Manatee Conservation

High­lights Require­ments What's Included Dates & Fees Rev­iews
Non-profit
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founded in 1989
Frontier
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Coordinator | David
Coordinator | David

High­lights

Snorkel in pristine ecosystems
The chance to survey populations of rare and elusive manatees and their vital sea grass habitats
Soak up the relaxed Caribbean atmosphere while take part in a long term marine monitoring and conservation project
Make lifelong friends and return with incredible stories, photos and memories
Opportunity to dive in some of the world's best dive sites (e.g. Blue Hole, Turneffe Atoll, Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef, and many more)
Enjoy the white sands, blue waters and relaxed Caribbean atmosphere of Belize while making a valuable contribution to the protection of this rare and elusive species. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 16+
Singles
Couples
Groups
50+
Nestled in Central America on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize lies at the centre of the Mesoamerican "biodiversity hotspot". Pristine subtropical forests provide a refuge for wildlife and conceal ancient Mayan ruins, whilst the warm clear waters of the Caribbean lap sandy Cayes offering access to the world’s second longest barrier reef and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; renowned for its spectacular snorkelling and diving.

‘No shoes, no shirt, no worries’ is the infamous motto for the Cayes off the east coast of Belize. Throughout your volunteer experience you will have the opportunity to discover famous barrier reefs and marvel at an extraordinary array of colourful reef fish, sharks, rays, sea urchins, anemones, octopus, sea turtles and manatees, who feed on deep green sea grass beds, the worlds underwater grasslands. In your free time, you can also explore this exquisite, undisturbed underwater world as you learn to dive off the Cayes of Belize or dive the world renowned Blue Hole.

Your primary focus on this project will be surveying the population, behaviour and habitat of the West-Indian manatee. Manatees in Belize are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN red list and their numbers are declining rapidly. This species is at risk from habitat disturbance and degradation, pollution, climate change and increasing tourism. Whilst recording manatee sightings and behaviours, in relation to human disturbance and various environmental factors, you will explore, map and monitor vast seagrass beds for the benefit of the manatees and other species that rely on these habitats. You will also have the opportunity to survey and monitor coral reef habitats, populations of reef fish, commercially and ecologically important invertebrate species, and may even get the chance to monitor local shark populations.

Your days will be eventful; the work will be challenging, rewarding and fun. You will have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the conservation of this rare and elusive species, whose numbers are rapidly declining. Results from this study will be used to apply further protections to the manatee and the seagrass meadows that they rely on, and encourage restoration work within the seagrass meadows, without which, they will continue to decline. This work will also allow for awareness programmes to be created with local stakeholders and businesses, further protecting these vital populations.

Typical day

Although Belize is distinguished from its neighbours in being the only country in the region with a British colonial heritage, it also has strong ties to Latin America, as well as to the Caribbean. With one foot firmly planted in lush interior forests and another foot in the laidback and colourful Caribbean Sea, Belize’s animal and plant life are the stars of the country, thanks to conservation efforts from national and international bodies.

The Belizean government is now working with national management partners and international conservation and aid agencies to protect the county’s invaluable biodiversity. As a partner, Frontier work alongside the Belizean Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, with long term aims to protect and conserve key marine and terrestrial hotspots. This is achieved through local conservation awareness, scientific monitoring & research, community support programs and implementation of protected areas co-management plans, and Frontier volunteers are an integral part of this effort.

Record marine biodiversity

To aid decision making and implement protected area co-management plans that are designed to protect the countries important marine life, Frontier partners in Belize require baseline data on marine habitats and associated species, and long-term monitoring programmes to meet both national and international protocols. In order to protect specific species it is necessary to determine current population levels and monitor changes in that population, along with determining the driving forces behind potential changes.

The West Indian manatee is reliant on marine seagrass habitats along the coast of Belize, however, key areas of this habitat are currently outside of designated marine protected areas. It is hoped that with data collected on the population and behaviour of this species and the health of its habitat, that we can extend protections to safeguard this species and many more who share its underwater world, whilst raising awareness within the local community of their ecology and conservation.

Through snorkel surveys you will assess the abundance and behaviour of the local manatee population whilst you explore, map and monitor vast seagrass beds. You will also have the opportunity to survey and monitor coral reef habitats, populations of reef fish, commercially and ecologically important invertebrate species, and may even get the chance to monitor local shark populations. Frontier uses standardised marine survey methodology, as well as incorporating vital local knowledge. Your results will be used to apply further protections to the manatee and the seagrass meadows that they rely on, and encourage restoration work within the seagrass meadows, without which, they will continue to decline.

To gather the data needed you will undertake snorkel surveys using underwater line and belt transects, active searches and behavioural methodologies. Your activities will involve locating, mapping and monitoring the health of the extensive sea grass beds. You will survey population abundance and behaviour of the local manatees and will also get the opportunity to study reef fish and invertebrates, and may even get the chance to survey the local shark, ray and turtle populations.

Other activities include surveying mangroves, a vital buffer against storm surges caused by cyclones and an important part of the coastal ecosystem, opportunistic sightings of cetaceans, sharks and rays, beach clean ups, forest restoration work and monthly surveys of conch and lobster.

Sample Itinerary*

7:00 a.m. – Breakfast at the volunteer house, prepared by the volunteers!

8:30 a.m. – Volunteers leave camp by boat to either carry out snorkel surveys of manatees and sea grass habitats or undertake skills training (survey and ID techniques). Some training activities will take place on camp.

12:30 p.m. – Volunteers break for a packed lunch (lunch prepared by volunteers when at the project camp)

2:00 p.m.  - Volunteer work at the project camp for the afternoon; beach clean-ups, camp duties and maintenance, skillset training and development, surveying sites close to camp and many other activities depending on the project focus at the time.

5:00 p.m. – The working day comes to an end. Volunteers are free to catch up on anything, plan for the next day’s work and socialise.

6:00 p.m. – Dinner at the Volunteer house prepared by volunteers!

7:00 p.m. - Socialising… party on a Saturday!

*This itinerary should only be considered as an example of the kind of activities and timescales to expect.  Actual itineraries may vary depending on the season and the requirements of the project.

Free-time activities

The Frontier-Belize camp is fun and in your spare time you'll have opportunities to swim and snorkel, play football against the unbeatable local side or try out beach volleyball. Alternatively you may enjoy a traditional Saturday night themed camp party, play backgammon, poker or chess, or join in a camp quiz night. After a long hard day of snorkelling you may prefer to relax with a drink and sway in the camp hammock, or sit around the campfire and chat to your new friends.

You will have weekends to enjoy the local culture, excursions, hostels and restaurants on Caye Caulker or the wider area of Belize. Local tour operators offer the chance to dive at the famous Blue Hole, learn to kite surf, windsurf and sail or relax on locally built boats on sunset tours. These can be organised in country via the Frontier-Belize staff. Alternatively you can travel back to the mainland to visit the renowned Belize Zoo,famous Xunantunich Mayan ruins or lush tropical forests. 

Water Sports
Swimming
Sightseeing
Diving/
Snorkling
Yoga/
Meditation

Require­ments

In order to join the program you need to be at least 16 years old on the program start date.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 07:00 - 17:00

What's Included

Services by Frontier
Pre-departure support:

Travel & medical advice & documentation
Equipment advice
Discounted medical kit
Free Frontier t-shirt 
UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training (extra cost applies)

In-country:Food
Accommodation
Airport pickup (for first and third Monday of the month arrivals), alternative start date possible
Internal ground transfers & in-transit accommodation (first or third Monday of the month arrivals) alternative start dates possible
Local orientation and training
24-hour international HQ back-up
Dive training for PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water price includes PIC cards, PADI membership, and use of Frontier project equipment and diving equipment including tanks, regs, BCDs and weights (personal dive kit i.e. wet suit, fins, mask, snorkel etc not included)

Airport Pickup at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport

Airport pickup and transfer to the project site is provided for free if you arrive on the 1st or 3rd Monday of the month.Independent travellers arriving on dates other than the first Monday of the month can arrange a separate airport collection at an extra cost of $120USD  by contacting the camp staff in Belize.
Accommodation

During the project you'll live in the beach camp alongside other Frontier volunteers and staff. We aim to provide you with a unique and memorable living experience. The Frontier camp was constructed by Frontier volunteers working with local craftsmen, using traditional building techniques and locally sourced environment-friendly, building materials and tents. The camp which is situated in a clearing on the beach has been designed to blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Camp life is very simple, unsophisticated and fun.

You will be staying in tents or locally built huts, your "shower" will be a jug or a bucket of water and you cook over an open campfire: so prepare for the basic, virtually footprint less, unencumbered lifestyle! On occasions you may have to journey further to reach a remote survey site, then you will stay in a "satellite camp"; basically a mosquito net pitched on a distant beach.

Bungalow
Food & Beverages

Food on camp is simple and nutritious and consists largely of locally sourced fresh vegetables and fruit, rice, beans and noodles, all of which are purchased from nearby communities thereby helping to support the local economy. Luxuries such as chocolate, peanut butter and drinking chocolate are available in Belize City, so make sure you stock up before heading to your field camp or at nearby stalls accessible only by boat on weekends.

Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking. Creating spectacular meals over an open campfire or baking bread in the campfire oven will become second nature: so get your cookbooks out now and start thinking up recipes! Also, with luck you'll be invited to local feasts and festivals – a great way to engage with local communities and discover local cuisines and cultures.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) in Belize City. We assist you to find cheap flights to Belize.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Belize provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in Belize you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Belize.

Dates & Fees

NO CREDIT CARD FEES

Details on arrival

This project begins on the first and third Monday of every month.

Alternative dates available on request, at an extra cost.

Availability
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Duration
1 - 20 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
1 week (min. stay)
$ 1,445
2 weeks
$ 1,795
3 weeks
$ 2,145
4 weeks
$ 2,495
5 weeks
$ 2,995
6 weeks
$ 3,395
7 weeks
$ 3,745
8 weeks
$ 4,145
10 weeks
$ 4,895
12 weeks
$ 5,645
20 weeks (max. stay)
$ 8,045
Average fees
$ 924 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Frontier will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Frontier during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if Frontier cancels your trip
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Frontier.

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  Americas Central America Belize  Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Manatee Conservation

Enjoy the white sands, blue waters and relaxed Caribbean atmosphere of Belize while making a valuable contribution to the protection of this rare and elusive species.

$924/week

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Availability
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