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PADI Advanced Open Water And Marine Conservation Teen Volunteer Program In Mexico
Get your PADI Advanced Open Water qualification and discover the career path of marine conservation in an action-packed adventure!
Program Code: MXPM0524F
Volunteer In Puerto Morelos
HomeProgramsPADI Advanced Open Water And Marine Conservation Teen Volunteer Program In Mexico
Discover a new world when you learn about issues facing marine conservation while earning your PADI Advanced Open Water qualification in Mexico's culturally-rich town of Puerto Morelos , in the Yucatan Peninsula. Learn to identify key fish and coral species as well as how to conduct reef-based research. Explore ancient Mayan Cities, tropical jungles and incredible dive sites on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Get a taste of life as a conservationist or marine biologist when you travel to the town of Puerto Morelos in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and discover a new underwater world by developing your diving skills in the spectacular Caribbean Sea.
You will learn first-hand about the issues facing marine ecosystems from a local and international team. Discover a fascinating career path in marine biology, conservation or professional diving while learning valuable skills such as how to conduct reef-based research and fish and coral species identification techniques. Spend time discovering the local sights and sounds in between putting your new skills to use.
Complete your PADI Advanced Open Water certification in perfect turquoise waters and discover abundant marine life! You may see exciting marine life such as turtles and dolphins. You will explore ancient Mayan Cities and discover rich Mexican history set deep in tropical jungles, and have a chance to maybe even visit fascinating cenotes, underground river networks in the Yucatan.
If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.
We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.
Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.
Follow GVI Volunteer-In-Puerto-Morelos's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from their initial contact with us, all the way through their program, and even afterwards, when they become part of GVI’s Alumni network.
Flight chaperoning services are available for all our under 18 participants. To book a chaperone simply speak to one of our enrolment managers. Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a member of our in-country staff, who will be wearing a GVI t-shirt or carrying a GVI signboard, and will always be wearing a friendly smile. From there, participants will journey to their accommodation and meet up with other volunteers in their group to start their GVI adventure.
Meet The Team - Senior Field Management
Introducing you to to Alejandros. He is the Program Manager of GVI’s Community Project in Puerto Morelo, Mexico. Alejandro's journey with GVI goes way back. He started in 2007 as part of GVI’s National Scholarship Program. After this, he went onto complete his Masters Degree.
Alejandros came back in 2013 to help run our community development base in Playa del Carmen, where he became the Program Manager. Before GVI Alejandros was an extreme sports guide. These sports include: whale watching, white water rafting, and rock climbing.
Cynthia Arochi Zendejas
Regional Director for Latin America
Meet Cynthia! She is GVI’s Regional Director for Latin America. Her journey with us started in 2006 as a National Scholar in Mexico on our National Scholar Program. She moved to Costa Rica three years agos and for her it has been a great experience, with the beauty of the country contributing to this!
Cynthia has a Masters in Environmental Science, which she completed in Sweden. Additionally, she is currently participating in an MBA with the aim to improve her management skills. In her life, Cynthia has had a variety of jobs and careers fueled by her love of languages and culture. Such jobs include teaching French, organising games, and working asing a Team Building Facilitator. Cynthia hopes to see you soon!
Miguel Angel Lozano
Miguel Angel is GVI’s Program Manager for the Marine Conservation Programs at GVI’s base in Puerto Morelo, Mexico. He has been with GVI for over a year now and loves it!
He has a background in Oceanography and a fun fact about him is that before GVI, he completed research on Bull Sharks.
Meet The Team - In-Country Staff
Assistant Field Staff
This is Casey, who is from Virginia in the United States. After completing her Dive Masters through GVI, she went onto become one of the National Scholars and is now one of GVI’s Field Staff.
Casey has a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Science and has always dreamed of becoming a Marine Biologist. It seems that dreams really do come true!
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Puerto Morelos is the oldest port city in the Mexican Caribbean. The port has been used since the time of the Mayan empire, but its history as a modern port began in 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from the gum tree and the wood of the dye tree, an activity that together with fishing were the main productive activities in the area.
The area has a unique diversity of ecosystems including low evergreen jungles, low swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass, and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, MBRS, considered the second largest reef barrier in the world and home to thousands of marine species.
Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120 kilometer tourist corridor, located between Cancun and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels as well as holiday housing along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba, snorkelling, and free diving tours in the Caribbean Sea and reef lagoon, tours of or diving in cenotes close to the town, as well as sport fishing tours.
Fishing is the second most common commercial activity after tourism. Fishermen fish using small skiffs and collect many commercial Caribbean fish species and lobster. Local fishing organisations are aware that unsustainable fishing leads to a destruction of the reef, and therefore loss of fishing resources as well as harm to ecotourism activities.
GVI assists our partners in Puerto Morelos with collecting and collating data to assist decision makers in coastal zone management. We assist them with the manpower, logistical resources, and, in the case of the GVI Trust, finances.
Fish and Coral Surveys
We have several monitoring sites that we survey each year. At each monitoring site, we do 10 adult and juvenile fish transects and five coral community and point intercept transects. The data on fish we gather helps us determine the abundance and the size of fish and understand the changes in the fish community dynamics. The data on coral, and other sessile organisms like sponges and mussels, is used to understand the rate of recovery of the reef and its overall health.
The National Park of Puerto Morelos is abundant in seagrass which is one of the favourite meals of green sea turtles. GVI participants assist with monitoring sea turtle populations by taking pictures of them while snorkeling and diving. This helps with identifying both new and returning sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is from May to October.
Invasive Lionfish Monitoring and Eradication
Lionfish are an invasive species in the Mexican Caribbean. Lionfish eradication activities are carried on in coordination with local environmental authorities. Local authorities conduct lionfish spearfishing tournaments throughout the year in which we can participate or they assign us dates to carry out lionfish eradication on specific areas of the reef.
Incidental Sightings of Megafauna
Every time we go on a dive we look for megafauna species such as sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, eels, and rays. We then input sighting of these species into our database. The presence of these species can be indicators of the health of the reef and general biodiversity.
Plastic Pollution Cleanup
We have weekly beach cleans where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach and classify it into different categories depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners for analysis.
They also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. The town of Puerto Morelos was once a fishing village, but is now part of one of the largest Marine Parks in Mexico. Fish is still an important food source in the community and fishing a common means of earning an income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes both fishing and international tourism profitable. Teaching young people and tour operators the importance of protecting their marine resources and how this can be done is vital to ensuring the future health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.
English Language Lessons
Puerto Morelos is a popular tourist destination, and children and other community members can benefit from English lessons that help them gain the fluency in a language that assists with local employment at tourist hotspots. GVI participants also assist with English language learning.
Life Skills, Health, and Children’s Rights
Participants assist Save the Children with learning about their rights and mastering life skills.
All these initiatives allow us to offer support to the conservation work, the community and our local partners, and to address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as #4 – Quality Education and #14 – Life Below Water.
GVI Puerto Morelos, Long-term Objectives
1. Form a comprehensive overview of the ecological health of the reef
2. Participate in the coral restoration efforts with our in country partner
3. Create a general overview of the populations of fish species in the National Park Reefs of Puerto Morelos
4. Develop education and awareness programmes within the local community
5. Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the national park
6. Empower and improve English skills to children and local community members
7. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the area.
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.
January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the largely Catholic population celebrates el Día de Reyes, the Day of the Three Kings. Traditionally Christmastime presents are open on this day.
April: The traditionally Catholic holidays of Holy Week and Easter are honoured with parades through the streets, attending mass at the local cathedral, and quiet meals with family.
May: On the fifth of May, Mexico celebrates its independence day, Cinco de Mayo. Parades and feasts featuring national favourites like the Jarabe Tapatío dance and black bean tamales with mole sauce are popular.
November: The iconic Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each year on the 2nd of November. While this is considered a Catholic holiday it incorporates indigenous customs that are much older.
December: As a mainly Catholic country, Christmas is celebrated with great fanfare throughout Mexico. For nine nights up until Christmas Day children travel door-to-door singly a traditional song. The activity and song is known as posadas and represents the story of the parents of the Christ asking for shelter. Nativity scenes are more popular than Christmas trees in Mexico.
Probably the most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the Mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is actually more unique to a specific region of Mexico, Guadalajara, and only evolved later in the 18th century. It is difficult to separate out the colonialist influences from the indigenous influences, but what is known is that Mayan cultures did have bands featuring among other instruments, drums, trumpets, and maracas. There are many usually opportunities to watch Mariachi bands perform during your time in Mexico.
The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. The dance is performed by a male and female partner. At one point during the dance, the male partner, drops his hat and the couple dances around the hat. This has earned the dance the name ‘the Mexican hat dance’ in English-speaking regions. Other Mexican dances include La Bamba and Polka Norteno. A popular dance in the Yucatan region is the Jarana. GVI programs in Mexico allow you can participate in dance classes in evenings or during weekends.
Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to sample authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, avocados, and cocoa beans, are indigenous Mexican crops that spread to other cultures as result of colonialism. By traveling to Mexico you can sample these flavours through the eyes of the cultures that first discovered them. Tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas —while these are household names and most of us have tried them before, both Mexican nationals and international visitors would agree, they are best enjoyed within the borders of Mexico itself.
Religion and Local Customs
Most of Mexico’s population ascribe to the Catholic religion, also due to colonialism. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is home to the most visited site of religious significance for Catholics around the world, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures that predate the colonialist era.
As a result of colonialism, Spanish is overwhelmingly the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language in the world, visiting Mexico is a great opportunity for learning Spanish and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish on our community development programs. You can even book extra Spanish language lessons for an additional fee. The indigenous languages of Mexico number over five dozen, however, they are not widely spoken, and are considered ‘endangered languages.’
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
Our 10 Ethical Commitments
Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
Working Against Dependency
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
Responsible Exit Strategies
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
Clear Roles & Specialized Training
We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
Respect for all
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
Transitioning from the Orphanage Model
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
Child and Vulnerable adult policies
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Parent Info Pack
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office. Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios. Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page. Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.
Support & Safety
We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.
Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.
As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.
Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.
24-hour emergency phone
24-hour in-country support
Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All necessary project equipment and materials
All necessary project training by experienced staff
Long term experienced staff
Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
What's Not Included
Additional drinks and gratuities
Extra local excursions
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Personal dive kit, e.g. mask, fins, wetsuit, timer etc.