Caribbean Wildlife - Volunteer Reviews

BELIZE

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Find out more about the Caribbean Wildlife project

Jen – 2017

“This was the first time I had done anything like this and I loved it. Everyone at the Wildlife Centre made me feel welcome. I was kept busy with different jobs to do and if they were doing anything specific with certain animals I was always invited to observe or lend a hand. It was very hands on and the staff were very knowledgeable on the animals they cared for. The staff at the accommodation were very friendly too. They were able to help me plan my trips for the weekend and knew the times for buses to get to different places. As a vegan I wasn't sure what I would be able to eat but they fed be so well and even made me vegan cakes for dessert. I was looked after very well!

What did you find most rewarding?

Being a part of a great team caring for the animals.

What did you find most challenging?

Nothing really. Just the time difference initially between there and home.

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

Use the Facebook group to find out if anyone is there when you are. I did and it meant we got to know each other in advance. Make sure you have plenty of bug spray and after bite care

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

Saw good reviews during a Google search.”

Sophie – 2017

“Before I departed on my adventure to Belize to join the Belize Caribbean wildlife project, everyone from Pod were extremely helpful and answered all of my questions that I had, no matter how silly they seemed. Once I arrived in Belize, I was overwhelmed by everything the heat, the time zone, being far from home, etc… But the guide’s and staff at both where I was staying and at the centre, were all very really friendly and welcoming and they quickly put my worries to ease.

Although the work was hard work at times especially in the heat, I got loads out of it and it was well worth it. Just to be able to work with the range of animals they offered, especially as I’d never worked with any of them before especially the Jaguars. I learnt loads about the different animals, some of whom I had never heard of before attended the placement and grown to love throughout my time there. This was the most amazing month ever and it went way too quickly, I would defiantly recommend Pod to anyone looking to volunteer abroad!!

What did you find most rewarding?

What I found most rewarding was, working and learning about a completely different range of animals than I had worked with to back home in the UK.

What did you find most challenging?

What I found most challenging was trying to communicate home to my family, due to the time difference (7 hours) especially as I was out there for a month.

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

If you're interested in a project and you really want to attend it, definitely go for it everyone is extremely helpful before and whilst you are there. They will make you feel at home and advise you on the best places to go and also what to stay away from. So just attend the project if you want to, you’ll never regret the choice.

Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see changed?

Nothing, everything was amazing.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?

I chose Pod because it was the most informative website with exactly what you would be doing and was a really good price for what you got out of it. Thank you for letting me do the Caribbean Wildlife placement, I can't recommend it more!”

Kyla – 2017

“Everything was amazing, I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

The Caribbean Wildlife Project was the most amazing experience I have had in my life up to this point. I couldn't have asked for a better team, support group, or leaders. POD helped me with any questions I needed constantly and replied back quickly, I never felt nervous or unsure and I was travelling on my own for the first time. Once I arrived in Belize I was greeted with kindness, the workers went above and beyond to make me feel welcome the entire time I was there. The zoo keepers, made sure I was comfortable yet treated me as if I belonged there, it was an unreal experience.

Helping with the animals was a heart warming feeling, you get to know each of their stories and understand why they are there and why they need our help. I fell in love with so many species and learned so much about so many different animals. Every day was a new adventure and each day was more exciting than the next. My only regret is not staying there longer. I can truthfully say I will be back to do it again.

What did you find most rewarding?
I found that helping out the animals, and making sure they felt comfortable and were always fed and happy was the most rewarding thing. Especially with knowing they wouldn't be able to survive in the wild.

What did you find most challenging?
The most challenging thing about the project was coming home, it went by way to quickly and I did not want to leave. The second most challenging thing was the birds in the morning, I have never heard a louder set of birds.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
If you are considering this placement make sure you take light, breathable, long pants and extra bug spray. Also do not go with any expectations, each day is different than the next. You never know what to expect at a day at the project.”

Gabrielle – 2017

“This was my first time traveling alone so I was understandably nervous, but volunteering at the Caribbean Wildlife project was one of the best experiences I could have asked for.

Getting in contact with POD was so simple and everyone was great with answering any questions. They were all very supportive and accommodating, and the same can definitely be said for those at the project. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and I still miss them.

Despite not knowing anyone when I got there, I never felt like I was alone. The other intern and the staff were great. It was something I was concerned about because I didn't arrive in Belize all too comfortable to travel around by myself, but even the other guests staying at the TEC were nice to talk to. Don't worry though, you still have the privacy of your room if you need time for yourself.

I did travel on my own a bit, but it was also great having someone else experiencing it with you. Weekends are off and I suggest traveling around. I didn't have any plans and I found that it was actually for the best. This way I could go out with the other intern and get recommendations from the people I met. I wasn't stressed for time and was able to fit a lot in my stay in Belize despite my week days being full. If you are traveling alone while there, don't worry, the people at the TEC will help you plan your trips. They know so much more than the travel books you will bring, so I suggest talking with them to get to know special tours.

Concerning the accommodations, they are very nice. I had my own room and everything was very clean. The bathrooms and showers are outside your dorm but it never seemed like an issue. Yes, I had geckos and ants watching me shower, but is such a big space it didn't bother me. You have to expect some critters to come into the rooms so I suggest keeping doors shut, though they were all harmless.

As you can probably tell, I only really have positive things to say about this placement. It was fantastic and definitely worth it.

What did you find most rewarding?
All the work with the animals. Being able to feed them and interact with them so close was amazing. I feel so lucky. It's easy to tell the keepers really love all the animals there and being a part of that team was something I'll always remember.

What did you find most challenging?
The day I arrived in Belize and the TEC was probably the most difficult because, at least personally, it wasn't what I expected. Not in a bad way, but because of my anxiety it was slightly overwhelming. Nevertheless, when I got started I was very comfortable and I was really happy with the accommodations and work.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! Because of the placement in Belize and how helpful everyone way when I was getting ready for the placement.”

Hannah – 2017

“Since returning home from my four week stay in Belize I have found it incredibly difficult to sit down and get words to paper of just how incredible the experience was. I have no favourite animal, no favourite memory or favourite experience because it was all so fantastic.

Upon arrival I was greeted by a member of staff from the TEC, shown to my room and introduced to the two other interns already there who were able to give me a description of what they had already been doing. It all sounded fantastic and I couldn't wait to start!

My first day and everyday after did not disappoint. The Keepers made me feel so welcomed and appreciated, I still keep in contact with them and hope to receive regular updates on the animals. You will rotate working with the different Keepers who are managing the different animals, so you will get the opportunity to work in all areas of the Zoo.

All the information given by POD should be read through carefully before deciding whether it is the right placement for you, but I can't imagine anybody not wanting to participate!!

What did you find most rewarding?
Working closing with the 5 month old Baby Spider Monkey. She really just needed human contact and the keepers are all so busy with other duties that they often felt like she was being left alone too frequently. I was happy to sit with her and keep her company. There were also two weeks where the keepers were too busy in training or with the vets to prepare the everyday foods and they really expressed their gratitude when the interns were able to independently prepare everything.

What did you find most challenging?
The most challenging was the repetition of rice and beans followed by cake every day. The food was always good, just after 4 weeks I was on a rice strike!!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Definitely don't allow the negative news stories of Belize to put you off the country. I always felt completely safe and never uncomfortable.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends?
Yes!”

Nigel – 2017

“If you love animals /birds go, just to see what’s involved. The animals though in a zoo live as close as possible to being in a natural environment. This is explained to us that unfortunately these animals/birds cannot be released again into the wild for various reasons.

Please bare in mind obviously the weather is warm and at times humid, couple that with the
working environment chopping fruit and meat and tidying animal enclosures can i suppose make it difficult at times ,but the keepers are great and you can have a great wind up with them if you get on there right side. So just be cool and laid back but don’t fall over. Also with time off at weekends you can get across country by local bus which is cheap but remember to get to your destination in good time you should leave early in the morning, also the buses are less frequent on a Sunday. Hope that helps. Go see Belize.

What did you find most rewarding?
Working with animals /birds you would never normally be able to get close to or even see and as I’ve said before teaming up with the keepers and having that crack

What did you find most challenging?
Coping with the weather when it became humid

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Please bare in mind the heat and the working conditions will be different to the UK and not as clean but for me these kind of things make it because it is different we should all get out of our comfort zone

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! I thought it looked a knowledgeable organisation where you felt you would be helping in some small way”

Jane – 2017

“To volunteer at the zoo, you will need an open mind, not be too attached to creature comforts, and be willing to get in and get dirty. It's an amazing experience and you will meet all kinds of interesting people, at the zoo (staff and guests) and at the TEC.

One of the best perks of being a zoo intern was being allowed to go where the staff go - behind the scenes, feeding, cleaning and enriching the lives of the rescued animals.

What did you find most rewarding?
Working with an abandoned baby spider monkey closely.

What did you find most challenging?
The bugs, heat and humidity. The road to and from the TEC was very rough, especially in the rain and the bikes are not comfortable or tailored to taller people.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Bring long sleeved light colored shirts, be prepared to always wear long pants, and be flexible. It's an amazing experience!

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! It came up when I was looking for animal style volunteer options.”

Sarah-Jane – 2016

“Before my trip I found the Pod team very helpful. They answered any questions I had with more than enough information and replied to all emails extremely quickly.

While volunteering I had such a memorable experience. Everyone I met was so friendly, happy and full of knowledge about the zoo and animals. They had such a passion for what they were doing that it soon rubbed off on me. I worked with a wide range of animals and no day was the same. Everyone there never seemed put out by interns and they always answered any questions I had about absolutely anything to do with the zoo, people or country. I can't praise them enough for the work they do and just how welcoming everyone was. Three weeks seems a while before I went, but leaving seemed very hard and I will think about the zoo and keepers offer and will without a doubt keep in touch.

What did you find most rewarding?
The animal work - never thought I would see and work with animals as quickly as I did. From jaguars to toucans to boa constrictors, I had experience of all zoo areas and still can't pin point what would be a favourite.

What did you find most challenging?
Bug bites, however this had nothing to do with the placement and more to do with a hurricane. I wasn't the only one to suffer and the team at the zoo did everything and more to help me, including changing my mattress and taking me to a pharmacy, it wasn't a problem whatsoever.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Perhaps take a mosquito net - but this may depends on the time of year. Other than that, follow the pack list and don't read too much into the volunteer guide, as it's nice to discover things as you're there.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! I found Pod online and looked at other companies but found they had the best options, reviews, prices and awards. They have very much lived up to all of these!”

Nick – 2016

“It was a trip I will not forget. Great for my future and for my personal and professional life. I have taken away much more than I would expect, I couldn't be happier. I'll be doing it again soon.

My time in Belize and at project was the time of my life! I was able to fulfill a life dream and meet some amazing people along the way. Meeting Sharon was a dream, as she has done and continues to do for so much to conserve the natural world.

I loved my time here. I was here for 4 weeks and was extremely happy about my accommodations and the atmosphere around me. It is a great opportunity to absorb the culture and the importance that Belize plays in conservation. This program drives that home. Worth every penny and I'd do it again and again!

What did you find most rewarding?
The most rewarding thing to me was being about to work closely with the native species of Belize and Central America.

What did you find most challenging?
The more challenging things along the trip was adapting to temperature and climate

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Go in with an open mind and educated in what the mission statement is for the zoo. This is a growing opportunity and should be seen as an opportunity that not many people get to do.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends?
Yes! Cost and program. This was exactly the experience I was looking for.”

Brooklyn – 2016

“I had a fantastic time, I will remember it for the rest of my life.

I spent 4 weeks at this project, and it was an incredible experience. I learned so much and had way more fun than I would have staying in a touristy resort. The keepers expect you to work, but they also know you're there for the experience, so they go out of their way to make sure you get to interact with all the animals and do "fun" stuff as well.

A typical day was breakfast at 7am and biking to the zoo at 8am. I would then get assigned a section (birds, mammals, front cats, back jaguars) and start working on food prep. The rest of the morning was usually feeding and cleaning, depending on the section. We got hot lunch at the zoo delivered every day from the TEC, and it was a good time to relax and get to know the keepers. After lunch was more food prep, and whatever tasks were left for my section, such as enrichment or observations of the animals. We finished around 5 and biked back to the TEC. After a day of chopping buckets of chicken legs or cleaning out tapir pools, you will have the best shower of your life! Dinner was at 6pm, then we'd usually hang out in the dining area (the only place with wifi) and relax until bed time.

For the vegetarians out there, worry not, the food is incredible! They have some of the best fake meat I've ever tasted, and they came up with lots of varied and delicious dishes.

What did you find most rewarding? Everything about interacting with the animals was rewarding. It was great watching them chow down on the food you just prepared, or run around the exhibit you just cleaned. My favourite job was doing enrichment with the animals. We did all sorts of things, like hiding pieces of meat, or spraying boxes with a special perfume and watching the cats destroy them. It was fascinating to see how they reacted.

It was great getting know the staff. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and helpful. I looked forward to lunch every day when we would all play card games or solve puzzles together on our phones.

I learned so much and gained a new appreciation for the animals and culture of Belize.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be open minded, and bring your energy. There's a lot of work to do, and you'll get the most of your experience if you take initiative and are willing to do any kind of task.

Take advantage of your weekends! There's Mayan ruins, zip-lining, cave tubing, horseback riding, canoeing, and snorkeling on the islands, just to name a few. If you're nervous, just talk to the staff. They have good suggestions and can help out with bus times.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! It seemed like a responsible company, and I appreciated being able to read all the first hand volunteer reviews before picking a project.

Thank you for a fantastic month!”

Kadri – 2015

“The two weeks I spend in Belize was really like a little dream for me, finally got to do the hard work I daydream about.

Working in the centre was a very good experience thanks to all the amazing people who taught me so much. All the keepers are lovely and very friendly.

Working with animals takes patience and lot of love, care and understanding so if anything go there with open heart and mind.

Thank you POD for creating opportunities like this and accepting me to this program! Also Sharon, what you have done is absolutely admirable, bless your heart for all your kindness towards the ones who can’t speak for themselves!

What did you find most rewarding? The whole time in Belize was one big reward. It’s defiantly a good place to get over yourself and be there for all the animals who need love and care.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Expect nothing and go there with a positive attitude and willingness to work hard and learn. A must when going there is to wear long pants, I didn't and learned my lesson with tons of bug bites on my legs that itch like crazy.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! You had the best options! Thank you Erin and Gemma! I wish the whole POD team a beautiful new year!”

Jacob – 2015

“As someone who hopes to study zoology and work with animals in the future, this was an incredibly rewarding experience that allowed me to get up close and personal with numerous animals native to Belize. The placement was also an excellent opportunity to observe Belizean culture, which while being very different reminded me of my own every day.

As this was my first time travelling alone I was understandably nervous, however the pre-placement support from POD made me fully prepared and the staff at the zoo/TEC were friendly, welcoming and supportive. The accommodation was also very comfortable, and the food better than I could have hoped.

I would recommend this placement to anyone who is passionate about animal welfare, and look forward to returning to Belize at the earliest opportunity.

What did you find most rewarding? Being able to interact with and help improve the lives of the various animals. My favourite task was putting together an earth-filled box for a coati to play with, as he couldn't dig in his enclosure. He was very excited, and absolutely loved it.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Don't be afraid to get messy and throw yourself in to daily activities, and be aware that conditions will likely not be as comfortable as home.”

Kayla – 2015

“This was my first time travelling alone, and I don't think I could have picked a better place to do so! Everyone at the zoo and the TEC were so friendly and inviting. People were always there to help and provide support. They truly care about your wellbeing.

One of my favourite parts about my experience besides getting to work with the animals was getting to learn about the culture and being able to interact with the people on a personal level. You can definitely tell that all of the staff at the zoo genuinely care about these animals which is great to see.

Learning about how each animal ended up at the zoo was so interesting to hear. I was very surprised by the amount of wild animals that had been kept as pets. Getting to be up close to these beautiful animals was amazing. It was such a unique and rewarding experience!

Having the weekends off was great as it gave me time to explore Belize. The ATM cave was my favourite, and if you're not claustrophobic I highly recommend doing it as it absolutely beautiful! The Mayan Temples, cave tubing, and zip lining were also a lot of fun!

What was a typical day at the project? I would have breakfast around 730 and then bike to the zoo. I would then be assigned to a department - jaguars, mammals, birds, or education. When assigned to the animals, the morning included doing food preparation, which involved cutting up chicken, fish, vegetables, and fruits depending on which department you were in. Then we would go feed the animals.

After that was lunch. When there was cleaning to do it would be usually done in the afternoon. There would be more food preparation and near the end of the day you feed some of the animals again and lock up.

When I was with the education department I would observe animals and collect data. It was a lot of fun because I got to see how they behaved over a period of time. For example, when I first got there the baby spider monkey was still staying very close to its mother, but by my last week there the baby was much more independent. It was really nice being able to see how the animals progressed! Some days I also cut up some fruits and vegetables so I could let the guests feed some of the animals like the tapirs, spider monkeys, and the toucan.

What did you find most rewarding? Working with the staff and getting to interact with the guests was a lot of fun! Being able to answer some of the guests questions and provide them with information was rewarding. I really enjoyed letting the guests feed the animals and seeing the smiles on their faces. Being able to work so close to the animals and learning about them was a great experience! Knowing that you were helping this amazing zoo and making a difference was especially rewarding!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Get out of your comfort zone and do it! I'm so proud of myself for doing it and it was definitely a rewarding experience!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's so much different than travelling and just going to a resort. Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to really experience the culture. I really enjoyed getting to know some of the people on a personal level, and being able to talk to them about their experiences in life. Volunteering abroad is a great way to explore a country while also doing rewarding work.

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! It offered different and unique opportunities compared to other volunteering websites that I had looked at. The feedback on the website was nothing but positive. Despite living in Canada and the organization being in the UK and very different time zones, the response time was quick and efficient. Erin was great to work with and was always there to answer questions and any concerns!”

Cheska – 2015

“Travelling to Belize was the start of a mini adventure for me and it lived up to its promise. Everything about the country was different to home - London - the weather, the people, the landscape, the food, the pace of life and it was perfect because of it.

The people in Belize are among the friendliest and most helpful I have come across. They genuinely want to chat with no hidden agenda. Being in a foreign country it is important to embrace the cultural differences. Always travel with an open mind and be prepared to be amazed and exhilarated as a result.

Working at the zoo was so fulfilling. I didn't want it to end. It was hard work, the smiles and the satisfaction at the end of the day make it all worthwhile and the keepers there made our time incredible fun. I will miss them all.

What was a typical day at the project? Every day was full of laughter. It is important to arrive full of energy as it was physically demanding and exhausting, but this isn't a holiday, this is about making a difference and hopefully leaving a lasting impression.

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding thing was having the experience of being so close to these wild and wonderful animals, many of which you can play with. Seeing the jaguars eating, blew my mind. One in particular, Lucky Boy, a black jaguar rescued a few years ago by the zoo from near death, was divine to see eating. Gently he takes the meat between his paws, while sitting patiently and lets out a deep purr, like a growl. He will stay with me forever. The magnificence of all the cats was overwhelming to me, in the best way possible.

What did you find most challenging? The only challenge for me were the mosquitos and all other flying biting things. Even with 100% Deet, I was eaten alive. However, it's always good to know you are insanely attractive to something, even if it is mosquitos…!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Just get on and book it! Don't be afraid to muck in where needed and have a positive attitude.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is important to raise awareness and provide education and you can never really know a country without being in the heart of it away from the tourist elements.

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! Pod have a very clear website describing exactly what you will be doing at each project. The prices are also on there and it means you can make a fast decision. I came across the site on the internet having not known anyone who had volunteered with them, but I would recommend them to anyone wishing to do so. The information provided and support in setting it up was great. I'm having the difficult time of deciding which project to work on next!”

Carly – 2015

“My time at the zoo was amazing, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to travel and experience Belize in a different way. By spending the week days working at the zoo, I was able to learn so much about the animals of Belize and why some are endangered. Being able to interact with the locals was very rewarding as well as it let me experience their culture on a personal level. The staff at the zoo and at the TEC were amazing and extremely helpful when it came to navigating through Belize on my days off. I was quite surprised with how welcoming and friendly everyone was, and that alone made my time at the placement worthwhile. I'm already trying to plan a trip to go visit the friends I have made!

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day at the project would be waking up for breakfast then heading to the zoo around 8. From then on the staff would usually ask if there was a specific section we would want to work in but I often worked where ever they needed help the most. We would sit and have lunch around 12.30 and finish work at 5. Every day is different, some days you work very hard if they are short a staff member and other days you do numerous small tasks such as cleaning and preparing meals. All in all it was very rewarding!

What did you find most rewarding? The knowledge that I have gained about the Belize culture and the animals. Being able to help in any way that I could, as part of my "vacation" made it a very rewarding experience.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? I would advise anyone going to thoroughly read the placement volunteer book as it describes everything that is to be expected! Also bring lots of breathable clothing because it’s very hot and humid & load up on bug spray!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering abroad gives you the chance to experience the culture and country while giving something back. Nowadays everyone wants to travel and see the world but a lot of tourist locations are made up and you do not get the chance to experience the real culture. By volunteering you take so much more back with you and it truly is an amazing experience

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! It was such a fantastic experience I will definitely volunteer again threw pod, you were very helpful the entire time so thank you for making everything run smoothly for me.”

Paul, Jackie and Alexander – 2015

“My wife, son and I spent two weeks at the zoo. The weather was very hot and humid. My wife and son worked on animal management helping the keepers feed and care for the animals, whilst I worked on the educational aspect of the project. The educational work involved visiting local schools and talking to the children about animal and environmental conservation. I also spent a lot of time guiding visitors around the zoo explaining the different species and how and why they became part of the zoo.

What did you find most rewarding? Looking after the animals was very rewarding, especially those which had had difficult backgrounds.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is a great learning experience and will open your eyes to a different culture."

Kim & Trevor – 2015

“Truly the best "vacation" we've ever had. My husband and I had an absolutely amazing time. We try to never travel with preconceived notions of what things will be like so we were blown away, by first the people at TEC (as they were our first contact) Oscar was more than hospitable and Dianna as well - all of the staff at TEC were awesome! The accommodations were simple but clean - we didn't need anything more. The food was SOooo good!! And we spent all of our evenings meeting simply amazing travelers. I can't even begin to describe the things were learned from those we chatted with.

I had the pleasure of spending many hours with a new baby jag, Hero, as he was being introduced to humans with the hopes that he'll be the next Junior or Lucky Boy- when the time comes.  I was reminded of why I love primates so much and that for me was the best experience - spending time with them and of course Fuzzy the kinkajou - who couldn't love Fuzzy.  Charlie the Macaw was infatuated with Trevor and the feeling was mutual.

We really had the best time and will have a hard time doing "regular" travelling again. We are definitely putting a return trip to Belize on our docket and looking more and more at the Elephant reserve.

What did you find most rewarding? Learning from everyone we met! About the culture, the food, the animals, the landscape!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be mentally prepared that this is not home - resources are scarce but they do amazing things with what they have. It's also hard to make changes in a small amount of time so be respectful that they are doing things the way they think is easiest - sometimes leading by example and not words is the easiest way to create change.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It really is life changing. It's so much more than just touring by somewhere - living local is the best way to learn.

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! I liked the description of the opportunities I read about and got immediate replies when I inquired. PoD is an excellent company and I know that many people we met have looked into your website - some right at the dinner table!”

Aretha – 2014

“The zoo is the most fantastic facility I have ever seen and I can honestly say it will be hard to go to another zoo after seeing how well the animals were looked after. Every animal had a reason for being there whether their habitat was destroyed or whether humans had been hunting them and they were HAPPY! It was unlike anything I've ever seen and I was honestly humbled by the way the zoo keepers did their jobs and what Miss Sharon has done for these animals. I 100% am going to go back there for a visit!

What did you find most rewarding? Working with the animals and alongside people who are there to do a good job! The animals are so happy and so looked after it was horrid thinking about how other animals look at other zoos and the habitat they are placed in. All of the animals are native to Belize and their exhibits were made to be as nature-like as possible.

What did you find most challenging? The heat was unreal! Most days it would be around 27 degrees Celsius at 7 o'clock in the morning and that's hotter than an average summers day in England!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Bring bug spray that is good for 'no see-ums' as the 55% DEET product I took did nothing in the way of helping me with those critters.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It has opened my eyes to how much I can actually do with my life and that the place you come from is so small and insignificant. Volunteering in a country so unlike my own humbled me and made me realize life isn't that hard where I live and if I can come out of something like this feeling ready to take on the world then imagine what it could do for other people! I say everyone should do something like this at least once in their lifetime. It's a total life changer.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! It took many days of scouring the internet before I chose Pod. I saw it was a non-profit organisation and that got me interested at first, then reading thoroughly through the website, seeing all of the things you do, not just to do with animals, made me even more interested.”

Emma – 2014

“It was absolutely amazing! I was so sad to leave. The zoo is so great and all the staff ensured I was comfortable and gained so much knowledge and experience from the trip. Everything was so organised and I would really consider going back.

This was an absolutely amazing experience. I was a bit nervous as it was my first time travelling alone and partaking in a project like this but POD ensured all my questions were answered and it was all really well organised.

I would highly recommend both POD and the Caribbean Wildlife Project!

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day started at about 7:00 -7:30, I would get up, get ready and go have breakfast. The food is great! I would then get on my bike and ride up to the zoo. On arrival at the zoo I would be assigned a keeper and help with whatever was needed of me. This could include preparing fruit buckets, cutting meat, cleaning enclosure or taking care of any baby animal, which I was lucky enough to do.

Once the animals had been fed in the morning and enclosures were cleaned we would then stop for a lunch break before doing the second lot of feeding in the afternoon. I would finish work at 5 and bike back to the TEC for dinner and a shower, which was much needed.

What did you find most rewarding? The whole experience was very rewarding, I made it known that I was interested in the veterinary side of animal care, so they allowed me to help with as much as I could and taught me so much. It is also so amazing to be able to work so closely with the animals.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging was working in the humidity. It’s very hot and sweaty but I did slightly start to get used to it after a few days. But prepare to sweat on this project, but it’s definitely worth it!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Take plenty of long trousers, t-shirts and bug spray. Also some rubber boots would be useful as when cleaning some of the ponds and enclosures you can get quite wet.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It’s just an amazing experience. I have gained so much confidence and loved learning about a new culture, meeting new people and gaining amazing memories.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to your friends? Yes! I had heard from one of my teachers that it was a reliable organisation. It was so well organised and everything ran smoothly. Everything was explained well and I felt like I knew what to expect on arrival.”

Fred – 2013

“I really enjoyed my time on the project. I worried that I was going to be out of place as an older bloke on what I thought was a gap-year type activity, but that was unfounded. The keepers and workers were very friendly and helpful, and took time to share information about the animals and zoo. Getting up close to the animals was a thrill, and the jaguar experience in particular is amazing. I'm glad to have helped the project in a small way.

What was a typical day at the project? I would arrive in the morning and be assigned to one of the keepers and then prepare food for which ever animals that keeper was responsible for. Then we would go around and feed the animals. The next few hours were typically spent painting fences, maintaining signs etc, followed in the late afternoon by more food preparation. Then back to the dorms for food and sleep!

I got to feed the baby tapir his milk (and my wellingtons), the toucans (who fly down on to the plate you are holding), the monkeys, the adult tapirs, and, perhaps the most awesome, the jaguars, by hand. There are a number of 'problem' jaguars looked after by the zoo which are not on display so we chopped meat and fed it to them through the cage. Some of the food prep is not for the faint-hearted, there is meat for the jaguars to chop, and some like the quash and the vultures eat baby chicks which are freshly killed - luckily I didn't have to pull any necks.

Painting and varnishing was hard in the climate, I noticeably slowed down between 11:30 and 15:00, especially when working out of the shade. But the reward was being kept under watch by various inhabitants, eg the macaw which kept coming up to me and saying hello.

What did you find most rewarding? Close up access to the animals, particularly the jaguars and tapirs, and the knowledge that I was directly contributing to a worthwhile project. As well as directly helping the zoo (it now has some beautiful sign housings, courtesy of yours truly) a portion of your fee goes directly to the project.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's an opportunity to improve yourself, do something different, and contribute to a worthwhile cause.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Pod are an ethical organisation, contributing to worthwhile causes, and were very informative when I was deciding what to do.”

Rajoo – 2013

“I couldn't recommend this trip highly enough. Quite simply it was amazing!

What was a typical day at the project? Early-ish start, authentic Belizean breakfast awaits at the TEC at approx 7:30, refreshing cycle to the Zoo. Then it’s pretty much the time of your life preparing food and feeding and caring for beautiful animals and birds. The Zoo itself is gorgeous and it was such a treat just to spend so much time in those surroundings smile

What did you find most rewarding? Being so close to the animals and birds. It is a real privilege to feed and care for them all but especially when some are both endangered and rare.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a cliché - but it is life-changing.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! My sister had done a trip with them before and could not rate them highly enough. I have to agree. Erin was our volunteer co-ordinator / rep and she was excellent.”

Devi – 2013

“What can I say?! The Belize Wildlife project is absolutely fantastic. My sister and I went there for two weeks and had a literally amazing, life changing time. We hand fed baby animals such as a baby armadillo, baby peccary pig, baby squirrels and baby tapir and absolutely loved and adored it! We also cared and hand fed many more such as deer, toucans, parrots and jaguar. It was brilliant.

What did you find most rewarding? Bottle feeding and comforting all the baby animals.

What did you find most challenging? The mosquitos! and cold showers at the end of a very long dirty, sweaty day!

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? You really should take a lot of spare clothes, wellies, insect repellent and be really, really, really prepared to get very, very, very dirty, sweaty and happy!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's an amazing, life - changing thing to do that's quite frankly addictive!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It's quite simply the best volunteer organisation there is.”

Rachel – 2013

“My time in Belize was incredible, and the project was all I could have hoped for and more. Experience of a lifetime. It was amazing to have such close encounters with exotic wildlife. All the staff are very passionate about caring for the animals and are happy to share their knowledge with you. There were one or two moments at the start of my trip when I felt a little nervous, but soon found my feet and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Some people would describe time away as having highs and lows but this was all highs! I have made some unforgettable memories, and would highly recommend volunteering with Pod to anyone.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with Fuego, the baby tapir was very special. I felt very lucky to have the chance to be up close and personal with these types of animal. He really was like a little baby, needing frequent care and attention. It's very hard not to fall in love with him!

What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Time at the zoo is hard work; you have to be prepared to get very sweaty and dirty!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Volunteering abroad is a great way to explore a new country, and at the same time do something worthwhile and rewarding that you would otherwise never get the chance to do. I spent an extra week in Belize and combined with my weekends off at the project had a great time sight-seeing and getting to know the country all I could. By volunteering you also get to know local people who can give you the best advice about things to see and do.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? I chose Pod as they seemed to offer the most in-depth information about the projects, and have staff with first-hand experience of all the volunteer work. There is a hands on approach that I felt was lacking from other organisations offering similar things. The communication I received was great, and although I didn't have any problems I felt very assured that if anything did go wrong the support was readily available.”

Kristín - 2013

“Being in Belize for a month was the best experience I've had in life! Everyone in the zoo were so friendly and our rooms were really clean and nice. Pod took really good care of us and we felt really safe all the time. I would definitely go back if I get the chance someday!

What was a typical day at the project? In the morning we prepared food for the animals, cut down some vegetables and chickens. Then we fed the animals which was great! We got to go into the cages with the animals and communicate a lot with them. Then we had to clean the ponds and the cages before lunch. After lunch we again prepared food for the animals, sometimes we got to spray perfume on the coatimundis which was a lots of fun! Then we fed the animals again before we went home. At the TEC we just chilled, got dinner, showered and watched tv before we went to sleep. Then in the weekends we explored the beautiful Belize.

What did you find most rewarding? Getting so close to the animals was wonderful and get to know so many different species.

What did you find most challenging? Most challenging was to be working so hard work in the heat.

Everything was so great that no words can explain!”

Natalie – 2013

“Being able to get so close to an array of beautiful animals such as the jaguar, tapir and howler and spider monkeys and all the other creatures (even the snakes) at the zoo and to care for them was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will always cherish. I enjoyed being part of such a hard working team.

What did you find most challenging? Physical work in hot climate (this was not a surprise though being from UK!) The insect bites.

What advice would you give to others consider this project? Follow the Pod guidance and what to bring. You do get hot, dirty and sweaty. Be prepared to get bitten. Always use bug spray as soon as you come out from shower first thing.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It really helps organisations such as the zoo survive and continue to do what they are best at looking after these animals, in return you get a great experience and for me an education about not only the animals but the culture and people of the country.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! You have a registered UK charity. Plenty of information and testimonials on the website. I felt I could trust you.”

Emma – 2013

“Loved my time at the zoo. It was hard work but very rewarding and I leant so much. I would recommend volunteering here to anyone who wants to do something different and work with animals.

What did you find most rewarding? Getting to grips with the different animals food preparation and patterns then being able to feed the animals the food I had prepared and watch them enjoy it.

What did you find most challenging? Working with the bugs, heat and humidity.

What advice would you give to others consider this project? Be prepared to work hard and ask as many questions as you can to ensure you learn as much to take away as you can.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? To give something back to countries that are less fortunate and who are so appreciative

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! The helpful assistance we received firstly from the information given on the website and when I called the UK Office. We researched Pod who are a well established organisation and charity with extensive knowledge of their fields.”

Julia – 2012

“This experience will stay with me forever and I can't wait to return. The Zoo is an incredible place - with a very strong, hard-working and extremely knowledgeable team. I learnt so much from everyone there and this is an opportunity of a lifetime to spend time on this project. Sharon is wonder woman...she has created a truly magnificent environment and yes its hard work, but seeing the care and respect between the staff and animals - you throw yourself wholeheartedly into every task with a smile and try to help them as much as possible.

The TEC is very well-run, good accommodation, good food (esp the breakfasts!) and very willing to help with recommendations around Belize and I felt extremely welcome and well looked after. I was the only intern at TEC for over a week, so be prepared to have some quieter evenings, but it was a good way to soak up the surroundings and always nice to meet other travellers that stayed there on their travels.

I made friends for life and I urge anyone with a passion for animals to consider the project and help the zoo continue to be the best zoo in the world!!

What did you find most rewarding? Forming bonds with the animals, learning their names, habits, favourite foods and characters. Answering questions from tour groups in the zoo, learning so much from the staff and seeing what daily changes or ideas they had to help the residents be as comfortable and happy as possible. Seeing the jaguars every day and so many Belizean native animals and birds I had never seen before - it was incredible. The staff care so much for each and every resident – it’s really clear to see, and their knowledge and great work ethics are very inspiring to be around. I was able to release toucans and aracaris into their new enclosures whilst I was there - a delight to see them explore new surroundings and settle happily and become very familiar with me.

What advice would you give to others consider this project? Be prepared to throw yourself in 100%. You may be on your own at TEC during quieter times so spend time keeping a journal, learning about the animals, soaking up the beautiful surroundings. I used my weekends to travel about a bit, TEC will advise bus times etc, and are very helpful.

My main advice is that I didn’t want to burden the keepers, so I tried to learn it all as best and quickly as possible so I was helping rather than shadowing. Once you know a task you will be expected to just do it, so being confident in your abilities and listening to what you are told to do from the start is the best way to begin.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It’s a great learning experience - a chance to discover so much about another country, yourself and any project that benefits either animals or people from your help is so rewarding. I met animals I'd never even seen before, people I will stay friends with and a country I can’t wait to return to.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! The website read extremely well, and the project at the wildlife centre captured me immediately. I'd never heard of it before, but the chance to work with so many different types of animals and birds seemed perfect.

The reviews on the Pod site were very encouraging and my first conversation with Erin at Pod confirmed 100% to me that this was a great organisation to work through; friendly, excited about their projects, experienced, personable and very helpful. There were no hidden charges or anything I didn’t expect - it was all very clear and I felt very prepared from their info sheets and contacts before I went.

A massive thank you for supporting this amazing project and accepting me onto it! It was SO wonderful to meet Erin whilst I was there - if your whole team is like her - well Pod are a very lucky team indeed! Thank you for everything, I will def be going back!”

Louise – 2012

“My time in Belize was an incredible experience, thanks to the wonderful people and amazing animals that are at the zoo! I had never been so far away for a work placement and this experience was an inspiring one, due to the country, the people, then animals and the culture! Everyone at the zoo and the TEC were very welcoming and helpful which made my stay more enjoyable.

What did you find most rewarding? Helping the keepers with their tasks as on their own, they have a lot to do and they were short staffed when I was at the zoo, so I felt that my help was needed! I also found being around the animals rewarding as they all have such different backgrounds. I was lucky to be at the zoo when the baby toucans were there so I was involved in helping to hand rear them, as they needed feeding every few hours via solid foods and toucan formula, through a syringe!

What did you find most challenging? Definitely the heat as I had never worked in such a climate before. The bugs were also a challenge but learnt to live with my insect bites!!

What advice would you give to others consider this project? I would just totally get stuck into the job and use your initiative in helping out! I learned quickly and after this, I was able to go off on my own to distribute food for the birds which was incredible, having that responsibility!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is a wonderful experience to have and to help contribute to helping these animals and learn about their conservation and about the country is amazing”

Holly – 2012

“It was the most amazing thing I have ever done and I did it all alone, after a few days of settling in it was the best, Just jump in head first and again it was the most amazing adventure I have ever taken will be doing something similar again and going back to Belize I LOVE BELIZE!

What was a typical day at the project? I would wake up around 7am get ready head for something to eat then around 8.15am I would get on my bike and ride the beautiful trip to the zoo. When getting there I would start to prepare the birds food after about an hour they would all be done so I’d take a walk around the zoo and head up to the entrance to look after the snake wooow i love snakes now smile Then have dinner around 1ish then prepare the monkey bowls and the buckets, then around 4.30 – 5pm I would have the lovely bike ride back to my home from home, have a shower and chill with all the amazing people I have meet Muriel and Del are the best!

What did you find most rewarding? Just been there it was unreal!

What did you find most challenging? The heat and being alone but after about a few days I got used to it.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it’s an adventure and it makes you feel so good about yourself, you can offer so much to the people and they give you even more in return.”

Tim – 2012

“I spent two weeks at The Caribbean Wildlife Centre and had a wonderful time. Before I left Pod (Erin) was extremely helpful and was able to answer all the questions I had and they provided me with enough information so I knew what would be expected of me when I arrived in Belize.

The keepers and other staff were very welcoming and seemed to appreciate the help I was able to offer. During my time there I got to prepare food and to feed animals, such as Spider Monkeys, Tapirs, Coatimundis, Jaguars and all sorts of birds, as well as many others. I was given the opportunity to hold Balboa the Boa Constrictor, who was used to welcome visitors to the zoo. I also got to hand feed Panama, the Harpy Eagle, the Mackaws and Lizzie, the Neotropical River Otter. I helped clean and repair enclosures, some of which still had the animals in. You could get right next to some of the animals, such as the Tapirs, which provided great photo opportunities. The zoo does not buy animals to fill their enclosures. Animals are donated or found, and are often injured or orphaned.

During my time at zoo I learnt a lot about the animals of Belize and what is being done in Belize with regards to animal conservation. It is clear to see that the keepers and the other staff at the zoo care a great deal about the animals in the zoo and the animals of Belize.

What did you find most challenging? It is hard work and you are expected to pull your weight. They understand this is a holiday and an experience for you but you need to put the effort in. I think doing this will mean you get more from the experience.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? You get to do and see things you wouldn't in the UK. You get to experience another culture and community. And if it is an animal based project like the one in Belize then you get to encounter animals you would not often see in the UK and you have the chance to get really close to them.”

Katie – 2012

“This experience was great! It taught me many things, above all about the animals that are in Belize, and the conservation work that these people do for the animals. It was such a beautiful and natural place. The work environment is very slow paced, which is very nice because the climate is warm and humid. The people are wonderful at the Zoo, everyone is friendly and devoted to the animals there. I would definitely recommend doing this volunteer program. I had a blast and it will be a memory that lasts with me for a lifetime.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? The website and information given from other people made it sound great. So I decided to go with Pod. I would recommend Pod.”

Olly - 2011

“My time at Belize Caribbean Wildlife Centre was very eye opening. This was the first time I had been out of Europe and the way of life in Belize is like a whole new world! I was looked after very well by all the staff starting as soon as I got to the airport, who were very friendly and fun to be with. I never felt lonely at any point and had a few nights out with the zoo staff at weekends and got to know them really well. At the zoo I was always busy, preparing food, feeding and spending time with the animals. I even witnessed a baby Tapir being born and one of my jobs was to monitor the baby. It was great being able to get so close to all of the animals as it is very difficult to get a job close to animals in the UK without qualifications. I had chance to travel around the country after my placement which I would really recommend to anyone, the country is beautiful and lots of things to do. I am still in contact with the staff at the zoo and also another volunteer who was there at the same time, and we are planning to return next year! All the staff at the zoo work very hard and the work they do there is great! I really want to go back and I’m sure I will!Thanks Pod!

What was a typical day at the project? Prepare food for the animals (either mammals or birds), clean out enclosures, pools and make sure they have water. Spend time with some of the animals that need attention throughout the day. After lunch we prepare food for the afternoon and assist with any tours throughout the day, including holding the snake!

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding part was when the baby Tapir was born, it is very rare anywhere in the world that a baby Tapir is born in captivity so I was very lucky to be there at the right time.

What did you find most challenging? Belize gets very hot, In my second week the weather went into the dry season which means it will probably not rain for 3-4 months! So as you can imagine it got very hot and humid. Working in these conditions is difficult but I never felt like I didn't enjoy it.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? If you have the opportunity I would recommend it, it can be treated as a nice get away and also a very rewarding time, also looks good on a CV!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? After researching various companies on the internet Pod seemed the best for knowing where the money was going and being well looked after, very organised."

Sarah - 2010

"It was an unbelievable experience. The zoo and the animals and everybody we met were all amazing. At the zoo we helped the zookeeper's with their duties, from feeding to cage cleaning (and building!) to caring for orphan animal babies. The animals and the zoo life was so interesting, and I was working with animals that I have never even heard of. It was so much fun getting to know the locals and other volunteers. I definately made friends for a life-time and still keep in touch with everyone I met during my stay. The country of Belize is incredibly beautiful. We experienced both the jungle life as well as the island life, and visited some amazing Mayan Ruins. The most amazing trip of my life.

What was a typical day at the project? Ride our bikes to the zoo (about a 10min bike ride down the road) where we help the zookeepers with their duties - cleaning cages, preparing food, feeding, building cages, and caring for orphan animal babies.

What did you find most rewarding? It's an incredible experience being able to go to a country and not just tour it. Going on a volunteer trip enables you to help the country and be a part of the country and the culture.

Why did you choose Pod? I chose Pod because it seemed like a great company. Even after just enquiring and looking for information the staff were wonderful."

Find out more about the Caribbean Wildlife 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