Alumni Spotlight: Tracy Allen


Tracy Allen lives in Greensboro, North Carolina and studied biology and chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she realized she wanted to work in marine conservation. She has always had a love for the sea and enjoys traveling, and found her true passion when she became a certified scuba diver. Now, a recent graduate, Tracy is getting ready to join the ReefCI team as a Divemaster intern later this year.

Why did you decide to volunteer with ReefCI in Belize?

I decided to volunteer with ReefCI because they offered everything I was looking for in a trip- a week of scuba diving in Belize and the opportunity to contribute to marine research and conservation at the same time. In the end I got those things and so much more.. two weeks of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. ReefCI also made planning and preparing for my trip simple from the beginning. Director Jo provided wonderful support, available by email or phone to answer my questions and helping to arrange my weekend accommodations and travel once I arrived in Belize.

Describe your daily activities in Belize.

Monday morning was time to make our way out to the island and after a stop for breakfast we packed up the boat for the week and headed to Tom Owen's Caye. Other than “little piece of paradise”, the island is hard to describe with words and just seeing it for the first time was amazing! About an acre, there are two main buildings, several coral cabanas and plenty of hammocks.. with just enough room left for a game of volleyball. Having an entire island to ourselves really made the experience one-of-a-kind. Once we arrived and unloaded our things we didn't waste any time getting into the water, and made a dive just for fun the very first afternoon. Later that evening, ReefCI founder and director Polly gathered the week's new guests for a presentation on the company, the species they research and what we could expect for the week. Just hearing the passion Polly has for the work she and the rest of the team do let me know I had come to the right place, and really got me excited about what was to come.

Most of the week our schedule was simple- dive, eat, dive, eat, relax... Pretty easy to get used to, not to mention each and every home-cooked meal we were served between dives was delicious. So not only did we have a perfect little island to ourselves, but all the different dive sites on the surrounding reef. Most sites, ranging from nice shallow areas to gorgeous walls were all a quick boat ride from the island and we were able to spend an entire week diving the Caribbean without coming across another dive boat. Each dive had its own objective, whether to survey an area for lobsters or identify coral diseases, and of course some just to enjoy scuba diving. And although we were there as volunteers, the staff was wonderful and made sure we felt like guests and at the end of the week I still felt like I had been on vacation, only with the extra satisfaction of knowing I made a contribution to a worthwhile project.

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

The surprises were endless during my week with ReefCI. I visited during whale shark season and we were lucky enough to swim with these magnificent creatures! Enormous fish, yet so calm and graceful moving through the water- definitely not an experience I will soon forget. We also made night dives to glimpse a rare display of bioluminescence, the String-of-Pearls, and watch nature's underwater fireworks show. In between all the diving, we were free to enjoy the island however we pleased- grab fins and a snorkel or one of the kayaks, or maybe a book and a nap in a sunny hammock.

The only problem was that the week ended too quickly and after one last dive Friday morning we were back on the boat to Punta Gorda, ReefCI's mainland home. It is a sleepy little coastal town in the south of Belize and the people could not have been more friendly or welcoming. Weekends are free time for guests to explore the jungles or Maya ruins, or soak up local flavor dancing to the drummers that play late into the night.

What would you like to tell others about ReefCI?

In the end I can't say enough great things about this program. To anyone with a passion for protecting our oceans, or just a love of scuba diving, I would absolutely recommend ReefCI. I met some incredible people, and had the experience of a lifetime. One week just wasn't enough.