A Family Adventure in Belize: Protecting the Reef with Reef CI

As a travel blogger and mother, I’m always on the lookout for unique experiences that combine adventure, education, and the opportunity to make a positive impact. Our recent trip to Belize and our time with Reef CI (Reef Conservation International) ticked all those boxes and more!

Reef CI is a non-profit organization located on the beautiful Tom Owens Caye, a private island in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve. Their mission is to protect and restore the coral reefs of the Caribbean through conservation, education, and research. As a family, we were thrilled to be part of this incredible initiative.

One of the highlights of our trip was learning about the invasive lionfish and its impact on the local ecosystem. Lionfish are not native to the Caribbean and have no natural predators in the region, allowing them to multiply rapidly and decimate native fish populations. To help control their numbers, Reef CI organizes lionfish hunts.

My son Jesse was particularly excited about this activity. Armed with a spear and a sense of purpose, he dove into the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island, searching for the distinctive stripes of the lionfish. Under the guidance of the experienced Reef CI staff, Jesse learned how to safely and humanely remove these invasive predators from the reef.

Watching both of my sons’ confidence grow as they successfully navigated the ocean, careful not to disturb the underwater world beneath them was a proud moment for me as a parent. Jesse learning to hunt lionfish is not only a valuable skill, but he was also contributing to the conservation of the delicate coral reef ecosystem.

Throughout our stay, we participated in various other activities organized by Reef CI, such as educational sessions about the coral reef, a beach clean-up, and other demonstrations relating mostly to the lionfish. The knowledgeable staff made every activity both fun and informative, ensuring that our family not only had a great time but also left with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the marine environment.

Staying on Tom Owens Caye was an adventure in itself. The accommodations were basic but comfortable, and the sense of community among the volunteers and staff was heartwarming. Sharing meals, stories, and laughter under the stars after a day of diving and hard work was an unforgettable experience. The food was healthy and delicious and we could tell that each meal was prepared with a lot of love and care.

Our first dive of each day was at 7:00 a.m. and while the air was a bit cooler, it made getting into the warm ocean water that much nicer.  After our morning dive we had a healthy breakfast and got ready for an educational lecture before our afternoon dive. We ate each meal as a group, sometimes having lionfish for lunch after our hunts. Our third dive of the day took place around 4:00 when the water seemed less calm and we had to deal with a bit of a current at times. The staff kept us safe and informed at all times. 

We were generally tired by dinner time but still managed to squeeze in games of volleyball as a group, card games, and many volunteers did some extra snorkeling around the island. There was even a night dive one evening for those certified to brave the ocean in the darkness.

There was no cell service or wifi on the island, which made it a great place to unplug. Electricity was limited, but at no time did we feel unsafe. We tried to conserve water by only taking brief showers once a day. While there was no hot water, this seemed to be refreshing especially in the evening when the rooms were still a bit warmer from the heat of the day. 

If you’re looking for a family trip that combines adventure, education, and the chance to make a difference, I highly recommend volunteering with Reef CI in Belize. Not only will you create lasting memories, but you’ll also be contributing to the protection of one of the world’s most precious natural wonders – the Belize Barrier Reef.

So, pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, snorkels, fins, wetsuits, and get ready for an adventure that will leave you and your family feeling inspired and empowered to make a positive change in the world! 

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