Here are some frequently asked questions about our Belize expeditions.
Please also feel free to send us a message, give us a call on +44 (0)207 697 8598 or email us direct with your questions.
1. Complete and submit our online application form.
2. If we’re able to accept your application, we’ll send you an email offering you a place on your chosen expedition with a link to download our detailed pre-departure guide.
3. If you request to speak to us about joining an expedition, we’ll give you a call at a time that’s convenient for you and answer any of your questions over the phone. You’re also welcome to come and visit us at our London office.
4. Once you’ve decided that you’d like to join a Blue Ventures expedition, you’ll be asked to confirm your place by paying a non-refundable deposit and agreeing to our booking conditions. This allows us to guarantee you a place on your chosen expedition, with the full balance of your expedition fees due at least 6 weeks before departure.
5. Once your place is confirmed, you’ll be asked to complete and submit various forms, including medical forms to be completed with your doctor, and details of your travel insurance policy, flights and emergency contacts. We’ll be on hand to provide any guidance that you need, and are always happy to answer any questions as our volunteers prepare for their trip.
There are plenty of reasons why we stand out from the crowd! From our high quality accommodation and rigorous science training to our conservation impact, find out more about what makes us different, and check out our award-winning responsible practices.
Don’t just take our word for it… these volunteer stories give a varied glimpse into life on our expeditions, and we’re always happy to put prospective volunteers in touch with our expedition alumni in order to be able to hear first-hand about their experiences.
We ask for a non-refundable deposit in order to be able to guarantee you a place on your chosen expedition, and the balance of your expedition fees is due at least 6 weeks before departure. In the unlikely event that a volunteer isn’t able to join the expedition and has already paid their balance, their travel insurance company should be able to offer a refund. Volunteers who pull out 4 weeks or less before the start of an expedition will not be eligible for a refund. Volunteers who pull out more than 4 weeks before the start of an expedition will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Yes! We offer flexible start dates and expedition durations. If you can’t join us for the full 6 weeks then please contact us to discuss how we can tailor your time on site.
Please check out the dates of our Belize expeditions.
Generally expedition volunteers stay for 6-12 weeks, but if you’re enjoying yourself and we’re enjoying having you, essentially the stay can be as long as you wish!
The longer a volunteer stays, the lower the price of the additional weeks.
Anyone can join a Blue Ventures expedition providing that they’re in a reasonable state of fitness and good health; we require volunteers to go for a medical check with their doctor prior to departure, with a medical form that the doctor must sign. Volunteers must be able to swim 400 metres confidently and tread water for 2 minutes unaided.
Absolutely! Blue Ventures has alumni from all around the world; Canada, France, Belgium, Sweden, Australia, India, etc! Anyone is welcome to join a Blue Ventures expedition providing that they’re able to speak and read English, as all dive and science training are in English.
Typically our volunteers are aged between 17 and 60, but there’s no upper age limit. Every expedition group is made up of people with a wide range of ages, and the average age of our volunteers is 28. We insist that all volunteers who wish to scuba dive are at least 17 years of age, although we accept volunteers under 17 years of age to participate in non-diving activities (so long as they’re accompanied by an adult), and families are welcome to join too.
Volunteers are put in contact with the rest of their group 6 weeks before the expedition starts. This allows them to get to know each other a little, and even coordinate travel plans if they would like to travel together. We also offer a popular overland trip from Antananarivo to Toliara just before the expedition starts, so many volunteers join this trip and get to know each other on the journey.
No! With a high staff to volunteer ratio, our expeditions team are on hand to support you to develop your marine science and diving skills. Half of our volunteers have never dived before, and our PADI dive courses represent excellent value for money.
You can easily fly to Belize City via Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Houston. Overland travel is also possible from Cancun, in Mexico. We provide detailed travel advice for all of our volunteers, so you don’t have to plan your journey from scratch.
Belize is a small country with good local transport options. You can get to Sarteneja from Belize City by public bus or water taxi.
Yes, we require you to have two forms of insurance: basic travel insurance and specific dive insurance provided by Divers Alert Network (DAN). They are our chosen partner for our scuba emergency evacuation plan, so we insist that all volunteers have a DAN insurance policy.
Before you join an expedition, you should see your doctor or an accredited travel clinic who will advise you on the vaccinations that you need to visit for Belize. As a guide, the standard vaccinations are:
• Polio, tetanus and diphtheria
• Meningitis A & C
• Hepatitis A
• Yellow fever (only if staying in a yellow fever country en route to Belize)
Both qualified and non-qualified divers are welcome to join our expeditions. All divers must be trained to at least PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent and we provide training to this level as part of the expedition fee. Dive training is carried out during the first two weeks of expeditions, so that all volunteers are qualified to participate in underwater surveys once they have successfully completed their science training.
Experienced divers who have not dived in the six months prior to their expedition are required to take a refresher course with us, to ensure that they are confident and well trained. We also offer the PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications.
All of our volunteers must be trained up to PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent to participate in our underwater survey dives, so please contact our London-based expeditions team to check your qualification level if you’ve trained with a different scuba agency.
You’ll need to bring some personal diving equipment: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, dive torch (for night dives!), delayed SMB with reel and underwater slate (for our research work).
You’ll be wearing your wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins almost daily for 6 weeks so it’s very important that these fit well and are comfortable.
We provide the scuba equipment you need including buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders. It is also a PADI requirement that you have your own manuals for all the dive courses you are undergoing whilst on expedition so you’ll need to bring these along too if applicable.
While in Bacalar Chico we dive six days per week, and you’ll normally dive once or twice per day. The majority of our dives are science-related, for example, including training sessions, recording fish and benthic transect data, or surveying new reef sites.
Diving is strictly weather-dependent due to safety concerns, and subject to logistical restrictions.
All expedition volunteers are trained up to PADI Advanced Open Water level. We also offer the PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications.
Please note that volunteers must be on site for a minimum of 12 weeks to complete their PADI Dive Master and must complete in this order: Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and finally Dive Master.
Volunteers wishing to undertake additional dive courses should inform us prior to the start of their expedition. It may also be possible to decide to take a dive course while on your expedition, subject to a supplement of 15% for the course manual and materials.
If you book a course in advance and decide during your expedition that you don’t wish to take the course, the course fees will be refunded but not the cost of the course manual. Please note that it is a requirement for every student to have their own copy of the relevant course manual.
This course is designed for divers to tune-up their diving skills and safety knowledge before diving again. This is compulsory for all qualified divers who have not dived within six months of their expedition start date. You may chose to participate in a scuba tune-up before you arrive in Belize and we can help you to choose a suitable dive centre or instructors.
It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual. Contact us to buy this manual for £14 including delivery costs (alternatively you can purchase it from a local supplier).
It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual. Contact us to buy this manual for £24 including delivery costs (alternatively you can purchase it from a local supplier).
It is a requirement for all PADI courses that you have your own copy of the relevant course manual.
All of our volunteers complete an intensive two-week science training programme run by our field scientists at the beginning of each expedition, involving numerous snorkelling and diving excursions as well as informal lectures, small group discussions and practical exercises on coral and fish species identification. All training materials are provided on site.
Yes, all of our volunteers are tested on coral and fish species identification in order to ensure that the data we collect is scientifically robust. Tests involve computer tests and point-out dives, where volunteers identify a variety of coral and fish species. Most volunteers pass these tests by the second or third week of the expedition, before moving on to underwater survey dives with our field scientists.
While at our base in Bacalar Chico there will be little or no opportunity to spend money – one of the benefits of being in such a remote site! We recommend budgeting around £50 per week for things like drinks, snacks, souvenirs and telephone/internet credit while in Sarteneja.
Our dive camp in Belize is a remote location. Please be advised that while we have a permanent phone on site, you may not be contactable when you’re in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve (our dive camp) if weather conditions are bad. For emergency purposes, we have satellite telephones and a 24-hour messaging service. We do have a public telephone at our dive camp, which you can use if you purchase a local phonecard. When you’re on the mainland (in Sarteneja), for private calls you may prefer to bring an unlocked mobile phone that will work with a locally available sim card. Internet is not available at the dive camp, but you may be able to check your emails once or twice during the course of your trip, depending on the availability of transportation to nearby San Pedro.
As Belize is situated in a sub-tropical latitude, the weather is always warm by northern hemisphere standards. Although there are dry and rainy seasons, there is almost always sun and warmth to offset any rain! As a guide, it rains most from June to November and is drier from February to May.
Due to the various ethnic influences in Belize, food will be a mixture of western, Caribbean and Mexican. For breakfast you can expect tortillas or fry jacks with spread as well as cereals, tea and coffee. For lunch rice and beans are common with salad and vegetables. For dinner you may get rice and beans, salad, stews, vegetables, fish and a dessert. We’re normally able to cater for those with specific dietary requirements, particularly vegetarians, please just make sure you mention this at the time of applying. Treated drinking water is freely available on site, with bottled water and other beverages and various snacks available to purchase at times. Volunteers are given the opportunity to learn how to make traditional snacks, such as fry jacks and tortillas.
In their spare time at our base in Bacalar Chico, our expedition volunteers can be found exploring the mangroves, playing games on the beach, snorkelling or relaxing in their hammocks. While in Sarteneja, there are opportunities to visit nearby Mayan ruins and Shipstern Nature Reserve.
Safety is our top priority when working both above and below the water in remote environments. Our volunteers are required to complete a medical check with their doctor before joining an expedition with us, and we aim to have a qualified medic on site at all times, with additional 24-hour medical support provided both from our UK based medical and within each expedition country.
Rest days (decompression days) are incorporated into our schedules, and conservative dive profiles allow for a large safety margin. Communications can be difficult on remote expeditions so our field sites and research boats are connected by VHF radios and/or mobile and satellite phones at all times, and our research boats carry medical oxygen on all diving trips.
We have a worst-case scenario medical evacuation (Medivac) plan, supported by 24-hour contact with our head office staff and medical advisers. All of our expeditions staff are experienced divers, with training in first aid and practical rescue management skills.
Want to explore Belize and Central America after your project? We’ve put together this section to give you some ideas…
Central America is on your doorstep when you complete your expedition! It’s well worth staying for a few more weeks and exploring a bit more of the region. The following is certainly not exhaustive but provides a list of some of the experiences that staff and volunteers have enjoyed in the past. All of these sites are easily accessible by bus from Belize City or Sarteneja unless otherwise noted.
You shouldn’t forget that Sarteneja and Belize have some wonderful opportunities on offer. Sarteneja also offers some special experiences for you. Wildtracks has their own volunteer programme which is focused on rehabilitating manatees and various species of jungle mammals. If you just want to relax and enjoy the community then a few more nights in your homestay are a great way to go, particularly if you want to immerse yourself in learning Spanish.
The Blue Hole, Turneffe Atoll and Gladden Spit offer some unforgettable diving. Caye Caulker is a wonderfully relaxed location to base yourself for diving the Blue Hole or Turneffe Atoll, and the vibrant community of Placencia, with its 3-mile half-moon beach, is the right place to stay if you want to dive Gladden Spit in search of whale shark.
On land there is a wealth of adventures to sample. The south of the country is mountainous and cloaked in rainforest. Throughout the country there are Mayan sites, but the most spectacular has to be Caracol. Hidden in the depths of the jungle, this site is well off the beaten track and can be explored fully with only a few other tourists dotted around the ruins. Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), in the Cayo District, is a must-see for all of Belize’s visitors. Do also look into river tubing trips and river tours, as these are sometimes the best way to get into the depths of the jungle.
Tikal is a spectacular Mayan site a relatively short distance across the border into Guatemala. Buses from Belmopan or Belize City can transport you to this UNESCO World Heritage Site in a day. Not only does the trip offer you the opportunity to explore some of the best preserved Mayan architecture in Central America (including the highest temple), but is also surrounded by incrediblely lush jungle. Picture sitting in a Mayan temple at treetop level gazing out at the setting sun while howler monkeys cry in the background – an amazing experience!
If you’d like to do even more diving then Roatan Island, off the north coast of Honduras, would serve you well. This island is easily accessible using local propeller-driven airlines via San Pedro Sula from Belize City. The island itself is a beautiful setting, forested with lush vegetation and precipitous ridgelines, while the coast is surrounded by stunning reefs. The west also offers the unique opportunity to go on a deep dive in a submarine to see what lives well below scuba depths. This is the only commercial deep diving submarine available for recreational trips in the Atlantic. It is expensive but well worth it!
A short hop across the border into Mexico will open the Yucatan Peninsula for you to explore. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef extends from Bacalar Chico up through Cozumel to Cancun in the far north, and offers many opportunities for spectacular diving. Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Cancun all offer a variety of dives depending on what you fancy. Inland, the freshwater cenotes that can be dived from Tulum or Playa del Carmen are highly recommended. The water in these caverns is incredibly clear, offering up to 100 metres of visibility. Coupled with the spectacular caverns and caves, this opens a completely new diving world to sample.Gran Cenote, Angelita and Car Wash are just a few of the unusual dives to choose from. Additionally the Yucatan has a multitude of Mayan culture to sample, including the legendary Chichen Itza.