Conservation, Coral Reefs, & Maya History
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Smithsonian Student Travel  |  Belize

Boasting the second longest barrier reef in the world, lush jungle reserves, hundreds of ancient Maya archaeological sites, and breathtaking landscapes, Belize is a beacon of conservation and Central American history. Begin your journey in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, the largest in Belize. Explore immense cave systems, swim in the pristine waters of a local river, and spot endangered scarlet macaws while hiking in the Maya Mountains. Travel by boat to Tobacco Caye to meet with shark conservationists and coral reef restoration experts, then cap the program at the Tropical Education Center in the Belizean savanna visiting the world-famous Belize Zoo to learn about conservation initiatives to preserve Belize’s natural resources for years to come.
July 19, 2024–July 31, 2024 (13 days)
Students completing grades: 8–12
Tuition: $7,590 + airfare
Typical Group: 14–18 + 2 leaders


  • Learn about Maya history while exploring impressive archaeological sites

  • Dive into cool jungle rivers and photograph majestic waterfalls

  • Encounter native species with zoology experts at The Belize Zoo

  • Snorkel along one of the world’s most impressive reefs with conservationists


This itinerary represents our plan for the program. However, we may implement changes if we identify opportunities to improve the experience, to take advantage of unexpected events, or to accommodate local schedule changes.

Departure • Travel Day • Meet your student travel group and one of your trip leaders in Miami, Florida, and fly together to Belize City, Belize.

Chiquibul Forest • 4 days • Begin in the rolling hills at the edge of the Maya Mountains and get to know your group and leaders through an in-depth orientation. Based at a research station in the heart of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, take day trips into the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, which covers over 100,000 acres. Search for the national animal, the tapir, as you hike with guides along gorgeous rivers, swim in refreshing pools, and view waterfalls. Explore culturally significant cave systems cut into the limestone rock by years of erosion and observe Maya artifacts left behind from ancient rituals. Climb the steps of temples at the Maya city of Caracol, still one of the highest man-made structures in Belize. 

Tobacco Caye • 4 days • Travel by boat from the mainland to Belize’s barrier reef, the second-longest barrier reef in the world. Settle in at the Tobacco Caye Marine Station, a scientific research station located on a tiny island within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Work closely with the island’s staff and set out on the water for reef snorkeling. Sleep in a small inn close to the beach and experience the ocean through the lens of professional conservationists. Compare sea grass, mangrove, and coral reef habitats. During the day, observe sea turtles, rays, and scores of colorful fish. At night, shadow a marine biologist as you look for octopus, squid, and other nocturnal bioluminescent creatures. Take a day excursion by boat to neighboring Carrie Bow Cay and visit the Carrie Bow Cay Field Station, a permanent site in the Smithsonian’s Tenenbaum Marine Observatories Network. Learn about Tobacco Caye Marine Station’s ongoing project to remove and study the invasive lionfish. Finally, meet with some of Belize’s leading shark and ray biologists to learn more about their declining population and important conservationist efforts to re-establish their populations.

Tropical Education Center • 4 days • Conclude your exploration of Belizean ecology with exciting experiences at the world-famous Belize Zoo. Stay in rustic dormitory-style accommodations at the Tropical Education Center. Spend time with wildlife professionals and get up close and personal with Belizean indigenous species like the tapir and jaguarundi. Explore the zoo after hours with knowledgeable zookeepers for a peek into the lives of nocturnal animals and their habitats.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Belize City, Belize, to Miami with your group and a trip leader, then continue on to your final destination.

Smithsonian Student Travel Expert

A Smithsonian Student Travel Expert will join the group for a portion of the itinerary. Our experts are professionals in their field and tie in their knowledge and experiences with the themes of the program. Throughout their time with the students—generally five days—they share their insights and passion for the region through talks and informal conversations, connecting with students in meaningful ways. Meet the expert who is joining the student trip below.

Tiffany M. Lindley, Ph.D., R.P.A., Archaeologist

Dr. Tiffany Lindley is a professional archaeologist and currently serves as the Alamo
Archaeologist at the historic Alamo site in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to joining the Alamo,
Tiffany conducted archaeological research throughout Texas and spent ten field seasons in
Belize. Tiffany received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her doctoral
research examined non-elite reactions to the Maya collapse. Her research interests include daily practice, the relationship between agency and broader socio political change, and material culture. With a background in education, Tiffany strives to make archaeology accessible to all by promoting public outreach and engagement. She is a member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, the Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, and the Council of Texas Archaeologists.

What to Expect

Physical Activity This is a physically active summer travel program. You can expect to walk on beaches after dark, hike in the jungle, work on hands-on projects, snorkel, and kayak over the course of the trip. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations While in the Maya Mountains, the group stays at a research station. In Tobacco Caye, the group stays in a small inn on the beach in Tobacco Caye, then ends the program in simple dormitory-style bunks at the Tropical Education Center.

Climate • Belize is a tropical country with two seasons: wet and dry. We visit during the wet season. It rains often in brief showers, typically in the late afternoon. Daytime temperatures range from 85–95°F (30—35°C), while nighttime temperatures drop between 75–80°F (24—27°C).

Meals All meals will be provided at the accommodations.

Cuisine • Belizean cuisine is hearty fare with rice, beans, and a delicious array of tropical fruits, such as papaya, mango, and pineapple, at almost every meal. A typical lunch consists of rice and beans, fish or chicken, vegetables, cheese, tortillas, and fruit.

Sign up for two programs & save $500!

$300 tuition discount + no application fee