Diving in Belize (4)

Get a PADI qualification, Become a diver and help protect the world’s second largest reef system. Staying on an idyllic tropical island, in the middle of the Caribbean you will be diving 12 times a week taking part in valuable and exciting Marine conservation initiatives.  The perfect place to disconnect from the world and live life to its fullest.

 

 Xtreme Marine Conservation & Dive Hero Belize

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Become a true Marine conservation hero in Belize. Diving in Caribbean seas, submerged in turquoise waters you will find the second-biggest reef system in the world.  Belize a former English colony has the ultimate Caribbean tropical island vibe.  But like all complex and beautiful reef systems it is under threat.  Invasive species like the lionfish, not native to Caribbean waters are raging rampant all over the reef system and they need to be stopped. These beautiful but menacing little critters can hatch eggs in two days and a single fish can release up to 15,000 eggs.

Highlights

  • Explore stunning Belize and But, hey Marine conservation hero on the world’s second-largest barrier reef.
  • Learn to scuba dive and gain a PADI qualification.
  • Dive 12 times a week and discover new addiction in an underwater paradise.
  • Disconnect from reality and stay in paradise on an idyllic private island in the Caribbean Sea.
  • Live on an unspoiled island, contributing to Marine conservation and becoming a legendary diver In a Marine Park.
  • Hunt these evil Lionfish Critters. The other fish will thank you for it.
  • Get involved with Marine conservation efforts from other species such as lobster, conch and whale sharks
  • Contribute to the global Coral watch and reef check initiative
  • Cut your dive teeth in the dark with a night dive.  This will completely change your perspective of the underwater environment.
  • Let loose at the weekends on the mainland with some incredible extreme adventure activities!

 

PHOTOS

Belize Island (7)Imagine living on a tropical island helping protect the reefs by day and seeing 1 million tropical stars by night.  Learn to dive, get involved in conservation efforts and have the time of your life with the group of fellow Xtreme Marines! Beautiful beaches with white sand that will spoil you. Turquoise waters that will take your breath away. So let’s check out what happens on this program

 

On arrival

Arriving on Sunday you will be met at the airport by our representative and transferred to your accommodation. We recommend you meet up with the fellow course participants in a local restaurant that evening.  The introduction and orientation session takes place first thing Monday morning at 830.

Then half an hour later we hop on a boat for a two-hour ride out to your new home from home on a tropical paradise island surrounded by the world’s second-largest barrier reef.

 

The Adventure Begins!

Diving in Belize (2)If you do not have a PADI open water course or equivalent you will begin your dive training.  Contact us the details  of what happens during the section.  If you already have an open water course qualification, you are welcome to begin the Marine conservation section straightaway.

Once you are dive trained you will take part in 12 conservation dives per week.  We include most of the equipment but there is some that you will need to bring with you:

Bring your own wetsuit (a full 3mm suit is recommended) and booties, a dive mask and snorkel. You will also be required to purchase the relevant PADI Open Water manuals for training purposes if you are undertaking the PADI training. If you wish to take part in night dives you must also bring a dive light or waterproof torch with you. You cannot purchase these on the island so please bring these from home.

 

The Xtreme Marine conservation project in detail

IMG_4363Once you have completed your diving qualifications it’s time to get down to business. The Marine conservation programme focus on five core activities.  All of which take place in a protected area the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Park (SCMR) area.

Please note: In order to support the marine conservation projects and the local area, each participant will need to pay extra marine Park fees of USD25 per week or USD75 per month.

You will take part in several different activities during your stay, depending on the season and the needs of the project of the time.

 

Lionfish Population Control

Lionfish huntingThe seas around Belize are currently under threat from an invasion of the non-indigenous Lionfish.

Not native to Belize they eat the local fish, and degrade the reef.  They are outcompeting all the local fish population as well is killing them because they can release 15,000 eggs every four days.  The region is overrun by these beautiful yet perilous fish so they need to be eradicated.

As part of the Xtreme marine conservation dive team, you will be responsible for diving down and removing Lionfish using a special spear gun, and then analysing and collecting data on the local Lionfish population.  If you think that killing fish species is contradictory to conservation, then you do not understand the impacts of the lionfish on the native species.  If you ask squirmy wish about hunting fish this is not the programme for you.

But this is not just about eradication.  Surprisingly lionfish taste delicious, and you’ll no doubt get to try your catch once you return to your island hideaway.

Working closely with local partners we have been able to get the lionfish onto many of the local menus.  This provides a sustainable great alternative to the overfished fish stocks so you are actually contributing to conservation efforts in more than one way. Every fish you spear means others will live!

 

Whale Shark Monitoring

Diving in Belize (17)The whale shark population in Belize is exceptionally good.  Whalesharks the world’s biggest fish, our incredible to be in the water with.  The reef in Belize attracts some of the largest concentrations of Whalesharks in the world.  But with their food supplies dwindling the conservation project aims at sustaining the food supply for these impressive creatures.

It is widely known that whale shark numbers are in decline and unless action is taken they are under threat from extinction. Whalers who target them for their fins and meat prize Whalesharks this is your chance to give something back. When we encounter Whalesharks we do data collection and log their movements.

Please note: The main whale shark season runs between March-June, although sightings have been recorded throughout the year. We cannot guarantee a sighting of a whale shark. You must abide by the whale shark code of conduct when diving which means no touching!

 

Protecting lobsters

While lobsters are very tasty they are overfished.  It is important during the breeding season is that they are not finished so as part of the programme you will help monitor the population of lobsters underwater.  You also check out on local restaurants to make sure that lobster is not on the menu during the off-season.

Many Caribbean countries now have open and closed lobster seasons, with the closed season being when the female lobsters are ready to release their eggs. Belize’s closed season usually runs from February – June, and during these months, fishing for lobsters is banned, as is serving them on restaurant menus.

How does this help?  Well by identifying the male to female ratio of lobsters as well as locating females carrying eggs. By protecting the key areas where the female lobsters lay eggs, we can help protect lobsters in their own native habitats.

The underwater lobster survey is conducted using a ‘rover diver’ technique, with groups of six divers spaced along a line, with two divers carrying slates and a measuring stick. Divers move slowly along, allowing time to coax the lobsters out of their holes using the measuring stick, checking its sex, measuring its length and seeing if female lobsters are carrying eggs.

 

Queen Conch Monitoring

The queen conch carries a high commercial value and as a result it has become a victim of overfishing in Belize. This large, shelled mollusc takes around 3-5 years to reach maturity and in this time it can grow up to two pounds in weight and up to 8 inches long. If left undisturbed, a conch can live for up to 40 years.

Each year between July-October each year the female conch lays huge egg masses, and as part of the marine conservation diving team you will be responsible for locating and recording conch breeding grounds. Some conchs are being forced to breed further out in deep water due to overfishing.

In order to monitor the migration patterns of the conch, a number of individually-numbered plastic cable ties have been placed around each conch, so that every subsequent observation can be recorded. Divers will go down in pairs to measure and/or tag the conch and to record the lip thickness, which determines the age and maturity of each conch, as well as the size of spiral, habitat, depth and tag number. Follow up survey dives are then undertaken each week. Help to protect this unusual and rare creature and do your bit for marine conservation in Belize.

 

Coral Reef Conservation

Southern Belize has a unique marine ecosystem, and as part of the marine conservation dive team you can take part in a comprehensive assessment of the health of Belize’s beautiful coral reefs. This will include monitoring the number of species including Parrot fish, Groupers, Surgeon fish, Butterfly fish, Grunts, Snappers and Lionfish. You will also record signs of coral bleaching, damage or disease as well as mapping the composition of the reef.

Working along a 100m transect line, divers will be divided into three sub-teams, one focusing on fish, one on invertebrates and one for substrates. Divers will count the species in a specific area for a set time, and records will be taken as you go.

The Belize Coral Watch Programme was set up to monitor coral bleaching and health using a non-invasive method. Divers are trained to recognise the difference between coral bleaching and coral disease using the ‘rover diver’ technique. You will record and submit your research into an international database, contributing to a much-needed central overview of coral reef health across the world.

Day to Day Itinerary

An Xtreme Gap representative or a taxi will meet you at Placencia airstrip and take you to your  accommodation. Sunday night we suggest that all of our gappers get together and meet at a local  restaurant for dinner.

  • 8.30am – Monday morning – meet, greet and breakfast at the snack shack.
  • 9am – Monday morning – transfer from mainland to the island (expect a 2 hour boat ride).
  • 11am – Island briefing, accommodation allocation and equipment allocation.
  • 12.30pm – Lunch.
  • 1.30pm – Dive briefing.
  • 2.30pm – First dive, boat fun dive or refresher dive.
  • 6pm – PowerPoint presentation about the programme and the marine environment.
  • 7pm – Dinner.
  • Relaxation

Typical itinerary Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • 6am – Tea, coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit available.
  • 7am – Dive briefing.
  • 7.30am – Dive 1 – Conch or Lobster survey and Lionfish hunting
  • 9am – Breakfast
  • 10.30am – Fish Identification training session
  • 11.30am – Dive 2 – Fish Identification dive, Commercial fish survey and/or Lionfish hunting.
  • 1pm – Lunch
  • 2pm – Coral Identification training session.
  • 3.30pm – Dive 3 – Coral identification dive, Coral watch bleaching survey and/or Lionfish hunting.
  • 5pm – Lionfish presentation, dissection and data collection.
  • 7pm – Dinner
  • Relaxation

Typical itinerary Thursday

  • 6am – Tea, coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit available
  • 7am – Dive briefing
  • 7.30am – Dive 1 – Conch or Lobster survey and Lionfish hunting
  • 9am – Breakfast
  • 10.30am – Briefing for ReefCI check survey
  • 11.30am – Dive 2 – ReefCI check survey
  • 1.30pm – Lunch
  • Relaxation 3.30pm – Guided free dive to spear Lionfish and look for Lobster and/or Conch (seasonal) for dinner!
  • 7pm – Dinner
  • Relaxation

Typical itinerary Friday

  • 6am – Tea, coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit available.
  • 7am – Dive briefing
  • 7.30am – Dive 1 – Conch or Lobster survey and Lionfish hunting
  • 9am – Breakfast
  • 10.30am – Leave island to return to the mainland

There is one night dive per week planned to fit into the above itinerary.
The above itinerary is subject to change and weather conditions. The survey participation is dependent upon the length of the trip. For example, week 1 will be mostly learning species, doing Lobster and Conch surveys and Lionfish hunting.

Week 2 will be actual Commercial fish surveys and Coral watch surveys.

Location

Belize Island (4)Tom Owens caye is a 1½ acre island situated 36 miles from mainland Belize. It is surrounded by turquoise coral seas and situated on the continental shelf; dive sites are 5-10 minutes away! This is the ultimate place to learn to dive and contribute to Marine conservation.  While there is Internet access on the island, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy this beautiful planet.

Most of the dives take place in Sapodilla Cayes Marine Park (SCMR), an unspoilt ocean landscape only 5-10 minutes away from your island base.

Additional Activities

During the weekends there are plenty of options available to you if you want a bit of adventure.  The additional activities are not included in the price and payable locally.  You could visit Mayan ruins explore the jungles by kayak and interact with the indigenous Mayan population.  You can check out water fall underground cave systems go zip lining water tubing and so much more.

Accommodation

Belize Island (9)Living on a tropical island is pretty idyllic but you do have to make some sacrifices. Accommodation is basic but very clean and comfortable as for the location, it would make someone a five-star resort envious. Even Without a TV you will feel right at home. Programme participants stay in individual cabanas with shared bathrooms or twin shared rooms with bath. Couples are guaranteed their own room with bathroom.

Quirky, stone, individual cabanas surround the island. Every Cabana has incredible views of the Caribbean! Imagine waking up to the sound of waves lapping against  the shore and a spectacular Belizean sunrise! Guests staying in cabanas use the shared bathrooms.
For groups, friends and couples, there are twin, family and double en-suite rooms in  the main building. We never have more than 3 people in one room.  Hammocks are scattered around for that chill out moment with a cold rum cocktail.

During weekends accommodation is hostel style.  If you wish to upgrade, you can do so but will have to pay the difference in price locally.

Arrival Info

Please ensure your flight arrives on Sunday and you will need to arrange your own arrival into Placencia in Belize. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation in Placencia. If you would like help booking the flight from Placencia to Belize let us know and we can help you book it at a better rate.

Recommended method of getting there:

There are no direct flights from the UK to Belize. Our recommendation is to combine this program with a stop off in Mexico flying via Cancun and spend a week in Mexico.

Xtreme Gap Year owns a hostel in Playa del Carmen where you can stop off on the route. You then have the option to fly on to Belize or take an overland bus. You can also then take the advantage of completing a free diving course in Mexico should you wish which will come in handy on this program. Please ask us the details.

Other routes for getting to Belize are to fly from London Gatwick to Cancun in Mexico and hop on a safe and comfortable first-class overnight bus service into Belize City and then travel onwards to Placencia (using one of the methods listed above). Buses depart Cancun at around 10pm and arrive in Belize City before 8am (approx cost USD47).

An alternative is to fly via the US:

Then take a connecting flight onwards to Belize International Airport (BZE).

Please note that most connecting flights will require you to make a stopover overnight in the USA so you allow for this extra time when booking flights. Accommodation is not included for any USA stopovers so please factor this into your flight planning. Once you have arrived at Belize International Airport you then have two options to travel onwards to Placancia:

Internal Shuttle Flight:

If you wish to fly directly from Belize International Airport to the airstrip at Placencia our partner company in Belize can book these flights for you (but at your own cost). The internal shuttle flight takes around 1 hour and costs approximately £100 one-way or £175 for a round trip.

Please note that there are only around 5 internal flights per day so you will need to factor this in when planning your previous flight times. You will then be met at the Placencia airstrip by a representative and taken to your local accommodation.

 

 

End of the programme:

Friday is the last day of the programme and accommodation for this final night is included.

Trip Frequently Asked Questions

Simply put they kill the other fish.  And they breed so successfully and so quickly they hijack the native habitats of other fish. The Lionfish is also an invasive species, originally from the Indian and Western Pacific oceans. It was brought into Florida as an aquarium fish, and after a hurricane broke some of the aquariums containing the fish, they started to appear around the lower coast of Florida. They have now spread all the way up to Long Island, New York and throughout The Central American continent.

When scientists do dives to study the lionfish, sometimes they capture one, and trace it’s DNA. The odd thing lately, is that all the fish trace back to an original six or seven Lionfish from the ocean in which they came.

As you will be living on an island everything has to be imported so we take care of your meals.  You will eat well!

Typical Menu:

  • Breakfast: Flour tortilla or Fried jacks, bacon, eggs and refried beans
  • Lunch: Island chicken pasta salad
  • Dinner: Fresh fish filets baked in coconut milk, garlic, lime and cilantro with carrot
  • salad and yellow ginger rice.
  • Homemade chocolate rum cake with rum butter sauce
  • Purified water and fresh juices

We will do our best to complete further education courses such as PADI Rescue and Speciality courses Should you wish to participate in these (local payment).  However please be aware that the Xtreme Marine Hero Programme is primarily a conservation initiative.

We can guarantee the PADI Open water and mostly you should be fine for the Advanced Open water.

Weekend activities.

Mayan Ruins

Nim Li Punit (the big hat) sits atop a hill with amazing views of the surrounding forests and mountains. It is easily accessible by bus from Placencia, and quite often our guests are the only visitors. Lubantuun is about 45 minutes drive from PG and is the largest Mayan site in Southern Belize. The famous yet controversial crystal skulls was supposedly found at this site back in 1926.

Mayan Villages and Homestays

You can step back in time and visit the picturesque Maya villages of Southern Belize .  Surrounded by beautiful jungle and countryside you can experience how life is for the  indigenous communities of Belize. The experience can include Mayan home stays, local  story telling, dance, eating the local food and even having a lesson how to prepare  homemade corn tortillas.

Garifuna drumming lessons – www.warasadrumschool.com

Warasa Garifuna Drum School is a locally owned business that offers hands-on interactive experiences in Garifuna culture, including drumming, drum-making and  dancing. You can sit back and relax under our traditional thatch while watching our professional drummers and dancers to all the hard work (and when you see how fast the hands drum and how fast the hips shake, you’ll see it really is hard work!), or you
can try it yourself. Lessons in are available one-to-one or for groups of up to 20, and service comes with a very big white smile from our Director the one and only Ronald Raymond McDonald (yes, that is his name!).

Adventure tours

For those who like climbing, jumping off cliffs, exploring, getting dirty, going fast and getting wet an adventure tour in Southern Belize is meant for you! A short trip from Placencia you will find yourself surrounded by dense jungle, unusual creatures, stunning waterfalls, zip lining, tubing through the jungle and unexplored caves!

Rio Blanco Waterfalls

A tiny reserve, Rio Blanco National Park is as remote as it is beautiful! The nearby villages of Santa Elena and Santa Cruz organised the Rio Blanco Mayan Association in 1994 to protect the waterfall and 104 adjacent acres of sub-tropical forest. Jaguar, ocelot, margay, river otter and many species of birds and fish live in the part. Men from Santa Elena and Santa Cruz rotate ranger duties at the small visitors centre and local
women will open the craft co-operative shop when tourists arrive.  It is only a 15-minute walk on a gentle gravel trail to the falls. Benches provides spectacular views and a photographic opportunities. Thrill seekers can step out to the 20’ cliffs and jump into the swimming hole (if they dare!) Limestone pools above and
below the falls are perfect for swimming and wading. A great place to cool off!

San Antonio Waterfalls

Tucked away in the hilly Mayan village of San Antonio are the beautiful San Antonio falls. Smaller than Rio Blanco, you can wade or swim and those that want to challenge themselves may climb the boulders around the falls to the pools at the top and maybe even jump off the ledges here.

Blue Creek Caves

This trip is one of our ‘must do’ trips for our guests. Towering karst limestone hills, offering challenging hiking, surrounds the village of Blue Creek and a network of dry and wet caves. The Mayan name for Blue Creek Cave is Hokeb Ha, or where the water enters the earth!

To reach the cave, you’ll hike approximately twenty minutes over mostly easy terrain through the jungle and upstream along the banks of the green-blue river. As you approach the cave, the river breaks into small waterfalls and beautiful clear pools for swimming. The last 100 yards of the journey are the most challenging, climbing over roots and rocks.

You will be provided headlamps, life jackets and a trained guide to assist you as you step into the water and swim upstream towards the cave’s interior and the river’s source.  After you turn the first corner, all natural light disappears! You will see stalactites, stalagmites and other unique rock formations as you swim and hike upstream.

Tiger cave

The ancient Maya believed that the caves of Toledo marked entrances to Xibalba – the Mayan underworld! Caves were amongst the most sacred places and used for rituals, sacrifices and communication with the spirits. When you enter Tiger cave, it is easy to imagine the ancient Maya holding their  ceremonies here. The entrance chamber is strewn with shards of broken pottery other  evidence of Maya presence. As you explore the cave, you will see stalactites, stalagmites and other unique rock  formations. The cave has topography of narrow passageways, huge chambers and  underground rivers. Each turn a new challenge. The final chamber, more than a mile  into the cave, is filled with spectacular rock formations and well worth the effort.

This excursion is only recommended for people who are very physically fit. From the  road to the cave, visitors must navigate a steep drop down a dirt path. Inside the cave,  expect to walk on slick cave floors, climb boulders and navigate loose gravel slopes.  Also available are Chocolate tours, Zip-lining and tubing, River and sea kayaking.  Guests also have the chance to visit neighboring Guatemala or go to the beach town of Placencia.

Duration Option Price  
1 (Week)USD 1229 USD 1106 (SALE! 10% Off!)Book Now
2 (Week)USD 2199 USD 1979 (SALE! 10% Off!)Book Now
3 (Week)USD 2849 USD 2707 (SALE! 5% Off!)Book Now
4 (Week)USD 3739 USD 3552 (SALE! 5% Off!)Book Now

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INCLUDED

  • Incredible tropical island accommodation with Caribbean sea views.
  • Tasty and fresh Island meals
  • Xtreme Marine conservation activities guidance and training
  • All diving, typically 12 dives a week, subject to weather conditions and including at least one night dive
  • Diving equipment: BCD, regulator, fins, weights and tanks
  • Unfortunately as many lionfish as you can spear
  • 3-5 days PADI Open water course. * $50USD admin fee applies to be paid cash in country upon completion.
  • 1 week trip: weekend accommodation includes:
  • Sunday and Friday night prior to departure.
  • 2 + weeks trip: weekend accommodation includes:
  • Sunday, weekends Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Friday night prior to departure.

EXCLUDED

  • Mainland meals
  • Mainland activities and tours
  • Internal flights with Tropic air – $186.25USD one way, $264.25USD round trip
  • Internet access on the island – $15USD per week
  • Marine Park fees – $25USD per week, $75USD per month
  • Beers, sodas, rum drinks – typical price:
  • Beer: $2.50USD
  • Mixed rum drink: $4USD

Dates

You can start any Sunday through out the year. Check availability with us.

Closed in September each year.
The following dates are currently full:
Sunday 26th March.
Sunday 21st May.
Sunday 25th June.
Sunday 2nd July.
Sunday 16th July.
Sunday 23rd July.

 

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