What's included in the cost?

Team Expeditions

For team expeditions the price includes all your basic costs once you arrive in Belize City:

  • Transfers to and from Belize City International Airport on your arrival and departure dates
  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • PADI SCUBA training, materials and certification
  • Equipment rental (for items not listed in your kit list)
  • Weekly excursions with TIDE Tours
  • Occasional meals out at local restaurants

Learn more in our answer to “Are there any hidden costs?”

Individual Placements

For individual placement expeditions the price includes all your basic costs once you arrive in Punta Gorda:

  • Transfers to and from Punta Gorda airport or bus terminal on your arrival and departure dates
  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Equipment rental (for items not listed on your kit list)
  • A leaving meal at a top Punta Gorda restaurant on your last weekend
  • Access to laundry facilities at your homestay

Learn more in our answer to “Are there any hidden costs?”

Are there any hidden costs?

R2R does not hide any costs from you. Things not included in the price are listed below. Learn more in our answer to “What’s included in the cost?”

  • You will need to purchase your own travel insurance and provide us with a copy of it
  • For diving expeditions, you need to purchase a DAN dive insurance policy and provide us with a copy of it
  • If your expedition is longer than 30 days, you will need to extend your tourist visa, which costs $25 USD (the first 30 days is free, then you renew every 30 days thereafter). Learn more in our answer to “What are my visa requirements?”
  • If you need an ESTA to travel through the US, the cost is $14 USD. Learn more in our answer to “What are my visa requirements?”
  • Every volunteer must complete an expedition medical form (and dive medical form if applicable) with your medical practitioner – some practices may charge for this service.
  • You may be charged for any vaccinations/medication you take as advised by your medical practitioner. Learn more in our answer to “Do I need any vaccinations?”
  • Team expedition volunteers need to arrange their own transport to and from Belize City International Airport
  • Individual placement volunteers need to arrange their own transport to and from Punta Gorda (we can assist with planning your arrangements from Belize City to Punta Gorda)
  • On team expeditions R2R will occasionally arrange evening meals out, in which case we will pay for food and soft drinks, but not alcoholic beverages
  • On individual placements, R2R will arrange a meal on your last weekend at a top local restaurant and will pay for food and soft drinks, but not alcoholic beverages
  • Both team and individual volunteers will sometimes have the opportunity to visit local bars in the evening which will be at your own cost
  • On team expeditions, R2R will provide large bowls, soap powder, fabric softener and drying lines for you to handwash your clothing. If you prefer, there will be a weekly visit to the launderette, where an ‘average’ load costs $5-10 USD per week. (Individual placement volunteers have access to laundry facilities in their homestay at weekends.)

How much spending money will I need?

Because all the basics are covered in your expedition fee, you could actually come to Belize with no spending money! However, most people like to enjoy some of the optional spending opportunities. Things you may wish to spend money on include souvenirs, laundry, snacks, sodas and alcoholic beverages. Learn more in our answer to “Are there any hidden costs?”

Team expeditions: As a guide, average spending is $50 USD per week (taken from former volunteer data who gave a weekly spending range of $20 – $70).

Individual placements: Can use the team expedition guide as a basis, but you will have more access to spending opportunities over the weekend in Punta Gorda. Also, if you wish to participate in any weekend tours, you can find prices here and will receive a 15% discount off the quoted price.

Banks: There are two banks in Punta Gorda town, Belize Bank and Scotiabank, where you can withdraw cash, but note that most banks will charge an overseas withdrawal fee. Travellers cheques are NOT accepted in Punta Gorda.

Are there any age restrictions?

Yes. For our team expeditions and individual placements, participants must be 18 years or older (before the expedition start date) unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

We have had participants of all ages on our expeditions – ranging from 18 to 60!

Do I need any vaccinations?

Belize does not require you to have any vaccinations unless you’re coming from a country with a risk of yellow fever, in which case you must have proof of yellow fever vaccination.

For your own safety however, you should be up to date with certain vaccinations, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and rabies. See your doctor for advice as to which vaccinations you need. Make sure to see your doctor at least eight weeks before your expedition because A) the rabies vaccinations are a course of three injections over three weeks and B) Often stocks of vaccines can run low and you may need to find an alternative practitioner.

There is a low risk of malaria in the south of Belize, including Toledo District where R2R is based. Check with your doctor about the recommendations for taking anti-malarials.

What are my visa requirements?

Most visitors to Belize do not need to pre-arrange a travel visa, and will be issued a 30 day tourist visa upon arrival (which is free of charge). If you stay in Belize for longer than 30 days, we will arrange for you to visit the local immigration office to renew your visa, at a cost of $25 USD per 30 days. Please visit the Belize Tourism Board’s website to see whether you need to arrange a visa in advance: www.travelbelize.org/getting-here/visas-and-immigration

Alternative website: www.belize.com/belize-visa

If you are a non US citizen but will fly to Belize via the US, you need a US visa, called an ESTA (even if you are only changing planes in the US). This is $14 USD and lasts for 2 years. To apply, click here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Only use this link to apply for your ESTA – there are a lot of websites that do exactly the same thing but charge 5 x the price. Use this link and do not pay more than $14!

How do I get there?

The easiest way is to book flights directly to Belize International (Phillip Goldson) Airport. There are a number of different airlines that fly into Belize either through the USA or Mexico (Cancun).

Occasionally you will find cheap flights to Cancun, where you can catch a short bus to the main bus terminal then an overnight ADO bus to Belize City (ADO bus cost = $75 USD, correct in March 2015). Taking this route you will need to pay a $25 USD exit free from Mexico when you cross into Belize and a $20 USD exit fee from Belize when you depart.

Team expeditions: A member of R2R staff will meet you at the airport (or bus terminal if arriving overland) in a tour van. The drive to Punta Gorda takes approximately 5-6 hours (including meal stop which is included in your expedition fee).

Individual placements: You can fly to Punta Gorda from Belize City through Tropic Air or Maya Air. We can help you arrange these flights. A member of the R2R team will meet you at Punta Gorda airport. Alternatively, a cheaper option is to take the bus from Belize City to Punta Gorda. A member of the R2R team will meet you at the Punta Gorda bus terminal. Instructions for bus travel can be downloaded here.

Is Belize safe?

Yes. Compared with other Central American countries, Belize is extremely safe and peaceful. The Toledo district, where R2R is based, is especially safe and friendly with very low crime rates. You should use common sense and take care when out and about to keep your personal belongings with you.

When you first arrive into Belize we collect you from the international or local airport so you will have no need to navigate the city yourself. If you travel overland to Belize City, we will meet you off the bus at the terminal. So from the moment you arrive, a member of our friendly R2R staff team will be there to take care of your onward journey. Please note that whilst R2R take care of you throughout your expedition, volunteers are responsible for their own safety if travelling before or after your expedition.

To ensure your safety once on expedition, we ask that no one leaves the group on their own, and sign out of base in small groups so that staff members know where you are and when to expect you back.

We want you to have a wonderful experience in Belize, and uphold excellent health and safety standards throughout our expeditions. Learn more in our answer to “What are your health and safety standards like?”

What are your health and safety standards like?

All our activities and fieldsites are reviewed and a series of risk assessments carried out to ensure that participants are safe at all times. Our expedition staff undergoes first aid training and our emergency action plan and pre-expedition briefings mean that our team is prepared for any situation that arises. Expedition rules and regulations are in place to ensure the safety of all involved, and must be adhered to.

What qualifications does the expedition staff have?

Our staff members have a wealth of local knowledge and skills necessary for working on expeditions.

For diving expeditions, we have an experienced PADI instructor on staff, and during survey dives you will be accompanied by at least one PADI Divemaster and additional PADI Rescue divers.

All R2R staff members are first aid trained to EFR or Red Cross standards.

A licensed tour guide is present during all field activities and excursions. Find out who are our staff members here.

What is the staff to volunteer ratio?

On our team expeditions you will find a 2:1 volunteer to staff ratio. Individual placement volunteers will be the only volunteer amongst a TIDE staff team!

How much diving will I do?

On team expeditions, this will depend upon the length of your expedition. In general, each SCUBA course takes up to 5 days to complete (includes theory sessions). On each expedition, we typically spend half the time focusing on marine conservation work, so on an eight week expedition we aim to dive during four of those weeks. Once training is complete, we focus on monitoring methods and conducting research, but ensure that we include pleasure dives in the itinerary too!

Please note that diving is subject to local weather conditions and cannot be guaranteed, but rest assured that we love diving, and make every effort to do as much as possible!

I already have my diving qualifications. Can I get a discount?

Since the dive training is already incorporated in the team expedition itinerary, we cannot offer a discount if you arrive as a pre-qualified diver. Whilst the team is doing their dive training in the swimming pool, we will arrange alternate activities for you to take part in. During open training water dives, we will assign a PADI Divemaster to you, so that you can enjoy pleasure dives or get ahead on the monitoring techniques.

What skills will I learn?

You will be learning new skills every week, depending upon which expedition you choose! Skills you will learn and practice may include:

  • PADI SCUBA training
  • First aid
  • Species identification (e.g. birds, amphibians, fish, corals)
  • Monitoring methods (e.g. transects, counts, biomass, profiling)
  • Species specific monitoring techniques (e.g. turtles, manatees, jaguar, lionfish)
  • Using GPS
  • Teaching in local schools
  • Practical skills (e.g. fire management, reforestation, boardwalk construction)

As well as specific skills, you will gain experience living and working in a multi-cultural team of other volunteers and staff. If there’s a skill you’d like to develop more, just let us know!

What level of physical fitness is required?

Our activities are accessible for those with different levels of fitness. For diving expeditions you need to be able to swim 400m and tread water for at least 10 minutes. For our terrestrial activities you just need to be able to trek through uneven terrain for up to 3-4 hours carrying a daypack (with regular breaks). Some activities may involve actions such as lifting, chopping or digging, as part of a team. Belize is a hot country, so just be aware that you may get tired more easily, and we will always remind you to stay hydrated.

For our smaller group and family expeditions, we can tailor activities to suit you and your group’s needs.

Do I need to be a scientist to come?

Absolutely not! Whilst we expect that you have an interest in nature and conservation, all necessary training is provided here, because we understand that not everyone has the same background. We welcome volunteers who maybe aren’t looking for a career in science, but still see the importance and want to make a difference.

How rigorous is the scientific training?

We need high quality data so we provide high quality training. The science training is designed to be rigorous enough to generate valid data, yet accessible to anyone. There are opportunities to delve more deeply into the scientific aspects of the work for those that are interested, for example by working with our science team on data analysis and interpretation.

Certain people may find different aspects of the work more challenging, for example programs that require learning species identification, or size estimates. Every participant will receive all the support they need from the R2R team, and no one is prevented from participating in fieldwork, since each member of the team has a different but important role to play. Similarly for activities which perhaps require more physical strength – we will always ensure there is something that everyone can do to help.

Team expeditions, there will be at least one theory session each week to introduce new topics and conservation methodologies. This will be followed, where applicable, by practical learning sessions in the field before formal monitoring is conducted.

Individual placements, the training you receive will be more informal, generally conducted at the field station with your R2R guide and ranger team, although no less thorough! The training you receive will depend upon the activities happening that week, but there is always opportunity to learn more, and that’s what your R2R guide is there for. If you want to learn something new during moments of free time, you will be given all the support you need.

Can I use a Ridge to Reef Expedition to earn credit toward my degree?

Yes. Whilst we cannot provide the accreditation for you, we can support any requirements that your university or institution has in place. For example, if you have an optional fieldwork course with certain criteria, and these are in line with our expeditions, then we can provide supporting evidence to show that you fulfilled course requirements so that your university can credit you accordingly. Please contact Caroline with details of your course to discuss further.

What should I bring?

An expedition kit list is available to download here.

What are the living conditions like?

Living conditions vary depending upon which field sites you stay at, and despite being basic, all sites are comfortable, well equipped and in beautiful locations!

See our Field sites and Accommodation page for more information.

Will I have internet access?

Being on expedition is a wonderful opportunity to disconnect from your normal routine and reliance on technology, and we encourage participants to enjoy this experience. However, you will have access to internet at least once per week, and rest assured that R2R has emergency communications in place 24 hours a day.

Team expeditions:

You will have access to free internet at least once per week at the TIDE offices in Punta Gorda. On weekends, there is an internet café within walking distance of the house in Big Falls. There is no internet access at our fieldsites.

Individual placements:

You will have access to free internet at least once per week at the TIDE offices in Punta Gorda, and also at your homestay accommodation on the weekends. There is no internet access at our fieldsites.

What's the food like?

We ensure our volunteers get healthy meals with a good balance of fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins, and in sufficient quantities for your energy-intensive expedition. Local chefs prepare meals for our expedition groups and homestay families cook for our individual placement volunteers. They prepare a mix of Belizean cuisine – staples including rice and beans, tortillas, chicken and fish – and international dishes – such as pasta, pizza, salads – and can cater for any dietary requirements. Learn more in our answer to “Do you cater for vegetarians and vegans?”

Do you cater for vegetarians and vegans?

Yes, we can cater for any dietary requirements or allergies. Please let us know in advance so that we can prepare a menu with our cooks.

What about biting insects? How bad are they?

No worse than anywhere else that has beautiful beaches and forests! There are biting insects but if you wear adequate clothing (cover up at dusk and dawn) and carry repellant, they are ok. Most of our accommodations and dining areas are screened and our camping hammocks have mosquito nets incorporated.

For more information about mosquitoes, please also see “Do I need any vaccinations?”

For more information about what to bring to prevent insect bites, download our Kit List.

Can I talk to past volunteers about their experience?

Yes, we have set up a Facebook group where you can talk to past volunteers and post questions. Follow this link to join the group.