ER: What drew you to the Belize Student Expedition? How did you decide that was the trip?

Max: I’ve always wanted to be a marine biologist, so when we looked into what each trip focused on, Belize just felt like the right fit. We’d also get the chance to explore the Mayan Ruins, which was a large topic in my history class this year, so I was excited to see them in person.

ER: What did the first few days of the expedition look like?

Max: The entire group of travelers, six girls and four boys, arrived in Belize City together after we met in Miami. We spent the day at the Belize City Zoo where we learned all about their national animal, the Tapir. The first half of our stay was at the Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where we spent our days learning how to provide protected habitats for animals at the Iguana Sanctuary and the Howler Monkey Sanctuary. We also spent time cave tubing, canoeing, playing soccer, relaxing in hammocks, and finally, visiting the Mayan Ruins. At night we listened to lectures from locals, watched movies, participated in drum circles, and made Mayan chocolate from scratch.

ER: After you left Monkey Bay, where did you go next?

Max: The second half of our expedition was at Glover’s Reef. This was where we met our National Geographic expert, Greg Marshall, and really got out on the water. The first hours of the day were spent snorkeling to view the animals and marine life up close, including nurse sharks. In the afternoon, we’d take a boat out to other snorkel locations not readily accessible from the beach. We met with members of the Coast Guard and the fisheries monitors to learn more about their efforts in conservation and protection of the conch, turtles, and frequently poached fish. The main focus of this portion of our trip was to learn more about the local conservation efforts and to develop our own projects to increase awareness on the importance of protecting our ecosystems.

ER: What was your favorite part of this experience?

Max: My favorite part was the community service aspect. Our group went to a local school to help them build three book shelves, but ended up assembling 13. We worked with the students to measure and cut the wood, put the boxes together, and even painted a few. It was very rewarding.

ER: If another student asked you about these expeditions and your experiences, what would you tell them?

Max: I would definitely recommend this experience to other students, and even going alone. While at first I was worried not knowing the other travelers, once there we all got to know one another and now are great friends.

2020 Student Expeditions are now available to book. Contact your Ambassador or visit the National Geographic Student Expeditions page on The Source to learn more.