Join our summer expedition team to get involved in SCUBA diving to collecting coral reef data, to planting trees with community groups.
The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) has been working since 1997 to safeguard large areas of terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the pristine Mesoamerican complex for the benefit of local communities and the species contained within. Since 2014 we have given volunteers a unique opportunity to get involved in our work through our Ridge to Reef Expeditions project (R2R), which provides invaluable support to TIDE's research, monitoring and education programs.
Our R2R program is essential in ensuring the important work of TIDE is able to continue in the future, by providing the resources necessary to carry out the work we do. Volunteers assist in collecting data, contributing to conservation projects, and working in communities to share information with local stakeholders.
R2R volunteers not only have the chance to help in the long term management of the protected areas TIDE manages, but also have a unique opportunity to learn a wide range of conservation skills in different environments. From collecting fisheries and coral reef health data, to monitoring amphibians, and assisting community reforestation groups to working in local schools, volunteers are exposed to a variety of experiences in a leading non-governmental organization in Belize. Here are some of the activities you could be involved in this summer:
Volunteers will work alongside TIDE rangers, scientists and guides, all of whom are Belizean and are passionate about the work they do and experts in their field. An expedition manager will lead the group throughout the program and is available 24/7.
Generally, volunteers work on conservation based activities in the field from Monday to Friday and are expected to participate in all activities scheduled. Usually, volunteers stay at our bunk house style accommodations in Payne’s Creek National Park, a beautiful and secluded location on the banks of a lagoon. At the weekend, the group stays in our large, comfortable house in the village of Big Falls. Saturdays are a day for adventures, and we take you to see all the different sites the Toledo district has to offer, including Mayan archeological tours, cultural and culinary tours, caves, waterfalls, zip-lining and more. Sunday is a day to sit back and relax.
There are no pre-requisites for the program, since all training is provided by our in-country staff, and all specialist equipment required for field work is provided. All we ask is that volunteers pack their enthusiasm and come with a flexible attitude, since schedules and projects can change to reflect the current priorities of TIDE.This is a fantastic program for anyone interested in a career in conservation in tropical ecosystems, who wants to understand why holistic ecosystem management which involves local communities is crucial. It gives experience and training in a wide range of activities, so for anyone unsure of their preferred career path, it gives insight into different opportunities. Working in an award-winning non profit organization also gives invaluable insights into the way non-governmental organizations operate.
Wake up in the peaceful setting of our volunteer bunkhouse in the heart of Payne's Creek National Park, surrounded by fragrant pine savannah and on the banks of the lagoon where manatees are a common sight. After a hearty Belizean breakfast of tortillas, beans and eggs, travel by boat through the lagoon and into the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
Arrive at our marine base and receive a briefing from TIDE's marine biologist about the day's diving activities, then don your gear and head out to the first dive site. Dives may include measuring conch length to determine fishery sustainability, marking lobster as part of our mark-and-recapture study, determining levels of coral bleaching or hunting and spearing the invasive lionfish.
Return to the marine base for a hearty lunch of rice, fried chicken and salad, then head back out for the afternoon dive, before returning to Payne's Creek for the evening. After a home cooked dinner, you will have time to record the data you collected today, relax, play games or attend a class about an upcoming activity or topic of interest such as climate change.
On some evenings, we will go back out after dinner and patrol the local nesting sea turtle beaches, looking for evidence of nesting activity. If we find a nesting female, we will watch from a distance, then once she is safely back in the ocean we will check the nest to ensure it's in a safe location. If necessary, we may attempt to relocate to ensure maximum chances of offspring survival. Once we know where and when a nest is laid, we know when it will hatch, so this process enables our team to be present for the event, and help safeguard the hatchlings as they make their journey towards the sea and beyond.
Our 2017 summer program runs from June 25 – August 20. Volunteers are expected to find their own way to Belize International Airport on the start date, where they will be met by our R2R team. On the program end date, we will take the group back to the international airport for departure flights.
Each Saturday we take the expedition group on an excursion in the Toledo district of southern Belize. Activities including zip-lining, river tubing, caving, kayaking, visiting ancient Maya sites, local cookery and crafts classes and drumming lessons. Belize is very culturally diverse, and volunteers will get to visit and work with a wide variety of cultures during their expedition.
Each Sunday is set aside as a day of relaxation, so you can wander into the local village of Big Falls to use the internet cafe or visit the shops, or simply relax at our large weekend house which has 360 degree views of beautiful landscapes from our screened in and comfortable verandah.
To make life easier for you, everything is included in your fee once you arrive into Belize at the international airport, including; Airport transfers on the expedition start and end date; food; accommodation; weekly Saturday excursions to local attractions; PADI Open Water training and course materials; PADI Advanced Open Water training and course materials; EFR first aid training and course materials; equipment rental.
You will have a dedicated expedition manager with you 24/7, with 24 hour access to emergency medical services and communications. In addition to this, local guides and scientists and TIDE staff members will lead the conservation training and activities.
All our local guides have full training, some of which is provided through expedition fees, and receive a competitive salary.
Your expedition manager will meet you at the international airport on the program start date. You will travel as a group in our private tour bus to Big Falls, approximately five hours drive, stopping for lunch and restroom breaks on the way.
For most fieldwork weeks we will stay in the volunteer bunkhouse and cabanas in Payne's Creek National Park. This rustic field station is located in fragrant pine savannah by the banks of an intricate lagoon system, where manatees are a common site. Mammals and bird life are abundant, and endangered yellow headed parrots will be your morning alarm! There is a comfortable screened in bunkhouse that sleeps twelve in bunk beds, three new cabanas sleeping four each in bunk beds, a screened kitchen and dining area, indoor and outdoor flushing toilets, indoor and outdoor cold water showers (perfect on a hot day!), solar power and plenty of space for yoga, football or volleyball at the end of hard day at work.
On the weekends, stay in our house in Big Falls. About a 30 minute drive from TIDE's headquarters in Punta Gorda in a beautiful house situated in 11 acres of former orange orchard. Here you can hear frogs "calling for rain" through the night and wake up to an abundance of bird life. With comfortable dorm room style bedrooms, full bathrooms, a large kitchen-dining area and a screened porch where you can see nothing but forest before you, this is the perfect place to kick back and relax after a week in the field. For larger groups, we also have a new addition of three bedrooms and two bathrooms just a few meters from the main house.
Within a couple of minutes you can walk into Big Falls village where there are small shops, a bar, an internet cafe and, if you're in the mood for luxury, an eco-lodge with swimming pool which you can use for a small fee.
All meals are provided once you arrive into Belize City. For the most part, this is in the form of home cooked Belizean style food such as baked chicken, rice and beans, tortillas and plantain, but we also provide a variety of international dishes to cater to everyone's taste. Occasionally we will take the group to a local restaurant as a treat (included in your cost).
We can cater to any dietary requirements if you let us know before you arrive.
Purified drinking water is always available.