Belize High School Expedition

Blanketed with thick jungle and edged by the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, Belize is a small country with extraordinary biodiversity and great natural beauty. Its rich marine life makes it a perfect laboratory for learning about our planet’s amazing ocean habitats and for exploring ways to preserve them for future generations.

June 29 - July 10, 2019
July 6 - July 17, 2019
Airfare is not included. We have arranged a round-trip group flight between Miami and Belize City.

Trip Highlights

  • Join one of Belize's leading shark biologists underwater to help collect ecosystem data.
  • Help scientists and researchers at the University of Belize, and create a project to raise awareness on the importance of protecting tropical ecosystems.
  • Practice identifying species on snorkeling and scuba excursions along the world’s second largest barrier reef.
  • Learn about night photography, and test your skills during an after-hours visit to the Belize Zoo rehabilitation center.

Itinerary | 12 days

Day 1

Our expedition begins with an orientation at the Tropical Education Center, a research station outside Belize City. During a night tour of the world-famous Belize Zoo led by professional keepers, hand-feed the national animal of Belize, the tapir, and meet an orphaned jaguar known as Junior Buddy.

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Days 2-7

Take a boat from the marina across clear blue waters to Turneffe Atoll, where we’ll get settled at the University of Belize research facility on Calabash Caye. Here, spend each day snorkeling in the warm coastal waters and assisting in the collection of data and the monitoring of reef health. Come face-to-face with countless species of marine life—from colorful parrotfish and damselfish to eels, rays, and turtles. Join researchers in conducting a survey of invasive lionfish, and assist with their removal and dissection. Participate in ongoing initiatives to protect dolphins, turtles, and reef sharks, and examine the threats to coral reefs around the planet.

Pull Quote
Belize is mother nature's best kept secret—one that you have to see to believe.
Jamal Galves, National Geographic Expert

On land, hone photography techniques as you take portraits of local conservationists or capture a time-lapse of the sun setting on the beach. Learn to use underwater photography as a storytelling tool to portray the integral role of our oceans and seas in maintaining the health of the planet. Then put your new marine biology and photography skills to the test during a full-day excursion to Lighthouse Reef. This is the home of the world-famous Blue Hole, a remarkable circular limestone sinkhole in the seafloor that stretches nearly 1,000 feet across and more than 400 feet deep. Made famous by explorer Jacques Cousteau, this spectacular sunken cave harbors diverse marine life and jagged stalactites. In the evenings, unwind back on shore. Enjoy discussions with marine biologists, get to know your fellow travelers, and share coconuts straight off the tree. Begin work on your On Assignment projects, thinking about how you will use your knowledge of marine biology or photography designed to raise awareness about the critical need to protect and conserve this tropical habitats.

Days 8-12

Leave the outer reef and head north to Caye Caulker, one of the more developed cayes. Spend time working with locals and participate in environmental stewardship projects. Get out on the water with researchers working to preserve fragile marine habitats, and learn firsthand how overfishing and reef destruction affect the local ecology and economy. Snorkel and dive among groupers, rays, and nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan was declared a marine reserve—the first in Belize—25 years ago, and has helped pave the road for marine protection throughout coastal Belize and the rest of the world. Spend a day kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding around the shallow waterways, keeping an eye out for endangered manatees and sea turtles. Learn about the development of marine-protected areas, examine the role of ecotourism and local conservation efforts in reef preservation, and collect data with one of Belize’s leading shark biologists. Present your On Assignment project to community members and local experts.

Our high school expeditions are for students in grades 9-12, and offer opportunities to get out into the field and discover fascinating destinations across the globe through the lens of an On Assignment project. Each expedition offers a choice of two or three areas of focus, such as photography, geology, or wildlife conservation. Students travel alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic expert joins for a portion of the trip (four to eight days) to share their insights, and inspire students with their passion for the work they do and the places they will discover. The group size ranges between 14 and 28 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
While SCUBA diving is not the main focus of this trip, students who are certified will have the opportunity to participate in up to four dives, dependent on weather and conditions. The supplemental fee for diving is $325.
At the Tropical Education Center we stay in shared cabanas. On Calabash Caye, we stay in seaside dormitory-style rooms at the University of Belize research facility. On Caye Caulker, we stay in a small, family-run hotel.

Jamal Galves, Conservationist & Biologist

Meet Our Experts

Conservationist and research biologist Jamal Galves is a 2017 Nat Geo Photo Ark EDGE Fellow and program coordinator for the Sea to Shore Alliance. Jamal grew up in a small village in southern Belize, where he developed a love for animals—particularly manatees. Today, his work centers on conserving the endangered Antillean manatees of his home country. Jamal is an alumnus of the Conservation Leadership Programme and the Caribbean Emerging Wildlife Leaders program. For his efforts, he has been named an Oceana Ocean Hero, Belize National Hero, and World Wildlife Fund Planet Hero. Jamal will join both departures in Calabash Caye.

On Assignment Projects

Capture the brilliant marine and tropical habitats of Belize’s intricate barrier reef on camera. Photograph the early morning light as you kayak through colorful coral formations, or try your hand at underwater photography while you snorkel among swirling schools of tropical fish. Document the work of local biologists and conservationists. There is a supplemental fee of $150 for this On Assignment project.
Work with scientists underwater and on land to help research and protect Belize’s coral reefs. Document reef species, remove invasive lionfish, monitor and restore mangroves, or use high-tech equipment to detect sharks and rays on the sea floor. Interview fishermen and local conservationists about the interplay of conservation, livelihoods, and sustainable development.