lionfish dive trips

If you’re looking for more than just a dive holiday for a short break, then our lionfish project in Belize could be perfect for you! Join a National Geographic Tour of a Lifetime at our beautiful dive camp in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve in order to improve your dive skills, learn about the marine environment, survey and hunt and dissect invasive lionfish, and contribute to valuable marine research.

Since March 2010, we have been conducting coral reef monitoring and research in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, filling a much-needed data gap for one of the most remote marine protected areas in Belize. One of the focuses of our research is investigating the impact of lionfish on the world heritage listed Belize Barrier Reef and on juvenile reef fish, as this invasive species has no native predators outside its original home in the Indo-Pacific, and therefore poses a huge threat to Belize’s reef fisheries.

Join us in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve on a lionfish dive trip to assist with our research that aims to understand how to effectively control lionfish populations, monitor the progression of the invasion in Belize, and directly contribute to efforts to combat its spread through participating in lionfish culls while scuba diving.

The BV team at Belize site were very engaged and made us all feel the excitement of the lion fish expedition. I learned much from the team and their attention to safe diving practices was always at the forefront of every dive. I would recommend a 2 week mission as it would give you more time for lion fish surveys, the exciting culling of lion fish and taking the bio data from each fish. I would highly recommend a volunteer adventure at BV Belize site.

Bill Battersby

If you truly want a unique and adventurous experience, you need to put this on your list of things to do.

Jeff Gillam

Our lionfish project volunteers are based at our remote dive camp in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, which is a large, palm-studded island shouldered by white beaches and backed by mangroves that fade to the west into Corozal Bay. Volunteers love the eco-cabins that face out onto the Caribbean Sea!

Our lionfish project volunteers are given an introduction to marine life in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, with detailed lessons about invasive lionfish, their behaviour, competitors and prey. Volunteers also learn about marine megafauna sighted frequently on dives and recorded diligently to monitor adundance. In-water training includes lionfish detection practice, survey training and safe, environmentally sound methods for hunting and removing lionfish from coral reefs.

The survey data collected by volunteers is used to monitor the progression of the lionfish invasion, population status, diet and reproductive rates, as well as to test hypotheses on specific impacts and recommendations for management.

There are so many advantages of joining us at Bacalar Chico for this lionfish project as opposed to going on a normal diving holiday! If you’re a scuba diver who wants to understand more about marine ecology then this trip is a fantastic way to learn, contribute to our invasive species projects and research and most importantly assist with protecting the stunning coral reefs that you’ll be diving in.

If all of this isn’t enough, it’s a great way to meet a diverse group of like-minded people from all over the world, and during your time off enjoy snorkelling, beach sports and other fun activities!

We require all participants for this short dive trip to have at least a PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) certification, but this can be completed at your local dive centre if you’re not already qualified, or during a standard expedition with us beforehand.

The expedition is 9 or 14 days including the arrival and departure days, and the pick-up and drop-off point is the town of San Pedro, which is less than two hours by boat from Belize City and our dive camp in Bacalar Chico. Below are guides of what you can expect to do during the expedition.

Example 9 day itinerary

Day Activities 9 day
1 Meet at San Pedro and transfer to Bacalar Chico Dive Camp (BCDC) – introductory briefings
2 Science lectures – background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna
Tune-up dive
Lionfish survey training dive 1
3 Science lectures – background, monitoring methods, marine megafauna
Lionfish survey training dives 2 & 3
4 Lionfish population survey dive 1
Lionfish culling dives 1-3
Lionfish dissections
(San Pedro resupply run)
5 Lionfish population survey dives 2-4
6 Lionfish population survey dives 5 & 6
Lionfish culling dives 4-6
Lionfish dissections
7 Lionfish population survey dives 7 & 8
Lionfish culling dives 7-9
Lionfish dissections
(San Pedro resupply run)
8 Lionfish population survey dives 10 & 11
Lionfish culling dives 10-12
Lionfish dissections
Review week’s findings
9 Depart for San Pedro for onwards travel

Expedition dates

Expedition Years:

Expedition Costs

9 days: £800 (discount available for volunteer medics)

14 days: £1100 (discount available for volunteer medics)

Included in the cost:

  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay in beach-front eco-cabins with a maximum of four volunteers per cabin at our dive camp and elsewhere in Placencia, if applicable to your stay
  • Three meals per day including tea and coffee at breakfast and lunch – all meals are prepared by local chefs using fresh local ingredients
  • Transfers between San Pedro and our dive camp at Bacalar Chico at the beginning and end of the week
  • Transfers between Placencia and our dive camp if applicable to your stay
  • Science training with our team of field scientists and researchers
  • PADI scuba tune-up course with dive instructor on arrival
  • Scuba diving
  • Use of our scuba diving equipment including buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders
  • Comprehensive logistical support and pastoral care from our large team of permanent field staff
  • Health and safety briefings and support from our expedition medics and dive managers

Not included in the cost:

  • International flights (the nearest international airports are Belize City and Cancun in Mexico)
  • Domestic travel to San Pedro; there is a regular water taxi from Belize City as well as internal flights
  • Entry visa for Belize and any visa extensions
  • Any medications or vaccinations that you require
  • Travel and dive insurance
  • Personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, delayed surface marker buoy, dive torch and underwater slate – we provide detailed guidance on what you need to buy for your expedition
  • Personal field equipment: e.g. sleeping bag and torch
  • Spending money for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
  • Hotel accommodation before and after your expedition dates

Next steps...

Download our Expedition Guide

Read our Belize Expedition FAQs

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