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Belize: Sea Turtle and Manatee Research

Help scientists gather needed data on endangered sea turtles and Antillean manatees in beautiful St. George's Caye, Belize.

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Overview

The coral reef ecosystem around St. George's Caye, Belize provides important habitat for endangered green, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles and Antillean manatees. As a volunteer on this program you will work side-by-side with researchers to conduct in-water sea turtle and manatee research surveys.

In-water surveys for sea turtles will be done by boat, while cruising along shallow fore and patch reefs. On some programs, we may have the opportunity to work with skilled local fishermen who will help us capture sea turtles in the water. We will then measure and tag them to help scientists track their movements and understand their population dynamics.

We will also search for endangered Antillean manatees that can be found foraging along the reefs and seagrass beds of St. George's Caye and in the many channels that make up the Drowned Cayes. Antillean manatees are a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. It is believed that less than 2,500 mature individuals remain in existence. The goal of the research is to observe the manatees, track their movements, and learn more about their vocalizations and behavior.

On the last day of the program, we will spend a full day snorkeling in Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize's oldest marine reserve, to explore the shallow patch reefs and compare the biodiversity and fish abundance between reefs inside and outside of the reserve.

Participants will stay at our in-country partner’s research station and field school on St. George's Caye. Only snorkeling experience is needed to participate in this program. Volunteers will be trained in the use of any survey equipment and in field research techniques. During times when you aren’t conducting research, there will be plenty of opportunities for beach snorkeling, swimming, and bird watching.

Trip Dates & Cost

2017: November 11–18. $2,700 per person.* Group limit 8.

2018: February 10–17 | April 21–28. $2,700 per person.* Group limit 8.

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

Photos
Naturalist

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.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival | Belize City - St. George's Caye
After your arrival into Belize City, in the afternoon you will meet to be transferred to the St. George's Caye Field Station. Following your arrival, there will be a brief orientation and check-out snorkel at the sand bar.

Days 2 and 4: Sea Turtle Research, St. George's Caye
We will make daily excursions by boat to do in-water surveys of sea turtles along the reefs and seagrass beds of St. George's Caye. There will also be leisure time following lunch each day, and there will be plenty of opportunities for “fun” snorkels when not collecting data.

Days 3, 5, and 6: Manatee Research, St. George's Caye
We will conduct surveys by boat to observe and monitor Antillean manatees, track manatee movements, and record their vocalizations.

Day 7: Snorkeling Excursion, Hol Chan Marine Reserve
We will 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.

Day 8: St. George's Caye - Belize City | Departure (or optional extension)
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 should be booked for noon or later).

Trip extensions to explore the interior rainforest and nearby Mayan ruins can be arranged.

Accommodations

Throughout the program, participants will stay at the St George's Caye Research Station & Field School run by our in-country partner, 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!

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