Belize: Culture & Ecology

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Applications for this experience are now closed. Check back with us in January 2018 for more opportunities.

The Program

Operation Groundswell’s Belize: culture and ecology program dives beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea and hikes deep into the jungles of the Yucatan to explore how culture and ecologies have shaped each other and how Belize is mobilizing both in its efforts to confront the challenges of a changing climate. We’ll go from the turquoise waters of Belize’s iconic coast to the dense jungles of its interior and see first-hand how these unique plant, animal and human communities work together. Belize also sits at the intersection between the Caribbean, Latin and Indigenous cultures, so, we’ll immerse ourselves in traditional Garifuna, mestizo, and Mayan communities while working with local fishermen, farmers, activists, and ecologists to explore the diversity of people and perspectives that pour from this unique corner of the world.

Be prepared to walk, hike, swim, and snorkel around one of the most abundant biospheres in the world while learning how culture and ecology connect and how we as ethical travellers can make a positive impact here and at home.

Explore Belize alongside other students, a UTM staff member and our partners from Operations Groundswell


  • From the turquoise waters of Caribbean coast to the lush hills of the jungle interior and see how culture and ecology come together in one of the richest biospheres in the world. 
  • Visit the Belize Zoo, perhaps one of the best examples of grassroots conservation and environmental education.
  • Visit Garifuna communities in Stann’s Creek and indigenous Maya communities in Toledo while immersing yourself in Belize’s cultural diversity and distinctive vibe
  • Snorkel the second largest barrier reef in the world and confront the challenges related to climate change for this unique ecosystem.
  • Hike through one of Belize’s amazing natural reserves and see dramatic waterfalls, ancient Mayan ruins, monkeys, armadillos, and over 200 species of birds. 


  • Dates: Friday, February 16 to Saturday, Friday, February 23, 2018. (Please confirm these dates work with any tests you may have.)
  • Estimated Cost: $3200-$3500.
  • Need to Know: The February travel dates have been arranged to avoid travel through the USA. February travel dates will include a direct flight.
  • Contact Us: We encourage students who are interested in this trip to contact us before applying for the trip so that we can discuss the cost and the flight plan.

Important Dates

Participants must be available on the dates specified below for the pre departure and post-departure sessions as a requirement of participation in this experience. Plus, participation in the pre-departure sessions and reflection after the experience will get the experience recognized on the Co-Curricular Record!



Monday, September 11 to Monday, October 23

Application Period

November - exact date to be determined

Pre Departure Orientation: Creating Connections

January - exact date to be determined

Pre Departure Session: A World of Opportunity

Monday, January 15, 2018 from 2-4pm DV3130 OR

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 from 1-3pm DV3130

Safety Abroad Mandatory Session at UTM (students can also participate in sessions offered at St George) 

Saturday, February 17 to Sunday, February 25, 2018

Travel Dates

March - exact date to be determined Saturday approximately 4 hours

Post Trip Session: The good, the bad and the travel bug


Our partners at Operations Groundswell will lead you through a truly immersive 8 day experience filled with planned daily excursions, educational programming and opportunities to interact with the local community. 

Day 1-3

Location: Belize City & La Democracia


After picking everyone up at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City, we’ll make our way inland to La Democracia. The Tropical Education Centre here sits on 29 acres of beautiful savanna and is the perfect place to get settled and get oriented. We’ll walk the nearby trails and talk shop about Belize’s history, culture and conservation just a stone throws away from the Belize Zoo, an incredible grassroots project that has spent over 30 years on the front lines of conservation and environmental education in the country. So, prepare to share space with over 170 different animals while learning about culture and ecology from the Zoo’s founder Sharon better known as the “Zoo lady”.  

Days 3-5

Location: Stann Creek District


Leaving the inland savannas, we’ll head to Stann Creek and Belize’s iconic Caribbean coast. Dangriga, is the biggest town in the southern half of the country and is the spiritual capital of the Garifuna. So, we’ll continue our conversation about all things culture and ecology while immersing ourselves in the laid-back vibe of these coastal communities. We’ll take drum lessons with local youth from the Lebeha Drumming Centre explore local galleries and museums before dipping our feet in the turquoise blue waters, learning to fish at sunset, or listening to the distinctive sounds of punta rock music back in town. Dangriga and the nearby village of Hopkins are also perfect trailheads for us to hike into the famous Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary or visit the incredible Tobacco Caye Marine station located just a short boat ride away. 

Day 5-7

Location: Punta Gorda, Toledo District 


From the Garifuna communities of Stann Creek, we’ll head even further south to the Toledo District. Here at the south westerly tip of the country the vibe changes again. Even after thousands of years, this is still in large part Mayan country so, we’ll be teaming up with some of its leading indigenous organizations like the Ya’axche Conservation Trust to explore Mopan and Q’eqchi culture as well as how it expresses itself through environmentalism. We’ll live and work alongside local families for two days while exploring the local biosphere. We’ll build relationships, learn to cook delicious typical dishes, visit community associations and make fresh cacao into tasty chocolate. We’ll also take a trip and tour some of the nearby Mayan ruins which serve as beautiful reminders that our failure to live sustainably can have catastrophic consequences. 

Day 7-9

Location: Stann Creek


After a fond farewell to our hosts in Toledo, we’ll circle back north to Belize City but not before we stop for disorientation. A staple of every OG program, we’ll take two days to kickback, relax and reflect. In the solitude of an eco-lodge, we’ll discuss lessons learned, assess our impact, and prepare for the trip home. BUT no adventure to Belize would be complete without a dip in the Caribbean Sea and a snorkel around the world's second largest reef. So, bring your swimsuit and prepare to dive right into culture and ecology in Belize.

Our partners at Operations Groundswell will lead you through a truly immersive 8 day experience filled with planned daily excursions, educational programming and opportunities to interact with the local community. Itinerary coming soon!


This is NOT a five-star jetsetter’s cruise. We will be sleeping and eating as a team in locally run hostels, family homestays, and community guesthouses that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but life on the trail means living without some of the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Comfy beds can’t always be guaranteed, creepy crawlies sometimes visit us, we embrace cozy conditions, take cold-water bucket showers, and use the occasional outhouse! 

APPLICATIONS FOR THIS EXPERIENCE ARE NOW CLOSED. Check back with us in January 2018 for more opportunities or contact us at should you want more information.