Caribbean Reef Conservation - Volunteer Reviews

BELIZE

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Reef Conservation project

Marcus - 2017

“It was a fantastic project and communication through Pod was excellent. This project exceeded expectations, the tiny island really is paradise. There was something amazing to see on every dive! The main emphasis is on the Lionfish programme which is extremely important in conserving the reef! However there was also dives for fish and coral identification as well as conch surveys. The level of teaching there to beginner divers was very good with a lot of emphasis on buoyancy. On the weekends it's free time and I would highly advise going on a tour, I found the monkey river tour was well worth it to see howler monkeys, crocodiles, manatees and more!

Overall I found the project rewarding and relaxing as lots of diving meant lots of hammock and volleyball time to remove excess nitrogen.

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding part was dissecting the lionfish we had speared. It allowed us to see what they were eating and so what we are protecting.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging part was getting to sleep when it was very hot and humid as I went in the summer, however fans are provided.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
It is well worth it, my only regret is that I did not stay longer!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? A reliable not for profit organisation that present the projects well. They kept in touch and were encouraging but not pushy in any way.”

Emma Southall - 2017

“I absolutely loved my placement. The diving was exceptional and staying on such a tiny island was a unique experience. I learned a huge amount about the ecosystem and thoroughly enjoyed the conservation aspect of the trip. The people were great - a nice mix of ages and nationalities but we were all united by our passion for diving and biology. Willie and Marco were fab - good fun, full of knowledge and experience they were both happy to share and very easy going. The staff on the island were also friendly and helpful.

What did you find most rewarding? Being around such like minded people / improving my diving skills.

What did you find most challenging? Leaving !

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Do it.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? It ticked all the boxes - diving, conservation, small group of people = much more personal experience

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Dane, Trinh and Maya – 2017

“Sometimes I look at experiences and descriptions of projects online and imagine they have done some work in glamorizing or overselling their product. Then, one visits and it doesn't live up to the hype. However, with this project it was definitely not the case. My expectations were very high going in and they were definitely exceeded. The work, food and accommodations were all well beyond what I had anticipated.

What did you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding was being able to learn so much about scuba and all the ocean life. Spearing the lionfish, dissecting them and eating them was also a highlight. The staff in the island were also very rewarding to get to know.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Do it! It is surprisingly tiring but will be an unforgettable vacation. Your money is being put toward a great project and cause. My wife, daughter and I all had a great time.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend?
Yes! They were very supportive with our questions leading up to and during the trip.”

Tony – 2017

“Excellent holiday, very smoothly handled by Erin at Pod Volunteer with good quality and relevant information.

Tom Owens Caye is a charming, tiny island surrounded by coral reefs, fantastic for snorkelling and scuba diving either from the shore or after very short boat rides. The food is good, the staff are friendly and the accommodation is basic but fine. The island is free of mosquitoes and there is plenty of shade from the coconut palms to laze in the hammocks.

The diving is beautiful, with coral, the occasional ray or shark and lots of fish in a warm (27 degrees C) sea and good visibility. The operation is smoothly run with tailored training built into the conservation work - I did five speciality dives for an Advanced Open Water Certificate easily within a week (12 dives over the week in total).

What did you find most rewarding?
Seeing an Eagle Ray swim right over us on a night dive, illuminated by our torchlight

What did you find most challenging?
Remembering how to control buoyancy, but the frequent dives helped this a lot.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
This is a great diving holiday. The conservation work is a nice add-on but if this is important to you then you may want to offset the carbon impact of the flights as well.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend?
Yes! Cheapest way to book the holiday. Great support from Erin before the holiday.”

Nicole – 2017

“I wasn't sure what to expect but I could not say enough about how positive my experience was. I had no idea what to expect but my expectations were low. I was pleasantly surprised by how patient everyone was with this beginner diver. I worried for nothing!

What did you find most rewarding?
Learning about the life of the reef, fish identification made the experience so much better

What did you find most challenging?
Buoyancy control! But was terrific when I finally felt like I was making progress

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
You will not be disappointed. Take a rain jacket. Take reef safe sunscreen and a hat and plenty of spare batteries for your underwater camera!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend?
Yes! Had a project where I wanted to go doing what I wanted to do”

Simon – 2017

“The people, island, food and actual "work" far exceeded my expectations. I have learnt new skills and knowledge. A fantastic experience and one I want to do again. Thank you to all involved in making this trip possible.

What did you find most rewarding?
Helping out this very pro active project team

What did you find most challenging?
Only my own perception of what was in stall. Soon eliminated after the first day.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Do it!!!! No need for shoes, flip flops ample, also don't need spare towel, just buy bottled water before island and use this bottle.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend?
Yes! Found via search engine.”

Kasia - 2016

"My volunteering adventure with Pod Volunteer was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. The time on the the island helped me improve my diving skills. I also learn a lot about the Marine Conservation in Belize and challenges its employees are facing everyday. I also appreciated the hands on experience, how to conduct underwater research and reduce amount of lion fishes.

The employees of Pod Volunteer went out of their ways to make our stay unique and enjoyable. The key to making my experience unforgettable were the other volunteers I met on the island. It was incredible, how these people from around the world, created a warm and curious community working hand in hand underwater, discussing social and environmental issues and enjoying time together. I hope some of these friendships from the island will become friendships for life!

What did you find most rewarding?
Spending time with other volunteers and common purpose we were working for.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
It's a great adventure and definitely worth doing! If you can, join for 2 weeks!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Enjoyed the initial interaction with the team, their dedication to provide excellent level of service.”

Bianca – 2016

“My experience on the project was also really good. Although my first week was cancelled due to the first hurricane the country had experienced for 5 years(!), the second week on the project made up for that. We were taken to many different reefs, carrying out different surveys and seeing all the different things the charity does to care for the coral reefs surrounding the area. Also learning to free dive which was great fun. The people who work for the project, Frank, Polly, Marco and Willie were friendly and knowledgeable, and willing to help in any way they could.

I have already carried out volunteer project with other companies, but I have to say POD has been the best one. I would definitely carry out another project with them again in the future The level of organisation and support you get is great and makes you feel reassured when travelling to a country you have never visited before.

What did you find most rewarding?
Getting a direct hit on the lion fish when spearing! Also getting to see the beautiful coral reefs surrounding the island.

What did you find most challenging?
Learning how to spear the lion fish.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Do it! It’s such an amazing place and a beautiful country. How many people can say they have lived on a tiny tropical Island for 2 weeks?

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend?
Yes! I always wanted to go to Belize and when I saw they offered a scuba diving marine conservation project, I thought I would give it a go. Thank you for a great experience. I will definitely be going back to Belize and Tom Owens Caye.”

Jill – 2016

“Our trip to the Reef Conservation project was so much fun and I so enjoyed the diving and meeting so many great people.

The staff was amazing! The ladies in the kitchen were so sweet and consistently produced the most delicious meals - the food was outstanding and they were very accommodating of any dietary restrictions. The diving staff (Marco, Willy and Robert) were so great - super helpful and informative, but also really funny and fun. We loved diving with them and always felt safe and in good hands. I especially enjoyed the night dive that we took with Marco and Robert, and learning to spearfish from Willy. And I also really enjoyed getting to know the other guests. It was so fun to spend a week with like-minded people and to have the time to really talk about hang out together.

There was a lot of laughter during the week and it was nice to combine our love of diving with the opportunity to help with reef conservation at the same time.

What did you find most rewarding? Getting to know the other guests and the staff - everyone was so nice and it was really fun hanging out all week together. It was also cool to be able to do something to help the environment while doing something we loved (diving!).

What did you find most challenging? Cold showers after chilly dives!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? It's pretty physically demanding, but if you love diving, this is for you.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! From the reviews and the information that I learned about the organization from the website. Erin at Pod was great - super responsive and helpful, always willing to answer my questions, and so proactive about communicating updates and reminders.”

Isaac – 2016

“The reef conservation project was a great experience. I learned many useful things i'll use every time I dive or go snorkeling. Some of those things are fish identification, coral identification, lionfish knowledge, conch knowledge and much more.

The crew was very helpful with everything and would give you lots of feedback about how you could improve and what to do next time. The accommodations were good and the food was always amazing, you weren't ever hungry or disappointed.

I loved my time at this project and would definitely consider going back for an extended amount of time.

What did you find most rewarding? Being able to help provide information for the surveys.

What did you find most challenging? Leaving

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Make sure you are up to lots of work, 3 dives a day is tiring.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! Because we found it on the internet”

Briana – 2015

“Tom Owen's Caye was such a beautiful place to be located and Tom and Hailey (the dive masters) are such sweet people who just want to make sure that you are enjoying your time.

The volunteer work was fun, spearing lion fish, measuring levels of bleach in conch shells, etc. I would 100% recommend this volunteer trip to anyone who wants the luxury of being located in a beautiful place but as well do interesting work.

What did you find most rewarding? The dive masters and the location!

What did you find most challenging? Transportation was a little rough, taking an hour boat ride to the island and back to the mainland was a little strenuous

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Make sure to bring a lot of bug spray and bring a frisbee to play with other's on the island!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! Found Pod Volunteer on Google”

Erin – 2015

“I learned a lot about the coral reef ecology in Belize, both through the diving excursions and pre-dive presentations. I really enjoyed practicing my fish identification skills and the island atmosphere was very fun as well as relaxing. I met a lot of really interesting people with a variety of passions and it was great to all intersect on the same conservation project smile

What did you find most rewarding? My favorite part was translating the lessons we had on land into real observations under water!

What did you find most challenging? Diving takes a lot of energy!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? It's very very diving focused (the daily schedule revolves around 3 dives a day) so maybe consider if that amount of diving is right for you since the island is very small and diving is the main activity.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! I was looking for a way to spend my holiday learning, helping, and adventuring and the Belize Conservation project seemed like a great match for my interests! Thanks for helping me organize my trip!”

Chris – 2015

“The best way to gain experience is to volunteer through Pod, be & feel part of a team.

Made very welcome & part of the team from the beginning. Genuine people who clearly love what they do.

What did you find most rewarding? Being part of a team & helping with marine conservation

What did you find most challenging? Coming home - didn't want to leave

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? If there's something you want to do-go. The experience is unique to you & you will feel a better person for your contribution

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! Been with Pod before, they knew my travel details & I felt safe knowing they were there if I had any queries. Massive big thank you to Tom & Hayley who made the placement memorable & enjoyable”

Oshy - 2015

“My experience at Tom Owen's Caye with the Belize Reef Conservation project went above and beyond my expectations.

I was traveling alone and not sure what to expect so my curiosities, apprehensions and excitement were all abound. Luckily I was met with immediate professionalism, warmth and an obvious love for the project from those who run the show themselves.

My primary dive instructor Hayley was superb. She had my confidence immediately and was dedicated 100% from the first minute to the last. The activities and routines themselves were all worthwhile and I found myself learning more with every dive and in between. I was able to obtain my Advanced Diving course while participating in the usual activities such as lion fish spearing and surveys.

The island and accommodations itself are quite magical. The main structure is lovely and my balcony was just steps away from the water. We went night diving under a full orange moon and saw phosphoresce underwater!

Being a vegetarian, I was concerned I wouldn't get proper eats with all the energy we were burning with 3-4 dives a day but Adrian took very good care of us and I was always nourished with yummy dishes. The rest of the staff was friendly, attentive and knew their stuff.

I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone who wants to immerse themselves into the world of the reef while helping the creatures beneath.

What did you find most rewarding? The feeling of becoming part of the background in the big beautiful sea while passively observing and helping the animals.

What did you find most challenging? Maybe the first dive of the day as we start very early but it’s a great way to wake up. Also, I have never done more than 2 dives a day so 4 dives sounded like a lot initially. However, by the time we were onto the night dive, I found it a very relaxing way to end the day and my body was up for it no problem.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Coming with a goal to expand my certification and knowledge was really advantageous so if there's any training one is interested in, take advantage!

However I was only there for one week and if I did it differently I would add on another week to increase my time to just be present in such a beautiful place and lessen the bookwork in between dives.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! I really like how POD and the Reef Conservation project consider their roles environmentally and take that in consideration during the entire process. We didn't use electricity during the way, we had simple seawater toilet plumbing and rainwater plumbing for everything else. I would love to see them continue their involvement in that process.

I read great reviews and was impressed with how many programs and concerns this group takes on. Upon first contacting Pod, I was still considering other options, however my placement manager Erin was extremely informative and responsive right away. That helped sway my decision to go with Pod... Thank you for the special experience!”

Eve – 2015

“Absolutely amazing project! The island is paradise and the dives are so much fun! All the research is really interesting and it doesn't feel like work at all. Knowing you are helping conserve the reef is such a great feeling. The marine life is outstanding and every dive you see something new.

What was a typical day at the Reef Conservation project? Get up around 6am, fruit then first dive, breakfast then second dive, lunch then third dive and relaxing in between and after in the hammocks, playing volleyball etc!

Dives include fun dives, fish surveys, conch surveys, lobster surveys and lion fish spearing. Also usually a lion fish dissection sometime during the day.

What did you find most rewarding? Helping on all aspects of reef conservation, especially lion fish spearing because during dissections you could see the number of eggs you prevented from being released.

What did you find most challenging? Getting up at 4.30am for a predawn dive, but it was worth it!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Get involved with everything!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? You'll have a great holiday while helping the country you're going to, and come back having done something so worthwhile!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! Great support and a wealth of information. Cheapest supplier of this project.”

Betsy - 2015

“The Reef Conservation project was an incredible experience!! I felt so well looked after, as it was my first time diving. But also the project itself was really fun. It was great to learn so much about the ocean as well as dive. Feeling that you were contributing was great! Another thing I´d like to add too is that the food on the placement was SO good!! You can´t get enough of it.

What was a typical day at the Reef Conservation project? Wake up around 6, have tea/small snack and usually go for the first dive around 7:30. After that a huge and delicious breakfast, (around 9:30) after which there was either a briefing of the next dives of the day or just relax until the next dive, which was generally around 11:30. Lunch at 1:30 or so and then the last dive of the day was usually 3:30. After that it was just relaxing time and hanging out with people, playing volleyball... The days seem pretty simple, but there´s always new things happening on the dives and on land so it´s never a dull moment!

What did you find most rewarding? Doing the lion fish spearing and dissecting as that felt like a more direct contribution (that we could make) to the problems the coral reef in the Caribbean face. This because we´re doing something so concrete and also seeing a direct result of our actions with the knowledge that we are directly benefitting the health of the coral reef.

What did you find most challenging? First learning how to dive. It was really scary at first, and it took some tries to get over the initial panic I felt.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Stay there for as long as possible. Not just because it´s a great place to be, but to allow yourself to really get into the diving. It takes a while, especially if you´re learning to dive there like I did and if you´re learning it´s nice to have the time to really practice your skills from the start.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it´ll be the best chance you have to not only contribute to the world around you and make a difference, but also to learn SO much about yourself. It´s really a good way to start traveling too, if you´ve never travelled much before or if you´re traveling alone.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! On first glance because they had such a diverse range of projects, unlike a lot of other agencies I looked at who focused on a similar theme or type of project. They all seemed so different and interesting that it was hard to choose!

What made me stick by this decision was the excellent contact and information which the people working there provided me with. It made me feel like I really knew everything possible about the choices I was making and gave me a lot of confidence in the projects and the organization I was going through.”

Nick - 2015

“The Reef Conservation project was an extremely rewarding experience, not only was I able to gain my Open Water diving qualification in a relaxed and friendly environment, I was able to work first hand with a growing conservation project.

The project values the work of its volunteers and ensure everyone on the project is making a contribution. Finally I was lucky enough to meet and work with people from all over the world with very similar interests to myself; I would definitely recommend this project.

How’s life on the island? The island is amazing thanks, just getting into a few skills dive for the open water course. All the instructors and people on the course are very friendly. The first week was incredible, lucky enough to swim with two whale sharks!

What was a typical day at the Reef Conservation project? Wake up at 06:30, first dive at 07:30 then breakfast, second dive at 11:30 then lunch following, third lunch at 15:00 then free time until dinner around 19:00. Free time on the island was taken up by either snorkelling around the island, playing volleyball with the other volunteers or reading books including those on Caribbean fish or invertebrates to improve your knowledge.

What did you find most rewarding? The lionfish spearing, lionfish are an invasive species that are disrupting the ecosystem at a fast rate. Reducing their populations can have a real positive influence that I felt proud to be contributing to.

What did you find most challenging? Controlling my buoyancy whilst diving, as a new diver this was very difficult especially at first. Buoyancy is very important to control as well to ensure you don't touch or damage any of the surrounding coral.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Make sure you budget well for the weekends on the mainland and try to do the placement by yourself. Being on your own forces you to interact with others on the placement more which is very rewarding.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? As well as boosting the CV it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all over the world and get more connections. Finally it's a relatively cheap way of travelling and learning about different cultures.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! It came up on my university's vacancies page and once I had read up on Pod Volunteer I was very eager to carry out a placement.

Thank you for everything you did during the build up and on the placement. Everything ran smoothly and I thoroughly enjoyed my placement.”

Lisa – 2015

“A big thank you to Pod and Reef Conservation team and my scuba family on Tom Owen's Caye for all fun + warm island memories. It was the best gift I could give myself.

We got a nice warm welcome from Spot, the island pooch, and 3-5 minute tour around the island (literally). The secluded/private island made it that much more exciting and intriguing to get started with the day. It was one of the most memorable trip and New Year's Eve!!!

Went out spearfish fishing for lionfish, free dive with a 25ft whale shark, saw a school of dolphins, tested for underwater navigation, and enjoyed a night full memorable stories + laughter. I reflect in gratitude towards my time in Belize, as it was nothing short of a whirlwind of fun.

What did you find most rewarding? Meeting new divers that is just as passionate as you are with helping out the reef conservation.

What did you find most challenging? Getting a wet wet suit on!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Give yourself enough time to plan for everything you need for the trip.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering abroad gives us a different perspective in so many levels from lifestyle to culture.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! A friend of mine was looking for organization to participate and found Pod, she told me about it. Pod Volunteer is a leading non-profit organization arranging ethical, inspiring and supported volunteering opportunities around the world and I want to be part of that organization.”

Marcus – 2014

“It was great! Everything was incredible!  I had a great time and feel I made a worthwhile contribution! People and diving were great. Thank you.

It is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable volunteer opportunities I have ever been involved with.

Everyone at the Reef Conservation project was terrific! I can't say enough about how nice and helpful Polly is. And all of the people there are very nice and cool. It was a great experience. Just incredible diving combined with the opportunity to help make a difference. I made some friends there as well.

What did you find most rewarding? The scuba diving was great. Learning about the sea life, and then applying it during dives was great.

What did you find most challenging? Free diving for lobsters.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do it. If you are already certified, you will get into your dives right away (I was). If you need to get certified, there is instruction for those people.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? See the world. Help others and our planet.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to a friend? Yes! It had the Reef Conservation option. Also, because I had a sense that it was well-run.”

Edward - 2014

"The quality of dive instructing was absolutely fantastic. All of the dive team really really helped us to understand what was involved and learn to dive safely. The atmosphere in which we learnt was relaxed yet structured and supportive.

The entire team, both ex-pat and local were some of the nicest people I've met, who all gave you their full time & attention and with whom you could always ensure a laugh (and a couple of games of volleyball).

I liked that safety was always paramount at the project which was very reassuring as a novice diver. When it was too choppy to go out on the edge of the reef the safety of divers was never compromised and so where possible, we always found a safe place to dive nearer to the caye.

What was a typical day volunteering at the Reef Conservation project? Get up early morning for tea/coffee and fruit around 6-6.30. Go diving around 7am. Come back and have a cooked breakfast. Next learn some fish identification/how to conduct lobster surveys/how to spear lionfish/lionfish dissection/various other reef conservation activities. Around late morning go on another dive. Come back for lunch around 1pm. Then more conservation educational activities. Then another dive around 3/4pm before coming back and dinner around 7pm. Evenings would involve reading, filling out your dive journal, study for your dive certification, a game of volleyball or just hanging out with other volunteers and staff.

What did you find most rewarding? The sense of achievement in learning to dive and feeling like I was having a direct impact on the preservation of such an important ecological area.

What did you find most challenging? Saying goodbye to all the wonderful people I met. It really was a fantastic experience.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Go for it! Be prepared for the possibility of a wet crossing when going to the island on the boat. Bring a couple of books so you have something to do in the rare quieter moments.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? The sense of assurance and well-being that it brings knowing that you are having a direct positive impact on the life of the planet and others less fortunate than yourself.

Why did you choose Pod? I have volunteered through Pod before and the variety of projects offered coupled with their impeccable service is second to none."

Kathleen - 2014

"Rated “Very Good” for all, I would have given an “Excellent” rating if it was an option!

Both Pod and the Reef Conservation organisation were outstanding. The dives were incredible and the Tom Owens Caye absolute paradise, I was afraid I would be a grandma amongst 20 year olds but the experience was not at all like that. The age group of the volunteers was quite mixed and everyone was very inclusive. The description by Pod was totally accurate about what to expect. And Polly who runs the reef project is without a doubt a wonderful advocate for the ocean environment and sustainability. I highly recommend a 2 week stay to get the most out of the experience.

What did you find most rewarding? Gained so much knowledge and appreciation for oceans and reefs

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's fun and wonderful to meet other travelers from all over the world and native peoples. Great way to travel and do your small part to better the world

Why did you choose Pod? Found it on internet and felt it was from the beginning very helpful, informative and philanthropically focused."

Dan & Ruth - 2013

"Overall, we were so impressed with quality of the whole experience from logistics to staff to the "work". The volunteer / "citizen scientist" experience was everything we expected and more. We learned; we contributed; we laughed; we met incredible new people from all over the world; and we felt a part of something greater than ourselves. One of the most striking things about this trip was that there were no hassles or bumps along the way. No stress getting from location to location and everything, from food to supplies to support, magically just seemed to be right where and when we needed them without us even having to think. That does not just happen -- it is a sign of great planning, organization, and coordination. Thank you Pod and the Reef Conservation project -- you are both class organizations!

What is a typical day at the Reef Conservation project? Wake to birds chirping. Dive briefing, boat ride to site, beautiful dive, eat, learn. Step and repeat at least 2 times (night dive one day) with laughter, smiles, and meaningful data collection thrown in for good measure! The learning all lead to the "work" and we ended each day exhausted, full of purpose, and oh so ready for peaceful sleep!

What did you find most rewarding? We loved that we could learn, apply that knowledge, and then contribute the body of data that will help scientists/agencies support a healthy reef, local economy, and keep everything in balance.

What did you find most challenging? The boat ride to and from the island – we were unlucky and there were storms.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be prepared for a wet ride to and from the island (we had no rain gear)

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? This trip gave us a new perspective on something that we have been doing for a long time -- we have a new understanding and appreciation of the delicate balance of the reef -- how it supports economies and needs care.

Everything was so seamless that we did not even realize there were transitions from one place and one day to the next.... And that does not just happen -- that is a sign of well-managed, well-coordinated, meticulously planned event. Perfectly executed."

Gregory - 2013

“My time in Belize was so amazing! It was the best experience of my life! The diving from the island was absolutely phenomenal! The staff were so much fun and knowledgeable that I felt completely safe underwater the entire time. Everything about the island was perfect. They made sure I was well fed as a vegetarian, my cabana was great, we had island volley ball tournaments and lots of laughs about the differences of Canadian and British cultures.   The people I met – both staff and volunteers – were so great. I miss them so much already. Looking back I realize that what made the trip so special was every single detail was something new and exciting and something I experienced with great people. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity I did!   I honestly believe the whole experience was absolutely perfect and so much better than I could have expected. Very good is certainly an understatement!

The diving was absolutely phenomenal! The staff worked very closely with all of us individually to make sure we got the most out of our dives. Knowing I was down their with them made me feel 100% safe the entire time. I have never seen anything like the living environment of the reefs. The island was fantastic as well. Although very small, I much preferred my time there to five star resorts I have visited. The meals we were fed were excellent every day, and I was very impressed with how well I was accommodated as a vegetarian. While we were not diving, our time was spent lazily in the hammocks, playing island beach volley ball tournaments and snorkeling along the shore. Every single person I met was amazing. Both the volunteers and staff. I miss them so much already and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to share all my experiences with them. Coming home was one of the hardest things I've had to do.

What did you find most rewarding? Seeing new dive sites, new creatures and experiencing it all with people I had become very close to in a short time was an indescribably rewarding experience. Knowing that I was making a real contribution to the conservation of the reef while doing coral checks felt fantastic.

What did you find most challenging? Leaving the island and people behind was so hard to do. But, with early mornings and several dives a day they could be physically tiring at times - although that just meant an earlier bedtime!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Take any worries and doubts you have and throw them out the window. The experience I had and people I met is unparalleled to anything I've done before. It was a life changing experience.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering abroad is the best way to make direct social or environmental change where the results of what you are doing are immediately visible. It is a way to take in new cultures and experiences while improving the issues of the area.

Why did you choose Pod? I first discovered the Belize Reef Conservation through Pod. Everything that Becky had done in preparation for the trip made the whole experience so much smoother. The Volunteering Guides I received included everything I needed to be prepared which optimized my experience.

Thank you so much for everything you have done for me for this volunteer trip. I wouldn’t have been nearly as prepared without your help and my experience couldn’t have been the same. I appreciate all your quick answers to my questions and communications with the project as well as booking my flights etc. I will definitely turn to Pod for future volunteering!"

Lisa & Heath - 2012

"We enjoyed our diving so much, each dive was amazing. Every time I thought, "Wow, that was a once in a lifetime experience!", then we would go for our next dive and I would think the same thing! We enjoyed a dolphin swimming with us on our first open water dive!; observing a giant sea turtle lounging on a ledge for several minutes during our 2nd dive, spotting a sperm whale on the surface after our 3rd dive, having giant spotted eagle rays swim with us on almost every dive!; getting to spear lionfish, traveling over giant barrel sponges, getting to watch them filter feed using a non-toxic dye; seeing eels on several of our dives, barracuda, swimming with a whale shark; being up close and personal with the spiny lobster; doing a night dive and enjoying the bioluminescent fauna lighting up the sea, then surfacing to the stars lighting up the sky. It was an unbelievable experience.

The project team were great!!! They welcomed us with such personal hospitality. You usually go somewhere on a trip and really do not know anyone there except for who you came with. This is not the case with this reef conservation team. They were awesome!

We were given an excellent overview of several species and issues surrounding their niche in their habitat including the parrotfish, lion fish, lobster, conch, triggerfish, Nassau grouper, and others. We focused on the Queen Conch for most of our conservation training and learned how to take various measurements of them. We enjoyed being able to work together to take actual data and see our training come alive in the field. We had an excellent, thorough PADI Open Water course. We felt extremely knowledgeable and confident with our new skills. Simon, the dive instructor, did a great job going over our knowledge reviews, quizzes, and final exam with us each step of the way checking for our understanding.

As for Tom Owens - WOW! The only surprise we had on our trip was how amazing the island is! Pictures can't show how beautiful and wonderful this little piece of heaven looks and makes you feel when you are there.

The food on the island? WOW, WOW, HOLY COW!!!!!!! The variety of wonderful dishes seemed to never end!! Becky was our contact at Pod, and she quickly answered any and all questions we had. She sent follow-up emails as the time for our trip approached. She also checked on us when we arrived in Belize to make sure that everything was going well, and checked on us once we arrived home. This was one of the best experiences we have ever had. Thank you to the project team for being so awesome."

Maurice - 2011

“All I can say about the Reef Conservation project and Belize is it was amazing! I had a wonderful time in a really beautiful environment. The people in Belize and the ones working for the Reef Conservation project are absolutely fantastic and I made a lot of new friends. Living on Tom Owens Caye was a great experience and it felt like a paradise island. Usually there are 11 dives a week which allows you to see lots and lots of underwater life. The food during the week is definetly high-class and the lobster or the cottage pie is one of the guests favourite smile I'm glad I chose this programme and recommend it to everyone who enjoys diving, protecting nature and a relaxed way of life!

What is a typical day at the project? The day starts with a 7.30 dive, afterwards a great breakfast and then some time to relax or learn for your PADI course. The next dive is at about 11.30 usually lion fish spearing or a conch survey. Then everyone gets together for lunch and some card playing or hanging out. Later at about 3.30 the last dive of the day starts and after that usually volleyball games are going on while dinner is being prepared.”

What did you find most rewarding? Being so close to marine wildlife (dolphins, rays, turtles, sharks) - Fishing - Living the island life.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Just do it!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? New experiences, more confidence and getting to know new people.”

Susan and Stuart - 2011

“We have come away from the project with vastly improved fish recognition skills and understanding of coral reefs and some amazing diving memories. All this has been possible by the unique opportunity that the Reef Conservation project offered to work alongside a crew that really know the reef, looked out for our welfare and comfort and tailored the experiences offered to our interests.”

We have come away from our time on the island with some fantastic memories - we have swam with whale sharks and dolphins, we have dived some fantastic coral gardens and walls, explored new dive sites, experienced the string of pearls, honed our diving skills - all accomplished as members of a small group. What's more there were plenty of opportunities to talk about what we were seeing - both Polly and Stacey (Marine Biologist) were always willing to share their considerable knowledge. The other members of the crew were equally great. And we got to stay on a beautiful island at the edge of the barrier reef and to sleep to the noise of the ocean and wind through the palm trees - it does not get better than that.”

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? We were really glad that we went for more than one week - there is so much on offer!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Because Pod provided the assurance we were looking for about the project which gave us confidence to apply and book.”

Emma - 2011

“Diving was a completely new experience for me, I’d never even snorkelled before, but after the two weeks, it a part of me and I’ll definitely be adding to my dive log book – hopefully for many years to come. I’m buzzing about this experience because there isn’t one negative. Best decision ever made.

I came to learn to dive and to take part in as much conservation as I could during my time as a volunteer. And that I did. Polly takes her tuition seriously and you get a first rate qualification from her. I went from barely being able to carry out the first confined dive tasks on the first day – to gaining my Open Water at the end of the first week and my Advanced Open Water at the end of the second week. It was a massive learning curve and I genuinely never felt rushed, or out of my depth (excuse the pun). Polly is also very patient and by the second week I was taking underwater photographs and joining in the underwater races, without my fins on. Learning was an amazing buzz and one that got better and better with each dive, as I became more proficient and was able to appreciate just what an amazing world was around me. As a first timer I don’t have a reference of comparison for the dive sites, but if near perfect visibility, stunning coral, an abundance of fish and sea life and the fact we never saw one other diver or even dive boat ever is enough to go on – I’d say I was pretty lucky to have this as my first experience.”

What did you find most rewarding? It was so rewarding having a job to do whilst diving. It made me a better diver, as I was concentrating on the task in hand and not over thinking my buoyancy! It was also really special to dive in such a remote location - we never saw any other divers. It felt as if we were genuinely part of a secret world and not an invasion in it.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It changes you for the better. You experience cultures you otherwise wouldn't and you really appreciate what being a human being on this special planet is all about. Everyone should do it at least once - even if you aren't confident about travelling, with the support of a company as professional as POD, you will gain confidence and open up a whole other world of travel and experience for yourself.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? I luckily came across Pod from a google search and the company's professionalism showed straight away from the content and information on the website. I would definitely recommend Pod. I had no problems at all and felt safe in their hands.”

Michael - 2011

“Polly and the boys run an absolutely amazing island that is as close to paradise as one could hope to be. The diving is relaxed, safe and spectacular, especially the string of pearls. The island is just the right size to feel totally isolated and I was in love with the place within a day. Suitable for any level of diver.

What did you find most rewarding? The whole thing, the people, the diving, the isolation.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Just do it! And do the night dive!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Found it through a simple internet search looking for diving conservation and I would definitely recommend it to others, and indeed already have.”

Renee - 2010

“The Belize reef conservation project was an amazing experience. Belize is breathtaking on its own, but when you include the exceptional diving sites and conservation, it feels like there is no other place I'd rather be. From dawn to dusk, I loved every minute of it. After my first day on the island, I was already planning my next return trip. Polly and her crew were exceptionally friendly, accommodating and professional. Polly's enthusiasm and work ethic to run a project which allows others to become involved and develop their knowledge and skills is inspiring. Thank you for a trip I will never forget. Definitely a must!

Pod had a very informative website and were very prompt in answering any other queries. They followed up on all of my concerns which made for the whole booking process and travel experience stress free. What a trip!!"

Amy - 2009

“If you are considering going out to Belize and spending time volunteering, stop considering and just GO! I had the best month of my life.

The diving is amazing and Polly is so enthusiastic about conservation. I did not realise how little I knew, but rest assured she is doing a grand job in sharing her knowledge and passion.

The weeks spent on the island are unbeatable. A real Caribbean dream. I did my Rescue Dive course and my friend did her open water and learnt so much. I cant think of a better place to learn or improve your diving skills. The dive sites are abundant with marine life and there are never any other divers there...diving heaven! Polly dedicates a lot of time and energy in teaching her guests about marine life identification and how life works and survives under the ocean. You will definitely come away as an informed and knowledgeable diver. Doing the surveys is also great. I felt empowered being involved in the work but never under pressure.

Fantastic dive training. Felt really safe and trusted Polly and her equipment. Her training on reef life and conservation was brilliant and so informative."

Hannah - 2009

“I had an amazing time in Belize and would not hesitate to arrange another trip back (maybe a one-way trip!). The diving was second to none, Polly and the team were amazing and I gained so much from my training. An incredible experience.

Island accommodation was basic, but clean and private, and you could hear the sea from your bedroom which was lovely.

I loved the reef checks and other surveys we took part in; they were really interesting.”

David - 2008

“Thank you for a wonderful time. I want to spend hours and hours on the reef observing all the life. I’ve been given a taste and the feeling of more is strong! I’ll be back. Polly, thank you for the instruction, I felt so safe at all times and learnt so much in such a short time, you were great. Loved hearing about life underwater, the coral, the reef creatures and the fish. Keep up the great science work. I’m already trying to plan a return, thanks”

Find out more about the Reef 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