Reef Conservation on a Caribbean Island

Non-profit
·
founded in 2006
ReefCI
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Coordinator | Anthony
Coordinator | Anthony
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.

High­lights

Help restore damaged reef ecosystems
Volunteer on a picture-perfect castaway Caribbean island located directly on the Belize Barrier Reef
Feel the rush of spearing the invasive lionfish and the satisfaction in helping remove this invasive species destroying the reefs of the Caribbean
Protect endangered marine species
Learn to scuba dive or further your dive qualifications; everyone contributes regardless of your experience
Hands-on ocean conservation on a picture perfect Caribbean island located on the Belize Barrier Reef in the Sapodilla Marine Reserve Park in Belize. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 16+
Singles
Couples
Families
Groups
50+

The Belize Barrier Reef, spanning 190 miles, is the second largest reef in the world.  As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to seven protected areas, and is an important habitat for many threatened and endangered marine species. These include the manatee, numerous sea turtle species, spotted eagle rays, the American crocodile, and a variety of sharks, including the gentle whale shark.

On a small, private island off the coast of Placencia, a team of ocean-loving biologists and diving fanatics established a marine conservation NGO that has been protecting the Belize Barrier Reef since 2006.  The project has two main objectives, conservation through education and conservation through action, and as a volunteer on this project, you’ll be heavily involved in both. Through a series of educational presentations followed by biodiversity identification dives, you’ll learn the ins and outs of coral reef ecosystems, from the creatures that visit and live within, to the health of the reefs themselves and how to protect this fragile ecosystem.

You’ll also learn about invasive species from their introductions, the threats they pose, and what happens to unbalanced ecosystems, to the chain reaction they cause. Specifically, you’ll learn about the destructive and invasive lionfish that have become a significant threat to reefs throughout the Caribbean. You will learn how to spearfish and safely extract lionfish, and record data on the removed numbers. 

Ready to make a real difference by protecting and preserving the Belize Barrier Reef and the chance to live true island life in paradise?  Join us now! 

Dive Certifications and Courses Offered on the Island

In order to participate in our program, one must be a certified scuba diver.  Not certified?  No worries, many of our volunteers come to the island to learn to dive.  Looking to further your dive credentials?  Many of our volunteers come to our island to further their diving certification status.  Regardless of your diving level, our island is a wonderful place to learn with calm, clear waters and little current.  Our volunteer trips are for both non-experienced and experienced divers - all levels of divers are welcomed.  

We have many dive courses available to help you develop your scuba and marine conservation skills while on the island volunteering with us.  Below is the price our program charges for each PADI certification course and how long it will take you to complete the certification course on the island.

PADI Certification Courses Offered on the Island

  • PADI Open Water Certification – $225 USD (3 days)
  • PADI Advanced Open Water Certification – $275 USD (3 days)
  • PADI Rescue Diver Certification – $325 USD (1 week)
  • PADI Dive Master Certification – $750 USD (4 week minimum stay)

PADI Specialty Certification Courses Offered on the Island

  • PADI Specialty Course:  Invasive Lionfish – $175 USD (2 days)
  • PADI Specialty Course:  Coral Reef Conservation – $175 USD (3 days)
  • PADI Specialty Course: Fish Identification – $175 USD (2 days)
  • PADI Specialty Course: Deep Diver – $175 USD (3 days)
  • PADI Specialty Course: Emergency First Response  – $175 USD (2 days)
  • PADI Specialty Course: Underwater Photographer  – $250 USD (2 days)

*Please Note:  The PADI Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Emergency First Response, Dive Master, and Underwater Photographer require the PADI eLearning prior to arrival.  All other courses do NOT require the PADI eLearning prior to arrival.  You must be a fully certified Open Water diver before taking any PADI Specialty Courses. 

In order to be certified on the island, you will need to complete the PADI eLearning portion of your course (Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Underwater Photographer, Emergency First Response or Divemaster) prior to your arrival to our island. PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization that governs and regulates scuba standards and diver certifications. You can get started immediately with the classroom portion of your certification course and work at your own pace using the PADI eLearning system at home. With this convenient online study option, you will complete the classroom/theory portion and theory exam of your course before your arrival to the island.  At the end of the eLearning program, you must print out your eRecord and bring a copy of it with you to the island. Once on the island, we will finish off the appropriate in-water diver portion of the course. PADI charges around $200 USD for the eLearning and the cost is paid to PADI via their website.  We find our guests like to avoid the book work and theory portion of certification courses while on the island and this provides the best option to get in the water immediately upon arrival to our island. 

Typical day

Each week/day will differ but you will be helping and participating in the following areas:

  • Invasive Lionfish:  Spearfish to remove this destructive invasive species that is destroying native coral reef ecosystems. 
  • Marine Conservation Education: Learn about coral reefs and marine animals and discover how we can protect our oceans and reefs.  
  • Whale Shark Monitoring (if spotted):  Dive with the largest fish in the ocean and record sightings to improve conservation efforts.
  • Biodiversity Identification Dives:  Identification dives (fish, sea turtles, sharks, invertebrates, coral) to increase one’s knowledge and understanding of reef ecosystems.
  • Beach Clean-ups:  Weekly beach and island trash/plastic removal on islands of the Belize Barrier Reef.

Depending on the season and length of stay you might not take part in all of these activities above but it is a good bet that you will experience most of them. 

Is this trip for me?

We attract a vast cross section of demographics from diverse ages, backgrounds, and nationalities.  We have singles, students, working professionals, families, couples, and retirees that come to our island!  People coming on this type of volunteer experience all have a shared passion for diving and ocean conservation, which makes for great group dynamics. We give the general diver a unique opportunity to learn about and help conserve the marine environment while having a fun volunteer experience. Our trips are for both experienced and non-experienced divers and those wishing to become certified divers. Everyone contributes regardless of their background or experience. The research methodologies we teach are very simple and you will learn all you need to know in our training sessions prior to each dive.  You will be spearing the invasive lionfish and participating in our other conservation dives and making a difference!

A typical week will include the following:

  • 5 days/4 nights on private island in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize
  • 3 meals daily during dive week
  • 12-13 dives per week
  • At least one night dive a week
  • Training for conservation work and participation in our conservation programs
  • Island boat transfers to and from island
  • All diving equipment (excluding wetsuit, fins, booties, dive mask)
  • Accommodations while on the island

Free-time activities

Our volunteers can choose how much they wish to get involved.  Some people want to do as much conservation diving and learning as possible, while others wish to combine the conservation dives with relaxation and fun dives.  All dives are voluntary so you can choose to relax in our hammocks with a good book, fish from the island, or do a bit of sea kayaking/stand up paddle boarding or immerse yourself in conservation volunteering. The choice is yours!  

We have lots to offer on the island when not diving!

  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkeling
  • Fishing from the island
  • Conservation help (dissections, data collection)
  • Volleyball
  • Badminton
  • Great food
  • Further your dive course training with us!
  • Lots of hammock time!!
Depending how long your stay with us is, the weekends back on the mainland are yours to explore. Besides the incredible diving and conservation experience you will have with us Monday-Friday on our island, Belize has so much to explore on the mainland where you will be on the weekend! From ancient ruins, jungles and nature expeditions, spelunking, repelling, ziplining, cave and river tubing, to cultural tours; there is something for everyone.  You are guaranteed a trip of a lifetime in Belize!  
Water Sports
Swimming
Diving/
Snorkling
Sports

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 (basic level)
Required Documents
Our digital/online scuba diving waivers will be sent to you upon registration.
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Volunteering with ReefCI is a great way to get an insider’s view about the issues facing marine ecosystems and do your part to help the cause. Anyone can volunteer. Everyone can make a difference regardless of skill and ability. No experience is necessary, just a desire to be the change you wish to see in the world!
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

What's Included

Services by ReefCI
What is Included?
  • 5 days/4 nights on private island in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize
  • 3 meals daily during dive week
  • 12-13 dives per week
  • At least one night dive a week
  • Training for conservation work and participation in our conservation projects
  • Island boat transfers to and from island
  • Accommodations while on the island

What is Not Included?

  • Flights to Placencia, Belize
  • Wetsuit, fins, booties, dive mask (must bring your own)
  • Dive gear rental fee (BCD and regulator)
  • Sapodilla Caye Marine Park Fees
  • Optional alcohol and soda/pop while on the island 
  • Optional PADI certification courses you would like to take while on the island
Accommodation

We are located on a beautiful, idyllic remote private island that is part of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve Park, located in southern Belize about an hour boat ride from the mainland. Our island, Tom Owens Caye, is a true ‘castaway’ coral caye island located directly on the Belize Barrier Reef.  The island is about 1½ acres and has a large living area, great views and lots of hammock space. All of our volunteers upon arrival tell us that the photos do not do the island justice! It really is a perfect Caribbean paradise. 

Accommodations are basic but clean and comfortable and can best be described as hostel-like.  If you are expecting or wishing a 5-star resort then our island is not for you.  The location of our island however is 5 stars as every room has incredible views of the Caribbean Sea!  Imagine waking up to the sound of lapping waves and a spectacular Belizean sunrise!  Our large main cabana building houses couples, families, groups, and singles. We also have individual single cabanas that surround the island.  Bathroom and shower facilities are shared by all.   We do not have air conditioning on the island as the strong trade winds provide a continuous cooling breeze on the island.  However, rooms can occasionally become stuffy so all rooms have fans if needed.  Our island manager allocates rooms upon arrival on Monday morning based on the number of singles, couples, and groups for the week.  Couples, groups, and families are always roomed together. 

A generator is kept in its own room to reduce noise pollution. It is run all night on the island allowing guests to charge their laptops, iPhones, iPods and cameras etc. and use a fan if the sea breeze is not enough. This generator is turned on in the evening so during the day electricity is limited. 

Bedroom (Double) Bedroom (Single) Bungalow
Food & Beverages

ReefCI is known for our great food!!  We provide 3 meals a day plus an early morning snack and a mid-afternoon or late evening snack everyday while on the island.

Sample Island Menu: 

  • Early Morning:  Fresh fruit, tea, coffee and biscuits. 
  • Breakfast:  Fried jacks, sausages, scrambled eggs and refried beans or banana pancakes with ham and eggs.
  • Lunch:  Island chicken salad or chicken and veggie quesadilla’s or fresh fish burritos.
  • Dinner:  Lionfish fingers with cilantro, homemade garlic tartar sauce served with fresh salad and coconut rice or chicken curry with okra and yellow ginger rice or bbq whole fish with garlic mash and mixed veggies, or garlic lobster with cilantro mash and garlic zucchini.
  • Dessert:  Coconut tart or pineapple up-side-down cake or chocolate rum cake with a rum butter sauce.

Vegetarian, Vegan, Food Allergery?  All Dietary Needs Fully Catered For! 

All dietary requirements are catered for (food allergies, vegan, vegetarian, no seafood, dairy, tree nuts etc).   No worries - we have vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, gluten free eaters, diabetics, and nut allergy volunteers that come to the island every year.  Our chef is quite accustomed to meeting the needs of our volunteers. Don't worry, we will make sure your dietary needs are met : )  However, it is always a good idea to bring special food and snacks that you like. 

All meals and drinking water/juices are provided for you while you are at the island. There is an honesty book system on the island, which has a small selection of sodas, beers, and rum drinks available at an additional cost. 

Internet Access
Sorry, no access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. An airport pickup isn't included within the program fees either.
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

Our conservation dive trips are Monday thru Friday – we depart for our island at 9:30am on Monday from Placencia, Belize and return to the mainland (Placencia) on Friday anywhere from 10am-12pm depending on ocean navigability. Volunteers must schedule arrival and departure in and out of Placencia, Belize either on a Saturday or Sunday. 

Weekend Accommodations

All volunteers will need to book a hotel or hostel in Placencia upon their arrival and departure on a Saturday or Sunday. Those staying multiple weeks will need weekend accommodations on the mainland Friday night thru Sunday night in between their weeks with us on the island.  So with ReefCI you get the best of both worlds. An amazing marine conservation volunteering experience Monday thru Friday on a private Caribbean island on the Belize Barrier Reef and the weekends on the mainland exploring all Belize has to offer.  From ancient ruins, jungles and nature expeditions, spelunking, repelling, ziplining, cave and river tubing, to cultural tours; there is something for everyone on the weekends.  You are guaranteed a trip of a lifetime in Belize! 

Flights to Placencia, Belize

All volunteers will fly into Belize’s only international airport - Belize International Airport (BZE) which is located in Belize City.  From there, you will make a connection flight to Placencia, Belize via a small hopper plane.  The short hopper flights typically provide around 9 daily flights on the weekends to and from Belize International Airport and Placencia.  There are two airline companies that operate hopper flights in Belize. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air –google them to search flight times and prices.  All volunteers must schedule arrival and departure on a Saturday or Sunday.  We will depart for the island on Monday from Placencia, Belize at 9:30am and return on Friday to Placencia anywhere from 10am-12pm. 

Availability
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Duration
1 - 8 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
1 week (min. stay)
$1,124
2 weeks
$2,189
3 weeks
$3,253
4 weeks
$4,318
5 weeks
$5,382
6 weeks
$6,447
8 weeks (max. stay)
$8,576
Average fees
$1,098 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated. ReefCI 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 ReefCI during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
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Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if ReefCI cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by ReefCI.

What are people saying about Volunteer World?

Reef Conservation on a Caribbean Island

Hands-on ocean conservation on a picture perfect Caribbean island located on the Belize Barrier Reef in the Sapodilla Marine Reserve Park in Belize.

$1098/week

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