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Belize: Ocean Wildlife Volunteer Program

Help scientists monitor coral reefs and gather needed data on sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees in beautiful Belize.

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  • Work with local scientists to collect data on sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees through boat-based surveys.
  • Explore the protected reefs of Hol Chan Marine Reserve to learn how they promote healthy and abundant marine communities.
  • Stay by the beach at the St. George’s Caye Research Station.

Join us for an exciting volunteer week on St. George’s Caye, Belize, a secluded island situated just a mile from the Belize Barrier Reef. The surrounding area supports healthy coral reefs, endangered manatees and sea turtles, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, and is a nursery ground for queen conch. On this volunteer vacation, you will learn about and help study all of these iconic and ecologically important marine species.

As a volunteer on this program, you’ll work with researchers from ECOMAR to collect data on coral reefs, sea turtles, queen conch, dolphins, and manatees along the reefs and seagrass beds of St. George’s Caye and in the many channels that make up the Drowned Cayes during daily excursions. Data collected during the program will be added to an annual report that will be shared with the St. George’s Caye Village Council and Fisheries Department. Educational evening presentations during the expedition will inform you about local research and conservation efforts.

On the final day of the program we will visit Hol Chan Marine Reserve to explore the shallow patch reefs and to visually compare fish abundance between reefs inside and outside the marine reserve.

Only snorkeling experience is needed to participate in this program. Volunteers will be trained in the use of survey equipment and in research techniques.

Trip Dates & Cost

2019: November 30 – December 7. $2,995 per person.* Group limit 14.

2020: January 25 – February 1. $2,995 per person.* Group limit 14.

* Trip price does not include international airfare. There is a single supplement fee of $350. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.


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
After your arrival into Belize City, you will meet in the afternoon to be transferred to the St. George's Caye Field Station. Following your arrival, there will be a brief orientation.

Days 2–6: Coral Reef, Sea Turtle, Dolphin, and Manatee Surveys
On each day of the program you will make morning and afternoon excursions to monitor coral reefs, sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, and queen conch populations, while guided by our researcher. You will be trained in a variety of sampling techniques and will help collect data at various study sites while snorkeling, as well as from the boat.

There will also be leisure time following lunch each day, during which you can relax at the field station, and there will be opportunities for “fun” snorkeling when not collecting data.

Day 7: Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Take a full day trip to nearby Hol Chan Marine Reserve off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Established in 1987, Hol Chan is Belize's oldest marine reserve and encompasses three square miles of beautiful marine habitat including coral reef, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Participants will spend the day exploring the shallow patch reefs and visually comparing fish abundance in areas inside and outside of the reserve.

Day 8: St. George's Caye - Belize City - Departure
After breakfast, you will be transferred from St. George's Caye to Belize City. You should arrive with plenty of time to catch a taxi to the airport to connect with your flights home (same day return flights can be booked for noon or later).

Trip extensions to explore Belize's spectacular rainforest and nearby Maya ruins can be arranged upon request.


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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