Caribbean Conservation - Volunteer Reviews

BELIZE

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Caribbean Conservation project

Mick – 2017

“I had the most incredible time volunteering in Belize, I was exposed to so much more than quality conservation work. Staying with the nicest, most welcoming host family gave me unique and comfortable living arrangements during down time and the weekends. When volunteering I was kept busy carrying out projects both on sight and in the field. Working alongside local people making meaningful connections and friendships, this aspect made my placement especially special. I learned more than I could have imagined about conservation and environmental education in Belize while working on the field projects. Overall my time spent at the Belize Caribbean Conservation Project was well worth my time and effort. I learned lessons about the environment conservation work as well as lessons in personal growth that I will carry with me forever.

What did you find most rewarding?
Living with the host family, Working alongside the local Rangers

What did you find most challenging?
Adjusting to the climate, stepping out and being more communicative.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Having the correct equipment and being prepared for the heat, bugs and sun can make or break your trip.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
I chose Pod Volunteer because the reviews and project details seemed perfect for what I wanted to do.”

Carrick – 2017

“The project itself is really great. The people you work with are fantastic, and really knowledgeable about what they do.

When combining this to the wildlife project in Belize, I found there to be a huge difference. The Caribbean conservation project is more relaxed, with lots of down time, especially at the Creek base. Here you get up really early and get the majority of your work done whilst it is cool. Then in the heat of the day you tend to not do much, which is quite nice.

What did you find most rewarding?
Monitoring the yellow headed parrot chicks. Simply because I saw how the guys reacted when they realised they'd lost a chick from a nest. This made me realise how important the work was.

What did you find most challenging?
The down time. Although it was easy to get used to, the beginning was tricky.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Definitely do this project. But if possible I would 100% recommend you combine it with the other wildlife project. Then you can see and learn about the animals at the zoo, and go out into the wild and see how they're being conserved.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! Booked a combination of 3 projects in Belize, and had previously travelled to the Thailand elephant and other wildlife program. Was taking a gap year between school and university, so to be productive I wanted to volunteer abroad, giving me not only relevant work experience for my veterinary course, but some great life skills and new friends too.”

Kathy – 2017

“We volunteered for four weeks in Belize on the Caribbean Conservation project and we had a great variety of experiences, something different every week! Our first week was spent visiting local schools to look at their conservation projects and we helped the children plant trees. We also created a large banner to advertise Reef Week, organised by the project. After that we were on a mangrove-counting exercise on the cayes and stayed at the Creek base. Then we helped clear a nature trail, identifying trees and birds and creating signs and information for the trail, and finally we took part in a bio-diversity project.

Our host family was delightful and made us very welcome and we spent weekends exploring the town and on trips including kayaking, snorkelling and a visit to Guatemala. All our hopes and expectations were fulfilled, the staff at the project and everywhere were really friendly and helpful.

What did you find most rewarding?
Despite having no previous conservation experience we were keen to make a real contribution to the work of the teams, and they all made us feel valued and useful.

What did you find most challenging?
We were constantly doing things we had never done before, and were busy all the time, but this was what we hoped for!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Go with an open mind, the teams have a wealth of knowledge and you will be made very welcome.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! We were very happy with our previous volunteer experience through Pod, in India.”

Richard – 2017

A fascinating and varied insight into the work that the project are performing in the Toledo district of Southern Belize.

During our 4 weeks placement, we undertook various activities in support of the work the project are doing including reviews of environmental projects being run by children at local primary schools, surveying Mangrove growth across the southern Cayes, designing and making a banner to promote their annual 'Reef Week' event, Biodiversity studies on transects in their protected lands, clearing a Nature trail, producing signs and supporting information relating to the Flora and Fauna that can be seen on the Nature trail, watching and helping a Necropsy of a 'Permit' fish.

What did you find most rewarding?
The variety of work

What did you find most challenging?
Leaving at 2.30am to perform Biodiversity studies in the middle of the jungle.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
To see and experience the wide range of activities that the project are doing one should so for at least 3 or more weeks.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! Previous positive experience with Community Education project in India.”

Diarmuid – 2016

“One of my favourite aspects of this project is how immersive it makes the volunteer. I worked very closely with the local members of the team and really felt as though I was contributing. I spent 4 out of my 7 days working from the Big Falls ranger station about 14 miles outside of the town of Punta Gorda.

The setting was so surreal and picturesque. The main goal of my trip was biodiversity monitoring to ensure the health of the surrounding environment and ecosystem. I worked closely with the team to perform tasks such as bird-watching and monitoring that stations transect. I got the opportunity to work with a bird-watching veteran, who had 13 years experience. I got to see or hear almost 40 different species of exotic birds, majority of which are resident to the Belize ecosystem.

The rangers look after almost 22,000 acres of protected land in the Toledo district and have several transects that they must monitor once each month. It was fantastic to work so closely with such knowledgeable people. The transect was a mile long through the forest and had 5 sample plots. Between these we looked out for mammal footprints to identify the animals that were in the area. I did get to see a Jaguar footprint (not sure if I would have liked to see it in person or not) and the remains of a porcupine while walking between the sample plots. At each plot we would spend 10 minutes to identify the bird species in the area. This was carefully recorded taking note of distance and direction. This information is used to track the health of this ecosystem.

I couldn't rate the experience highly enough. Especially Curtis from the local team and Ms. Sylvia from my host family. They made me feel so welcome and really looked after me.

What did you find most rewarding?
This was the first time that I had travelled on my own. It was also my first volunteering experience abroad and first time in Belize. Each of which are a feat to themselves. In saying that, what I found most rewarding was experiencing the Belizean culture. Toledo is the most southerly district of Belize. It is also the least developed and gets little to no tourism. I found this allowed me to see the true heart of the country and its people. On my flight down I got to see the countries beautiful and mostly untouched landscape. All you could see is vast forests looking inland as far as the eye could see. Vastly different from my job as a software engineer I found it very rewarding not only to see the rangers day to day lives but to live it for 4 days. It was great to get away from technology and just appreciate the surroundings I was in.

What did you find most challenging?
As an Irish person I am fair skinned and not used to much sunlight or high temperatures. So the most challenging part was most definitely the climate. Spending a couple of hours out in the direct sunlight, even if the work you are doing isn't the most strenuous it is quite challenging. I found that I needed to take short breaks during the day where I rested so that I was ready for the next task and didn't get heat exhaustion.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
I invested in a Northface hat, shirt, light trousers and a canister to hold drinking water. I also brought Jungle Formula bug spray (highest strength) and factor 50+ sun cream. Belize can get quite hot and humid so it is tempting to wear shorts and a t-shirt when working with the rangers. This would be a big mistake. It not only exposes you more to the sun but also makes you more susceptible to getting bitten. So I would advise in getting some similar items of clothing to the ones I got as they were designed to be light and also protect you against sunlight as they had some form of SPF and from getting bitten. Bringing a suitable backpack to hold these is very handy too and means you are prepared at all times from when you leave.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! I chose Pod Volunteer based on the location and variety of programs on offer. I also could only afford to spend one week doing the volunteering. So offering this length of program is fantastic. Many other volunteering organisations require a longer commitment which at that time I could not do. Also, some people from my company had used Pod before and it was from our internal foundation team that I found out about Pod.

Thanks again to all the team at Pod. It was an amazing experience and I will definitely do another trip in the near future.”

Jeff – 2016

“While working at the Caribbean Conservation project, I had the opportunity to make signs and put them up in areas of reforestation. These were a variety of trees including FIG, BRI BRI, and a few others that were planted along the shores of the Rio Grande River. The reason these are planted there are the fruit are a source of food for the fish, and the leaves are some of the favorite snacks for the Hicatee Turtle, which is an endangered species in the area.

We also did some animal inventory survey's in the Jungle where we looked for animal tracks between posts, and stopped at each post to listen for certain species of bird as well. Great people to work with, and an amazing host family.

What did you find most rewarding?
Planting the trees and learning about their culture.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes. They helped organize the trip which was the first time I've done anything like it.”

Lizzy – 2016

“I would massively recommend anyone with any interest in conservation. It’s a fantastic organisation with really friendly people and every single day we did something different and interesting, ranging from making signs, surveying in the jungle, helping out with the summer camp field trips to sustainable farms and clearing jungle pathways with machetes. The rangers were constantly sharing their knowledge and lives with us and would point out things like birds to us.

A few highlights include holding a tiny turtle that we found in a puddle, going swimming by a waterfall and watching the sunrise over the savanna on an early morning trek into the jungle.

The homestay family was an absolute joy to be around and cooked the best food! It really helped me to feel more of a local and less like a foreigner.

On the weekends we did a variety of activities like chocolate making and visiting mayan ruins, but even just cycling around Punta Gorda next to the sea was enjoyable and beautiful and you very quickly learn your way around the town.

What did you find most rewarding?
Being able to experience research methods and techniques first hand that i will hopefully use later in life as i am going to be doing a geography degree. Aswell as this the Belizean people were so friendly and energetic which was lovely.

What did you find most challenging?
The biting insects like the sandflies were quite difficult to get used to. And the Belizean way of life can be a little bit slow so there was sometimes a bit of waiting around which at the start was a little frustrating but i soon got used to it.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Stay longer than you think you'll want to! I only stayed for 3 weeks and I wish I had stayed for a few more.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! Because it had lots of awards and affiliations with partners like Duke of Edinburgh which made me feel very confident in it. And unlike a few other organisation i had looked at, Pod didn't really have any bad reviews.

The contact I had with Erin before going on the trip was very useful and reassuring and she would always reply very quickly to all my questions. I really appreciate this and is one of the reasons i'd recommend Pod.”

Adam – 2015

“I had such an amazing experience with the program! I was down working with them for six weeks and I was able to learn more than just conservation. I was able to grow culturally, learn new skills and I even had time to sit back and relax and enjoy the many different sites of Belize!”

Jonathan – 2015

“This was a truly memorable experience. I went down there on my own for a short stay and everyone really went out of their way to make my experiencing interesting, relevant and fun. Everyone was knowledgeable and enthusiastic to talk about their work—I was amazed at how much they seem to be doing on such a skimpy budget. And Chez Muschamp was just the warmest place imaginable for a home stay—my fondest to Miss Sylvia and Mr. Julio! Punta Gorda must be the most welcoming town I’ve ever visited. Love their 3-finger wave—it perfectly captures their laid back friendliness.”

Hannah – 2014

“My 9 weeks have been one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences of my life. I can’t recommend the experience enough and hope one day I get to do it again.”

Emma – 2014

“One of my favourite things was getting to meet and work alongside so many different people. From the very start, everyone we met and worked with was so welcoming and so friendly, it really did feel like one big family.”

Alison – 2014

“My 4 weeks in Belize has to rank amongst the most amazing experiences of my (60 year) life. I felt privileged to be working as part of the community research team conducting ongoing valuable monitoring and conservation work. My experience has consolidated my studies from the first year of my degree course and increased my confidence for the second year.”

Find out more about the Caribbean Conservation project

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal