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The Gap Year Blog

From Intern to In-Country - My first week in Belize!

26 Oct 2019 16:45 PM

I’m about to finish my first week as a volunteer for the Marine Conservation & Diving project in Belize, following a 6-month internship at Frontier’s London HQ.

It’s day five now, and although I’m currently sitting in a hammock, enjoying the ocean breeze and the shade of a couple of palm trees after spending most of my day under the sun, we’ve been in fifth gear all week, loaded with awesome opportunities and experiences!

The minute I arrived in Caye Caulker, I felt really welcomed by both the staff and locals (of course, after working in HQ for 6 months, I already knew the team were super friendly and hospitable!) I got a quick tour of Caye Caulker village and our camp, located a bit further out in a forest reserve. It’s remote, but really cool to be unencumbered and get back to basics. I spent the second day learning how to conduct sea grass and mangrove surveys and learning how vital each are to create a healthy balance in the local ecosystem here in Caye Caulker.

Since then, the focus has turned to what I have been looking forward to for months: diving. I just received my qualifications for Open Water diving (hoorah!) so the next step is Advanced Open Water and after that I can partake in more project activities. Diving has been a groundbreaking experience. It has simply created a different world for me and introduced me to a whole part of the environment that I was, for the most part, not very mindful of. The local dive school here is great, and despite the few nerves I had before my first dive, the instructor completely eased my mind and taught me everything I need to know.

It was particularly my second dive ever which will always have a special place in my heart: shortly after descending to a shallow depth and checking out the vibrant coral and fish surrounding us, I began to hear a peculiar noise and (as I had learned), I couldn’t tell where it was coming from since noise travels much faster underwater. It was a high-pitched clicking noise that went on for a minute and then, suddenly and out of nowhere, four Bottlenose Dolphins approached us out of nowhere. They swam with us and around us, coming up close to us out of curiosity multiple times, until they swam off into the depths. I’ve now learned that dolphin sightings are very rare when diving, so although I don’t expect a repeated experience anytime soon, I’m beyond excited to see what else is in store for my next couple of dives, and to improve both my fish and coral identification as time goes on.

I came here with a mindful understanding of conservation, but have not had many in-depth learning opportunities about it prior to joining Frontier, particularly marine conservation. That was my main motivation behind joining the project here in Belize and I’m shocked by how much I’ve learned in a week. It’s also a great follow-up opportunity after having done my internship in London - straight from the office to the field!

The team here is really knowledgeable about the environmental issues local to Belize and I’m excited to see what else is coming up in the forthcoming weeks!

By Lydia Meester - Research Assistant with Frontier Belize

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!