Educational Activities

One of the primary services of the Tobacco Caye Marine Station is education, both for Belizean and international students.

Experiential field programs in Marine Environmental Science are tailored by TCMS to meet each group’s learning objectives and syllabus. We work with each group to design a learning curriculum and itinerary that best suits their educational needs and special interests through a combination of fieldwork and lectures. We also serve as facilitators supporting visiting teachers and other group leaders. Our programs build an awareness of marine habitats (coral, mangrove and seagrass) through survey techniques, sampling methods, species identification, fish behavioural observations and microscope work back in the laboratory. We offer a classroom-based lecture series to supplement fieldwork (see list below).

Students are equipped with well-maintained snorkel gear, including underwater flashlights, and have full access to all the station resources. Accommodations and meals are provided in oceanside cabanas.

Introduction to Snorkelling

Starts with a presentation on marine hazards in the classroom followed by the demonstration and fitting of snorkel gear. Participants are taken into calm and shallow water where they are taught essential snorkel skills. Groups that arrive late will do the in-water section the morning after arrival.

Night Snorkelling

A true advantage to the Tobacco Caye location. Step off the dock and into a completely different world of octopi, squid, moray eels, sea stars, crabs and lobsters that come alive at night. Underwater lights are provided, but participants also love our lights-out bioluminescence experience.

Field Trips

Tobacco Range Tour (half day)

This half day trip will take you to Man ’O War Caye Bird Sanctuary, one of the few remaining nesting sites in the Caribbean of the Magnificent Frigate. You will then be able to enjoy snorkelling alongside the roots of the nearby Tobacco Range Mangroves before discovering the richness of the Tobacco Caye Reef. Fortunate groups might spot the resident West Indian Manatees while cruising through the sheltered waters of Tobacco Range.

A Customized Half Day Tour

We offer customized trips to any of the nearby cayes and reefs to meet your requirements.

South Water Reserve Tour (full day)

Spend a full day exploring the South Water Caye Marine Reserve and enjoy snorkelling along various ecosystems including Whale Shoal, South Water Caye Patch Reef, and Tobacco Range Mangroves. The three snorkels in Belize’s largest Marine Protected Area will be completed by a visit to the Smithsonian Institute’s facility on Carrie Bow Caye, and a tour of Man ’O War Caye Bird Sanctuary.

Glover’s Reef Atoll (full day)

Fifteen miles east of the Belize Barrier Reef, over the Caribbean Sea you will discover the waves breaking on Glover’s Reef Atoll, one of only four atolls in the Atlantic. Once through the fringing coral reef you will be surrounded by an incredible turquoise lagoon, filled with lush patch reefs. Participants will explore the fore reefs that drop from the atoll into the abyssal trench. This trip is dependent on calm weather, but offers an impressive day participants will never forget.

Whale Shark Snorkelling

Between March and April, we take students on a search for aggregating whale sharks. There’s no guarantee that we’ll see any, but if we do, we’ll jump in the water and snorkel with these majestic creatures.


TCMS staff offer lectures on their specialty areas, as well as fundamental marine science topics. Our current list of lectures can be customised to meet particular group needs. With enough lead time, we are happy to work with leaders on new presentation topics.

  • Marine Hazards in Belize
  • The Scientific Method: A Critical Thinking Approach
  • Fish Biology: An Aid to Identification
  • Common Fish Families
  • Fish Identification (12+ fish families and 80+ key species)
  • Coral Identification and Diseases
  • Marine Creature Identification and Ecosystems
  • Introduction to Coral Reefs
  • Importance of Mangroves
  • Coral Reefs: Response to a Changing Environment
  • Climate Change and Hurricanes: Implications to Belize
  • Current State of Marine Science in Belize
  • The Scientist and the Environmentalist: How they Work Together
  • Fisheries Conservation and Marine Protected Areas
  • Dropping Nuclear Bombs on Coral Reefs

Tropical Marine Ecology (Belize)

We highly recommend that students and teachers get a copy of this field guide created by the station managers.

Tropical Marine Ecology

This book is designed to introduce students to basic concepts of tropical marine ecology, while specifically addressing issues relevant to Belize. No prior knowledge of marine biology or related subjects is assumed. References and case studies at the end of each chapter encourage readers to delve further into topics in accordance with their specific interests, knowledge and experience.


  • Over 30,000 Fish and Coral Identification photos from SWCMR
  • Plankton Keys
  • Over 7,000 scientific publications and articles
  • Dozens of environmental documentaries and movies
  • Reef Fish Identification Series – paper and interactive editions (Humann & DeLoach)
  • Books on Marine Plants, Plankton, Coral Reefs, Fish Behaviour, and Birds of Belize
  • Textbooks in Oceanography (Thurman, Pipkin, Open University)
  • Textbooks in Marine Biology (Levinton, Castro)