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Belize Family Week

Bring your family to Belize for a volunteer vacation studying dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and more.

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Join Oceanic Society biologists and Belizean researchers for a family-oriented field study of Belizean wildlife including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and coral reefs. Located on the Caribbean, just south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Belize is a small, English-speaking country with an amazing variety of natural environments including the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, dense mangrove lagoons, and abundant interior pristine tropical forests.

This exciting, educational program is designed for children 10+ traveling with at least one adult parent/chaperone. Activities include guided snorkeling at outstanding coral reefs, participation in bottlenose dolphin and sea turtle research, and manatee watching. The first five days are spent at our Blackbird Caye field station, with daily excursions to explore and study a variety of species and habitats while snorkeling, hiking, or cruising in our research boat. The field station offers easy access to pristine coral reefs and is open to the public offering comfortable lodging in beachfront cabanas. The site serves as a base for the Society's research projects, and opportunities to meet with scientists and learn about research efforts are an additional benefit of the program.

On the last day, we return to the mainland to explore Belize's barrier reef with local researchers and to search for sea turtles and manatees. More than your average family vacation - a truly memorable experience!

Observing bottlenose dolphins. Our program begins with a 90-minute boat ride from Belize City to Blackbird Caye at Turneffe Atoll. The atoll is exceptional for its warm shallow water, which permits easy access snorkeling to an extraordinary underwater paradise. Because of the distance from the mainland, the waters are clear and the reefs are relatively pristine.

The Turneffe Atoll serves as a feeding and resting area for dolphins and two days will be dedicated to accompanying the dolphin reseacher on dolphin surveys. Mid-week we transfer by boat to St. George's Caye. The next two days are dedicated to observing manatees and studying sea turtles at Swallow Caye Manatee Sanctuary and the Drowned Caye Area. This site is known as a manatee resting and feeding ground and offer the best manatee watching opportunities in Belize. We will also accompany a Belizean sea turtle researcher studying hawksbill turtles.

A guide will accompany the group throughout the program, in addition to guest biologists and researchers.

Trip Dates & Cost

2015: August 2–9. $1,100 to $2,275 per person.*

2016: Dates to be announced. Contact us to inquire.

* Trip prices do not include international airfare.


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: U.S. - Belize City - Blackbird Caye
You will be met at the Belize International Airport and tranfered to Belize City, and the marina, where an Oceanic Society Field Station boat will transfer you to Blackbird Caye (approximate 90 minute trip), in time for welcome dinner and trip briefing. Four nights in comfortable, beachfront cabanas.

Days 2 thru 5: Blackbird Caye Field Station
Daily activities include morning and afternoon dolphin surveys, and snorkeling excursions, then back for lunch in the palapa. Weather and other field factors will set our daily schedule but some of the themes will include: Natural history of community keystone animals, coral reefs and fish behavior, and marine mammals. The researcher will prepare us for the dolphin surveys and explain the use of various pieces of field equipment.

Day 6: Belize City
Early morning transfer to Belize City and check in to your hotel. Day trip to the Swallow Caye Manatee Sanctuary and Belize's great barrier reef to observe manatees, sea turtles, and to snorkel. Learn about manatees and hawksbill sea turtles from Belizean researchers. Although our focus is manatee and sea turtle observation, there will be dedicated time for reef snorkeling.

Day 7: Fly home
Morning transfer to the airport for your flight home.


Accommodations are split between the Blackbird Caye Field Station and St. George's Caye Research Station.

Oceanic Society's Blackbird Caye Field Station. © Sylvia Earle

The facilities at Blackbird include 4 double occupancy beachfront cabanas with private bath. Each cabana has two beds, small closet, writing desk and chair, one night table. Each bathroom has a stall shower, sink with mirror, small storage unit, and toilet. The Field Station features a large dining palapa with a maximum seating capacity of 40 at one sitting; staff building; classroom/library.

The St George's Caye Research Station & Field School offers rustic yet comfortable accommodations including bunk rooms and rooms with double beds.

At both facilities, three meals are prepared daily and feature local and international dishes. The meals are so good that many visitors ask for the recipes to take home!

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