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The Gap Year Blog

Project Blogs - Belize


It’s my final week, but the fact that it is one of my favourites is rather bittersweet because it was packed with great experiences which makes it that much harder to leave.

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Frontier is an NGO dedicated to sustainable travel and ecotourism, running hundreds of projects in over 70 countries across the world.

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This is my final week volunteering with Frontier alongside collecting my own data for independent research; my dissertation at the University of Southampton for my Zoology BSc.

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The ending of an incredible seven weeks on the Belize project is finally here. I have been here for just under two months and will be going home feeling fulfilled and ready to keep volunteering.

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I’ve been a Frontier Volunteer for just over a week now, and while I originally joined their dive project to help collect data for my own dissertation research, I’d obviously heard about the manatees living around Caye Caulker and hoped I might see one during my 5-week stay.

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A little over a week ago, I travelled here to Caye Caulker from Miami, Florida to complete data collection for my Master’s Thesis at Nova Southeastern University. My research is focusing on nurse sharks in a popular tourist spot called Shark Ray Village (SRV). I am examining the effects of provisioning tourism (feeding of the sharks) on the nurse sharks within SRV. I will be looking at how this tourism activity is affecting the behaviour, abundance, habituation and body condition of the nurse sharks.

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Last week was a good week for me. The pace of the project is good, and the encouragement to succeed on my fish test paid off. I passed it with flying colours on Saturday, and now I can participate in surveys regarding fish. I got to do my first two dives with Frontier and the day was awesome.

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One of the best things about Caye Caulker is how easy it is to strike up a conversation with people. Often once they find out that I work for marine conservation the conversation often turns to the environment with them inserting all knowledge they have on the topic. What is particularly interesting is the different views or talking points of each ‘type’ of person I speak with. There are three main types of people I often encounter and three conversations in particular that have resonated with me.

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A few days ago, Belize held a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ referendum vote on whether to let the UN International Court of Justice arbitrate a long-standing territorial dispute Belize has with Guatemala. For the small country of Belize with its roughly 375,000 inhabitants, just little over the population of Stoke on Trent, this signifies a monumental vote as Guatemala is claiming a significant portion of Belizean territory.

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The upcoming week marks my one-year post since I hopped on the plane to reach the beautiful Frontier base camp that I now call my wonderful home. The last year has flown by, being immersed in an overwhelming abundance of diverse flora and fauna and the pristine ecosystems of Caye Caulker it is hard to remember what life back in the UK is like.

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