Once known as British Honduras, Belize is a country culturally distinct and biologically rich. Because of its low population density and conservation minded government, much of Belize is still forested, and Programme For Belize (PFB) manages and protects much of that forest. The forest PFB manages and protects is contained within the 260,000 acre Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area. This is where PFB hosts STR groups during the rainforest segment of the Belize course.
There are two field stations within Rio Bravo; La Milpa and Hill Bank. Groups are usually based at the charming and comfortable La Milpa field station, which is surrounded by primary forest and located only three miles from an unescavated Mayan city that is a major archaeologic site. Course participants visit this site and learn about the research that is taking place there. Participants also hike the many forest trails, learn about the ecology of the forest and are tutored on sustainable development, community outreach programs and conservation strategies. In addition, they make excursions to a Mennonite Community and a Maya Mestizo village for enriching cultural activities.
During the second half of the course participants snorkel the second largest barrier reef in the world. In the early years of the STR groups stayed on Water Caye. More recently groups have stayed in facilities on either St. George’s or Spanish Lookout Caye. After water safety checks and lessons for beginners, groups explore Belize’s Great Barrier Reef. One snorkeling site is within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Snorkeling here gives students and teachers a chance to see unspoiled coral reefs where the protected fish are large and curious. Snorkeling on the shallow patch and back reefs of Seagent Caye is exciting, too, though not as exciting as snorkeling Shark Ray Alley. Swimming with Sea Manatees of Gallows Point is perhaps the most unforgettable experience participants have during the marine biology segment of this course. Ecosystems that are studied during this part of the course include coral reefs, grass beds and mangrove estuaries.