Earn your PADI Open Water Diver qualification while exploring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Learn about how conservationists conduct research on key species like corals, fish, sea turtles, and mangroves, as well as the environmental issues, like climate change, plastic pollution, and habitat degradation, impacting marine habitats.
Join other teens between the ages of 15 and 17 from around the world to get a taste of what life might be like if you choose to pursue a career in marine conservation while experiencing the natural beauty of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, home to the resort destination, Cancun. Earn a professional diving certificate, a key requirement for all marine biologists, while learning to dive in the warm waters of the Caribbean among the vibrant tropical marine life. 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.
On this program teens will work with real marine conservationists learning about their ongoing projects. The specific projects teens observe, learn about, and participate in change over time, as the needs of the environment and the communities change, and as projects naturally change to accommodate the findings from new research.
Some of the projects teens might get involved include Coral Watch, a coral monitoring program set up by the University of Queensland. It allows recreational divers to monitor the health of corals and submit the data to an online platform thereby assisting researchers with monitoring the effects of environmental events including climate change on reefs around the world. They might also visit a laboratory where coral fragments are grown and then transplanted onto the reef to assist with reef recovery. Other projects include contributing to endangered sea turtle research by patrolling the beach recording the number of mother sea turtle tracks, nests created, and eggs laid and participating in plastic pollution research by collecting debris from local beaches and submitting a record of debris collected to the Ocean Conservancy, a US-based nonprofit that helps governments make decisions about environmental policies.
Visits to Mexico’s famously magical cenotes and colossal Mayan ruins are also included. Throughout their stay, teens will be dining on Mexican cuisine and have a chance to practice their conversational Spanish. Teens with less time on their hands can also choose to book onto the program for one week. This allows them to complete volunteering projects included in the two-week program, but not the adventure activities. All teen participants are greeted by GVI staff at their arrival destination and supported throughout their GVI program.
|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.
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...
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 ...
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.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
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.
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
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.
Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.
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.
Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.
Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.
Learn about what a coral reef is, its importance, how it is formed, how this ecosystem works.
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.
Learn about the specific events for children arranged by our in-country partners and the games played arranged around the topics of environmental conservation.
Learn how to categorise waste collected during beach cleans and input plastic pollution data for analysis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn about the basic biology of corals and the underlying biology of the reef system.
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.
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.
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.
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.