Belize is a hidden gem in the heart of Central America. Nestled just south of Mexico and east of Guatemala on the Caribbean Sea, Belize is only a short flight from the United States.
Tom Owens Island
We are located on a small, private Caribbean island on the Belize Barrier Reef, named Tom Owens. Tom Owens Island is a beautiful, idyllic remote private island that is part of the Sapodilla group of islands, located in the South of Belize. The island, situated 20 miles from the mainland on the outer reef, is a true ‘castaway’ coral caye island.
ReefCI’s mission is to protect our oceans through science, action, and advocacy. We accomplish this through our ongoing conservation programs, education, and marine research. Through our citizen-scientist programs, we empower everyday global citizens to take an active role in directly protecting and conserving the marine environment.
Why Choose Us? We are the best at what we do! ReefCI is the preeminent and award winning marine environmental organization of Belize for hands-on conservation efforts and protection of the ocean and the millions of species that rely on healthy, functioning marine ecosystems.
Feel The Thrill
Feel the thrill of swimming with a whale shark, the excitement of spearing the invasive lionfish, and the satisfaction in helping the marine environment. ReefCI trips are a unique opportunity to protect the reef ecosystem by directly participating in our ongoing marine conservation projects!
World class diving, plentiful home cooked food, and fun friendly people await you. If you have not done so already, reserve your spot today here on the RUSHKULT platform!
About Our Lionfish Hunt And Conservation Dive Program
Calling all apex predators!
Our lionfish program focuses solely on hunting, spearing, and eradicating this invasive species.
Lionfish are an invasive species native to the Pacific Ocean that were unfortunately introduced to the Caribbean. They are destroying native fish populations and decimating coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and greater Atlantic as these intruders have no natural predators in their new environment. Our guests and staff remove roughly ten thousand every year through spearing and culling efforts! No prior experience is necessary.
Our conservation trips are for people that want a great holiday/vacation but also want to make a difference and protect the marine environment we all love! We take divers of all stripes and experience, people who want to learn to dive, singles, couples, and families.
Hunt The Invasive Predator
People often feel that “releasing” a fish or any other animal into the wild is a good thing, but not in the case of the lionfish! The initial source of the lionfish invasion can be pinpointed to personal aquarium releases in Florida back in 1985, probably by people whose lionfish were getting too big for the tank or eating the other fish. Lionfish are indigenous to the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Red Sea but not the Atlantic-Caribbean belt. In their natural habitat, they have a diet that is not a threat to the environment; there are many more varieties of species and they have natural predators to keep their numbers in check. However, in the Atlantic-Caribbean oceans they are an invasive predator, feeding on species that are key to our healthy reef environment such as juvenile groupers, parrotfish and crustaceans. These native species have no evolutionary defence mechanism against the invasive lionfish.
Lionfish are voracious predators and consume juvenile fish recruits. In thirty minutes one lionfish was observed eating more than twenty fish!! ReefCI found a lionfish with a Blue Chromis in its stomach, the Lionfish measured 18cm and the Blue Chromis measured 9cm! That is half its body size in one mouthful! It’s like a human being eating a sheep in one gulp!!
Most fish species spawn once or twice a year over maybe a two-month period during the full moon. Lionfish release their eggs every 4 days!! They can release up to 20,000 eggs. They do not release the eggs until they are fully developed making the chance of survival much higher. This means they reproduce at an alarming rate. They reach sexual maturity in less than 1 year! And they can live until they are around 15 years old!
The invasive lionfish is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of coral reefs and fisheries habitat throughout the Caribbean. Scientists are predicting that lionfish will have a grave impact on Belize’s already stressed stocks of fish and lobster and could spell potential disaster to our marine habitats.
What will you be doing?
Hunting and spearing the invasive lionfish!! Here in Southern Belize, we at ReefCI spotted our first lionfish in November 2009 but they were few and far between. Now we are spotting them on every dive and sometimes as many as 50-100 at one dive site. This is a dramatic increase and extremely worrying as we are the only divers in the area.
ReefCI divers and snorkelers are actively involved in removing this invasive lionfish from Belizean waters. You will be spearing as many as you can!! So, for once in your life you can do something that is banned in most marine parks and go spear a fish! Great fun! After capture, we dissect some of the fish and study their stomach contents for research purposes. Then we eat! ReefCI guests often get lionfish on the dinner menu, cooked in garlic and black pepper or ceviche, they are extremely tasty.
ReefCI is currently supplying local restaurants with the lionfish we spear. We are giving them lionfish to include on their menus to introduce lionfish as a food source and to increase awareness of this problem amongst restaurant customers!! Lionfish ceviche, lionfish fish cakes, and fried whole lionfish are all delicious to eat. ReefCI is also working with local Belizean women to help them make jewellery from the spines and fins. We give them the sun-dried fins and spines and then buy the jewellery from the women and make them available for purchase.
We are extremely proud of our battle against the invasive and destructive lionfish. ReefCI is removing more lionfish and collecting more data on lionfish than any other organization in the country of Belize. ReefCI staff and guests are on target to remove over 7,000 lionfish this year alone and dissect 1,585 for research purposes!
Release your inner predator! Please join us in the fight to save the reef from this invasive species!
Good To Know
Our volunteer trips are for both non-experienced and experienced divers. Not certified? No worries, many of our volunteers come to the island to learn to dive. Looking to further your dive credentials? Many of our volunteers come to our island to further their diving certification status. Regardless of your diving level, our island is a wonderful place to learn with calm, clear waters and little current. We swap the cold swimming pool for the Caribbean Sea and the classroom for a hammock under a palm tree! Please be aware that if you are doing your PADI Open Water Course Certification, there is a limited amount of conservation work included during your first week. If you want to get more involved with our conservation programs, we suggest you book a minimum of two weeks if getting your PADI Open Water Certification with us. To learn more about our dive courses and the PADI certification process on the island click here.
All dive equipment is included EXCEPT mask with snorkel, booties, and wetsuits. You must bring your own dive mask, booties, and wetsuit. These items are size specific to each individual -especially wetsuits and booties for your feet. We do not provide dive computers since almost all of our volunteering dives and conservation efforts are at depths less than 18m/60ft. However, a dive computer is mandatory for any diver that wants to dive deeper than 18m/60ft or for those taking the PADI Advance Open Water certification course with us. There are no places in Placencia, Belize to buy or rent these items; therefore, it’s important you have them prior to your trip departure.
We provide the rest of your gear at no charge – BCD’s, tanks, regulators, fins, weights, etc. However, you are more than welcome to bring your own dive gear if you prefer. Anyone wishing to participate in night dives MUST bring their own dive light/torch. These can be purchased for as little as 10 USD on Amazon. Please note that in order to participate in night dives one must be a certified Advanced Open Water diver.