Caribbean Conservation

Belize

Our award-winning Caribbean Conservation team in Belize protect the local ecosystems, their research findings guide government legislation and decision making to protect the environment.

You will assist the local team in monitoring and collecting data on a variety of native mammal, amphibian, bird and plant species including turtles, manatees, yellow-headed parrots and frogs. The project works closely with the local community, providing them with knowledge, awareness and incentives to be environmental stewards. Volunteers enable the project to collect a greater amount of data and increase the amount of reforestation in the area.

Explore the stunning waterfalls, forest and jungle surroundings in the wild “forgotten” Toledo district whilst promoting the wellbeing of the local environment.

Volunteers are needed to assist the conservation team’s efforts to preserve the ecosystem.

Apply

Key Info

key info
  • Location: Toledo District
  • Start dates: Every Sunday
  • Duration: 1 – 12 weeks +
  • Age requirement: 18+ (12+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £945 / €1105 / $1210 - see fees table below

Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

From the lush rainforests of the Maya Mountains, to the coral reefs of the Snake Cayes, the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor encompasses 830,000 acres of some of the most pristine ecosystems in the entire Mesoamerican Biodiversity hotspot. 43 distinct ecosystems provide habitats for 108 mammals, over 350 birds, over 100 reptiles and amphibians, and more than 50 species of global conservation concern. The project collects data on specific species to guide the management of these ecosystems.

Training in research methods and conservation activities is provided and is delivered by project staff members who are experts in their fields.

Volunteers spend their time at one or both research bases; Creek Base or River Base, depending on the needs of the project at the time. Each day will differ and research activities are weather dependent, volunteer tasks may include:

  • Transects to monitor mammals and birds
  • Camera trap downloads and monitoring
  • Yellow-headed parrot raising (if required) and monitoring *
  • Hicatee turtle tracking **
  • Manatee monitoring from boats *
  • Amphibian monitoring
  • Cutting areas of transect
  • Construction (if needed) e.g. creating educational signs, helping to build boardwalks
  • Fire management *
  • Reforestation **
  • Education outreach **
  • Maintaining nature trails **
  • Assisting with the project’s community children’s summer camp (2 weeks in July) **
  • Data input

* Creek Base only
** River Base only

As the research is carried out in a wild environment, volunteers are not hands on with the animals. Click here for more details about the volunteer role.

Working days and hours

You will volunteer for 5 days per week (Monday to Friday) between 8am and 5pm on standard days, 4am - 3pm if doing bird point counts or sometimes night shifts e.g. 8pm to 4am for certain species e.g. Hicatee turtles. There are breaks throughout the working day (or night).

At around lunchtime each Monday you will head out to the research base by boat with the research team. The boat ride takes approximately 1 hour to the Creek Base or 30 minutes to the River Base.

From both bases, at Friday lunchtime you will head back to Punta Gorda where you will spend the afternoon completing data input and you can then spend the weekend relaxing or taking part in some of the amazing free time activities that Belize has to offer.

Other volunteers

There are usually around 1-4 volunteers at one time with a maximum of 4. Volunteers work alongside local experts in the field; Belizean scientists, educators and park rangers.

Volunteer reviews

Read about volunteer experiences and challenges in our Belize Caribbean Conservation reviews.

Why are volunteers needed?

Volunteers enable the project to sustain and expand its vital conservation and development efforts by having more people out in the field. Volunteers carry out important field research, education and conservation actions that are making a significant contribution to the project’s mission: protecting wildlife and its habitats, raising awareness, empowering local communities and sustaining natural resources. This means all volunteer activities make a real contribution to the management of these spectacular areas and benefit the people who live closest to them.

“Our science and ranger teams work tirelessly, protecting some of the most pristine and diverse ecosystems in Central America. There is always work to be done and it is a constant struggle to achieve our goals with limited resources. Our volunteers help us to bridge that gap, by providing additional support on the ground where help is needed most, ensuring that we continue to sustainably manage our rich resources for tomorrow.”
Caroline, Project Manager

Closure dates

The project is closed to volunteers between 1 - 15 Oct 2017 and 17 Dec 2017 - 6 Jan 2018 and 25 Mar – 7 Apr 2018.

Location, free time and accommodation

Belize

Belize is a small country on the Caribbean coast nestled between Mexico and Guatemala. It is a relaxed country and a great place to volunteer and explore the beautiful scenery and diverse nature.

With over 60% natural forest cover, and 40% of its land area under protection, Belize is one of the most pristine countries in the world. Popular activities in Belize include:

  • Diving at the Blue Hole
  • Visiting the Maya ruins
  • Exploring the cayes (offshore islands)

To find out more, see the Lonely Planet Belize.

Local area and free time

You will be based in the Toledo District which is in the south, it is Belize’s least developed, wildest district. It is one of the few places left in Mesoamerica where you can still see unbroken forest stretching across the horizon.

Creek Base is a rustic field station within a National Park, located in fragrant pine savanna by the banks of an intricate lagoon system where manatees are a common sight. Mammals and bird life are abundant, and endangered yellow-headed parrots are your alarm clock!

River Base is a rustic field station nestled in the jungle on the banks of the Rio Grande within the Private Protected Lands. Here, howler monkeys are regularly heard and crocodiles can be seen basking in the sun on the riverbanks. Travelling upriver to the field station is described as being ‘like entering the Lost World’, and staying here is a great way to get back to nature.

Whilst you are at the research bases, there are no local amenities so it is a relaxed atmosphere where volunteers spend their free time playing football, volleyball, relaxing with a book and getting to know the local team.

At the weekend, you will return to the mainland town of Punta Gorda, this is a chance for you to relax, have some internet time and eat out. It is also a great opportunity to sample laid back Belizean village life in your homestay.

There are lots of activities in the local area of Punta Gorda. With over 15 years of experience providing tours, the local team in the conservation office will be happy to help you, they know all the best spots! Volunteers also receive a 15% discount on these tours. These activities are best booked locally once you are at the project.

As Toledo is known as the “forgotten district”, there are very few tourists and you will often have these places to yourself with your tour group and experienced guide. These activities include exploring the Maya temples, visiting waterfalls, making your own chocolate and zip-lining through the jungle tree tops where you may spot howler monkeys and a huge variety of bird life.

Accommodation

During the week you will be located on site in the protected areas which are a boat ride away from Punta Gorda.

If volunteers are working at the Creek Base they will stay in simple accommodation within the protected areas. All rooms are shared and basic, but clean and comfortable and have fans. The bathroom facilities are shared and there are communal areas to relax, eat and socialise in. If volunteers are working at the River Base they will stay at the homestay (details below) and travel to the Base each day.

At weekends all volunteers stay on the mainland in a family homestay. Volunteers have their own room or share a room with one other volunteer. Bedrooms are allocated on a single sex basis. There is WIFI available at the homestay.

Read volunteer reviews from the Caribbean Conservation project

Lizzie

“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 with 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.”

Diarmuid

“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. 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.

It was fantastic to work so closely with such knowledgeable people. 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. 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.”

Kathy

“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 created a large banner to advertise Reef Week, went on a mangrove-counting exercise on the cayes, 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. 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. All our hopes and expectations were fulfilled, the staff at the project and everywhere were really friendly and helpful.”

Jonathan

“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.

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.”

Read more reviews

What's Included?

Before you go:

  • Carefully selected and vetted volunteer project
  • Support from our friendly and highly experienced Pod UK team
  • Single point of contact - Lucy is your dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • In-depth volunteering and planning your trip guides
  • Travel information - visa, health and safety advice
  • Help arranging criminal records checks
  • Access to specialist travel insurance at exclusive rates
  • Recommended travel agency for flights and tours
  • Access to special deals and resources
  • Fundraising guide and support
  • Financial protection for monies paid to Pod

On your placement:

  • Conservation volunteering placement
  • Airport pick up (Punta Gorda)
  • Return boat transfers to the research base
  • Accommodation
  • Food - all main meals
  • Induction and conservation training
  • Bicycle for use during placement
  • Mobile phone for use during placement
  • T-shirt
  • Onsite support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Incident Management and Emergency Response Plans

On your return:

  • Contact from your Pod Volunteer Specialist
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required), criminal records check. Budgeting guidance is provided in our Volunteering Guide which we will email you when you apply.

Pod Volunteer is run as a non-profit organisation. Fee levels are set to match costs and any surplus monies are distributed to the projects we work with via the Pod Charity.
Price table
1 week £945 GB Pounds
2 weeks £1445 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £445 GB Pounds
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Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com

22,000

acres protected

"Pod is a no nonsense volunteer organisation looking to change lives"Cian

Lucy

Pod UK Specialist

Apply and you'll hear from Lucy soon!

We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.

Apply

VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • Belize Caribbean Conservation volunteer – Adam

    “I had such an amazing experience! I was able to learn more than just conservation. I was able to grow culturally, learn new skills and even had time to relax and enjoy the many different sites of Belize!”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Belize Caribbean Conservation volunteer – Alison

    “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.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Belize Caribbean Conservation volunteer – Hannah

    “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”

    Read more volunteer reviews

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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