On Assignment Projects
Meet Your Expert
Blanketed with thick jungle and edged by the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, Belize is a small country with extraordinary biodiversity and great natural beauty. Its rich marine life makes it a perfect laboratory for learning about our planet’s amazing ocean habitats and for exploring ways to preserve them for future generations. Join top marine biologists, scientists, and conservationists to conduct research on the barrier reef. Photograph underwater species, snorkel the famous Blue Hole, and learn about local ecotourism and conservation initiatives as you develop an On Assignment project in Photography or Marine & Tropical Conservation.
Tropical Education Center
Day 1Our expedition begins with an orientation at the Tropical Education Center, a research station outside of Belize City. During a night tour of the world-famous Belize Zoo led by professional keepers, hand-feed the national animal of Belize, the tapir, and meet an orphaned jaguar known as Lucky Boy.
Take a boat from the marina across the clear blue waters to Turneffe Atoll, where we’ll get settled at the University of Belize research facility on Calabash Caye. Here, spend each day snorkeling in the warm coastal waters and assisting in the collection of data and the monitoring of reef health. Come face-to-face with countless species of marine life—from colorful parrotfish and damselfish to eels, rays, and turtles. Join researchers in conducting a survey of the bottlenose dolphin population and assist with the removal and dissection of invasive lionfish. Participate in ongoing initiatives to protect dolphins, turtles, and reef sharks, and examine the threats to coral reefs around the planet.
Improve your underwater photography and video techniques during one-on-one lessons with our highly qualified trip leaders and experts, and learn to use photography as a storytelling tool to portray the integral role of our oceans and seas in maintaining the health of the planet. Begin work on your On Assignment projects, designed to raise awareness about the critical need to protect and conserve our marine habitat. Then put your new marine biology and photography skills to the test during a full-day excursion to Lighthouse Reef. This is the home of the world-famous Blue Hole, a remarkable circular limestone sinkhole in the seafloor that stretches nearly 1,000 feet across and more than 400 feet deep. Made famous by explorer Jacques Cousteau, this spectacular sunken cave harbors diverse marine life and jagged stalactites. In the evenings, unwind back onshore. Enjoy discussions with marine biologists, get to know your fellow travelers, and share coconuts straight off the tree while watching the sun set.
We worked with scientists and used a hydrophone to record dolphins—observing their behavior while listening to them communicate felt almost magical!
Leave the outer reef and head north to Caye Caulker, one of the more developed cayes. Spend time working with locals and participate in environmental stewardship projects. Get out on the water with researchers working to preserve fragile marine habitat, and learn firsthand how overfishing and reef destruction impact the local ecology and economy. Snorkel and dive among groupers, rays, and nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan was declared a marine reserve—the first in Belize—25 years ago, and has helped pave the road for marine protection throughout coastal Belize and the rest of the world. Spend a day kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding around the shallow waterways, keeping an eye out for endangered manatees and sea turtles. Learn about the development of marine-protected areas, examine the role of ecotourism and local conservation efforts in reef preservation, and collect data with one of Belize’s leading shark biologists. Present your On Assignment project to community members and local experts.
SCUBA DivingWhile SCUBA diving is not the main focus of this trip, students who are certified will have the opportunity to participate in up to four dives, dependent on weather and conditions. The supplemental fee for diving is $300.
At the Tropical Education Center we stay in dormitory-style rooms and shared cabanas. On Calabash Caye, we stay in seaside cabanas at the University of Belize research facility. On Caye Caulker, we stay in a small, family-run hotel.