Belize Manatee and Dolphin Research Trips

volunteer vacations
Hands-On Manatee and Dolphin Research


Our manatee research was recently featured by National Geographic, Huffington Post, and Discovery News.

Belize is home to the largest population of endangered Antillean Manatees in the world. The Antillean Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) is an endangered subspecies of the West Indian Manatee; less than 2,500 mature individuals of this subspecies are thought to remain. Turneffe Atoll is believed to be an important foraging area for manatees and the goal of our research is to collect biological data necessary for manatee protection and habitat management. Our research objectives are to determine the temporal distribution of manatees at Turneffe Atoll, their behavioral ecology, and the environmental parameters of micro-habitats consistently used by manatees.

Belize Manatee in Mangrove

From our Field Station on Blackbird Caye, program participants will conduct daily boat excursions within the atoll to visit zones of probable manatee concentrations identified in aerial surveys conducted by Oceanic Society. Once manatees are sighted, we map their position utilizing a global positioning system, note any individual markings, and log information on their behavior. We also collect data on environmental variables such as water temperature and salinity. Volunteers that are comfortable with snorkeling can assist the researcher with habitat sampling. When manatees have left the area, quadrants will be laid down in the sea grass beds to determine percentage cover.

Manatee Underwater, Belize

Opportunistically, we will also collect data on bottlenose dolphins, which are found consistently at Turneffe Atoll.

There will be some free time for beach snorkeling, swimming, and bird watching.  

Accommodations are at our Blackbird Caye Field Station, which offers comfortable, double-occupancy beachfront cabanas, each with an open porch to the sea and private baths.



Day 1: Belize City / Blackbird Caye
Arrive in Belize City and take 90-minute boat transfer to Blackbird Caye, Turneffe Atoll.

Days 2 thru 4: Day trips from Blackbird Field Station
Our focus will be manatee monitoring activies such as photo identification, mapping, and vegetation sampling. Dolphins are found in the same area and, opportunistically, we will also collect data on dolphin sightings. Volunteers will have free time for relaxing, swimming, or exploring the local environment.

Day 8: Blackbird Caye / Belize City
Return to Belize City and fly home.

Optional Extensions:


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Upcoming Trips:

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Trip Cost:

$2,275 / person