THIS PROGRAM IS CURRENTLY FULL. WE ARE ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THE WAIT LIST.
January 5 - 19, 2013*
PROGRAM FEE: $4,163
The Program Fee includes tuition and program expenses. Click on Program Fee for details.
International airfare and personal expenses are not included in the Program Fee and are the responsiblity of the participant.
October 5, 2012
This program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students with a cumulative GPA of 2.25, including students who do not attend George Mason University.
Undergraduate: 3 semester credits in Environmental Science & Public Policy 490, New Century Learning 399, or Biology 440
Dormitory-style housing in field stations; some camping in tents; jungle lodges; and inns
Sarah Mournighan via email or by calling 703.993.2106 or toll free at 866.468.1243. The toll free number does not accept calls from the 703 or 571 area code.
Syllabus available upon request
2012 Group in Belize
Now in its third season, the CGE Ridges to Reef study abroad program in Belize is an action-packed adventure that will engage students in experiential learning everyday. Belize is one of the most naturally and culturally rich countries in Central America. The richness of the Garifuna, Creole, and Mayan cultures; the welcoming community; the never ending diversity found within the rainforest; and the easily accessible remote cayes and brilliant reefs make Belize an irresistible country to visit!
The Belize Ridges to Reef Program offers students a once-in-a-lifetime experience where students will have the opportunity to live on one of Belize’s most pristine offshore cayes; have access to an archaeological cave system; explore the Sibun river; and form lasting friendships with the people they meet on their adventure. Students will explore special places where only few travelers go, such as the Actun Tunichil Muknal, a sacred Mayan sacrificial site, and the infamous Blue Hole that Jacques-Yves Cousteau made famous in 1972.
2012 Group Sitting on a Mayan Temple
Students will have the opportunity to snorkel the protected reefs within the Blue Hole and those surrounding Half Moon Caye National Monument; go sea kayaking and snorkeling around the offshore caye; and engage in community service projects. During our time on the cayes, students will learn about the three complex ecosystems that support Belize’s pristine coral reef systems – sea grass beds, mangroves, and coral reefs. Students will also learn about coral reef fish identification, behavior, and biology. Bottlenose dolphin, manatee, and sea turtle sightings are always a possibility, so expect the unexpected!
Once back on the mainland, students will be immersed in the world of Maya and the rainforest along the Sibun River in the Southern Maya Mountains, where they will have the opportunity to explore and learn about the temples, plazas, and ball courts of the ancient city of Xunantunich. On this chapter of the journey, the students will have excellent opportunities for birding and howler monkey encounters. Students will study tropical rainforest ecology and the importance of riparian habitats on this portion of the adventure.Study Abroad Reviews
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JANUARY 2013 PROGRAM ITINERARY:
Day 1, Jan 5: Arrive into Belize at the Belize International Airport and transfer to the Belize Biltmore Hotel. After checking in to our rooms the group will enjoy an introduction to Belize and review the plans for departure to Lighthouse Atoll
Day 2, Jan 6: In the morning we connect with our water taxi that will take us to the outer edge of the Belize Reef system. We travel through a seascape of small coral cays and mangrove range before reaching the Belize barrier reef, crossing the reef at one of the numerous ‘cuts’ our next landfall is Turneffe Atoll with a huge mangrove lined inner lagoon and then on to Lighthouse Reef the most remote and pristine of Belize’s coral atolls located almost 60 miles offshore of the Belize mainland. Our Marine Base-‐camp is located within the Protected Half Moon Cay Marine Reserve.
Day 3, Jan 7: After breakfast we begin a thorough kayak orientation, typically we will organize into two parts so not to overload students. We will begin with familiarization with the equipment, boats, rudders, footpegs, spray skirts and paddles, bailers/pumps and then move into wet exits. Each participant will perform a wet exit supervised by one of the guides. After the wet exits we break before moving into kayak strokes, techniques and group travel on the water. For this section we’ll organize the group into boats and get on the water for a couple of hours of paddling primarily within the protected waters close to the reef crest on eastern wall of the atoll. After lunch introduction to snorkeling which entails checking students gear and instructing proper use and care along with demonstration of snorkeling techniques and safety in water. Head out to a nearby reef for our first snorkel.
Day 4-8, Jan 8-12: Halfmoon Cay, Lighthouse Reef is a remote 45-‐acre island with stands of coconut palm and littoral hardwood forest. The island is also home to a profusion of wildlife, including a 4,000 strong red-‐footed booby colony. Because of it’s biological diversity Half-‐Moon Cay was first protected in 1928 and has the distinction as the first protected marine area in the entire Caribbean. We have over 50 square miles of pristine coral reefs and remote islands as our natural classroom using sea kayaks and motorboats to access our study locations that are located in different locations around the atoll. We are active each day exploring a wide range of marine habitats including patch reefs, rubble zone and sea grass beds within the sheltered lagoon and we will also access the reef crest and deeper waters of the fore reef on the seaward side of the atoll. Highlights include learning about and interacting with the Garifuna and Creole people of Belize who live on the cayes of Belize, snorkeling the famous Blue Hole, an underwater cave filled with marine life paddling a shipwreck that looms just north of the caye and exploration of the mangrove and the protected waters of Southern Long Caye
Day 9, Jan 13: Today is a Community Service Day -‐ Students volunteer helping on projects and initiatives at Blackbird or Lighthouse reef Cayes. We returning by motor launch to the mainland. and transfer to the Tropical Education Center (TEC) and the Belize Zoo. Our dormitory style accommodations at TEC are in the midst of beautiful tropical pine savannah habitat rich with parrots and parakeets. The zoo, (adjacent to the TEC) is spread over 29 acres and the large natural wildlife enclosures are organized around the theme of "a walk through the habitats of Belize", with trails leading into pinelands, the forest edge, the rainforest, wetlands and riparian forest. After our customary Belizean dinner we have a unique opportunity to join one of the senior zookeepers for a nocturnal tour the Belize Zoo. The night zoo tour is optional and is by donation, we recommend $10 usd per person.
Day 10, Jan 14: Based from the TEC we will participate in a number of projects associated with tropical wildlife and wildlife management with a specific focus on jaguars ( felis onca) including learning and observing problem jaguars that have developed a habit for predating on cattle and village dogs.
Day 11 - Jan 15: After breakfast travel to western Belize highway to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich located on the banks of the Mopan River. After exploring and learning about the temples, plazas and ball courts of this ancient city we drive the back roads towards the Hidden Valley escarpment to gain an entirely different perspective of the ancient Mayan civilization. When the roads end we hike along an established trail through the rainforest fording Roaring Creek to the recently opened archaeological caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher) Following an underground river we climb into a massive crystalline chamber, which was once believed to be a major ceremonial center for the ancient Maya. Within the chamber there are over 80 Mayan pots, stone tools and the skeletons of what were believed to be sacrificial victims. We will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this night. Students need to budget $10-‐15 usd for dinner and refreshments this night.
Day 12, Jan 16: Free morning at the Tropical Education Center then travel into southern Belize and the Maya Mountains. We will be staying with the Sibun Forest Reserve that encompasses over 100,000 acres of pristine tropical rainforest. Afternoon swimming in the beautiful mountain-‐ clear Sibun River which flows past our jungle lodge. Introduction to our new location and rainforest habitat.
Day 13, Jan 17: On this day we paddle the Sibun River through jungle and riparian habitat. We encounter variety of geology as we descend the river. We use specially designed inflatable kayaks to enjoy this day on the river and in the jungle, we can expect to navigate current and class I to light class II rapids.
Day 14, Jan 18: On this day we hike through the rainforest to the mouth of the crystal caves, visit an abandoned Cacao Plantation and have a chance to participate in the harvesting of a citrus plantation.
Day 15, Jan 19: Enjoy the waking sounds of the tropical rainforest then after breakfast we travel overland to Belize International Airport in time to connect with return flight home.
Katheryn Patterson, MS, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Science and Policy Department at George Mason University who spent two years in Belize as the bottlenose dolphin researcher for Oceanic Society’s Bottlenose Dolphin Project at Blackbird Caye, Turneffe Atoll. Her work examined Belizean tourists’ attitudes towards various cetacean conservation issues and provided evidence to the Belizean government to maintain protective cetacean legislation and environmentally friendly policies. While in Belize, Katheryn also assisted with saltwater crocodile, sea turtle nesting, and coral reef monitoring projects.
You should plan to leave the United States at least one day prior to the program start date to arrive in Belize for the first day of the program. You can schedule your return to the United States from Belize for the last day of the program or choose to travel independently.
Do not purchase international airfare until you are advised by your Program Officer.
Program Fee: $4,163
The Center for Global Education Program Fee includes:
Almost all meals
Group excursions and activities
Emergency medical insurance, including medical evacuation and repatriation
Scholarships are available to George Mason students. George Mason students can click here to download the CGE Global Perspectives scholarship application. Mason students may also use financial aid to cover a program's cost. If you are not a George Mason university student check with your study abroad office or office of financial aid to learn more about how to cover the cost of your study abroad.
How to Apply
Note that all supplemental documents are required by the application deadline. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Contact the Program Officer for further application forms and instructions specific to your program.