Thierry and his friend were looking into environmental conservation in a tropical country and came across Belize, not too far from home for them. They spent 3 weeks in the Carribean, here's Thierry's story.
1) Why did you choose this particular project?
My friend and I wanted to do an environmental project in a tropical country. We looked at a few projects on some other volunteer sites and then came across Frontier. First off, it was located in Belize so it wasn’t too far away from my country. Also, when we saw all the beautiful pictures of this place and learned we would be diving and snorkeling, we knew we had to sign up!
2) Which kind of work and activities did you do during your project?
We did all sorts of conservation and research activities. We did a lot of surveys on fish, corals, conchs, lobsters, seagrass and mangroves. We cleaned beaches that were full of trash. We presented fish species to a class of students. We also did camp maintenance, yoga, palm leaf weaving, boat riding, we went to see the Mayan temples and did cave tubing, lobster fishing and we even made coconut oil.
3) How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?
The lifestyle is pretty different from home. Everyone there is so much more relaxed and carefree. They might have less than what we have but they’re happy with it. The locals are also really nice and they will often make jokes when you talk to them.
4) What was the accommodation like?
The accommodation was a bit less than I expected. It’s just this two-story shed and you either sleep in a hammock, if you’re lucky, or you sleep in a small tent, inside, with two other people. It gets warm in the tent and you’ll probably want to bring a floor mattress. You have a toilet but no sewer system, your shower is the rain or a bucket of water but you do have electricity. At first, you may need to adapt but you quickly get used to it.
5) What were the staff and other volunteers like?
The staff and other volunteers were really nice and fun to work with. We all became a close group of friends and bonded over the month. We told stories, helped each other, made jokes and we had a nice time together. It’s quite special too because you have people from Canada, England, Ireland, Italy and Indonesia and we all learned so much from one another. I’m lucky to have met them!
6) What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?
I would have to say my most amazing moment is probably when we went snorkeling in an alley and there were dozens and dozens of sharks and rays just swimming beneath us. At first it was a bit terrifying having them this close to you but it was awesome! It was an incredible sight and you were able to touch them if you were brave.
7) Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?
When I was working, whether it’s by doing surveys or beach cleanups, it felt like I was really helping the environment. Just by going into the forest trail, I felt there was so much less trash than when we went there in the first place to pick it up. I also find that our surveys are really working and the Fisheries Department will be able to regulate more efficiently the marine zones because of them.
8) What sort of wildlife did you encounter?
We saw all kinds of fish, corals, lobsters, crabs, rays, sharks, dolphins, eels, geckos, iguanas, snakes, birds and a monkey. I even got to see a turtle once and we followed it for about ten minutes, it was amazing! Also, when you go in the village, you can see lots of really cute cats and dogs just wandering about.
9) What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?I didn’t have too many expectations before doing the project. Of course, I wanted to see lots of fish and animals and I wanted to learn all about them and help the environment in my own way. My top goal was also to see a turtle and I can now say I have achieved all of them.
10) Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?
BRING LOTS OF LIGHT LONG CLOTHING! They will immensely help for the sandfly situation. I only brought one pair of trousers thinking I wouldn’t need more because it’s warm. I was wrong. Bring long shirts, trousers, after-bite and antihistamine pills, you will need it for the bites.
11) What do you have planned next?
With my school, I’m leaving for Vietnam on the 20th of February. We are staying for a month in a small village in the North. We will be doing humanitarian work like teaching English classes in schools and building a kitchen. I can’t wait!
12) Anything else you would like to add?
This project is a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you will meet lots of amazing people and see incredible things. You will do some awesome work that also helps preserve nature and its species. You won’t regret it, it’s an unbelizeable adventure!