Nestled in Central America on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize lies at the centre of the Mesoamerican "biodiversity hotspot". Pristine subtropical forests provide a refuge for wildlife and conceal ancient Mayan ruins whilst the warm clear waters of the Caribbean lap sandy Cayes offering access to the world's second longest barrier reef and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; renowned for its spectacular snorkelling and diving.
Infused throughout is the country's culture influenced by Belize's Afro-Caribbean roots, creating a fabulous laid-back atmosphere.
'No shoes, no shirt, no worries' is the infamous motto for the Cayes off the east coast of Belize, and you will have the opportunity to discover infamous barrier reefs, dive the Blue Hole, marvel at an extraordinary array of colourful reef fish and rays, sea urchins, anemones, octopus and even sea turtles feed at luxuriant sea grass beds. You can explore this exquisite, untarnished underwater world as you snorkel off the Cayes of Belize.
You will have the chance to explore, chart and monitor extensive areas of pristine coral and vast seagrass beds, record populations of reef fish and conch and assist in annual reef health check. On shore you will explore the lush fringing mangrove forests, seasonal lagoons and littoral forests of red, white and black mangroves; the unique ecosystem which bridges the land and the ocean.
Your days will be eventful; the work will be challenging, rewarding and fun. Your discoveries will be of huge benefit to the conservation of these fabulous coral reefs and you will gain immense satisfaction from knowing that you have helped protect these precious natural resources for future generations.
The results from your investigations will supply vital baseline information on the Belizean coastline to enable the sustainable management of natural resources in the region and the protection of the marine wildlife in partnership with the Belize Fisheries Department.
WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Although Belize is distinguished from its neighbours in being the only country in the region with a British colonial heritage, it also has strong ties to Latin America as well as to the Caribbean. With one foot firmly planted in lush interior forests and another foot in the laidback and colourful Caribbean Sea, Belize's animal and plant life are the stars of the country, thanks to conservation efforts from national and international bodies.
The Belizean government is now working with national management partners and international conservation and aid agencies to protect the county's invaluable biodiversity. Co-management partners work alongside the Belizean Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development with long term aims to protect and conserve key marine and terrestrial hotspots. This is achieved through local conservation awareness, scientific monitoring & research, community support programs and implementation of protected areas co-management plans, and Frontier volunteers are an integral part of this effort.
Record marine biodiversity
To aid decision making and implement protected areas co-management plans, co-partners in Belize require long-term environmental monitoring to be in place to meet both national and international protocols, and for the establishment of more detailed research projects that can provide vital baseline data.
Through snorkel surveys you will survey coral, benthic and fish species using a number of common methodologies currently used in Belize plus taking part in simple community level assessments of these environments. Snorkelling under the supervision of a professional dive officer and research scientist, you will become confident and comfortable underwater. Your results will determine the sheer biodiversity of these waters and help formulate long term, sustainable management plans to protect this sensational island.
Other activities include surveying mangroves, a vital buffer against storm surges caused by cyclones, and an important part of the coastal ecosystem, opportunistic surveys of manatees, dugongs and cetaceans, beach clean ups, forest restoration work and annual surveys of conch, lobster and lionfish.
Belizean culture & communities
Working alongside the Belizean people will give you an insight into their colourful and laidback culture. Community work includes environmental education in local schools to explain Frontier's work, and interviewing local communities on their awareness and knowledge of the local marine reserves, particularly with regards to boundaries, zones and rules and the levels of involvement of local stakeholders in decision-making.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
Soak up the chilled out, Caribbean atmosphere of Belize whilst taking part in a long term and sustainable marine research and conservation programme. The Frontier Belize programme is run in association with the Belize Fisheries Department, and this research and conservation project aims to provide the local communities, stakeholders and government bodies with the baseline biodiversity data they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of this pristine marine ecosystem.
To gather the data needed you will undertake rapid sampling snorkel surveys, underwater line and belt transects (weather permitting for all diving), mangrove point centred surveys, opportunistic mammal surveys and socio – economic surveys, with one day off each week. Your activities will involve locating and mapping the extensive, pristine coral reefs and studying the various communities existing on them. The number of snorkels completed each week on the project depend on the quarterly science plan and itinerary as set by the Frontier field staff.
Whilst snorkelling in this Caribbean Odyssey, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from colourful reef fish species to nudibranchs, sea cucumbers to cushion stars and spiny urchins to octopuses. By the end of your project you will be capable of identifying a wide range of colourful and patterned reef organisms. If you participate in dive training (extra cost applies) you may also become an experienced and competent diver. Although the work is intense and challenging you'll get immense satisfaction from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this marine environment.
Volunteers who join the project for less than 4 weeks may not be able to participate in the full range of project activities and surveys, but will still be able to make a valuable contribution to the work. You will return home with vast numbers of photos, lots of new friends, a wealth of fascinating stories and extraordinary memories.
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and conserving nature. Your staff will be a friendly and welcoming group who are highly experienced in their research field and many of whom will have been Frontier volunteers at an earlier stage in their career.
- Caye Caulker, Belize District, Belize
Duration:Less than 3 months
Time commitment:A lot (10+ hours/week)
Times of day:Mornings Afternoons
Days of week:Weekdays
Extra details:Fee required
International volunteer options:International volunteers welcome