Oceans and Underwater Exploration
- Snorkel or scuba dive on the world’s second-largest barrier reef
- Work alongside biologists to survey marine species
- Explore the world-famous Blue Hole
- Learn the art of underwater photography
Itinerary 12 Days
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 marine biologist Tierney Thys and Belize’s top 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.
Belize City2 days. Located on a peninsula that juts into the Caribbean Sea, Belize City is the jumping-off point for our trip to the barrier reef.
5 days. Take a boat from the marina across the clear blue waters to the Turneffe Islands, where we’ll get settled at the Oceanic Society’s research facility on Blackbird Caye. Here, spend each day snorkeling or diving 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 fish—from colorful parrotfish and clownfish to moray eels and maybe even a harmless reef shark—as you discover and document the reef’s diverse marine life. Join researchers underwater during a sea turtle census or place scientific equipment on the sea floor to monitor hard-to-find reef species. Participate in ongoing initiatives to protect dolphins, turtles, and other species, and examine the threats to coral reefs around the planet.
Improve your underwater photography techniques during one-on-one lessons with our highly qualified trip leaders and our expert, 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 a group project designed to raise awareness about the critical need to protect and conserve our marine habitat. Then put your new marine biology and underwater photography skills to the test during a full-day excursion to Lighthouse Reef, home of the world-famous Blue Hole, a remarkable circular limestone sinkhole in the seafloor stretching nearly 1,000 feet across and more than 400 feet deep. Made famous by Jacques Cousteau, this spectacular sunken cave is filled with jagged stalactites, diverse marine life, and crystal-clear water. In the evenings, unwind back on shore. Enjoy discussions with marine biologists, get to know your fellow travelers while swinging in beachside hammocks, and share fresh coconuts straight off the tree while watching the sun set over the thick Belizean jungle.
5 days. Leave the outer reef and head north to Caye Caulker, one of the more developed cays (pronounced keys). Spend time working with local students and participate in community service and environmental stewardship projects. Get out on the water with researchers working to preserve their fragile marine habitat, and learn firsthand how over-fishing 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. Spend a day kayaking around the shallow waterways, keeping an eye out for endangered manatees and sea turtles. Learn about the development of marine protected areas, and examine the role of ecotourism and local conservation efforts in reef preservation. Present your final project to community members and local experts.
The program ends back on the mainland, with a trip to the Belize Zoo. After getting a chance to see jaguars, howler monkeys, and toucans up close, spend your final evening at a jungle lodge.