My time at the Reef Conservation project in BelizeVOLUNTEER EXPERIENCES / 22 April 2013
Erin from the Pod Volunteer office was lucky enough to visit Belize in November to visit the amazing projects that Pod Volunteer works with there. Here she writes about her trip.
It was my first time travelling to Central America (the majority of my previous travel experience has been in Africa) and Belize was completely different by equally enjoyable. In this first instalment I describe my time at the Reef Conservation project.
Belize is a beautiful country with some of the friendliest people I have ever met. With strong Caribbean influences Belize has a relaxed attitude and slow pace of life which makes it a great travel destination. The island of Caye Caulker has the motto “go slow” which is excellent advice and this island is a fantastic option for visiting either in your free time during a volunteer placement or at the end of your placement.
After arriving in Belize I caught an internal flight to Punta Gorda. The flight itself was a breath-taking experience as you fly in a small plane with just 12 seats and get beautiful views over Belize; it’s the perfect introduction to the country watching the forests and creeks below. I was met with a lovely warm welcome by Jo from the Reef Conservation project and taken to the volunteer house to get a good night’s sleep before a busy week of diving!
The next morning we were up and ready to get to the island! After a delicious breakfast at the local snack shack we took the boat trip to the island. We were pretty unlucky with the weather and got caught in a storm, but it made the journey pretty exciting. We spent the journey trying to spot the island we’d be living on and then, like something out of a film, the clouds parted and a ray of sun shone down on a small island and we had dolphins by the side of our boat! Simon (who would be our dive instructor) proudly announced that this island was going to be home for the next week!
One thing that I have to mention about this project is the food! Throughout the week, we ate the most amazing food which was all freshly prepared by the project’s cook including chicken curry, nachos, burritos, lobster and lionfish fish fingers.
As a beginner diver, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but learning to dive off a private island in the Caribbean was definitely the perfect introduction to diving! The project staff were patient and knowledgeable and by the end of the week I had gained my PADI open water qualification. The other volunteers and I also learned about the conservation efforts of the project and learned to identify local fish species.
My first dive as an open water diver was my favourite of the week. As we were no longer practising skills, we were able to take in the beautiful underwater scenery. The clarity of the water was incredible and we were able to put our fish identification skills to good use. We saw barracuda, a nurse shark and a hawksbill turtle as well as numerous other fish species and a large variety of coral species too.
At the end of the week we took the boat back to Punta Gorda and while my fellow volunteers looked forward to their next week on the island, it was time for me to head back to Belize City so that I could visit our next project.
To read about my second trip to the project, please click here: https://www.podvolunteer.org/blog/my-return-to-the-reef-conservation-project-in-belize
To find out more about the Reef Conservation project please see the following link: http://www.podvolunteer.org/projects/marine-conservation-belize/
And don't just take my word for it, read previous volunteers’ experiences at the Reef Conservation project