Bask in the sun and dive in the refreshing and clear waters of the Caribbean Sea while teaming up with GVI’s marine conservation team to monitor the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Here you will also earn yourself a PADI diving certificate, a universally recognized award.
The GVI team is focused on monitoring and protecting the surrounding reef, by conducting surveys on fish and coral as well as turtle nests (seasonal) and gaining and overall understanding for this water-based environment.
Please note, this program offers durations up to 24 weeks. Speak to your Country Expert for more details of extending your stay in-country
Participating in monitoring dives that explore different sites along the coast; seeing mega-fauna such as dolphins and sharks; snorkelling in cenotes or waterways; searching the beach at night for turtles laying eggs (seasonal); joining in with community programs; teaching English and raising the environmental awareness of the local community; and joining fun-dives, immersing yourself in a tropical paradise; living in a beautiful part of a different country, with the opportunity to experience a new culture, food and way of life; learning about the Mesoamerican coral reef and how to identify the wildlife it supports.
The efforts of our team are coupled with local leading organizations such as Amigos de Sian Ka’an, a conservation-focused Mexican NGO. By collaborating with local partners GVI can ensure to its volunteers that the daily efforts they make will have dramatic and measurable impact on the overall survival of the marine environment.
Scuba Diving Requirements and Additional Courses
You will spend the majority of your time on this expedition scuba diving and as such you need to be qualified to at least PADI Open Water, or equivalent. Non divers can join for 8- and 12-week durations, GVI will supply you with all the training you need to be certified up to PADI Advanced Diver. The 4-week duration is only open for divers already qualified to PADI Open Water Diver or equivalent. For non divers wishing to attend for 4-weeks, we can recommend local dive centers that will help you qualify before your intended start date.
Also, if you wish to add to your scuba diving skillset, why not take an extra course at a discounted rate?! Check out available Add-ons under the Book Now button on the right hand side, or mention to your Country Expert if interested in finding out more.
We are always looking for enthusiastic and dedicated people to join our team. This expedition offers qualifying and high-performing volunteers the chance to stay on the expedition for a longer duration on a GVI Scholarship free of charge and as part of the staff team in the field. If you would like to work towards a field career and make the very most of your time abroad, you might want to work towards a place on a GVI Scholarship. Successful scholars may find themselves offered full time employment with GVI, and many of our current staff have come through this route.
Please note, the awarding of scholarships is at the sole discretion of GVI and may be offered immediately after the completion of your program or at a later date. Scholars must be qualified to Dive Master to qualify. Contact us for more information.
GVI is real volunteering
Our projects are constantly evolving according to the needs on the ground at any given time. All the information displayed here will give you an overall feel for the project, but you should be prepared for any changes in the field when you travel. An evolving project means that we can constantly meet the needs and requirements of our partners, who dictate the work that we do. The way it should be.
Rewarding experiences on the expedition do require long and tiring days, which you should be aware of.
Depending on weather conditions, we aim for everyone to have 1 or 2 dives/snorkels each day, 5 days a week, during which 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, 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 the provided accommodation is basic, you will enjoy stepping out of the constructed huts onto white sandy beaches that are protected within a biological reserve. During your down-time you can choose to study the reef and marine species, sunbathe with other volunteers or witness some of the most vibrant and stunning sunsets the world has to offer.
GVI has chosen to work side-by-side with a local partner in the northern Mesoamerican Barrier reef in order to:
- Develop our understanding of the reef’s ecological health
- Determine the species and breeding patterns of sea turtles (seasonal)
- Evolve the expedition base into an “Ecological Research and Awareness Center”
- Create education and awareness programs within the local community
In the end, our main aim is to build on a critical monitoring program to establish a long-term record of the fish and coral species to contribute to the ultimate survival of the reef.
How this project makes a difference:
Over time and with the contributions of volunteers, we have been able to amass one of the largest databases in existence on the condition, health and changes of any section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
As a result of our efforts, our partners have been able to continue with the protection of the Sian Ka’an reef system and local fisherman are now trained in diving and monitoring skills and partake in marine surveys with the park and Amigos de Sian Ka’an staff.
It’s the last week of our 10 week expedition and I have never really appreciated how amazing the underwater world really is. I have always loved swimming and diving but being here has given me the opportunity to study and monitor the fish and reefs in a lot more detail than I ever could or would on just a normal dive. The fish are spectacular and it has been a real pleasure studying them and seeing them on a daily basis it really does make you understand how we need to look after the aquatic life to sustain our way of living in the future.
Life at Pez Maya has an odd tendency of filling itself with very rich and otherworldly experiences that one would be lucky to encounter in a year. Our work here is primarily for the purpose of preserving the biodiversity of a region with forests, lagoons, mangroves, and coral reefs, all within a few miles of each other, an area extremely valuable in natural capital. More specifically, we are working to achieve a stable balance between the built and the natural world. Given that we at least share a significant awe and admiration for the wilderness, it is natural that we also find ourselves enjoying other, tangentially related experiences: The mellow strumming of a guitar, the fresh taste of a good meal after our hard work, a riveting conversation, a cold beer, some good body surfing. People here seem very alive, every hour full with activity and learning, often proactive and always positive. It is a good place to be. The days here are simple but busy, natural, and held together by the ideal we believe in to restore the natural world.
Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate on 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 on 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 GVI. 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. You could start with snorkeling with turtles of all sizes in Akumal bay, where they are protected and come to feed; dive or snorkel within the unique cenotes – the underwater river systems within the Yucatan peninsula; 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 snorkeling 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.
Further Travel Opportunities
If you want to travel throughout the rest of Mexico either before or after your time with us, there is more than your fair share of interesting places that are well worth a visit. Take a trip to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and experience lowland tropical forests and have an opportunity to try and seek out threatened species; the little known beautiful city of Morelia holds roof-top bars and clubs; the island of Espíritu Santo offers kayaking with whale sharks (seasonal) and sea lions; if you are keen to try surfing, Puerto Escondido is rated as one of the world’s best surfing spots.
Oaxaca is a beautiful city to visit on the Pacific Coast, a colonial city with some of the nation’s most magnificent architecture, also offering several archaeological sites including the Zapotec ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further south, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, is definitely worth a visit. Colourful buildings, historical architecture, and impressive nearby ecological sites with fun activities will easily keep you entertained for days.
Neighbouring countries to the south, Guatemala and Belize offer something different yet again. In Belize, island hop all the way down the coast, stopping to dive the Blue Hole, another world-class dive site. Guatemala can be reached easily by bus and offers everything from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Antigua, to volcanoes, the beautiful Lake Atitlan, adventure sports such as mountain biking, and the majestic Mayan ruins of Tikal.
If you do decide to spend time traveling through Central America, make sure to allow yourself time to take it all in, because this region will pull you in and not let go!
Build Your Program
- Pre-departure support and discounted services
- 24-hour emergency phone
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- Arrival orientation
- Long term experienced staff
- Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
- All meals (unless otherwise stated in field manuals)
- Welcome meeting
- Location orientation
- All necessary project training by experienced staff
- All necessary project equipment and materials
- 24-hour in-country support
- Transfer to base location
- Live and work in a protected reserve surveying deserted reefs under GVI’s research permit
- PADI Open Water (for 8 and 12 week volunteers) and Advanced Open Water
- PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality
- First Aid & CPR training
- Coral reef ecology
- Community work workshop
- Use of O2 equipment workshop
- Diving compressor training workshop
What's Not Included
- Medical and travel insurance
- Visa costs
- Personal kit
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes