Belize Wildlife Research Expedition



Will I Love This Holiday?

Travel Style: Active 
Where: Belize, barrier reef
Cost: $1,995 per person
Length: 6 Days (2-day extension available)
Physical Rating: Active
Right For: Solo, Families, tweens & teens
Children: 12+ Under 18 must be
accompanied by adult.
What: Volunteer Holiday. Oceanic Wildlife Surveys & Snorkeling in Belize barrier reef.
Group Size: 12 maximum
Accommodation: Basic

The Scoop

1.. Contribute to the world’s knowledge of marine life as a conservation volunteer. Work with scientists and the local community, and have the time of your life in one of the planets most beautiful places.

2. Save a Sea Turtles: Work with local fisherman/conservationists to help scientists capture, measure, sample and tag threatened sea turtles.

3. Meet a Manatee: The largest population of the endangered Antillean manatee left on the planet is right here. You will help to gather information that may save this little known sub-species.

4. Join the Dolphin Debate: This is a bottlenose dolphin “hotspot.” Scientists, and now you, will be studying these intelligent and fascinating creatures. What is happening with dolphins? Your help adds to the world’s knowledge.

5. Consider a Conch: More than a pretty shell or exotic dinnertime treat, the conch is one important creature in a delicate ecosystem. Are we over-fishing them? Help scientists find out.


Is This Trip Right For Me?

Belize is a safe and beautiful country and tourism is its top industry. You will be based at a simple but comfortable research station on St. George’s Caye, a small island about a 30 min. boat ride from Belize City. We will spend a lot of time in boats and in the water, so those who get seasick may have issues (though most of the time the water is very calm).

Previous snorkeling experience is helpful but not required but participants should feel comfortable in the water. Be prepared for heat and bad weather, which can affect which activities are available each day. Meals are simple but home cooked with love (vegetarian options available). Most rooms at the station have private bath with cold water showers and fans. Electricity is available from 5:30 in the evening until 8:30 in the morning.

You will have the opportunity to swim and snorkel. There are also several kayaks that can be borrowed

Please Note:
Minimum recommended age is 12 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
✓ Rooms will be shared from 2 to 4 people total per room depending on group size.
✓ Group size is limited to 12 maximum.
✓ We are not able to organize day trips or overnight stays to this station.

Your Guides

You will be guided by one of the foremost sea turtle conservationists in the word. His specialty is sea turtle volunteer tourism and you will be working with the researchers and conservationists from Eco Mar Research Station.

Your guide’s company was launched in 2008 as the world's first effort to protect sea turtles through (community based) ecotourism. Originally fiscally-sponsored by the Ocean Foundation and most recently Oceanic Society, it is now an independent 501c3 non-profit. Their programs provide support for important turtle nesting beaches and has helped save more than 1 million hatchlings. They are also responsible for the creation of a campaign working to end the demand for turtle shell products. School programs help teachers and students learn about these incredible animals and how to protect them. The trip will be lead by marine mammal expert Eric Ramos.


Itinerary

  • DAY 1: ARRIVE IN BELIZE & TRANSFER TO ST GEORGE'S CAYE

    The group will be picked up at the airport in the early afternoon and transferred to the EcoMar dive shop, where you can rent your snorkeling gear. Once ready, the group will board a boat to head to the EcoMar Research Station on St. George’s Caye, located about 10 miles from Belize City near the Belize Barrier Reef (30 min boat ride). After you arrive, there will be an orientation to the facility and research and then head out by boat to a shallow area nearby to test out snorkeling gear. If time allows in the afternoon, participants can swim or kayak near the station.

    The waters around St. George’s Caye provides important habitat for endangered green, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and Antillean manatees, among other species. As a participant on this program, you will work side-by-side with researchers to observe and record sea turtle, dolphin, and manatee behavior. The Research Station has rooms with bunk beds (2-4 people per room) with a mix of shared and private bathrooms. Each room has fans but there is no air conditioning or hot water. Dinner is served buffet-style and vegetarians are easily accommodated. (D)

  • DAYS 2 - 4: OCEAN WILDLIFE SURVEYS & SNORKELING

    Start your exploration of the Belize Barrier Reef after breakfast. Each day will be out on or in the water, looking for wildlife and snorkeling in coral reefs. Over the next 2 days, the group will do two to three activities per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with some down time around meals and late afternoon. In some cases, the group will split up and rotate activities. Which activities are done each day will be decided on site based on the weather, ocean conditions, and group preferences. There are also several kayaks that can be borrowed to paddle during down time. The evenings will include talks on ocean wildlife, the rich history of St. George’s Caye, and more. (B, L, D)

    Sea Turtle Surveys

    EcoMar has been conducting in-water snorkel surveys to assess sea turtle abundance and diversity at Gallow’s Point since 2009. With help from skilled local fishermen, sea turtles are captured by hand and then measured, sampled, and tagged to help scientists track their movements and understand population dynamics. Traditional fisherman have become important conservation assistants since they spend their days on the seas and have the skills required to swim quickly and dive deep to capture the turtles.

    Manatee Surveys

    The Antillean manatee is an endangered sub-species of the West Indian Manatee; less than 2,500 mature individuals of this subspecies are thought to remain. Belize is home to the largest population of Antillean manatees in the world. We will observe them from the boat at the mouth of the Belize River and elsewhere, recording their sounds and images by drone and photographs. With our support, new speed limit signs have been installed to help reduce collisions between boats and these marine mammals.

    Dolphin Surveys

    Researchers have been studying bottlenose dolphins in this area since the early 90's. aimed at documenting their abundance, distribution, and behavioral ecology in Belize. The research will focus on dolphin behavior in the context of specific habitats. You will accompany the researcher to known dolphin “hotspots” within the atoll to look for small groups as they feed and travel through the area.

    Conch Surveys

    Queen conch is a popular seafood in Belize. EcoMar is studying conch populations to make sure that the fishery isn’t depleting the population. Participants swim transects in shallow water, looking for conch and measuring them when found and recording data.

  • DAY 5: HOL CHAN MARINE RESERVE

    Spend a day visiting the famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve, located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Due to its protected status, what was once a depleted fishing area has now been allowed to regenerate, providing a fantastic snorkeling experience for visitors and an important refuge for marine life along the northern section of the Barrier Reef. More than 160 species of fish have been identified in the reserve, along with nearly 40 species of corals, 5 sponges, 8 algae, 2 seagrasses, 3 marine mammals, and 3 species of sea turtle. (B, L, D)

  • DAY 6: DEPART

    After breakfast at the station, you will take a boat back to Belize City. Head to the airport in plenty of time for your return flight home or join our extension. (B)

  • DAY 6: EXTENSION

    Cave Tubing & Ziplines

    You will be picked up at the EcoMar dive shop and transferred inland by private van to the Nooch Chen cave (about 1 hour drive). Start with an easy 45-minute guided jungle walk, learning about rainforest plants and animals along the way. Swim in the cool clear water and hop on the tube for a fun ride through two beautiful caves, checking out beautiful stalactites and jungle views along the way. You'll have a picnic lunch at the cave and then head by bus to the Crystal Paradise Resort near the town of San Ignacio. (L, D)

  • DAY 7: TIKAL NATIONAL PARK

    After an early breakfast, the group will head across the nearby border with Guatemala to visit the extraordinary Tikal National Park, one of the most prominent Mayan sites in the world (1.5 - 2 hour drive). Spend all day walking through the park with a local guide, learning about the Mayan culture and seeing the impressive thousand-year old structures. You will have a picnic lunch and return to the resort in the late afternoon. (B, L, D)

  • DAY 8: RETURN HOME

    Head to the airport after breakfast in plenty of time for your return flight home or extend your stay and explore other parts of Belize. (B)


What to Expect

Dates: July 20 - 25 2019 / ext July 25 - 27
Costs: USD $1,995 per person  
Cost of Extension: Depends on your group size:
1 person - $550 / 2 pax - $525 ea / 3 pax - $500 ea / 4 pax - $475 ea
Reserve Your Place: USD 300 pp

Minimum recommended age is 12 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.

Included: In-country transport, meals as listed, lodging, activities, guides, airport pick-up and drop off, and a donation to turtle conservation.
Excluded: Airfare to Belize, personal items, snorkeling gear (can be rented for an extra cost), and tips for the guide and research station/hotel staff. Extension does not include entrance to Tikal or the exit fee from Belize to Guatemala ($42 extra total.)

Accommodations

You will be staying right in the EcoMar Research station. Rooms will be shared from 2 to 4 people total per room depending on group size. The Research Station has rooms with bunk beds (2-4 people per room) with a mix of shared and private bathrooms. Each room has fans but there is no air conditioning or hot water.

Wildlife You May See

Wildlife You May Work With: Sea turtles, Antillean manatee, bottlenose dolphin, and conch

Additional Wildlife You May See: Green, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles, West Indian manatees, the American marine crocodile, lion fish and others.


About the Ocean Belize Project

Program Partners

Your host, the Eco-mar Research Station was founded in 2009. Their Mission tells their story: to inspire learning and conservation ethics through outreach programs, hand's on participation and research.

EcoMar coordinates marine conservation projects that focus on conserving the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site, associated
marine ecosystems and the diverse marine life that is so important to the people that live near the coast and those that come to visit and explore the marine realm that has made Belize famous.

EcoMar encourages stakeholders to learn more about the marine ecosystems that support their livelihoods. When resources users are more knowledgeable about the ecosystem processes they take ownership of the environment and become involved in protecting these valuable natural resources.

“Conservation through Education” is the underlying impetus for each of our projects which engage a diverse group of stakeholders including marine guides, fishermen, business owners, tourism associations, fishing associations, NGOs and educational institutions. Stakeholders that become volunteers help monitor conditions on the Belize Barrier Reef in a changing climate.

What is Special About this Project?

The Belize Barrier Reef is an extraordinary ocean wildlife hotspot. Bottlenose dolphins, manatees, several species of sea turtles, and more than 500 species of fish and 100 species of coral populate these crystal blue waters. Despite this diversity, these species face a variety of threats including boat strikes, climate change, and entanglement in fishing gear. The island of St. George’s Caye, home of the research station, is a great base from which to explore and holds a unique spot in the rich history of Belize.

On this trip, you will spend 5 nights at St. George’s, participating in research on sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees, and exploring coral reefs and marine protected areas including the extraordinary Hol Chan Marine Reserve. An optional 2 night extension offers the opportunity to go cave tubing and rainforest hiking and visit the incomparable Tikal National Park in Guatemala. This trip will be led by marine mammal expert Eric Ramos.

In addition to the data you help to gather, profits from this trip will help to save at least 200 hatchlings at a turtle nesting beach per participant.

Volunteer Activities

Sea Turtle Surveys
EcoMar has been conducting in-water snorkel surveys to assess sea turtle abundance and diversity at Gallow’s Point since 2009. With help from skilled local fishermen, sea turtles are captured by hand and then measured, sampled, and tagged to help scientists track their movements and understand population dynamics. Traditional fisherman have become important conservation assistants since they spend their days on the seas and have the skills required to swim quickly and dive deep to capture the turtles.

Manatee Surveys
The Antillean manatee is an endangered sub-species of the West Indian Manatee; less than 2,500 mature individuals of this subspecies are thought to remain. Belize is home to the largest population of Antillean manatees in the world. We will observe them from the boat at the mouth of the Belize River and elsewhere, recording their sounds and images by drone and photographs. With our support, new speed limit signs have been installed to help reduce collisions between boats and these marine mammals.

Dolphin Surveys
Researchers have been studying bottlenose dolphins in this area since the early 90's. aimed at documenting their abundance, distribution, and behavioral ecology in Belize. The research will focus on dolphin behavior in the context of specific habitats. You will accompany the researcher to known dolphin “hotspots” within the atoll to look for small groups as they feed and travel through the area.

Conch Surveys
Queen conch is a popular seafood in Belize. EcoMar is studying conch populations to make sure that the fishery isn’t depleting the population. Participants swim transects in shallow water, looking for conch and measuring them when found and recording data.


Why This Trip is Responsible Travel 

Wildlife and the Environment: Your participation in this trip ensures that profits from this trip will help to save at least 200 hatchlings at a turtle nesting beach per participant.

The research station is dedicated to instilling knowledge and compassion of the diverse marine ecosystems associated with the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site so that compassionate and informed users will protect and conserve of our valuable and vulnerable marine resources.

See above for the ways in which your holiday specifically benefits marine wildlife.

You will spend a day visiting the famous Hol Chan Marine Reserve, located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Due to its protected status, what was once a depleted fishing area has now been allowed to regenerate, providing a fantastic snorkeling experience for visitors and an important refuge for marine life along the northern section of the Barrier Reef.

Local Community:
The local community’s economy is very much tied to the marine life of the reef. Eco-mar has established outreach workshops and community partnerships all along coastal Belize “It is in these communities where the fishermen, marine guides, teachers, students, and communities are engaged to help support "conservation through education."