Caribbean Reef ConservationBelize

Our award-winning Reef Conservation project in Belize works to protect the reef, marine life and support scientific research worldwide.

You will assist the team by helping to collect data, monitor species and supporting conservation work. This enables the project to collect large quantities of data to assist the local government’s decision making regarding fishing in the area and how best to protect the area from the threat from invasive species and climate change. Divers of all abilities are welcome as training is provided while you are at the project.

Live on an idyllic private island in the Caribbean and explore the rainforest, Maya history and coastal towns in your free time.

Volunteers are needed to assist the team’s efforts to conserve the marine environment.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: Private Caribbean Island in Belize
  • Start dates: Every Sunday
  • Duration: 1 – 12 weeks +
  • Age requirement: 18+ (10+ for families or groups)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £995 / €1165 / $1275 - see fees table below
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The project is focused on conserving the environment and contributing to ongoing marine research in Belize. All levels of diver are welcome as everyone contributes to the project.

Volunteers are involved in marine conservation work whilst learning to dive, increasing diving skills or simply exploring the reef with the research team! With a small friendly team and the opportunity to live on your own tropical island, it really is a great way to experience and contribute towards the conservation of marine life in the Caribbean.

Each day will differ and you could be working in the following areas:

  • Fish and Coral Identification Dives
  • Lobster surveys
  • Queen Conch surveys (giant sea snail)
  • Reef health surveys - Coral Bleaching Data Collection
  • Reef habitat surveys
  • Lionfish population monitoring, spearing and research
  • Whale Shark monitoring – part of Project AWARE Whale Shark
  • Monthly beach clean-ups

The team will give you training in survey techniques, methodologies and identification skills before each task. By the end of the trip, you will be able to identify some of the magnificent coral, fish and algae in the Caribbean. After the dive conservation task has been completed there is often time at the end of the dive for fun, recreational diving. Advanced Open Water divers can explore the reef on night dives, with the stunning bioluminescence water light show.

Common marine life you will encounter includes: barracuda, butterfly fish, parrot fish, angel fish, dolphins, mackerel, lionfish, grunt, surgeon fish, moray eels, hawksbill turtles, sting rays, nurse sharks. If you’re very lucky you may see whale sharks, black tip sharks, manta rays, leatherback turtles and hammer headed sharks.

It is a great location for beginners divers to gain their dive qualification as there is good visibility and no strong currents.

PADI Dive Courses

At the project you may also choose to complete the following PADI courses:

  • Open Water
  • Advanced Open Water
  • Rescue Diver
  • Dive Master
  • Specialty Courses – Deep Diver, Fish identification, Coral Reef Conservation, Invasive Lionfish and Emergency First Response

Working days and hours

The project runs from Monday to Friday, during this time you will be living on the island and going out daily for research and conservation dives. There are normally around 10 dives each week.

Each day varies, but here’s an example of the daily schedule (Tuesday - Thursday):

  • 6.30am Tea, coffee, fruit and biscuits
  • 7:30am Dive
  • 9am Breakfast
  • 11am Dive
  • 1pm Lunch
  • 3:30pm Dive
  • 6:30pm Dinner

On Friday morning you will travel back to Placencia where you can spend your free time over the weekend relaxing.

Other volunteers

There are usually around 10-13 volunteers at one time with a maximum of 20 but this varies considerably throughout the year.

Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.

Volunteer reviews

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

Why are volunteers needed?

Volunteers’ primary role is to contribute towards the project’s on-going surveys, data collection and conservation work. They make a major contribution to the understanding of the reef ecosystem in the Sapodilla Cayes which is at the tip of Belize Barrier Reef, by providing additional resources, enabling more data to be collected.

Volunteers help to raise awareness of the importance of marine life and the research collected by the project team helps inform government decisions, as they regularly meet with the department of fisheries.

“Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine fish and the scientific community recognizes the need to work with non-scientists in order to help collect important data on these reefs. Volunteers do just that, help us collect the valuable data needed to help us monitor the health of the reef itself and its inhabitants”
Anthony, Project Director

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 live on a small private Caribbean island from Monday to Thursday which is at the tip of the second largest barrier reef in the world. This is a true ‘castaway’ island and is extremely idyllic and an amazing ‘get away’ experience as only the project team and volunteers stay here. The island is part of the Sapodilla group of islands, located in the south of Belize. It is a World Heritage Site and a marine reserve situated around 40km from the mainland.

Whilst you are on the island you can spend your free time in the hammocks, using the kayaks, snorkelling, playing volleyball, paddle-boarding or just soaking up the laid back Caribbean atmosphere.

Volunteers spend their weekends in Placencia, a coastal village located in southern Belize with 16 miles of sandy beaches so the weekends are a chance for you to have some internet catch up time, relax on the beach or explore.

If you would like to explore Belize there are a huge variety of things to do in your weekends from Placencia including exploring caves and visiting waterfalls, Mayan ruins or chocolate making tours. Whilst travelling along the rivers by boat or canoe you can often spot howler monkeys swinging in the trees as well as a huge variety of bird life. These activities are best booked locally once you are at the project.

Accommodation

During the week (Monday -Thursday) volunteers live on the island, staying either in the project house in a shared room or in one of the small, private, simple cabanas overlooking the sea. All rooms are clean and comfortable and have fans. The bathroom facilities are shared and there are communal areas to relax, eat and socialise in. WIFI is available on the island.

Weekend accommodation is not included but there are a number of options in the popular village of Placencia.

Meals 

All meals will be provided for you whilst you are on the island. Here are typical examples of the food you may have: 

  • Before first dive of the day - tea, coffee, biscuits, fruit
  • Breakfast – toast, eggs, omelette, beans and fry jack (Belizean doughnut) 
  • Lunch – pasta, rice and beans, tortillas, fried fish, salads 
  • Dinner – Traditional Belizean meals of burrito, rice and beans, ceviche, curries, pasta 

Vegetarians and vegans are welcomed and can be catered for.

Drinking water is provided on the island. 

Read volunteer reviews from the Caribbean Reef Conservation project

Gregory

“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.

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! Coming home was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”

Jill

“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 were so great - super helpful and informative, but also really funny and fun.

We loved diving and always felt safe and in good hands. I especially enjoyed the night dive and learning to spearfish. And I 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.”

Oshy

“My experience at Tom Owen’s Caye with the Belize Reef Conservation project went above and beyond my expectations. 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 was superb, had my confidence immediately and was dedicated 100% from the first minute to the last. I found myself learning more with every dive and in between.

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

Tony

“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).”

Read more reviews

What's Included?

Included

  • Dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist to support you
  • Return boat transfers to the island
  • Accommodation - Monday to Thursday on the island
  • Food - main meals on weekdays
  • Induction and conservation training
  • Dives - approx.10 each week
  • Scuba review (if you have a dive qualification but haven’t dived recently)
  • Use of dive equipment (you should bring your own wetsuit, mask, snorkel, booties)
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • PADI admin fee and PADI e-Learning course
  • Weekly World Heritage National Park fee
  • Airport transfers
  • Living costs - weekend accommodation and food, snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time

Dates

Start dates are every Sunday. The project is closed to volunteers between 1-29 Sep 2019.

What's Included

Included

  • Dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist to support you
  • Return boat transfers to the island
  • Accommodation - Monday to Thursday on the island
  • Food - main meals on weekdays
  • Induction and conservation training
  • Dives - approx. 10 each week 
  • Scuba review (if you have a dive qualification but haven’t dived recently)
  • Use of dive equipment (you should bring your own wetsuit, mask, snorkel, booties)
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • PADI admin fee and PADI e-Learning course
  • Weekly World Heritage National Park fee
  • Airport transfers
  • Living costs - weekend accommodation and food, snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time
Price table
1 week £995 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £725 GB Pounds

Discounts

  • £75 discount for every additional project you book as part of the same trip
  • £100 discount for any family members who are under 18
  • £75 discount if you have previously volunteered with Pod Volunteer 

Where the money goes - financial transparency

Your fee covers the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK, on a non-profit basis.  For more details and a breakdown of our costs please click here.

Book with confidence - financial protection

All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT). 

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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

12,000+

lionfish removed from waters

"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder

Gemma

Pod UK Specialist

Gemma has visited the project, apply and you'll hear from her soon!

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

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VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • Belize Reef Conservation volunteer – Betsy

    “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!”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Belize Reef Conservation volunteer – Dan & Ruth

    “We were so impressed with the whole experience. It was everything we expected and more. We learned; contributed; laughed; met incredible people from all over the world; and felt part of something greater than ourselves.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • Belize Reef Conservation volunteer – Eve

    “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.”

    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