US$2990*

Per volunteer

* with 100% Employer Matching Program.
Total price: US$5980.

8 days

7 nights

6 activity days

10

Monitoring volunteer spaces left

A unique opportunity to help advance tropical marine research with marine megafauna

MarAlliance invites you to immerse yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime experience among the incredible reefs of Guanaja in the Bay islands of Honduras. Join our team of marine biologists, guides and fishers for an unforgettable week helping to research critically endangered sharks, rays, turtles and other charismatic marine megafauna. You will be on the front line of marine megafauna monitoring and directly contribute to the conservation of these iconic species within Honduran waters.

Dr. Rachel Graham and her team will introduce you to essential marine research methodologies including longline captures for shark and turtle tagging, underwater transects and Baited Remote Underwater Videos. You will work alongside our team of experienced biologist and fishers each day during our monitoring, while experiencing the stunning underwater world of Guanaja.

We are excited to have the opportunity to share our findings with you and the field work will be complimented with presentations by our research team to deepen your understanding of these iconic species and the threats they face.

The Details

What are marine megafauna important?

Sharks, rays, turtles and piscivorous fish (marine megafauna) are among the most charismatic species in our oceans. They play a vital ecological role within their marine communities, helping to maintain fish and reef populations. Sharks and rays (elasmobranchs) are top predators that are essential in maintaining healthy and resilient reefs. Given their life history of slow growth, late maturity and few offspring they are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and their numbers are rapidly declining due to fishing pressure.

MarAlliance’s work in Honduras

Honduras serves as one of MarAlliance’s Mesoamerican research locations, leading annual monitoring of the marine megafauna at several sites within Honduran waters, utilizing fisheries-independent methods. Our focus is on assessing the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs), integrating fishers into monitoring activities for representative decision-making and improving the management of the shark and ray population.

Located in the heart of Central America, Honduras plays host to part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest reef system in the western hemisphere, stretching from the Bay Islands in Honduras to the tip of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The reef surrounds the Bay Islands which include Guanaja – 43 miles off the north coast of Honduras, and 7.5 miles from the island of Roatan: Guanaja’s warm, clear waters support an extensive coral reef and diverse marine life. Guanaja is the second largest of the Bay Islands and most remote, with populations considerably lower than that of the other two islands. Guanaja was discovered in 1502 by Christpher Colombus. He named it Guanaja, meaning Pine Island, due to pine trees that covered the island at that time. Some remnants of Caribbean pine tree can still be seen on the island, giving it a feel unlike other Caribbean Islands. The majority of the Island is uninhabited, and most of its population is located on Bonacca, a cay on the southern band of the Island.

Although Honduras was declared a Shark Sanctuary in 2011, fishing of sharks persists and rays are not protected. Short and long-term information on elasmobranch diversity, abundance and distribution, current exploitation levels and value, habitat use, and movement during their lifecycle remains sparse in Honduras.

Travel and accommodations

On March 17th you will arrive at Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport Roatan, Honduras, where you will spend one night. Feel free to book your flight to arrive in Roatan at any time, however an earlier arrival is recommended so you can enjoy the island of Roatan. There are endless options for accommodations on the island for all budgets; our recommendation would be to stay in West End or West Bay, where you can find unique shops, restaurants and bars. Two recommendations are Splash Inn or Sea Breeze Inn, both in West End and both a short cab ride from International Airport. The following morning (March 18th) all expeditioners will transfer by bus to Barefoot Key, where we will sail aboard Impromptu, a 50ft catamaran to Hotel Guanaja, our final destination. .

Situated on the southern beach of eastern Guanaja, Hotel Guanaja was designed to be part of the natural environment; constructed by island residents. The hotel provides spacious accommodations that are cloaked in palm trees and carefully planted fruit trees.

You will stay in beachside Cabanas, which include bright, full baths, large vanity and custom tile shower. Other amenities include AC, hot water, wi-fi, private safe, microwave, coffee maker, mini-fridge and private balcony. The Hotel offers a wide variety of cuisine and can accommodate all special dietary needs and requests. All vegetables are home grown, beef comes from grass fed cattle sourced fresh from the neighboring farm, and the fish/seafood comes from the local fishers who deliver straight from their boats. In the evening prepare to be well fed, enjoy communal meals with the team, and enjoy good company discussing the amazing things you experienced during the day’ work.

Training

Your objective is to assist MarAlliance’s Honduras-based shark and ray research team to undertake the annual monitoring of marine megafauna at Guanaja. To prepare for your trip and help us collect the most valuable data we will provide you with materials in advance to assist you with species identification and size/distance estimation. On your first days at Guanaja, we will hold training sessions to review the methods and fine-tune your size and distance estimation skills (on land and in the water).

Activities

Species identification of sharks, rays, turtles and piscivorous fish

Identifying marine megafauna by species is an important part of assessing biodiversity. Species ID will be used during in-water visual transects and in analyzing Baited Remote Underwater Video recordings. We will further ask you to familiarize yourself with species prior to the trip to improve identification in the field.

In-water visual transect

Transects are a non-invasive method for assessing diversity and relative abundance of marine megafauna.

Each transect involves four swimmers positioned in the water and spaced 15 meters apart.

Each transect is 1km in length and throughout the transect each swimmer is responsible for recording species, quantity, distance estimation, and size estimation for the sharks, rays, turtles, and piscivorous fish they see within their area.

You will learn species identification and size estimation techniques to accurately record data. Following field work you can help to transcribe data to provide indices of species diversity, abundance, demographics, and size frequencies according to the different habitats sampled.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV)

BRUVs are structures made out of PVC pipe or metal that contain a GoPro camera and an extended arm with a bait cage.

BRUVs are deployed at various sites around the Bay Islands for at least 60 minutes at a time in order to record species that are attracted to the bait.

These videos are later analyzed to record the species and relative number of individuals and assess diversity and relative abundance. We will collectively review videos taken during the day and annotate these to record target species and frequency of occurance.

Longline capture and tagging of sharks and rays

Scientific longlining is another method to assess shark and ray diversity and abundance, especially over long periods of time.

This technique involves setting a line of 50 baited hooks in order to capture individuals and collect more specific measurements, tag the animal with a marker that will identify them in future captures or sightings, and collect a tissue sample for DNA and contaminant analysis.

You will assist with baiting and setting the longline, collecting environmental data, and will learn proper handling techniques for safely tagging and releasing sharks and rays.

OPTIONAL (price not included): Local 2-tank dive in one of Guanaja’s 45 dive sites, or a half day hike to the waterfalls on the island.

*Diving can be arranged during recreational time listed on day 7 of itinerary (below) through Hotel Guanaja. Hiking can be arranged for the same time through Guanaja Island Tours, and we will be more than happy to arrange these activities for you once we arrive on the island. 

Guanaja, Honduras

March 2018

Day 1

March 17

International flight arrival at Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport, Roatan, Honduras. Taxi transfer to Hotel of your choice in West End or West Bay, Roatan.

19:30

Pre expedition dinner with Dr. Rachel Graham and overview of the research and the week ahead.

Day 2

March 18

6:00-7:00

Breakfast on own in Roatan

7:30

Transfer to Barefoot Key

8:00

Catamaran Sail to Hotel Guanaja

14:00

Arrival at Hotel Guanaja
Meet with researchers, fishers and get oriented with the Hotel

14:30

Lunch at Hotel Guanaja

16:00-18:00

Species ID instruction and/or review, instruction in survey methods and data collection.

18:30

Dinner with research and expedition team

20:00-21:30

Presentation by Dr. Rachel Graham, Executive Director, MarAlliance

Day 3

March 19

7:00-8:00

Breakfast at Hotel Guanaja

8:00-11:00

Size estimation exercises on land and in water, Review of species ID, survey methods and data collection. (recap of previous evening’s presentation)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at the hotel or in the field

13:30-15:30

Training: in-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys, and shark monitoring

18:00-19:00

Dinner with team

19:00-20:00

Presentation by Gabriela Ochoa, Honduras Coordinator, MarAlliance

Day 4

March 20

Participants will be divided into three groups (A, B, C) to personalize the experience and to ensure space on the boats. Each group will get the opportunity to rotate through the different techniques.

6:00-7:00

Breakfast at Hotel Guanaja

7:30-12:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group A)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group B)
Shark monitoring (Group C)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at the hotel or in the field

13:00-16:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays, and turtles (Group A)
Baited Remote Underwater Video Surveys (Group B)
Shark monitoring (Group C)

18:00-19:00

Dinner with the team

19:30-21:30

Review of BRUV videos, data entry

Day 5

March 21

6:00-7:00

Breakfast at Hotel Guanaja

7:30-12:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at the hotel or in the field

13:00-16:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

18:00-19:00

Dinner with the team

19:00-21:30

Review of BRUV videos, data entry

Day 6

March 22

6:00-7:00

Breakfast at Hotel Guanaja

7:30-12:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group C)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group A)
Shark monitoring (Group B)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at the hotel or in the field

13:00-16:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group C)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group A)
Shark monitoring (Group B)

18:00-19:00

Dinner with the team

19:00-21:30

Review of BRUV videos, data entry

Day 7

March 23

6:00-7:00

Breakfast at Hotel Guanaja

7:00-12:00

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group C)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group A)
Shark monitoring (Group B)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at the hotel or in the field

13:00-17:30

Recreational time

18:00-19:00

Final team dinner

19:00-21:00

Summary of the week’s activities by team leaders and participants, and wrap-up party

Day 8

March 24

6:00-7:00

Breakfast, check out

7:00

Catamaran sail to Barefoot Key, Roatan

13:00

Transfer to Juan Manual Galvéz International Airport

If you wish to stay and enjoy Roatan or transfer to any other destination in Honduras or Central America, we would be happy to assist you.

Travel tips

  • The official currency of Honduras is the Honduran Lempira (HNL). The US$ is equivalent to approximately 23 HNL. Foreign exchange can be undertaken at any local bank although the rate is subject to change depending on the bank. An easy way to quickly access money while travelling is to use your debit or credit card in an ATM or cash machine in Honduras: you will receive Honduran currency and your bank will withdrawal the equivalent funds from your account plus a fee for the transaction. You will want to withdrawal funds in Roatan, at the airport or in West End, as there is only one bank on the Island of Guanaja. Many shops and restaurants will take US dollars, however it’s best to ask in advance.
  • Electrical outlets in Honduras supply between 110 and 120 Volts AC. If you are plugging in US or Canadian 120 volt appliance or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
  • Tap water is not potable in Honduras; drink only factory sealed bottled water. In the field and at the hotel we will provide you with filtered bottled water.
  • If you plan on using your cell phone, standard roaming charges will apply and rates will be carrier dependent. Most restaurants, hotels and bars are equipped with Wi-Fi that is free for paying customers.
  • Tap water is not potable in Honduras; drink only bottled water. In the field and at the hotel we will provide you with filtered bottled water.
  • If you plan on using your cell phone, standard roaming charges will apply and rates will be carrier dependent. Most restaurants, hotels and bars are equipped with Wi-Fi that is free for paying customers.
  • Most of the local people are bilingual, so you will have no problem getting around the island.

Skills Requirement

  • Comfortable in small boats in open water
  • Confident swimmer
  • Comfortable snorkeling for 20-50 minutes at a slow-moderate pace

Safety

Safety is our top concern and MarAlliance has an emergency plan for field work conducted at all its sites in Guanaja. All boats carry basic first aid kits and a more comprehensive kit will be held at the hotel.

Emergency contacts for Roatan/ Guanaja

Emergency helicopter service
Ronald Shortis (pilot)
Tel: 9660 1356
Medical Center
Police
Tel: 2445 1080
Tel: 911

What to bring

For the sun and sea

page_icon_sunscreen

Sunscreen*

page_icon_sunglasses

Sunglasses**

page_icon_hat

Hat

page_icon_shorts

Swim wear (at least 2 suits)

page_icon_rashguard

Rashguard***

page_icon_bodysuit

Lycra bodysuit

* Make sure your sunscreen is coral/reef safe and doesn’t contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4-MBC and the common preservative butylparaben, all of which kill coral.
** Polarized are recommended as they cut down the glare on the water.
*** We will have these for sale too (The tropical sun is strong; full coverage is important)

Clothing

page_icon_3tshirts

2-3 T-shirts

page_icon_3shorts

2-3 pairs of shorts

page_icon_1and1

One long-sleeved shirt and one pair of long pants †

page_icon_towel

1 large regular towel

page_icon_quickdry

Large quick dry towel

page_icon_pareo

Pareo or wrap

Equipment

page_icon_snorkel-fins

Mask, fins and snorkel (test equipment before arrival)*

page_icon_rain-jacket

Rain jacket (just in case)

page_icon_gopro

Underwater or splash-proof camera/GoPro

page_icon_headlamp

Headlamp with rechargeable batteries

page_icon_drysack

Dry sack for keeping camera gear and other items water-free

page_icon_water-bottle

Re-useable water bottle

* this will also be provided by the resort, but you are free to bring your personal gear.

Health and wellbeing

page_icon_mosquito

Bug spray

page_icon_pill

Sea-sick? Dramamine or meclizine

page_icon_pill-bottle

Own medicines

page_icon_candy

Snacks, e.g. hard candy‡

page_icon_book

Books to read

‡ Always good to have following the snorkel transects

IMPORTANT: Enough money to cover your time before and after Hotel Guanaja. $300-$400USD is more than enough if you won’t be staying in Honduras after the expedition.

Price includes

  • On-site training from our team of expert biologists and research staff.
  • Donation, which provides all the resources necessary for our monitoring and research methods and local fisher and boat captain salaries.

Lodging

  • Double occupancy room with private bath for 6 nights at Hotel Guanaja. / *Private rooms are not available at Clearwater

Transfers

  • Round-trip Catamaran sail between Roatan and Guanaja (includes snacks).
  • Transfer from Barefoot Key to Juan Manual Galvéz International Airport.

Meals

  • 3 full meals daily, including arrival lunch/dinner, breakfasts to order, daily lunches, daily dinners accommodating dietary restrictions if needed. Meals include all non-alcoholic beverages

Other

  • Marine Conservation Fee
  • Unforgettable, once in a life time experience and memories!
  • Swag bag!

Price does not include

  • International air
  • Accommodations, meals, and transfers prior to arrival at Barefoot Key, Roatan
  • Transfers between Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport and hotel in Honduras
  • Travel, health or cancellation insurance
  • Personal items and incidentals
  • Alcohol and tips for hotel staff