Travel to one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the second-largest reef system in the world. Here, you’ll join our base at the top location for diving in Belize, the island of Ambergris Caye. We’ll help you earn your PADI Open Water before you join our coral reef and other marine conservation volunteer initiatives.
Join our team on Belize’s famous island of Ambergris Caye. This island is the closest you can get to the Belize Barrier Reef and Belize’s Great Blue Hole without heading out on a boat.
Here, we’ll work with you to complete your PADI Open Water or Advanced Open Water before heading out onto the reef to carry out research. Like many reefs around the world, the Belize Barrier Reef is impacted by coral bleaching, a phenomenon caused by the ocean heating as a result of the climate crisis.
Fortunately, Belize is somewhat of a marine conservation leader, being the first country to ban bottom trawling, a harmful commercial fishing practice, as well as all offshore oil exploration and drilling. You’ll be helping to empower these pioneering local agencies by collecting data on the biodiversity of reef species. While you’re underwater you might stand a chance of catching a glimpse of rare, endangered species such as hawksbill sea turtles and manatees.
- Earn your PADI Open Water or Advanced Open Water.
- Contribute to the conservation of the second-largest coral reef system in the world.
- Gain hands-on experience in marine biology and marine conservation.
- Go for a recreational dive in Belize’s famous Great Blue Hole.
- In your free time, visit sacred Mayan cenotes, cave systems and temples surrounded by rainforests and waterfalls.
Our Award-winning Partner
Conservation Careers has teamed up a family-run organisation with an amazing culture and an awesome team of people across the world who are passionate experts in their chosen field and will make your experience a truly unforgettable one (in a good way).
Their award-winning projects receive over 2000 participants every year, and we’re proud to say that the vast majority of them describe their experience with them as ‘life changing’. Their approval rate from over 20 000 participants since 1997 is over 95%.
A key component of the success of their community development and conservation projects is the participants who join their programs. Opportunities include high impact volunteering from one week and up, internships for those looking for career development opportunities, Challenges that allow a one week adventure all for a good cause and a range of programs for school groups and younger volunteers.
If you register your interest below, we’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!
See all our Conservation Careers Internship and Volunteering opportunities.
Life on base
Our Belize base is located on the country’s largest island, Ambergris Caye, known for its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef with its countless dive sites and spots to snorkel. Our accommodation is just a short walk from the beach and the island’s only town of San Pedro.
A typical day may involve training, diving and research. Participants should also expect to carry out diving gear maintenance or organisation such as refilling oxygen tanks and conducting safety tests. Days are rounded off with evening debriefs, followed by dinner and time to relax. In between your shifts on the project, you’ll have plenty of time to lounge on the beach, taking in Caribbean sunrises and sunsets and swapping stories with staff members and your fellow participants.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Our work in on the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize, is focused on the conservation of the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS), a recognised World Heritage Site. The reef is home to an abundance of coral species and many other endangered marine species such as the green sea turtle and West Indian manatee.
The reef, like many others around the world, faces many conservation challenges. Rising ocean temperatures as result of the climate crisis cause corals to become damaged in a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Another challenge the reef shares with other marine habitats around the world is plastic pollution. Invasive species, such as lionfish, and pollution as a result of nearby farms, also pose a threat. In addition, while tourism can be an excellent contributor to the reef’s conservation, it needs to be managed effectively to ensure that no harm is caused. Mangroves are also a key factor in the protection of the reef and, among other challenges, these are under threat from unsustainable coastal development practices.
Fortunately, Belize is a leader in effective conservation practices and has implemented several innovative policies and initiatives of the years, including banning bottom trawling, a form of harmful commercial fishing, as well as offshoring oil prospecting and drilling. Our work in Belize involves supporting the country’s initiatives.
Our team carries out scientific surveys of the fish, coral and invertebrate species found at dive sites along the BBRRS. We then deliver this data to the authorities in charge of making decisions about the conservation management of the BBRRS.
The main United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) the team contributes towards is Goal 14: Life Below Water.
Ambergris Caye Long-term Objectives:
1. Report on coral abundance and health at specific BBRRS locations to relevant conservation management organisations.
2. Report on fish abundance and health at species at specific BBRRS locations to relevant conservation management organisations.
3. Report on invertebrate abundance and health at specific BBRRS locations to relevant conservation management organisations.
Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.
Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.
Some of the most impressive Mayan architecture can be found in Belize. This includes the Sky Palace at Caracol, which is still the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize. Other Mayan sites include Altun Ha and Lamanai.
There are an abundance of waterfalls you can visit during your stay in Belize. Probably the most famous is the 1000-foot Falls located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, possibly the tallest waterfall in Central America. There are also smaller falls and pools you can swim in. These include Billy Barquedier, surrounded by a National Park of the same name
The country is covered in protected natural areas of various descriptions. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a key location for jaguar preservation and the Bladen Nature Reserve is a highly biodiverse area of primordial rainforest.
Belize is not only a top diving destination but a top caving destination too. Of all Central American countries, Belize has the largest cave system and there are plenty of top caving sites across the country. The most famous is the challenging Actun Tunichil Muknal or ATM cave tour, which takes cavers to Mayan burial sites.
Islands and Beaches
Many diving, snorkelling and other water-based activities will take you to some of the over 400 islands, or cayes, that form part of the Belize Barrier Reef System. But you can also go island-hopping just for the fun of it. Caye Caulker, Silk Caye and Half Moon Caye all have something to offer including beaches. Many excellent beaches can also be found on Ambergris Caye and the mainland.
Diving and snorkelling are, of course, not the only things to do in the warm waters of the Caribbean. During your stay in Belize you can also go paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, kite surfing among other water-based activities.
Diving or Snorkelling
Belize has some of the best dive spots in the world. Perhaps the most famous is the Great Blue Hole, a giant underwater sinkhole in the Lighthouse reef atoll. The Elbow on Turneffe atoll is another popular site. Many people also visit Gladden Spit to stand the chance of seeing a whale shark under certain conditions during certain seasons.
Further wildlife experience can be found in Latin America. Join us in Peru’s Amazonian cloud forests. Afterwards, you can visit Incan sites such as Machu Picchu. Peru is also famous for its surf spots.
If you’re looking to experience a greater variety of Central American wildlife, why not travel to Costa Rica? We have a base set up in Tortuguero National Park, along the Caribbean coast. This is one of the only locations where jaguars are known to prey on sea turtles. You can also visit some of Costa Rica’s many other national parks or go surfing.
Why not see more of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef by travelling to Mexico? Here we have another marine conservation base situated along the Caribbean coast. There are, of course, plenty of other things to do in Mexico including more Mayan architecture to see, the Frida Khalo museum to visit, and, of course, Mexico’s world-famous cuisine to sample along the way.
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.
Although Belize is perhaps best known for its marine life, like many Central American locations, it also has a great abundance and diversity of wildlife. Perhaps the most iconic is the keel-billed toucan and the blue morpho butterfly. Other colourful tropical rainforest species native to Belize include the red-eyed tree frog and the scarlet macaw.
Many travel to Belize to experience its underwater life. The country governs the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s part of the second-largest reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Here, visitors can be treated to abundant coral diversity, seahorses, dolphins and endangered species such as sea turtles and manatees.
Start your morning off with “fry jacks”, puffy tortilla breads often eaten for breakfast or lunch. Meat-eaters can try pibil, a Mayan pork dish served with tortillas, or ceviche made from fresh sustainable seafood. Vegetarians can rely on rice and beans as they are a staple throughout Belize, but you might also be able to find veggie options of traditional dishes such as salbutes, fried tortillas with a range of toppings. Be sure to also try plantains, okra and dukunu or tamalitos, corn bread cooked in corn husks.
Music and Crafts
Belizean music and crafts reflect its history, with Mayan, as well as African and European influences. One of the popular styles of music is known as “punta”. It shares commonalities with other Afro-Caribbean music and has an accompanying dance style. The island where we’re based, Ambergris Caye, is a site where Mayan ceramics have been studied.
Festivals and Celebrations
Belize is renowned for its festivals and our location on the island of Ambergris Caye is of the best in Belize to experience these celebrations first hand. In February, Carnival is celebrated in many countries around the world and Belize is no exception. In August, the highly popular international Costa De Maya Festival includes international musical guests, and in December, there is a lighted holiday boat parade to celebrate Christmas.
Belizean Creole is the most widely spoken language in Belize. It combines many other languages and you might be able to learn some while you’re there. It also has many other official national languages, including Spanish and several Mayan languages. It is also the only Central American country that has English as an official language.
BONUS! Kick-starter online training for Early Career Conservationists (worth £295)
Feeling lost in your conservation job hunt? Want to work in conservation, but don’t know where to start? Get your career on track with the Kick-starter online training for Early Career Conservationists designed to help you understand the job market, to navigate your career options, and to get hired more quickly.
Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.
This unique online course has been designed to increase your chances of success, and is being specially organised and run by Conservation Careers.
All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on our course when you get back from your placement.
Included in the course is a year’s full-access membership of the Conservation Careers Academy, which includes access to over 8,000 jobs, 1,500 training courses, live training events and many more career-boosting options.
Duration, dates and costs
Start dates are as follows:
- 2021: 10 Jul; 24 Jul; 07 Aug; 21 Aug; 04 Sep; 18 Sep; 02 Oct; 16 Oct; 30 Oct; 13 Nov; 27 Nov; 11 Dec; 25 Dec
- 2022: 08 Jan; 22 Jan; 05 Feb; 19 Feb; 05 Mar; 19 Mar; 02 Apr; 16 Apr; 30 Apr; 14 May; 28 May; 11 Jun; 25 Jun; 09 Jul; 23 Jul; 06 Aug; 20 Aug; 03 Sep; 17 Sep; 01 Oct; 15 Oct; 29 Oct; 12 Nov; 26 Nov; 10 Dec; 24 Dec
The costs are:
- 2 weeks: £4,445
- 4 weeks: £5,645
- 6 weeks: £6,795
- 8 weeks: £7,995
- 10 weeks: £9,195
- 12 weeks: £10,345
Increasing Employability: Pre Departure Program Training
Our programs are not only life-changing experiences but are also designed to help participants increase their employability. We have developed a curriculum to be completed prior to arrival in the country in order to ensure that more time is dedicated to program work once you commence your volunteer program.
Eight weeks prior to your start date, you will complete the following online courses in preparation for your in-country program:
PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION (1 hour)
PROGRAM SPECIFIC TRAINING (1 – 5 hours)
OPTIONAL: WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COURSE (10 – 15 hours)
OPTIONAL: MARINE CONSERVATION COURSE (10 – 15 hours)
In order to obtain a certificate for the Wildlife Conservation course which is endorsed by the University of Richmond and UNC Charlotte, you will need to complete quizzes & assignments and will be given 4 weeks post program to submit your work.
If you are looking to travel in less than 8 weeks from now, you will still complete the course however this will be done in country and all content will need to be downloaded before arrival.
Health & Hygiene
The work we contribute to across the globe remains important and new measures allow our participants to continue to join our programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. Changes to our existing protocols have been made by our health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities. Please inquire for more information on the protocols.
What’s not included
Reserve your place or ask a question