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Belize: Bottlenose Dolphin Research

Join researchers on a week-long program to study bottlenose dolphins in Belize. No prior research experience is required.

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New in 2018 and beyond: We have combined this volunteer vacation with our other volunteer program studying coral reefs at St. George's Caye. Check out our all new Belize: Ocean Wildlife Volunteer Program.

  • Learn dolphin research techniques through hands-on participation side-by-side with researchers.
  • Contribute to Oceanic Society's long-term research on bottlenose dolphins in Belize.
  • Support efforts to protect dolphins and other wildlife in a proposed marine reserve.
  • Family-friendly program suitable for ages 12 and above.

In 1992, Oceanic Society began a long-term study of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) aimed at documenting their abundance, distribution, and behavioral ecology in Belize. Our research began in the Drowned Cayes region, later shifting to Turneffe Atoll. In 2016 we returned to an original study site where more than 100 individual dolphins have been previously identified.

As a research assistant on this program, you will accompany the researcher on boat-based surveys to look for dolphins and help record behaviors, locations, and identities as well as environmental data. Opportunistically, and at the discretion of the researcher, we will also attempt to observe the dolphins' behavior underwater. At locations where dolphin sightings occur, the researcher, with the assistance of those volunteers comfortable with snorkeling, will conduct underwater examinations of the habitat and record prey availability while boat-based team members collect environmental data. One goal of this program is to document a specific family of dolphins that reside within the proposed St. George's Caye Underwater Archaeology Reserve.

Manatees are also found in our study site and we will opportunistically collect data on their distribution. All research is conducted from small boats. You must know how to swim but no other skills are required to participate.

This week-long program is suitable for participants ages 12 and older (accompanied by an adult).

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: April 21–28. $2,750 per person.* Group limit 8.

* Trip prices do not include international airfare. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.


Eric Ramos is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center in new York City in the area of animal behavior and comparative psychology training. He has been working as a field researcher and trip leader with Oceanic Society since 2011, leading boat-based research trips with volunteers and students to gather data on the population of bottlenose dolphins at Turneffe Atoll, Belize.

Linda Searle is a conservation biologist and educator who coordinates marine conservation programs in Belize through ECOMAR, a nonprofit founded in 1996 to promote “conservation through education." She holds a master's degree in marine biology from Nova Southeastern University and bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Miami. Her research interests include coral reefs, sea turtles, and more.


Day 1: Belize City - St. George's Caye
Arrive in Belize City and transfer to St. George's Caye, less than 10 miles away.

Day 2-7: Dolphin Research
The program will start with an orientation and training, as well as a snorkeling checkout from beach, followed by boat-based training in equipment use. Dolphin research will be conducted in mornings and afternoons with lunch breaks at the research station. This program also includes some time for guided snorkeling and natural history exploration

Day 8: St. George's Caye - Belize City - Fly home
Transfer to Belize City, fly home.


Throughout the program, participants will stay at the St George's Caye Research Station & Field School run by ECOMAR, which offers basic but comfortable accommodations in double rooms or bunk rooms, with shared bathrooms (no hot water).

Three meals are prepared daily; they feature local and international dishes and are served buffet style. The meals are so good that many visitors ask for the recipes to take home!

Historic St. George's Caye is less than 10 miles from Belize City and one mile from the Belize Barrier Reef, making it ideal for accessing tropical marine ecosystems. On the island are mainly private homes used only on weekends and holidays and a small resort. There are no stores and or restaurants on the island, nor is there public electricity or water services. The islands residents include traditional lobster fishermen, caretakers and resort staff. The seclusion afforded at St George's Caye and its close proximity to tropical marine ecosystems and mainland Belize, make it a perfect location to focus on research.

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