PADI Advanced Open Water and Marine Conservation Teen Volunteer Program in Mexico

Earn your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver while learning about ocean conservation in Mexico.

Durations: 2 weeks
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Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.

Program information

Take the next step in your professional diving career by earning your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver in the Caribbean sea. Learn what life would be like if you chose to become a marine biologist by gaining first-hand insight into ongoing conservation projects in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Join a conservation internship and get an exclusive offer

Book by 31 October 2022
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Overview
Itinerary
Dates & Prices
Life On Base
Covid-19 Response
publications
What's It like?
Arrivals
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Flights
Testimonials
MEET THE TEAM
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Parent Info
Support & Safety
What's Included
Live Updates

Program overview

If you are between the ages of 15 and 17, and have already earned your PADI Open Water Diver certificate, then you are well on your way to becoming a professional diver. Continue your diver training by joining other teens from around the world on Mexico’s Riviera Maya coast to perfect your diving skills and learn about what it takes to pursue a career in marine conservation.

GVI has successfully been operating ethical and responsible programs for under 18s since 2012. Since then, it has treated health and safety as a number one priority, and takes extra measures for its under 18 programs. As such, it is also a British Standards 8848 compliant provider.

Learn from real marine conservationists about the ongoing projects they set up and manage in Mexico. While it is important to remember that the specific details of each project change over time, we have listed some of the typical activities teens can expect to get involved in below. 

Find out how the recovery of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, is supported by local authorities growing coral fragments in laboratories for later transplantation onto the reef. Learn how you can start using a method of coral monitoring designed by the University of Queensland to assist them with conducting research of the effects of climate change and other environmental factors on coral reefs worldwide. Walk the famously idyllic Caribbean beaches conducting Endangered sea turtle and plastic pollution research. There will also be an opportunity to learn about the importance of sustainable fishing and coastal mangrove habitats. 

You will also visit the region’s iconic cenotes and Mayan ruins along with your new friends. Throughout your stay you will be dining on tacos, quesadillas, and other Mexican delicacies. All teen participants are greeted by GVI staff at their arrival destination and supported throughout their GVI program. 

Highlights

  • Get PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certified. 
  • Find out if marine biology is a career you might like to pursue.
  • Successfully complete this program and get a professional reference from your program manager. You’ll also have the option of earning a certificate endorsed by the University of Richmond if you choose to complete our included online leadership course, which is valued at £295.
  • Contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, #14, Life Below Water. 
  • Experience the technicolour underwater landscapes of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef first-hand. 
  • Marvel at Mayan ruins and sample authentic Mexican flavours.
  • Make new friends with teens from all four corners of the globe.

Program details

Program type
Under 18
Group
program
Location
GVI Latin America, Mexico, Puerto Morelos
Focus
Marine Conservation

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date. The itinerary shown below has been followed by our staff and group volunteers in the past.

Saturday

Day 1

Say “hola” to the Mexican Carribean. A GVI staff member will be waiting for you. Travel with your new friends to your accommodation where you’ll enjoy a traditional Mexican meal.

Sunday

Day 2

Start your PADI dive training. Complete the Knowledge Review portion of your PADI Open Water Diver or PADI Advanced Open Water course.

Monday

Day 3

Meet your diving instructors. Participate in dive exercises and planning and finish off the theoretical part of your diving course.

Tuesday

Day 4

Suit up in your diving gear and practice key diving skills in the pool. Practice important underwater skills like buoyancy and underwater breathing.

Wednesday

Day 5

Head out into the vibrant underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Practice your diving skills on four or five open water dives.

Thursday

Day 6

Head out into the vibrant underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Practice your diving skills on four or five open water dives.

Friday

Day 7

Learn the CoralWatch technique, an internationally used method for surveying the health of corals. Find out how to use the coral chart to identify healthy or unhealthy corals.

Saturday

Day 8

Visit a cenote, a turquoise pool, surrounded by limestone walls, skylit from above. You’ll also climb Coba, the tallest Mayan pyramid in the region.

Sunday

Day 9

Clean up a beach, help researchers monitor mother and baby sea turtles, and learn how to identify specific coral species common in the Mexican Carribbean.

Monday

Day 10

Clean up a beach, help researchers monitor mother and baby sea turtles, and learn how to identify specific coral species common in the Mexican Carribbean.

Tuesday

Day 11

Clean up a beach, help researchers monitor mother and baby sea turtles, and learn how to identify specific coral species common in the Mexican Carribbean.

Wednesday

Day 12

Find out how and why marine biologists and conservationists study fish species found on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and even learn to identify some yourself.

Thursday

Day 13

Tour a mangrove forest and learn about the importance of these ecosystems. Then visit a coral growing laboratory to learn about how researchers are helping local reefs recover.

Friday

Day 14

Visit Chichen Itza, a massive Mayan city. Climb the spell-binding pyramid of Kukulcan, a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Saturday

Day 15

Head back to the airport along with GVI staff and other volunteers. Watch the Carribbean Sea retreat from view and reflect on all you’ve learnt about protecting the world’s oceans.

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Exclusive offer. Book before the end of the month and receive up to 0 off this program.
COVID-19 flexibility. If COVID-19 prevents you from travelling, change your location and dates free of charge.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Life On Base

Live on the beach at our base which is situated just 80 metres from the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park and a 15-minute drive from downtown Puerto Morelos. One of the best-kept secrets in the Yucatán, the small town of Puerto Morelos is incredibly safe and has a laid-back vibe with a friendly and welcoming local community. There are no big resorts or casinos here.

Mexico, while culturally diverse, is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
From mariachi bands to Mayan temples, Mexico is best known for being the birthplace of the iconic taco. Puerto Morelos is the oldest port community in the Mexican Caribbean. Home to the northernmost tip of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the second largest barrier reef in the world), Puerto Morelos is a spectacular diving location. You’ll spot sea turtles and various rays – from the famous Caribbean stingray to the spotted eagle ray. If mammals are more your thing, west Indian Manatees have been seen and a pod of bottlenose dolphins are frequent visitors. The mangroves offer the chance to see a variety of animals and waterbirds, including protected species like the American crocodile.

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.

Accommodation

You will live in shared dorm-style accommodation, with four beds per room, giving you the perfect opportunity to connect. The accommodation features shared facilities such as a ...

Transportation

We provide transport to and from the airport. Alternatively you can make your way to Puerto Morelos using the ADO bus service. Walking to downtown Puerto Morelos will take about...

Communication

There’s limited access to long-distance communication when you’re on base, so make sure your friends and family know how often they can expect to hear from you. There is Wi-Fi a...

Meals

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...

Climate

Puerto Morelos is on the Riviera Maya, which is known for its tropical climate. The temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year – roughly 26°C ( 80°F).
Thi...

COVID-19 Safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Covid-19 Response

Health and Hygiene

For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.

The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

Essential information you need to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic - including destination ratings, flight bookings and tests.

Read up on our COVID-19 protocols

Publications

The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research.

Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies.

We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.

Cap Ternay Newsletter, Last Quarter 2019

Newsletter

2019

Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London

Author(s)

Patsy Theresine1, Christophe Mason-Parker2, April Burt3, Pierre-Andre Adam4, Anna Koester2, Jennifer Appoo5, Nicholas Graham6, Shaun Wilson7, Rodney Quatre1, Isabelle Ravinia1, Dainise Quatre1, Mariliana Leotta2, Joanna Blumel4, Elke Talma8, Arjan de Groene5, Aurelie Duhec4, Richard Jeanne4, Jan Robinson9, Phillip Haupt3, Savi Leblond10, Josep Nogues11, Ariadna Fernandez11, Christopher Narty11, Jude Bijoux12

‘The Current Status of Coral Reefs along the North West Coast of Mahe, Seychelles Following the 1998 Mass Bleaching Event’

Newsletter

2019

Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London

Author(s)

Patsy Theresine1

What's It like?

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.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (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.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen 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. Used as a port since the Mayan empire, its history as a modern port dates back to 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from gum trees and wood from dye trees. Together with fishing, these were the main productive activities in the area.

There is a unique diversity of ecosystems – including low evergreen and swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System – home to thousands of marine species.

Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120-kilometre-long tourist corridor located between Cancún and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels and holiday accommodation along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba-diving, snorkelling and free-diving tours in the Caribbean Sea, as well as reef lagoon, sportfishing tours, and tours to (and diving in) cenotes close to the town.

Fishing is the second most common commercial activity after tourism. Small skiffs are used to collect lobster and many species of commercial Caribbean fish. Local fishing organisations are aware that unsustainable fishing leads to the destruction of the reef, loss of fishing resources, and harm to ecotourism activities. GVI assists our partners in Puerto Morelos by collecting and collating data which helps decision-makers in coastal zone management. In addition, we assist them with the workforce, logistical resources, and finances required for GVI Charitable Programs.

Fish and Coral Surveys

We have several monitoring sites that we survey each year. The data we gather helps us determine the abundance and size of the fish, and understand the changes in the fish community dynamics. The information on coral, and other benthic organisms like sponges and macro algae is used to understand the reef’s coral coverage and overall health. The surveys are simpler for 4-week short-term interns as we aim to gather high-quality data by focusing the learning on fish species while touching on other topics such as coral species. The aim of this is to collect biomass data and information on coral illnesses and bleaching.

We also assist our partners in a coral reef restoration project. Through cloning (coral fragmentation) and assisted fertilization of coral gametes, we assist in incrementing the biomass and genetic diversity of the hard coral population. We collaborate on coral nursery maintenance (inland and in water). And finally, we assist with transplanting coral colonies back into the reef to regenerate degraded sections of the reef in the ocean.

The Caribbean King Crab project rears juveniles to sufficient sizes and numbers to be used during coral restoration work, which increases the survival of transplanted fragments or recruits by actively counteracting macroalgae proliferation. You can play a part in the regeneration of degraded sections of the reef and rebuilding the ecosystem.

Turtle Monitoring

The National Park of Puerto Morelos is abundant in seagrass, one of the favourite meals of green sea turtles. GVI participants assist with monitoring sea turtle populations by taking pictures of them while snorkelling and diving. This helps with identifying new and returning sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is from May to October.

Invasive Lionfish Monitoring and Education

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Mexican Caribbean. We carry out lionfish data collection during our dive activities – registering size, quantities, location and depth, as well as taking photos of the specimens. We turn this information over to local authorities who keep track of the lionfish population dynamics. At times they request our assistance in removing this invasive species from the sites.

Incidental Sightings of Megafauna

Every time we dive, we look for megafauna species such as sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, eels and rays. We input sightings of these species into our database. The presence of these species can be an indicator of the health of the reef and general biodiversity.

Plastic Pollution Cleanup

We have weekly beach cleanups where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach. We classify it and count or weigh it into different categories, depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners in Ocean Conservancy. After adding it to their worldwide data bank, they analyze the information – looking for trends on sites and classification of rubbish.

Environmental Education

By joining a GVI marine conservation program in Mexico, you’ll get involved in vital project work that directly impacts our partner organisations’ ability to promote their initiatives and carry out their mandate. This includes things like the creation of marine reserves, zonation schemes, and management policies. In turn, you are helping to protect Mexico’s precious marine life and the ecosystem.

You will be able to work closely with our local partners – collecting and collating data that is used to aid decision-makers in the coastal zone and resource management in Mexico.

You’ll also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. Once a fishing village, the town of Puerto Morelos is now part of one of the largest marine parks in Mexico. Fish is still an important food source in the community, and fishing provides a daily source of income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes fishing and international tourism profitable. We work to support the local community’s efforts to learn about and protect their marine resources and the health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.

These initiatives allow us to support the conservation work, the community, and our local partners. They also address two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), namely Goal 4: Quality Education and Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Our partners

Project objectives

 

GVI Puerto Morelos Marine, Long-term Objectives

1. Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management within the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park, and collaborate in the coral restoration project.

2. Raise environmental awareness with the community in Puerto Morelos.

3. Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the national park

4. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park

 

Our Ethics

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

01

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.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

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.

08

Local Ownership

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.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.

10

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

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.

Flights

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Testimonials

Gabriela Saldanha Blackwood

11 Oct, 2018

Looking back on my trip to Mexico I find it incredible how much I learnt and experienced in just two weeks. We started by focusing on getting our PADI Open Water Diving Certificate ...