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Volunteers are transported back to Placencia by boat on Friday and return to the island on Monday. There is a range of accommodation options to choose from in Placencia, or you can choose to explore Belize during the weekends.
As a volunteer on our Marine Conservation project, you will have the opportunity to join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem in Belize. Volunteers work alongside Marine Biologists to gather data, conduct surveys and remove invasive species.
This project is best suited to volunteers who have a strong interest in Marine Conservation and who are confident in the water, as it is a dive-based project. If you don’t have an existing Open Water Dive Certification, you can obtain this before traveling to Belize, or once you arrive to the program.
To be an effective volunteer, you will receive comprehensive training to prepare for carrying out the research-based activities at sea. 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 per week. The activities you can expect to be involved in are outlined below.
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. This will give you the opportunity to learn about a range of different corals (brain/cactus, branching/pillar, boulder/mound, flower and lettuce/sheet) and understand more about the importance of a healthy reef.
Invasive Species Removal - Lionfish are indigenous to the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the origin of their introduction to the Caribbean Sea is still uncertain, although there is speculation that they were released from a fish tank in Florida. In the Caribbean Sea, Lionfish have no natural predators, feed on the 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 restaurants, while the spines are given to Belizeans on the mainland to make into jewelry.
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.
Queen Conch is a large marine mollusk and is overfished due to the commercial value of its large spiral shell. The purpose of carrying our Queen Conch surveys is to gather data on their breeding patterns. 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. They feed off plankton and small fish. 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! Whale sharks can be spotted year-round in Belize, but most commonly from March to June. If you do see a Whale Shark, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. Volunteers are asked to take photos (with no flash) and take notes on each Whale Shark’s unique skin pattern, size and other identifying factors. Following a sighting, you will record your findings onto an online database. This data is used for comparisons by other scientists all over the world.
In order to participate in the Whale Shark project, you must pledge to follow the Whale Shark Code of Conduct.
An Open Water Dive Certification is required to participate on this project and can be attained while volunteering on the island, or in advance of your trip. Belize is a wonderful place to learn with calm clear waters and little current.
The PADI dive certification courses offered in Belize are as follows:
- PADI Open Water Certification – $100 USD
- PADI Advanced Open Water Certification – $150 USD
- PADI Rescue Diver Certification - $200 USD
- PADI Dive Master Certification (4 week minimum stay) - $400 USD
- PADI Specialty Course: Deep Diver - $100 USD
- PADI Specialty Course: Fish Identification - $100 USD
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 included EXCEPT mask with snorkel, booties, and wetsuits (long or short, 3mm minimum).
The program begins every Monday and volunteers arrive in Placencia on the Sunday before their program begins. On Monday, volunteers travel by boat from Placencia to the island where the program is based (this transfer is included in the Program Fee).
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Placencia Airport (PLJ) on the Sunday before your program start date. Airport pick-up is only provided on Sundays and is included in your Program Fee.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team. Accommodation is provided from Monday to Thursday on the island each week. If you are staying for 1 week, you will need to book your own accommodation on the mainland for the Sunday before your program start date and for the Friday night when you arrive back to the mainland. If you are staying longer than 1 week, you will also need to arrange accommodation for the weekends during your program. If you are traveling in Belize prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to meet up with the local team in Placencia on the morning of your program orientation.
The program orientation will be held on the Monday once you arrive on the island. The orientation is hosted by the local team and includes an introduction to the IVHQ Belize Program, rules and expectations, health and safety, and an introduction to the local marine eco-system. Orientation will also give you a chance to get to know the other volunteers who you will be living on the island with.
First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be taken by boat out to the island, have orientation and lunch, then begin the project work or your dive certification.
Weekdays: Full days on the island typically include three dives, on Mondays and Fridays you will have one or two dives. A typical volunteer day is as follows:
6.30 AM Fruit tea and coffee at the volunteer accommodation
7.30 AM Volunteers begin work on the project
9.00 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation
10.30 AM Volunteers continue work on the project
12.30 PM Lunch is served at the volunteer accommodation
3.00 PM Work at the project continues
6.30PM Dinner at the volunteer house and relaxing
Please note this schedule will vary depending on the project goals for that day and if you are working on your dive certification.
On the Belize program, you will be accommodated on a small private island in a volunteer house. The accommodation on the island is comfortable but basic. Bedrooms are located in the main house or in cabanas. The bedrooms are comprised of single or double beds and you can expect to share a room with one to four other volunteers. Most bedrooms have an attached bathroom, and there are basic cold showers and flush toilets. Bedding is provided, however due to the hot climate, most volunteers sleep with just a sheet and some may chose to sleep with the doors open. Regardless of the bedroom you have, you will have ocean views and wake up naturally with the sun and to the sound of gentle waves crashing. There are also hammocks, beach chairs and a volleyball net that you can use in your down-time.
Power is delivered to the volunteer accommodation by an on-site generator and the generator will usually run for up to 2 to 4 hours per day to charge electrical equipment. Volunteers are encouraged to minimize the amount of electronic equipment they bring, as the camp only has limited power points available to charge devices. We recommend volunteers bring solar chargers to charge their devices, if possible.
There is WiFi on the island which is reliable, however there are certain periods of time when the signal can be lost. There is no cellphone reception on the island which means you won’t be able to send text messages or make phone calls. It’s important to check in with family and friends before you arrive and depart from the island in case the WiFi is down during your program.
The island is isolated and you will not be able to go back to the mainland during the week, the return trip to the mainland is on Friday. Due to the remote location, it’s important that you bring everything you need for the week to the island on Monday.
You will be served three tasty meals each day by the on-site cook. The meals are fresh, varied and balanced, and you can expect corn tortillas, beans, polenta, stir-fried vegetables, coconut curry, fresh seafood and sometimes other meats. Please note that you will not be able to purchase food on the island or go back to the mainland during the week, so it’s important to bring snacks with you. Keep in mind that you will be diving three times per day which means you may need to eat more than normal. You can easily stock up on high energy snacks in Placencia and take them out to the island with you. Nuts, oats and bananas are all great high energy food options. There is plenty of drinking water on the island so please bring a reusable drink bottle.
If you’re spending your weekend in Placencia, you’ll be able to relax on the white sand beaches, hire kayaks or paddle boards and even take yoga classes. There are also ancient Mayan sites, spice farms and waterfalls you can visit within a day’s trip from Placencia. Further afield, you can visit Caye Caulker, Great Blue Hole, Caracol, Ambergris Caye or San Pedro. The local team in Belize also offer a Mayan Immersion weekend, which involves spending the weekend in a small Mayan village. You will have the opportunity to live in a traditional Mayan house and visit cacao and vanilla farms.
|Languages||English, Spanish, Creole|
|Currency||Beliza Dollar (BZD)|
Weather and climate: Belize has a tropical climate year-round which means visiting at any time during the year is enjoyable. December to February are the coolest months, the average temperature is around 75°F (24°C). The rainy season runs from June - October the average temperatures are around 81/82°F (27/28°C), with highs around 86/90°F (30/32°C). You can expect light winds out on the island year-round.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and upload a criminal background check to their MyIVHQ profile before arriving in Belize.
In order to participate on the Marine Conservation project, you must be a competent swimmer and have an Open Water Dive Certification. This certification can be obtained while volunteering on the island, or in advance of your trip.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.