Meet a Sustainable Adventure Pioneer: Reef Conservation International, Belize
By Thomas Marvin, muchbetteradventures
Much Better Adventures Pioneer Series
We set up Much Better Adventures to promote adventure choices from people like us, who saw a problem with the world, but also saw an answer. This is an answer that begins with an adventure, but doesn’t end there. These particular adventures go on to advance local conservation and sustainable development, educate, change perspectives, and improve lives. These are our muchbetter Pioneers – world leaders in sustainable adventure.
ReefCI is a not-for-profit organisation that sustains itself by offering all-inclusive Monday-Friday Marine Conservation SCUBA diving packages on a beautiful private island in Southern Belize, Central America. ReefCI guests help with various projects such as Reef Check surveys; Coral watch bleaching surveys, commercial fish and species surveys, turtle projects and removing the invasive Lionfish.
Who are you and your team?
The Founder and Managing Director Polly Wood, is British and now in her mid 40’s. Tired of her corporate life, from a home office in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK, Polly made the decision to create a conservation/dive not for profit organization. She wanted to help protect the coral reefs and its inhabitants and at the same time give people a chance to put something back into the marine environment. The vision was to create something different by giving anyone; divers, non-divers, scientists and non-scientists, younger, older people the opportunity to help whilst ensuring they have a great holiday. And they could come for 1 week or 3 months.
Eight years later, the vision is very much a reality! Polly has provided a unique experience where people get to help protect the marine environment that they love on a beautiful, remote castaway island. ReefCI guests can learn to dive, improve their diving skills, learn about the marine environment while staying in gorgeous cabanas overlooking the Caribbean sea, enjoying fantastic meals and of course most importantly, world class diving! Couples and singles are welcome and everyone goes home with new friends and amazing memories.
Four years ago, fellow Brit, Jo Audinett came to Belize for 1 week! She fell in love with Belize and ReefCI and became the Sales and Marketing Director. Jo is focused on customer enquiries, agency relations and pre-trip customer liaison such as help with booking flights, weekend trips etc. Polly is still very hands-on and spends most of her time on the island. This ensures that ReefCI’s high standards are always met. We maintain constant fantastic feedback and guest satisfaction is consistently high.
What inspired you to start, and why did you choose Belize?
Why did Polly choose Belize? Belize is a hidden gem in the heart of Central America. Nestled just South of Mexico and next to Guatemala on the Caribbean Sea, Belize is only a short flight from the United States. English is the official language, with the majority of the citizens reading and speaking English fluently, which makes it the perfect holiday destination.
Belizeans take great pride of their natural heritage and resources. They want to protect their amazing reefs and jungle. Belize is known as a safe destination for tourists and unlike lots of developing nations, Belize has an anti harassment law which is extremely refreshing. People may try and sell baskets, jewellery etc, but will not overly harass tourists and are very polite about it!
The Belize barrier reef, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the second largest in the world and boasts an incredible spectacle of marine life. ReefCI are based in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, right on the continental shelf and the island is a beautiful, idyllic remote private coral caye. The diving with ReefCI is structured but extremely relaxed and not regimented. It is safe, non-challenging diving in the Caribbean with little or no current and visibility ranges from 15-40 meters.
There are rarely other divers in the area, in 8 years the ReefCI guests have never had to share a dive site, very rare in today’s diving world! We often discover new dive sites and allow our guests to name them!
ReefCI are currently working with Reef Check, the Department of Fisheries in Belize, PADI Coral Watch and Whale shark programs, Ecomar lionfish, coral bleaching watch and turtle program in Belize and John Cigliano of Cedar Crest college, Philadelphia, USA on a Queen Conch project. We adapt our weekly schedule of research dives to fit our divers ability and requirements ensuring no two weeks with ReefCI are the same.
What makes you “muchbetter?”
Passion, passion, passion… from the whole team. Polly has created a truly unique experience where people can help protect the marine environment they love, learn about the amazing marine eco-system, have a well earned break, enjoy an idyllic remote paradise island location, eat fantastic food and make friends for life.
Any insider tip for your area?
Our area is truly a gem yet to be spoilt by tourism, visit now before it is too late. If you are lucky and book around the full moon periods, you could get to experience the magical ‘string of pearls’ phenomenon on a night dive and don’t forget to find some time to include some of the other activities that Southern Belize has to offer such as jungle trips and lodges, Mayan ruins, caves, waterfalls and much much more.
Photos by ReefCI
More about ReefCI
The ReefCI trips are ‘laid back’ and focused on conserving the environment, at the same time as enjoying a well earned break! You can be involved in non intensive or more intensive marine conservation work, the choice is yours. Experienced divers, people who want to learn to dive and non divers are welcome…. everyone contributes. ReefCI are a member of Reef Check, an international data collection methodology utilised by recreational divers in more than 82 countries around the world. ReefCI are a recognized Project Aware Eco-Operator and participate in both Project Aware’s Coral Watch and Whale Shark programmes. ReefCI on Facebook ReefCI on Twitter
Meet a Sustainable Adventure Pioneer: Bodhi Surf School, Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica
The word “Bodhi” is Sanskrit for “awareness” and was chosen for that very reason; while the company aims to teach surf, yoga, and provide its clients with a fun and fulfilling vacation, it also strives to promote awareness about the spheres within which it operates. We aim to be more than just a surf school, to provide an experience that is unique to the area and our personalities.