Learn how to dive and conduct coral reefs research before conducting a series of underwater surveys. The data you collect will be used by local authorities to inform decisions about preserving Mexico’s Caribbean coast. You will also be contributing to the objectives set by the United Nations under Sustainable Development Goal number 14, Life Below Water.
Are you passionate about protecting the world’s oceans and preventing environmental issues like plastic pollution and coral bleaching? The Mexican coastal area known as the Riviera Maya, is one of the most unique and important habitats in the world. It is home to one of the largest coral ecosystems around the globe as well as critically endangered species such as the Hawksbill sea turtle. Human factors affecting this habitat include unsustainable fishing methods, unregulated property development along the coastline, unchecked tourism activities, and climate change. Since 2018, a new coral illness, known as white band, has caused fatalities in over 40% of Caribbean coral in one year.
Volunteers on this program will contribute to conserving the reef by conducting surveys to determine the health of the reef and growing coral fragments in a laboratory for transplantation onto the local reef to assist with recovery. They will also assist with minimising marine plastic pollution by collecting waste from local beaches and the ocean floor and then recording data on the waste collected. From May to October, they might also participate in a sea turtle monitoring program, depending on the needs of our local partners at the time. Engaging local students, businesses, and community groups, as well as international visitors in environmental education workshops is also an important year-round component of this program.
Your program will start with our professional diving staff and marine conservation experts providing you with the necessary training. Learn how to conduct underwater survey while preventing any harm to the reef. During this time you will be earning your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and receive the PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver (CRRD) Distinctive Speciality segment of the PADI Divemaster course. This unique offering by GVI & PADI teaches you about best practices when conducting underwater coral reef surveys. This is offered to participants staying for longer than 2 weeks on the program.
Participate in a range of impactful marine conservation initiatives that are guided by UN SDG #14: Life Below Water.
Dive into the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea and experience the breathtaking coral ecosystem of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
Contribute to ongoing environmental projects that address critical challenges aligned to the global UN SDGs.
Join local conservation partners and qualified professionals to ensure your efforts are highly ethical, meaningful and sustainable.
Venture outside typical travel itineraries to get exclusive access to extraordinary remote habitats, rare species and unique ecosystems.
Share epic experiences with like-minded, passionate changemakers from all over the globe.
With expert local staff and 24/7 support at every step – you can relax and enjoy the experience stress-free.
Disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature, yourself and your purpose.
Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.
Learn how to identify species, conduct surveys and collect data to help build a research inventory of marine species in Mexico.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the partners we work with on base.
|24-hour emergency desk|
|24-hour in-country support|
|Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)|
|All project equipment|
|Food (except on long-term internship placements|
|Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Weekly group check ins|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|
Our Puerto Morelos base – where you’ll take part in project work – is located 80 metres from the beach. Your accommodation – where you’ll hang out, sleep and eat – is located 15 minute by car, 45 minutes by bike or 90 minutes on foot from the beach. 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.
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 ...
We provide transportation to and from the airport up to three days prior to your arrival and three days after the end of your program – only from...
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...
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...
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).
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards – the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development.
Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.
Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.
Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.
On the northern coast of Quintana Roo, where the crystal-clear water of the Caribbean sea meets the nutrient-rich water of the Gulf of Mexico, an oceanographic phenomena of upwe...
From November to March, on their annual migration to give birth, female bull sharks congregate off the coast of Quintana Roo. With the opportunity to get up close to these magni...
Many Mayan ruins are scattered throughout the Riviera Maya, and the province in which Puerto Morelos is located, Quintana Roo, is no exception. One of the most popular sites is ...
A top destination for those visiting the Riviera Maya are the eco-adventure parks, like Xcaret and Xel-ha. These are beautiful, biodiverse areas featuring Mayan ruins that have ...
The Yucatán Peninsula is a large karst system with the world´s longest underground river. Characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves, karst systems a...
Experience the stunning diversity of underwater life within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest coral reef in the world. While diving is a part of all our m...
Mexico is the perfect destination from which to travel to other Central and South American countries. Head to the jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica and then further down to Pe...
Mexico City is the home of many iconic cultural sites, including the Frida Kahlo Museum (also known as The Blue House) and the Palace of Fine Arts, where the work of her husband...
There are plenty of excellent hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing destinations in Mexico. Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s highest peak, followed by the active volcano Popocatépe...
On the west coast of Mexico, Baja California is a peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sea of Cortez to the east. One of the main reasons to visit this lo...
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, 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 will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during 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 topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.
The most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is unique to a specific region of Mexico, G...
The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. A male and female perform this dance. The male partner...
Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to experience authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients, such as tomatoes, chil...
The legacy of colonialism means that most of Mexico’s population are Catholic. However, much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures th...
As a result of colonialism, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language globally, visiting Mexico is an excellent o...
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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.
Miguel Angel is GVI’s Program Manager for the Marine Conservation Programs at GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. He has a background in Oceanography and a fun f ...
This is Claudia, she is our Dive Officer at the GVI Puerto Morelos base in Mexico. Claudia is originally from Spain and helps out with everything from scientific research to fie ...
Meet Kayla, the Science Officer for GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. She is originally from Canada where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine an ...
‘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.
GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.
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.’
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.
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.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
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.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.