Helping to protect the Caribbean – My visit to BelizeVolunteer Experiences / 23 February 2019
I have just got back from visiting our Belize Conservation project and am still wishing I could wake up each morning to the calls of the tropical birds!
This is an ideal project for volunteers who would like an unique experience, working directly with the forest ranger team to help protect the forest habitats. As a volunteer you get to experience day to day life with the rangers, from staying out in the forest lodges to exploring the national parks. You don’t need any prior experience as they local team will teach you everything you need to know, you simply need to have an interest in wildlife!
What makes this project extra special is the people, from the friendly ranger team to your weekend homestay family who make you feel right at home from when you first arrive. Silvia was an amazing home stay mum and cooked delicious traditional meals and cakes for me to try each day. It’s an amazing way to learn more about the melting pot culture of Belize and you quickly settle into the Belizean laid-back pace of life.
The region is beautifully diverse, from lush rainforest to tropical mangroves and pine savannahs. The rangers are great fun to work alongside and get to know, it’s a rare opportunity to learn so much about conservation and the ecosystems from such knowledgeable forest rangers.
I loved travelling along the coast by boat, through the lagoon and up river! The team have a very keen eye for birds and pointed them out and helped teach me to recognise the different species as we went along. By the end of the day I had learnt about and could identify the little blue heron, green heron, social flycatchers, great kiskadees, blue-gray tanagers, brown jay, great egret and yellow headed parrots!
I was so impressed to see how much the reforestation projects had improved the river banks over the last few years. Only 30 years ago a lot of the river edges were scrub land as a result of deforestation in the area. The reforested river banks now are home to large trees which helps to protect the soil from erosion and increases the biodiversity of the animals living in the area. I worked with the team to cut down the weeds around the newly planted trees to give the trees the best chance at surviving and growing tall, it was hot and sweaty work but rewarding to see the clearing along the bank when we finished.
We were very lucky as just up river from the new tree plots, we were greeted by a troop of howler monkeys. Howler monkeys are often seen in the area but the team were especially delighted as the group included several baby and young monkeys showing a healthy troop dynamic.
As we ventured up river I got to see many of the educational signs that my past volunteers had created. We visited the yellow headed parrot roost sites and nesting boxes and noted which ones will need to be replaced or relocated before the start of the next nesting session. On the way to the nesting sites we even spotted some fresh jaguar tracks!
There is so much on offer at weekend too, from visiting Mayan ruins, chocolate making tour, zip lining and tubing down the jungle rivers. On my day off I arranged to join an incredible chocolate tour with the team and visited Teressa at her home who runs a chocolate making session in her traditional Mayan village home. I learnt all about the Mayan culture in Belize, history of chocolate and even got to have a go myself at traditional chocolate making. The chocolate was honestly the best I have ever tried and I took some chocolate home for my family to try too (it look a lot of self-restraint to avoid eating it all before I got back home!)
If you would like to join the team Belize Conservation volunteer project then you can find out more on our webpage here: https://www.podvolunteer.org/projects/conservation-belize
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