Caribbean Reef ConservationBelize

Our award-winning Reef Conservation project in Belize works to protect the reef and 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 / €1095 / $1235 - see fees table below
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

This award winning project is focused on conserving the environment and contributing to ongoing marine research in Belize, working alongside the Belizean government to monitor and protect the reef ecosystem in the Sapodilla Cayes at the tip of Belize Barrier Reef.

Your primary role is to contribute towards the project’s on-going surveys, data collection and conservation work. You will be involved in marine conservation work whilst learning to dive, improving your dive 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 and habitat survey 
  • 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 skills before each task including identification of the magnificent coral and fish in the Caribbean. After the dive conservation task has been completed there is often time for fun, recreational diving. Advanced divers can explore the reef on night dives, with the stunning bioluminescence water light show.

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

Dive Courses

All levels of diver are welcome as training is provided while you are at the project. You need to be an Open Water diver to participate in the conservation work so you will complete this course first if you haven't dived before. It is a great location for beginners as there is good visibility and no strong currents.

While on the island you can also choose to develop your dive skiils by taking additional PADI courses:

  • Specialty Courses – Underwater Photographer, Deep Diver, Fish identification, Coral Reef Conservation, Invasive Lionfish
  • Advanced Open Water
  • Rescue Diver
  • Dive Master

Typical day

On the first Sunday that you arrive into Placencia you can explore the village restaurants and beach before meeting the team on Monday morning and travelling over to the island together by boat. Once on the island you will have an orientation and certified divers will do an initial refresher dive.

From Monday to Friday you will be living on the island and going out daily for research and conservation dives. There are normally around 10-12 dives each week in small groups and also one night dive for Advanced divers.

Each day varies, but here’s an example of the daily schedule from Tuesday to 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.

Other volunteers

There are usually around 6-18 volunteers at one time with a maximum of 20.

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.

Local support

Volunteers are supported by the island dive team including dive instructors Selina and Willie. They both are PADI dive instructors and Willie is also a marine biologist.

Accommodation

During the week (Monday - Thursday) volunteers live on a private tropical island. Volunteers will either stay in the project house in a shared room or in a small private cabanas overlooking the sea. If you would prefer to stay in your own room you can request to stay in a cabana. All rooms are simple but comfortable and have fans.

Volunteer house on the islandThe bathroom facilities are shared and there are communal areas to relax, eat and socialise in. WIFI is available on the island.

Reef Conservation volunteer house

Weekend accommodation (Friday-Sunday) is not included but there are a number of options in the popular coastal village of Placencia.

Meals 

All meals are 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. 

Location 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.

Reef Conservation island

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

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 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.

Dive conditions

Water temperature: 26-29°C

Visibility: 15-30m

Depth range: Usually 10-18m, sometimes up to 40m for Advanced divers. There are around 30 dive sites which you access by boat or from the shore.

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.

Travelling in Belize before or after your placement

Belize is a tropical small country on the Caribbean coast nestled between Mexico and Guatemala. It has a relaxed vibe and is 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:

  • Visiting the Maya ruins
  • Exploring the jungles
  • Diving the famous Blue Hole

For more information on Belize and some of the things we loved when we visited there please see our Belize country page. This also features all our other Belize volunteering projects as you might like to consider combining this project with one of the others we offer to make a trip of a lifetime!

Belize Mayan ruins

Climate

Belize has a tropical climate meaning that it’s generally hot and humid all year round. Temperatures usually between 15–35°C, averaging 26°C but due to the humidity (approximately 85%) it can feel much warmer. The cooler months are from December to February. The dry season with higher temperatures runs from March to July whilst August to November normally sees the heavier rains. 

Dates

Start dates are every Sunday. The project is closed to volunteers from 30 August to 27 September 2020.

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. 10-12 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

Read volunteer reviews from the Caribbean Reef Conservation project

Frances – 2019 

“This was an amazing opportunity to spend time on a tiny but beautiful island in the reef conservation area of Belize barrier reef. I felt incredibly lucky. The diving was great fun with nurse sharks, sting ray and unfortunately plenty of lion fish to spear. 

I am an advanced diver already but there is the opportunity to obtain your open water or further qualifications whilst you are there and where better to do this!”

Fred – 2019 

“If you wish to volunteer for any project, this is a great way to go. You are well prepared for your project and there are no surprises. The advanced information is spot on with regard to what you will accomplish and what is expected of you. 

Every aspect of the trip unfolded exactly as I expected. If I were looking to volunteer again with one of my grandchildren, this is the only way I would do it.

If you love to dive and want to contribute sign up and be prepared to have a great experience.”

Andrea - 2018

“My volunteering experience was everything I had been hoping for and even more! I loved living on a tiny island and scuba diving all day in such a remote and beautiful place.

The conservation work was fun and interesting and I learned a lot about coral reefs and the creatures living in them. During my 2 weeks’ stay we spotted several nurse sharks, turtles, octopuses, moray eels and an eagle ray.

The staff were amazing, I felt completely safe diving with them and enjoyed doing my Advanced Open Water certification. I also loved meeting so many like-minded people from all around the world and sharing this experience with them.”

Faye - 2018

“It is a beautiful little island and after only four weeks it became a second home. I miss it already! Instructors Willy and Pete were amazing both on the island and under the water; 10 out of 10.

The diving was fantastic with wonderful coral and so much wildlife: turtles, sharks, rays, and much more. Hardly a day would go by without me suddenly squeaking underwater after sighting something spectacular.

I really felt I was helping the environment with every lionfish I speared because I was preventing the birth of potentially millions of harmful organisms." 

Read more reviews

90,000

lionfish removed from the ocean

"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.

Apply

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