Location: Sarteneja, Belize
Duration: Minimum 1 month, maximum 6 months
Start Dates: Project is ongoing, and you can join at any time, depending upon availability
Cost: $1,000 USD Fee for the first month, $650 for each month thereafter – see ‘Costs’ tab for further details
- Work closely with experienced biologists, veterinary and support staff
- Hands-on experience rehabilitating wild Manatees, monitoring and observation and treatment & general care
- Sister-project working with primates is nearby. You can divide your time between the 2 projects.
- Keywords: marine biology, animal science, Manatee rehabilitation, zoology, veterinary, Internships.
Flexible Deposit | Refund Guarantee | Resolution Support
The tiny Central American country of Belize punches well above its weight in terms of wildlife. Just offshore a large population of West Indian manatees make their home in the warm coastal waters, a habitat that forms an important part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. These gentle herbivorous creatures live their entire lives (up to 50-60 years) in the water and have no natural predators, yet are all too often injured or orphaned by irresponsible fishing and boating accidents. This project gives you the opportunity to rescue and rehabilitate manatees while educating local populations about the animals’ threatened existence. It also gives you the chance to get to know the diverse Belize culture, where English is the official language but Spanish, Creole, and an assortment of other languages are also widely spoken.
You will work with a Manatee Rehabilitation Centre (the only one in the Region) founded in 1998 to care for orphaned or injured manatees found in Belizean waters. It was here that Belize’s first rehabilitation of an orphaned manatee took place, and ‘Woody’ was successfully released back into the wild after more than 2 years of care. Volunteers played a critical role in Woody’s rehabilitation, and that of all of his successors, helping provide the 24-hour intensive care in the early days, and then sharing the duties of feeding and pool cleaning as he grew.
With the assistance of grants from donor agencies the Centre’s facilities have been upgraded significantly. Three concrete pools and a lagoon enclosure provide the space and housing options to suit the needs of manatee calves at various ages. The Centre generally has one or two manatees in care at any one time, but with increasing boat accidents, numbers needing such care are unfortunately likely to increase. You can help nurse these impressive creatures back into the wild while helping raise awareness in the Belizean community.
Free 15 minute call to discuss your options
Work is shared among volunteers, and involves all aspects of manatee care. This includes food preparation of the milk replacement formula, bottle-feeding in the water, clean-up, support during transfer between pools, regular weighing, medical check-ups, etc. Carers also spend time working with the calf, providing companionship in the water in the early developmental stage, and monitoring behaviour. Other essential activities include emptying, cleaning, filling and maintenance of the pools to ensure a clean environment for the calf or calves.
As the manatee grows older, it is led out into the open lagoon to be taught how to find and eat sea grass and learn the many other skills needed for life back in the wild. As these skills are acquired, and care becomes more hands-off in the approach to release, there are also public awareness activities that you can get involved with, increasing interest and knowledge among locals towards support for conservation of this threatened species. This includes visits to schools in the idyllic local fishing community, one of the stakeholder communities of Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, established by the Government of Belize for the protection of the West Indian Manatee.
You may also be asked to help respond to calf strandings, should they occur elsewhere in Belize whilst you are stationed with the Rehabilitation Centre – which may involve helping release calves accidentally caught in fish-traps, or capture of injured or orphaned calves in need of rehabilitation.
Travel & Accommodation
You will be given easy to follow instructions on how to get from Belize City International Airport, to the project HQ. You will be met at the bus station, port or local airstrip by the project coordinator.
Accommodation is basic, with shared thatched, screened cabanas (sorry – no air conditioning or fans!), with adjoining bathrooms. However, there is generally a breeze coming off the lagoon and temperatures are lower than further inland. Food preparation and consumption are both social occasions with everyone contributing towards cooking and washing up. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians are welcome.
One-on-One Pre-departure and In-country Support
- Min age 18
- Minimum 1 month commitment – 30+ hours a week.
- Enthusiasm and interest in working with Manatees and their conservation
- Basic English
- Full travel & medical insurance
- Necessary vaccinations
- Necessary flights & visas
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Your trip will be complete with this list of the Top 5 Things to Do. Dive into the waters of the Belize Barrier Reef, or explore ancient Mayan Ruins. This beautiful country is one of our favorite travel destinations, and you will understand why by seeing all it has to offer.
Belize is one of the diving capitals of the world- and for good reason. The crystal clear water here is home to aquatic life ranging from colorful coral to giant whale sharks. It’s also home to the Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site because of its biological importance. If you’ve never dived, don’t worry. Diving in Belize caters to all experience levels. Become a certified diving expert or just take a one day outing with the kids (lunch is usually provided!). You simply cannot go to Belize and not experience the mysterious world underwater.
Explore Mayan Ruins
The ancient Mayan civilization left a lasting mark on this tropical country. Giant temples and structures that are thousands of years old still stand to amaze the present generation. Explore just a few kilometers outside of Belize city, or take a winding river trip to more remote archaeological sites. The most popular ruins: Caracol, Cerros and Lamanai
The Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is one of the most important diving sites in the world. This giant sinkhole houses large stalactites and animals, mostly sharks. Only more experienced divers can see it from fish-eye view, but any traveler can mark it off of their bucket list. Boat tours leave daily to this incredible site, or you can even affordably fly over it and see it from above!
Test your adventure spirit with an overnight trip to the world’s only jaguar preserve. Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar preserve is over 350 sq. km. of protected jungle. There are tons of trails and options to hike, where you will see all kinds of native animals and even signs of jaguars. You can make it a day trip, or stay in one of the facilities available for rent overnight for a magical experience.
This is one of the main reasons people visit Belize. This tiny fishing village is a historic center of the Garifuna culture dating back to the 19th c. Experience the vibrant, musical culture of these people and then retreat to a world-class resort at the end of the day. It’s quaint, charming, and very close to some of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize.
|$ USD||£ GBP*|
|Total Fees – 1st month||$1,000||£750|
* Currency conversions are approximate.
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Admin fee of $250 added for 1st month
**** 50% deposit required to confirm place.
Programme Fee includes all food, accommodation, in-country support, project activities and transport from the local town to the project HQ.
What's Not Included:
Flights, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations. Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.
Placement Support Package
For your trip, we will help you organise and plan everything you will need from start to finish. Our coordinators know each project & country like the back of their hand, and will be able to offer personalised advice to ensure your trip is well-planned & executed to perfection.
This includes one-to-one assistance planning and booking;
- Pre-departure Support - Flights, Visas, Vaccinations, Insurance, Essential Items and anything else you will need before you set off.
- Ongoing In-country Support - whilst you are on the project you can Contact us at any time with any questions or concerns and we will do whatever we can to help.
- 24/7 Emergency Support - a phone number that you or your family can ring at any time, night or day in case of emergency.
Our Placement Support Package costs £349 / $449 / €425 per person, and can be purchased once you are ready to confirm your place.