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Belize Reef CI
Tom Owen's Caye, Belize
Last updated: 19 August 2012
The main focus of the placement is to join in with the conservation projects through survey dives and coral reef check dives. By doing these you will help to develop an understanding of the complex ecosystem of the area in order to maximise conservation efforts and maintain the long term general health of the coral reef.
The conservation work is enjoyable and involves studying things such as lobsters, conches, fish, whale sharks, coral reefs, turtles and invertebrates. There are regular fun dives pre-breakfast, night dives most evening and divers are encouraged to dive as often as possible to colect as much data as possible!
|Country:||Tom Owen's Caye, Belize|
|Meals:||Meals provided Mon-Fri on the Caye|
|Trip duration||1 week +|
|Suitability||Beginners and qualified divers|
What diving courses are availble to you?
Please click the course name for more information about that particular course.
Details and Itinerary
Programme content and guideline itinerary
This project is open to all diving levels and abilities. If you are a beginner you will benefit from a FREE PADI Open Water course during your first week. You don't actually need any further training to do the conservation work, so we don't offer any other courses.
Reef Check is a global methodology used to monitor the health of the coral reefs in a number of countries. There are three main categories:
For each category there are a number of key indicator species that directly relate to the health of the coral reef systems.
Within the Sapodilla Cays there are six study sites where Reef Check surveys are conducted. Each is strategically placed in different locations covering the whole marine reserve in order to gain a good spatial resolution of results.
What will you be doing?
The Team Leader lays the 100m transect line. There are 3 buddy teams, one for fish, one for invertebrates and one for substrates. The fish survey is conducted first in order that the fish do not get disturbed prior to the survey. One buddy times whilst the other counts the indicator fish in 5 metre cube areas for 1.5 minutes. This is then repeated along the line. The next team surveys invertebrates with one buddy on each side of the line. They count the invertebrates inside a 2.5 metre width on each side of the transect line. This requires looking under rocks and ledges and into holes in order to find the species. The 3rd team counts the substrates. One buddy has a plumb line with a small weight on the end, the diver drops the line onto markings at each 50cm (.05m) interval and gives a hand sign to their buddy who then records the data onto a slate. The Team Scientist conducts a site description which includes any coral damage, anchor damage, disease etc. Some of the fascinating marine life you will encounter along the way includes whale sharks, turtles and lobsters.
The Caribbean Spiny Lobster is a high commercial value species throughout the Caribbean. Over the past few decades the populations have been seriously depleted due to an increase in over fishing. In many countries in the Caribbean there are now open and closed seasons.
Diving with lobsters enables you to contribute towards the marine conservation of the area, as you will be involved in the surveys. The primary reason for surveying the continental shelf is to gain the male to female ratios. There are a number of specific locations where female lobsters gather in order to release their eggs. These biologically important locations require protection in order to sustain the lobster populations.
The lobster survey is conducted using the rover diver technique. We go down in groups of about 6 divers with the person at the bottom of the line at about 30m and the person at the top of the line on the top of the wall. 2 people carry slates and a measuring stick (the lobster molester!) We move along the wall at the same pace for about 100 metres. Each lobster has to be coaxed out of its hole using the stick. First we ascertain what sex the lobster is, then we measure the total length and tail length and if the lobster is a female we look to see if it is carrying eggs. We do the same for about another 100m on the top of the wall with the deepest diver moving to the top of the line and the person who was on the top remaining where they were. Upon surfacing we note the gps co-ordinates so that we can ascertain the total area covered.
In order to monitor the migration patterns of these species, a number of plastic cable ties with individual numbers on have been placed around each conch, and every subsequent observation is recorded. This may indicate not only the migration patterns of conch between different depths it can also record the directional migration patterns associated with the anticlockwise currents.
Divers go down in buddy pairs to a sandy area where there is a fairly large conch population. One buddy has some calipers and a slate and the other a large measuring device and some tags. Divers record the lip thickness (this determines age and sexual maturity), size of spiral, size of conch, habitat, depth and tag number. When the tagging project is completed, divers conduct a number of conch survey dives each week throughout the year where they locate the conch and note the number and location.
During the months of June through to September, Hawksbill Turtles nest on Hunting Caye Island and they hatch from August through to December. The conservation team are working with the Belizean Department of Fisheries to help increase the turtle populations and the survival rates of the baby turtles.
Customers get the opportunity to work with the turtles. During the months of June till September you could be lucky enough to witness a turtle make her way to the nesting site or from the nest back to the ocean. They typically lay between 80 and 120 eggs.
Turtle conservation projects in the Caribbean are the ideal way to contribute toward eco-tourism in the area. Up to 120 baby turtles can hatch at one time and you can be there to help them make their way from the nest to the ocean……an incredibly moving experience watching the babies make their way into the world!
Divers who join this programme will be satisfied that they are contributing to a project that brings about immediate results. Data is also sent to international organisations for long term scientific global monitoring.
Project AWARE Whale Shark Project
Like many of its shark relatives, whale sharks are in decline and they may soon face extinction if we don't act now. Whale sharks' gentle nature makes them an easy fisheries target for meat and fins, highly valued in the international shark fin trade.
The Project AWARE Whale Shark Project engages divers and snorkelers in whale shark data collection efforts in partnership with the UK based Shark Trust. The Whale Shark Sightings Database allows volunteers to report their sighting information online. This public, photo identification database supports photo and sighting data comparisons by scientists, researchers, and others interested in preserving this vulnerable species. Photographic identification is a powerful non invasive technique for studying shark life histories and movement in their natural environment. This is especially important for a highly migratory species like the Whale Shark.
Nobody can guarantee a Whale Shark encounter however, if you are lucky enough to experience a Whale Shark you must record as much information as possible, and take photos (without a flash). Displaying a myriad of pale blue spots and stripes, each whale shark has its own unique pattern. Divers and snorkelers are asked to photograph and make notes about each whale shark’s individual skin pattern, size and other identifying factors. Following each sighting divers will be asked to submit the sightings data and images to an online database.
Note about Whale Sharks: You may get the opportunity to swim with the whale sharks during the months of March through to June. It is, however, possible to sight and swim with the Whale Sharks throughout the year.
Arrival: Meet at Punta Gorda Airstrip and transfer to Tom Owen's Caye
Conservation: Carried Monday – Friday (2/3 dives per day)
Conservation projects: Vary throughout the year but on-going
Dive Training: Carried out Mon-Fri around the conservation
Weekends: At Punta Gorda – time to explore Belize!
Duration: Varies according to your selection (1 to 4 weeks)
Included and Not Included
A guide to what you see and what you get!
Full details of exact inclusions, exclusions and local payments will be sent to you when you request a quotation. As a general guideline you can expect the following:
Meet and greet at Punta Gorda Airstrip, accommodation on Tom Owen's Caye during the week, transfers to/from Tom Owen's Caye, all meals during the week, conservation training, FREE PADI Open Water course for beginners, recreational diving, use of BCD, regulator & fins, English speaking staff, all PADI materials (if applicable), all recreational PADI fees (if applicable), 24 hour UK support, pre-departure advice and info pack, tanks, weights and air.
International Flights (to Belize City), domestic flights (to/from Punta Gorda), visas (free for UK nationals up to 30 days),v accinations (consult GP), Personal Travel Insurance, airport taxes (c$40 on departure), personal spending money, meals and accommodation at weekends (Friday night to Sunday afternoon) and personal travel kit. Must have your own mask, snorkel, wetsuit and watch.
A few things you should know and trip downloads
Guideline Pricing Information
All prices are per person and exclude flights unless otherwise stated. The guideline prices shown are designed to provide you with an indication of how much to budget for your trip. You need to be aware that there are a number of factors which can influence the price; these include the duration of trip, the time of year, exchange rates, board basis and the amount of diving you require. For an accurate price you must submit a quote request.
During the week your accommodation will be on the island. All volunteers have private accommodation and they are based in small and basic but pretty cabanas overlooking the sea. There are also rooms suitable for couples. The bathroom facilities are shared and the communal area is friendly with colourful underwater murals on the walls and mosaics on the tables.
During weekends you will be on the mainland and can either stay in Punta Gorda or take the opportunity to explore a bit more of Belize. You will need to make sure you budget for the cost of accommodation on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
The best way is via the US. Connect with a flight to Belize City. It's then a short hopper flight to Punta Gorda.
- Enthusiastic about marine biology and conservation
- Ability to work as a team and collect data
We do not offer diver training other than the Open Water course for beginners. This is really a conservation project and not a diver training programme.
- PADI Open Water manual paid for locally if course if required.
- PADI Open Water fee paid locally
Happy with what you have seen and read? To get an exact price please click the 'tailor-made button' (located on the 'prices, dates and booking' tab) to request a quotation as this trip is tailor-made. Following the link will open our online quotation system. Simply follow the steps and make your selections. A formal quotation will be sent to you via e-mail once we have received your request.
Prices, Booking and Dates
Guideline prices, trip dates and how to book!
Guideline Price TableRequest a Quotation
|Current Dive Level||As a guide...|
|All Levels||1 week +||From £555pwIndicative from price is based on a 12 week trip. The longer you go the cheaper the the per week price. Typical price per week for 1 to 4 weeks is £750 per week. FREE PADI Open Water course available for all beginners.|
Booking a tailor-made trip
This trip is tailor-made. Please to start customising your own trip. Our quotation system is easy to use and it allows you to get an idea of price according to your dive level. If you wish to book then you must complete the quotation form, add your details and we will e-mail you a formal quotation with all the booking details. You can also call us on 0845 257 3292 to discuss this trip and to book a place.
Step 1: This trip is tailor-made! Request a quote so that we can check availability and provide an accurate price based on your travel dates and diving requirements.
Step 2: We will review your request. A quote will be sent to your e-mail address with a link to follow should you decide to book.
Step 3: If you wish to proceed with the booking; follow the link in the e-mail and pay the deposit for the trip. Please note that quotes have an expiry date.
Step 4: You will receive an e-mail confirming receipt of your booking request along with login details so that you can manage your booking.
Step 5: We will send you all your travel documents and be at-hand to answer any questions relating to your trip.
The trip starts on Sundays - pick any Sunday! You must arrive in good time on or before Sunday so that you can get on the boat to Tom Owen's Caye.
Your money is secure with us! We have TTA Financial protection under licence Q0621. The protection means that you can book your holiday secure in the knowledge that the Travel Trust Association will protect you in the unlikely event of a us becoming insolvent. Should we for any reason financially fail or cease trading, the Travel Trust Association will liaise with the suppliers to ensure that your holiday goes ahead unaffected. If for any reason this is not possible, the TTA will administer a claim for a refund of money that you have paid to us for your holiday. Read more about how your money is protected.
Deposit and Balance Payments
We request a £250 deposit to secure a place. All balance payments are due 60 days before the start of the trip. If you book within 60 days of departure then full payment must be made at the time of booking.