I have been getting a lot of great questions from students interested in going to Belize. Many of the answers come from websites. I'll give the links here for your reference.
Passports: you need a passport good for at least 6 months past the date of travel. Passports are valid for 10 years. It takes a few weeks to obtain one, so apply now even if you are not sure you can go on this trip. To obtain a passport, start at this link: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
Health: only you and your physician can determine if you are healthy enough for travel to a developing country. I suggest that you make an appointment before the trip. You should read the information on this website before you see your physician: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/
For this trip, we will spend most of our time on the island of Caye Caulker. It is "healthier" than the interior portion of the country. For example, the island has few if any of the Anopheles mosquitoes that can transmit malaria. There is a health clinic on the island that is usually staffed by a physician, and there is also a pharmacy. The nearest hospital is in Belize City, however. Hospitals in developing countries like Belize are not up to the standards of those in the U.S.
Safety: developing countries are not as safe to live in or visit as the U.S. Visitors need to exercise more caution than they do at home. The U.S. state department has advisories for Belize at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1055.html. Most of these advisories relate to Belize City and the remote regions, not Caye Caulker, but some are applicable. You should be familiar with the precautions recommended by our diplomats in Belize!
Caye Caulker: I have taken students to this charming island since 1999. It is one of the more successful parts of Belize because the lobster fishermen organized a cooperative in the 1960s to obtain higher prices for their harvest in overseas markets. Sociologists have studied this island as a model for other villages in the developing world struggling to respond to globalization. This experience with globalization prepared the village for the "ecotourism" boom in the 1990s. The villagers resisted outside corporations and developed their tourism industry themselves. The villagers use the Internet to promote themselves. Here is the village tourism website: http://www.gocayecaulker.com/. There are many Internet cafes competing for business, so the village is ideal for students in an online class!
Getting there: The easiest way to Caye Caulker from Oklahoma is to fly. American Airlines and Continental Airlines fly daily from Tulsa (TUL) to airports in Texas (DFW and IAH, respectively) where you can change planes for non-stop flights to Belize City (BZE). The airlines have comparable airfares, but check both. It helps to be flexible about the dates you travel. We are not flying as one large group, so you can arrive early or stay late for extra sightseeing or a mini vacation. Any travel agent can assist you for a small fee, or you can check the airline websites and those of the many online tickets booking services (e.g., travelocity, expedia, kayak, orbitz, etc.) yourself.
Once you arrive at the Belize City airport, there are two ways to get to Caye Caulker (http://www.gocayecaulker.com/gethere.html). The easiest way is to fly directly from the international airport to the Caye Caulker airport. Two airlines, Maya Island and Tropic Air, have several flights daily. You do not need to buy tickets in advance. Just walk up to the ticket counter in the tiny Belize airport and buy tickets with cash, traveller's check or credit card for the next flight.
From the Caye Caulker airport, you can walk into town or hire a golf-cart taxi. If you have a hotel, they will take you there. If you do not, no worries! You can find one without advance reservations and negotiate a price after you see the room. Links to some of the hotels are at http://www.gocayecaulker.com/serv.html. You can email me for recommendations in your price range ($20 to $200/night).
The more adventuresome way to get from the Belize City airport to Caye Caulker is to take a taxi from the airport to the downtown water taxi terminal, then take a water taxi to the island. Here is the website for the oldest of the water taxi companys: http://www.cayecaulkerwatertaxi.com/ This route costs less money than flying and is more fun. You get to see a bit of Belize City from the taxi window and enjoy a fast boat ride through the mangroves between Belize City and Caye Caulker. The water taxi takes you to the front dock in the center of Caye Caulker--a short walk to any hotel. Bicycle taxis are available to help with luggage if you wish.
What to do on Caye Caulker: we will learn about how people in a developing country solve environmental problems. We will do this by talking to people and walking around and looking at the island's infrastructure. To expedite this, we will sign up for a few "tours" operated by local people. We will go snorkeling in the marine sanctuary to learn about conservation of lobster, conch and fish. We will also go inland to tour ruins of the classic Maya civilization at Lamanai. Lamanai is unique for being the only classic Maya city in Belize still occupied by the Maya when the Spanish conquistadors arrived five centuries ago. We will also visit the larger village of San Pedro on the next island to the north. San Pedro choose a different development pathway than Caye Caulker; we will use the comparison to see how decisions made by one generation have consequences for the next. This website gives an overview of the activities on the island: http://www.gocayecaulker.com/act.html
What you should do next: enroll! Once you have done that, go to Blackboard (http://nsuonline.nsuok.edu/) and look for Winter 2009 Environmental Problems. We'll continue trip planning there.