The Blue Ventures Manatee and Bird project is a great way to learn more about the diverse wildlife in Northern Belize whilst contributing to valuable research. The programme gives you the amazing opportunity to become trained in manatee mapping and bird identification and surveying, whilst also contributing to community projects with the local school and wildlife sanctuary. This is a great combination of living in Belize's largest fishing village with friendly host families, staying within a nature reseve and experiencing life at our fantastic remote camp right in the heart of the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve.
The West-Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The declining population trend is attributed to human activities, with coastal development leading to the removal of critical resting and feeding grounds, as well as increased injury and death via boat traffic identified as the primary causes.
Divided into two sub-species, the largest number of Antillean manatees, Trichechus manatus manatus, is found in the coastal waters of northern Belize, forming an integral part of the discrete Mexican and Belizean population of the sub-species. A primary habitat for these individuals is the shallow waters of Corozal Bay, which provides seagrass beds for grazing as well as freshwater upwellings, from which the manatees source freshwater for drinking. Sinkholes scattered throughout the bay have been identified as key manatee resting, feeding and drinking areas.
A project designed to monitor these areas, enabling determination specific use by manatees, is spearheaded by the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development, and carried out in conjunction with Blue Ventures. Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve also boasts frequent manatee sightings, though the actual population size is undetermined. Blue Ventures aims to utilise in-water identification of individual manatees to develop an estimate of the local population. With strong winds characterising weather patterns from November to February, many individuals seek shelter within the natural lagoons of the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve mangrove network, providing opportunity to reliably sight and photograph manatees for later identification. Furthermore, habitat mapping within Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve will enable identification of key resting, feeding and drinking areas. Once key areas have been identified, it will be possible to develop strategies for conservation and protection.
Migratory and resident birds form an integral part of the marine food web. Although recognised to be a key nesting area for many bird species, including the roseate spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja, and white ibis, Eudocimus albus, a stop-off for migratory species such as the reddish egret, Egretta rufescens, and the wood stork, Mycteria american, as well as providing habitat for Yucatan endemics, the area is understudied and little data exists on current or historical status of populations. Bird nesting season is reported to be during the winter months, November to February. Pilot studies by Blue Ventures have confirmed peaks in numbers of nesting species sighted during this time.
Bird populations are frequently used as indicators of ecosystem health as families are exceptionally diverse, performing a range of functions from pollination to predation. Regular monitoring of bird populations provides information on annual fluctuations in bird populations, long term data on population trends as well as identifies sites most important for local and migratory populations.
The primary threat to bird populations in Bacalar Chico is the potential for coastal development, which would result in habitat destruction and disturbance through noise and chemical pollution. Through study of the current status of populations, as well as identification of critical areas utilised by different species, Blue Ventures aims to develop guidelines and regulations for any activities within Bacalar Chico to mitigate impact.
Click on the interactive map below to zoom in and out of the region. The expedition takes place in the village of Sarteneja and at our camp within Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve :
View Blue Ventures in Belize in a larger map
Joining Blue Ventures out in Belize will give you a fantastic opportunity to help with research which will be used to develop strategic plans for conservation. It is also a great chance to integrate into the largest and most influential fishing community in Belize and learn more about their culture. Within the remote Bacalar Chico marine reserve and National Park you will be working on projects that will be the first of thier kind in the area to promote understanding and protection of birds and manatees.
If all this wasn’t enough, it’s a great way to meet a diverse group of like-minded people from all over the world!
Above: Bacalar Chico Dive Camp
Before you head for Belize, we provide all volunteers with comprehensive pre-departure information which gives you information on travel, visas, what to pack, communication with home and all the other practicalities. The staff at our London office will also be on hand to provide you with any extra information that you need and help with preparations.
The expedition is 5 weeks including the arrival and departure days. Everyone meets in Sarteneja on the first day of the expedition and gets dropped back to the town of San Pedro at the end, which is about two hours by boat from Bacalar Chico Camp.
Sarteneja: 7th – 14th January 2014
Shipstern Nature Reserve: 14th – 16th January 2014
Sarteneja: 16th – 24th January 2014
Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve: 24th January – 10th February 2014
Included in the cost of your trip:
Not included in the cost:
Please contact our office for advice on when to make travel arrangements.