Help Wildlife in Belize – Since it became an independent nation in 1981, Belize has devoted itself to the conservation of its extensive natural resources.
The country’s rugged interior has meant that, throughout its history of colonization, most human activity has focused on the coastal areas, leaving the inland mountains and forests relatively untouched by logging and agriculture.
Today, 26 percent of Belize’s marine and land territory is under government protection, with a further 17.8 percent under private protection.
More than 540 species of tropical birds, 150 species of mammals, 600 species of marine and freshwater fish, 150 plus species of reptiles and amphibians, and 3,408 species of plants call Belize’s diverse ecosystems home.
Help Wildlife in Belize on a Volunteer Conservation Trip
All this makes Belize an ideal destination for eco-tourists, many of whom come to volunteer with scientific research and conservation efforts focused on the forests, beaches, islands, mountains, and coral reefs of this Mesoamerican nation.
Volunteer conservation travel lets you make a difference to help save endangered species and protect vulnerable ecosystems, while gaining experience on a real research team and learning more about the natural world.
Volunteer Conservation Tourism: What You Need to Know
Volunteer conservation tourism presents a way for students and ordinary people to get involved in conservation efforts in some of the world’s most exotic locales.
While you’ll have to pay a fee to cover travel costs, you’ll get to work with real scientists, observing animals and collecting data, protecting threatened ecosystems from invasive species, performing educational outreach in local communities, and rehabilitating injured or ill wild animals.
You’ll make new friends, gain work experience, and still have plenty of time to explore local attractions on your own.
Conservation Tourism Options in Belize
Thanks to Belize’s commitment to conservation, there are numerous options for volunteer conservation tourism in this small country.
Whether you’re interested in participating in a weeks-long research trip, or just want to spend an afternoon spearing lionfish, Belize offers something for every ecologically-minded tourist.
Wait – did we just say “spearing lionfish?” Yes, we did! The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific oceans and the Red Sea, but it’s believed that some specimens accidentally escaped, or were released, into the Caribbean in the 1980s or 1990s.
These fish, which prey on everything and reproduce rapidly, pose a huge threat to the delicate marine ecosystems off the coast of Belize.
Reputable companies such as Blue Ventures lead lionfish expeditions of the coast of Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Through them, you can spend time not just fishing for these invaders, but educating local residents on how to profit from the harvest and sale of lionfish, the only fish in Belizean waters that it’s permissible to kill with impunity.
Fortuitously, lionfish are delicious.
But, perhaps you’re more interested in saving, rather than spearing, marine life.
Earthwatch leads shark conservation trips aimed at monitoring shark populations in Belizean waters and stopping illegal shark fishing.
In this program, you’ll get the chance to participate in catch-tag-release efforts, collecting data on local shark populations while staying in an ocean-side research station and eating delicious, home-cooked food three times a day.
With Ecomar Belize, you can get involved with the Turtle Watch program, patrolling the beaches to collect data on sea turtle nesting, protecting nests from irresponsible individuals, or collecting data on turtles in the water during dive surveys.
With Frontier Gap, you can perform diving surveys to explore, map, and monitor the health of the coral reefs off the coast of Belize and its cayes.
You’ll record reef fish populations, help scientists perform annual reef health assessments, and record baseline biodiversity data on invertebrate species and marine plant life.
You’ll also have the chance to spot manatees and other marine life, take vegetation surveys of mangrove swamps, and work with local organizations to perform community outreach.
The Antillean manatee, subspecies of the West Indian manatee, lives in the shallow waters off Belize – for now.
There are only 800 to 1,000 of these animals left, and their preference for shallow water means they’re the frequent victims of boating accidents.
With Wild Tracks Belize, you can work to rehabilitate manatees injured by boats; the organization also raises and releases orphaned manatee calves.
Volunteer placements last from one to three months.
If you’re looking for a way to give back while enjoying the tropical sun and sandy beaches of Belize, volunteer conservation tourism may be for you.
You’ll get to help study and save endangered animals and their habitats, while making friends and gaining experience that will be useful for years to come.