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Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico


Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico

About Your Location

Puerto Morelos is on the Rivera Maya, on the Yucatan Peninsula.The Riviera Maya is spectacular, known as one of the best destinations for diving and snorkeling. On its shores lies an extensive coral reef, home to a vast variety of marine species such as tropical fish, stingrays, and even the fascinating whale sharks. There are also incredible natural pools formed by underground rivers along the Riviera Maya enabling you to explore caverns and swim in the crystal clear waters of these natural wonders. The town and seaport are focused around a small fishing village which, like all urban centres on the Yucatan, has seen rapid growth and is now a town with a port. Puerto Morelos is a place to experience the genuine Yucatan that enables you to immerse yourself in the authentic local culture.

Project Life

While your experience on the expedition will be rewarding, days can be long and tiring which you should be prepared for. Your typical day includes diving, lab work, training on base, beach cleanups, and community work. Rounded off with evening debriefs followed by dinner and time to relax - taking in a beautiful sunset, and sharing stories with your fellow team members.

Depending on weather conditions, we aim for everyone to get into the water every day to dive or snorkel, but this is also dependent on the needs of our partners as there are conservation measures in place which will not require you to dive 5 days a week. During your time in the water you will conduct underwater surveys after you complete your training. Besides diving, you should expect to be involved in additional projects and activities, including training sessions, lab work, marine debris surveys and removal, environmental education session or alternative income training, depending on local and project needs. You will also be required to complete base duties.

While your living conditions are basic, our base is located on a property a few hundred meters from the beach. When not working, you can take the opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of the reef and marine species, explore the nearby cities, cenotes, relax with your fellow volunteers or just take in the stunning sunsets that have to be seen to be believed.

Project Activities

Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program:
Fieldwork training
Learn how to identify species, conduct surveys and collect data to help build a research inventory of marine species in Mexico.

Conservation surveys
Applying standardised data collection protocols, you’ll assist with underwater benthic (coral) or fish target species surveys, helping researchers monitor the health of the reef.

Support conservation project work
Assist with additional research activities such as coral restoration, seagrass ecosystem monitoring, marine megafauna sightings, lionfish population studies, sea turtle conservation, weekly beach cleans, and outreach work to assist the community and promote conservation best practices.

PADI Open Water
Learn how to scuba dive or brush up on pre-existing skills. Go over the required theory and practice in confined water dives before undertaking open water dives at sites suited for beginners. Only applies to programs longer than 8 weeks.

PADI Advanced Open Water
Gain more diving experience and sample different types of diving with various types of adventure dives, including deep water, underwater navigator, peak performance buoyancy, underwater naturalist, night diver, search and recovery diver, and boat diver.

PADI Emergency First Response
Learn primary and secondary care theory and then practise applying these 8 skills in role playing scenarios designed to improve your first aid skills and prepare you for an emergency.

PADI CRRD Speciality
The Coral Reef Researcher Diver Specialty is unique to GVI and focused on advancing your conservation diving skills and teaching you how to conduct coral reef surveys. Only applies to programs of 4 weeks or longer.

PADI Rescue Diver
Increase your awareness of diver safety, manage more complex situations and apply direct intervention techniques via role playing rescue scenarios. Only applies to programs longer than 8 weeks.

How This Project Makes a Difference

Over time and with the contributions of a small number of volunteers, our partners have been able to amass a large database on the condition, health and changes of this section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, as well as successfully produce a vast amount of coral fragments for reef reproduction.


GVI provides(for Diving Participants)
- Tank Regulator
- Buoyancy control device
- Weights and weight belt

Essential items all Diving Participants must bring
- Fins
- Mask and snorkel
- Delayed Surface Marker
- Buoy (DSMB) A4
- Underwater dive slate and attachment clip
- Wetsuit or rashguard and shorts
- Waterproof watch/timing device (up to 100 m) or a dive computer Participants will not be able to dive without a waterproof watch ( up to 100m) and buying on-site can be difficult and expensive.

If you are having trouble obtaining this dive gear prior to your journey, the field staff can direct you to a dive store in Playa del Carmen ( 25 minutes from Puerto Morelos) where you can acquire it with a special GVI discount. Please be aware that you require the gear before you start your diving activities at the base.

Mandatory Volunteer Requirements

- Visa and vaccination requirements according to destination
- Minimum age of 18
- If you are joining the program for 2 weeks, you must already have your Advanced Open Water qualification. (we no longer offer 3 weeks)
- If you join the program for 4 weeks you need to already have your PADI Open Water qualification, and will gain your Advanced open water certificate qualification during the 4 week program
- If you join the program for 6 weeks you need to already have your PADI Open Water qualification, and will gain your Advanced open water certificate qualification during the 4 week program
- As a non-diver, you can join for 8 weeks and up and you will gain your PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water during the program
- Police Clearance Certificate (not older than 6 months)
- Medical form
- Basic level of competency in English
- Spanish is useful to do community work but not essential
- Copy of return flight itinerary
- Acceptance subject to availability


Pick-up from Cancun Airport and/or transfer to base location from Puerto Morelos
Welcome meeting
Location orientation
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Meals while on project
Living and working in a protected reserve surveying deserted reefs under our research permit
PADI Open Water (for 8,- 10- and 12- week volunteers) and Advanced Open Water
The PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver Specialty Course
Coral reef ecology
Community work workshop
Use of O2 equipment workshop
Real hands-on experience and learning about the challenges of marine conservation has in this region
All necessary project equipment and materials but not your own personal diving gear, the full list of requirements is included in the field manual for example, wetsuit, diving mask, fins etc.
All necessary project training by experienced long term staff
First aid & CPR training
24-hour in-country support
24-hour emergency phone
Access to alumni services and discounts

Temperature: Wetsuit use varies based on personal preference and how much individuals feel the cold. Jan - March the water is around 24-26 degrees Celsius - depending on how much they feel the cold either a 3mm or 5mm full length suit will suffice. April - June the water is around 27-28 degrees. July - Sep time is around 28-30 degrees and most people dive with just a rash vest and shorts though some people will wear a shorty or 3mm full suit. Nov-Dec is around 26-28 degrees a 3mm full length suit is preferred by most.

Included Activities

There is 1 experience offered per month. Volunteers on longer durations will not be eligible to repeat Experiences. Please note, Experiences are subject to change or substitution and are optional. Volunteers who elect, or are unable, to participate will not be eligible for any refunds. Volunteers must ensure their travel insurance covers any activities.

Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico
• Learn to cook traditional Yucatán food
• Visit a Mayan ruin
• Take a beach yoga class
• Dive through the cenotes
• Stand up paddleboard at sunrise
• Climb rock formations in the jungle
• Learn the unique geography of the Yucatán Peninsula
• Explore the ancient city of Coba

Free Time

Volunteering with us not only allows you to participate in programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established during the program.

Our long-term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with us. Our Yucatan field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Mexico!

Optional Side Trips

As a large and vibrant country, Mexico can seem daunting at first, but here are a few ideas to get you going in the Yucatan Peninsula on your weekends off.

In this region you are spoilt for choice in the number of opportunities to try out different dive sites away from the expedition. Dive or snorkel within the unique cenotes (the underwater river systems); dive Cozumel, where the wall dives along the island have been voted as part of the world’s best top ten diving locations; or, for a full weekend, try Isla Holbox, a small island off the north of the peninsula. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place, great for a quiet weekend away. Whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) migrate up near the island from June to September and snorkelling alongside them while they filter feed is a truly breathtaking experience!

Alternatively, if you are looking for a break from the water, make your way to Río Lagartos where flamingos flock and river crocodiles abound; visit Bacalar - known as the lake of seven colours due to the various shades of blue; or visit prime breeding areas for the hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtle (May to October).

Immerse yourself in the surviving Mayan culture of the area and visit remote and untouched Mayan archaeological sites, such as the famous and easily accessible sites of Tulum and Coba, or visit the beautiful and majestic Mayan ruins of Palenque in the Chiapas region. And finally, the colonial city of Mérida is the peninsula’s cultural capital and the local artisans of Izamal will be sure to offer you some souvenirs of your trip.

What Makes a Good Volunteer?

Volunteers need to be flexible and keep an open mind concerning their placements as situations can arise beyond our control which could require you to be placed at a different project than the one you have initially chosen. We will of course always do our utmost to fulfill your initial wishes but do remember that where you are going is quite different from where you are coming and as such one should be prepared for things not always going according to plan.

Volunteering and intercultural travel share a common trait: the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. This program is designed for proactive individuals and groups that are prepared to adapt to the local environment and its current needs. Naturally, the scheduling and activities of our program are subject to change. Alterations in activities are mainly due to changes in local conditions, which we believe is part of what makes overseas programs the interesting adventure and incredible learning experience that they are.

How Long Should I Volunteer?

Our projects range from 1 week up to approx. 30 weeks. Projects have a specified minimum stay, then it’s up to you how long you can commit. In our experience the longer you stay the more you will gain, as your understanding of the project broadens and you take on more responsibilities. Every volunteer will be given a certificate of appreciation at the end of their stay as a symbol of volunteering stay.

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Ylimääräiset paikallismaksut


Program Accommodation
The facilities at our accommodation are more basic than you are accustomed to - please travel with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to local conditions. Accommodation is in shared (mixed gender) dorm rooms with shared bathroom facilities. There is bottled water available for cooking and drinking only. Cold water is used for showering and flush toilet facilities. Participants share base duties including cooking, cleaning and other chores. You need to bring your own mosquito net and bedding, for example a thin sleeping bag liner.

Pre/Post-Program Accommodation
If you need additional nights before or after your project, you need to book these separately. Just ask your travel advisor for help!

Paikalliset kuljetukset

Most volunteers arrange their flights to arrive at Cancun International Airport the day before the program starts. You can request to be picked up from the airport, but please note that the pick-up service is only available if your flight arrives between 08:00 and 20:00 the day before the start date of the program (Friday). Make sure to send the correct flight arrival and accommodation details to us (the night's accommodation must be booked separately at extra cost). The airport transfer is not booked until you receive a confirmation from us.

Alternatively you can make your own way to the meeting point on the program start date (Saturday). The meeting time is in the morning at 09:00 at Hotel Gota de Sal, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico

At the end of your program we will arrange for you to be transferred to Puerto Morelos town centre. From here you can make your own way to Cancun Airport or travel further if you wish to explore Mexico a little more. We recommend you do not book a flight out of Cancun until at least 18:00. Please also remember that you need to wait 24 hours between your last dive and flying.

Daily transportation between the base and accomodation is included. If you want to explore the city, visit the beach or travel to base on your own, you can make use of the bicycles provided or take the collectivo (the local bus) which passes right by the accommodation every 30 minutes (not included).


Meals while on project are included. You’ll get the opportunity to prepare breakfast in groups from our choice of cereals, pancakes, eggs, and porridge. Lunch and dinner will be prepared for you during workdays. On weekends, you’ll cook your own meals. Your meals will be influenced by the local cuisine and traditional Mexican ingredients. It primarily consists of a vegetarian diet, with meat available about once a week. Lunch usually consists of beans, vegetables and pasta, and a typical evening meal includes lentils, pasta, beans, rice and vegetables.

Visiting local restaurants is also an option, at your own cost, during weekends. Restaurants and supermarkets are conveniently located within walking distance of the base.


Dive Equipment Rental
If you are renting dive equipment locally, pick it up before meeting the team at the pick-up point on Saturday (project start date) and transferring to the project.

Internet Access
You will have limited access to long-distance communications whilst on the program. Internet is not available on base, but you will be able to reach a store with WiFi within 10 minutes by foot. Please advise family and friends that they may not hear from you on a weekly basis. Mobile/cell phone reception is limited on base. Reception is more reliable in the town of Tulum.

A dive computer is NOT needed for this project, it is only needed if doing an internship.

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