Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico

Contribute to preserving the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world

Durations: 2 - 12 weeks
Call me back
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

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.

Grab up to 30% off in December!

Get your special offer
Share
Overview
Dates & Prices
What's Included
Life On Base
ExperiencesNew
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Reviews
Speak to alumni
MEET THE TEAM
Parent Info
Arrivals
Flights
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training
Support & Safety
Covid-19 Response
Live Updates

Program overview

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.

Highlights

  • Preserve the unique ecosystem of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. 
  • Participate in a range of other impactful marine conservation initiatives. 
  • Contribute to UN SDG #14, Life Below Water. 
  • Learn to dive in the tropical waters of the Caribbean sea.
  • Earn your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
  • Complete GVI & PADI’s unique qualification, the PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver (CRRD) Distinctive Speciality.
  • Make new friends when you work with a group of like-minded individuals from around the world.
  • Immerse yourself in Mexican culture, learning the language and sampling authentic Mexican cuisine.

Program details

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.

What’s included?

What's Included
General
Volunteer
Intern
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)
Pre-program training
Volunteer
Intern
Group introductory call
Welcome presentation
Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course
Endorsed Leadership Course
Project work
Volunteer
Intern
Sustainable project work
Leadership responsibilities
Data collection and research
Real projects with partners
Remote support
Volunteer
Intern
Program training
Weekly group check ins
Remote Academic Internship Supervisor
Remote Career Internship Supervisor
Post-program
Volunteer
Intern
Preferential recruitment on GVI positions
Job portal access
Endorsed Careers Course
Career coaching sessions
Certificates and achievements
Volunteer
Intern
PDF reference - upon request
Linkedin reference and skills endorsement
What's Excluded
General
Volunteer
Intern
Additional drinks and gratuities
Extra local excursions
Flights
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Personal items and toiletries
Police or background check
Visa costs

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.

GVI experiences

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.

Exclusive local GVI experiences
Learn to cook traditional Yucatán food
Learn to cook traditional Yucatán food
Tastes of Mexico
Visit a Mayan ruin
Visit a Mayan ruin
Ancient empire
Take a beach yoga class
Take a beach yoga class
Sunset flow
Dive through the cenotes
Dive through the cenotes
An underwater world
Stand-up paddleboard at sunrise
Stand-up paddleboard at sunrise
Cruise the coastline
Climb rock formations in the jungle
Climb rock formations in the jungle
Boulder hopping
Learn the unique geography of the Yucatán Peninsula
Learn the unique geography of the Yucatán Peninsula
Last of the dinosaurs
Explore the ancient city of Coba
Explore the ancient city of Coba
The road less travelled

Free time

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.

Weekend Trips

Snorkeling with whale sharks

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...

Bull shark diving

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...

Mayan ruins

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 ...

Eco adventure parks

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 ...

Cenotes

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...

Diving and snorkeling

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...

Further Travels

Other Latin America countries

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...

Mexican culture

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...

Hiking and rock climbing

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...

Whale spotting

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...

Cultural Immersion

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.

Festivals

  • January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the predominantly Catholic population celebrates el Dí...

Music

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...

Dances

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...

Cuisine

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...

Religion and local customs

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...

Languages

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...

Testimonials

Coral Lutteridge

24 Jul, 2021

Joining GVI for the first time was a challenging experience, where I was completely out of my comfort zone. But, I loved every second of it. I learned a great deal about the Mesoam ...

Michael Dominik Zimprich

03 Mar, 2020

I took part in the marine conservation in Mexico. At the webpage of my travel agency (sta) I looked for some inspiration where to go and what to do (I just finished my Bachelor and ...

Speak to alumni

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

Meet the team

Get acquainted with the GVI Latin America, Mexico, Puerto Morelos family

Miguel Angel Lozano

Program Manager

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 ...

Claudia Frederici

Dive Officer

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 ...

Kayla Moore

Science Officer

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 ...

Parent Info

‘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.

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

Flights

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

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

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.

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

Learn more
No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

Learn more
No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

Learn more
Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

Learn more
No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Learn more

Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Your Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.

For all participants at Puerto Morelos

Conservation: Survey Techniques and Logistics

An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.

Conservation: Biodiversity & Target Species Identification

Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.

Marine Conservation: Pollution and Plastics

Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.

Marine Conservation: Coral Reefs

Learn about what a coral reef is, its importance, how it is formed, how this ecosystem works.

Fish and Coral Identification

Learn how to identify fish and coral species that are important to our marine conservation partners. This training includes a powerpoint identification exercise and an in-water identification exercise.

Environmental Education Community Project

Learn about the specific events for children arranged by our in-country partners and the games played arranged around the topics of environmental conservation.

Beach Plastic Pollution

Learn how to categorise waste collected during beach cleans and input plastic pollution data for analysis.

Lionfish Eradication

Learn how to use spearfishing techniques to eradicate invasive lionfish from the Mexican Caribbean reef. This activity depends on the requirements of our local partners and does not happen year-round.

Turtle Biology, Monitoring and Identification

Participants are taught how to take underwater pictures of sea turtles and compare them to a photo ID catalogue. In some cases, new ones are discovered and the participant registers the turtle.

Coral Watch Monitoring

Learn to use a method of identifying coral health developed by the University of Brisbane. The method is used by citizen scientists and professional researchers to monitor coral all around the world.

Incidental Sightings

Participants learn to identify megafauna common in the region such as stingrays, manta rays, moray eels, sharks, sea turtles, and large pelagic fish such as barracudas.

Threats to Coral Reefs

Gain insight into the threats faced by reefs globally, such as climate change and the resulting coral bleaching, plastic pollution, and unsustainable fishing methods, as well as how these manifest in local areas.

Introduction to Coral Reefs

Learn about the basic biology of corals and the underlying biology of the reef system.

Hazards of the Reef

This includes a discussion of the marine organisms found in the surrounding waters like stingrays, fire coral, sea urchins, lionfish and rockfish, that might cause harm to swimmers and divers. Participants learn how these can be avoided and how to treat injuries if they occur.

Monitoring Techniques, Demonstrations and Tests

We use the techniques specified by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System synoptic monitoring program and the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) monitoring techniques to monitor the health of the reef ecosystem. They include noting the abundance, size, and any diseases of specific species to determine the biodiversity and biomass of the area and noting coral cover area to determine coral health. Participants learn about how to use the point intercept methodology, a system that uses precise distances to monitor benthic marine communities and ecosystems such as corals. This is done to carry out higher area coverage in a statistical analysis. Volunteers and interns are also taught to use other monitoring methods used by our local partners. Spending a longer duration on the program allows you to gain a more in-depth understanding of the project work.

PADI Advanced Open Water Diver

This training takes scuba diving further through five adventure dives. This includes two types of required dives, deep diving and underwater navigation, and any other three types of adventure dives. At Puerto Morelos we offer the peak performance buoyancy dive, search and recovery dive, and the underwater naturalist dive.

PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Specialty

The Coral Reef Conservation Specialty course teaches participants about the importance of coral reef systems and how to conserve them. You will learn how you can help conserve coral reef systems. Through classroom discussions, you’ll learn how coral reefs function and the complex nature of life on a reef, why coral reefs are so important, why many coral reefs are in serious trouble, and what you can do to prevent further decline.

Certificates & qualifications

PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver (CRRD) Distinctive Speciality

The PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver Specialty Course is designed to educate divers about the various threats that are affecting our coral reefs worldwide and techniques to monitor and mitigate these negative impacts. This course will explore the methods currently used to protect, preserve and restore coral reefs. Divers will learn how to plan, organize and conduct coral reef surveys as well as develop the in-water skills (i.e. buoyancy control, monitoring techniques) that will allow them to perform research and restoration dives safely.

The goals of the Coral Reef Restoration Diver training are to teach the diver about the various ways in which we can safely monitor and restore the reef as well as providing them with the understanding of why reef restoration projects are so important.

PADI Certifications

Earning a professional diving qualification, such as those offered by The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), is a necessary step for many aspiring marine biologists. All GVI marine conservation programs include training by certified dive instructors that allows participants to qualify for a range of PADI certifications including PADI Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Divemaster, Instructor, Rescue Diver and Master Scuba Diver Trainer.

GVI Online Marine Conservation course (optional)

Learn more about what is contributing to the decline in the health of the world’s ocean and marine species and what can be done to prevent it. You’ll gain a greater understanding of the field of marine conservation, explore how to protect marine ecosystems and discover how you can contribute towards conservation-related initiatives. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

This online course, valued at £295, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.

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.

COVID-19 safety

Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.

Learn more

Safety

View support and safety protocols

Support

View risk mitigation

Download our Travel Smart Checklist

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

Health and safety case studies

How GVI upholds health and safety

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 ju...

GVI's commitment to safety and security

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 heal...

How GVI remains prepared for natural disasters

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 ...

How GVI manages participants expectations

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 a...

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

Live Updates

GVI Mexico works in collaboration with Center for Regional Research of Fisheries CRIP, National Commission for Natural Parks Management CONANP, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People and the International fund for Animal welfare (IFAW). Volunteers on the marine conservation expedition at Puerto Morelos collect critical data on coral reef health, and take part in marine education and awareness programmes.
Stay up to date

Included in your program

A variety of the following exclusive, locally-curated adventure and wellness activities are available on a monthly basis.

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