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Advanced Divers Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico

Discover Mexico while you develop your diving skills to the next level and explore the Mesoamerican coral reef and its abundant wildlife.


Program Information

Develop your diving skills to the next level while discovering Mexico’s Mesoamerican coral reef and its abundant wildlife. As a member of the advanced diving team in partnership with highly regarded organisations, you will be able skip go and dive right into vital marine conservation projects.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Our marine conservation expedition will take you to the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea, complete with pristine white beaches and tales of lost treasure. Put your advanced diving skills to the test while working on and monitoring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world.

The project will see you sharing accommodation with novice divers and other volunteers. However your team will consist of fellow advanced divers, who you will be working with on vital conservation surveys such as directly monitoring the overall health of the reef. All the information gathered will go to our partners and play a vital role in sustainability plans for the reefs fragile eco-system.  Building on your advanced diving skills, you can look forward to gaining in-depth knowledge on species identification, coral reef and fish monitoring as well as once in a lifetime experiences such as swimming with the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle.



This project works in conjunction with several highly regarded organisations such as Centro Ecologico Akumal, a Mexican NGO famous for their conservation work. Through such partnerships, advanced diving volunteers can be sure their efforts are making a serious and measurable impact under the water.

Highlights Include
As a member of the advanced diving team, you will be learning about the Mesoamerican coral reef and how to identify the wildlife it supports against the backdrop of a practically untouched tropical paradise. During your regular monitoring dives you may be able to see mega-fauna such as dolphins and sharks while exploring different sites along the coast. While on land you could be joining in with community programmes; teaching English and raising the environmental awareness of the local community.

Scuba Diving Requirements and Additional Courses

You will spend the majority of your time on this expedition gaining and improving Marine conservation and Scuba diving skills, helping our partners carry out their marine conservation work. Non-divers can join for 8- and 12-week durations, GVI will supply you with all the training you need to be certified up to PADI Advanced Diver. The 4-week duration is only open for divers already qualified to PADI Open Water Diver or equivalent. For non-divers wishing to attend for 4-weeks, we can recommend local dive centers that will help you qualify before your intended start date.

Also, if you wish to add to your scuba diving skillset, why not take an extra course at a discounted rate or through a nearby dive centre during your free time. Check out available Add-ons under the Book Now button on the right-hand side, or mention to your Country Expert if interested in finding out more.

Program Details

Project Life

Situated in the heart of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the site allows for some fantastic diving! Although very rewarding, days can be long and tiring which you should be prepared for.

The main focus of the programme is to equip you with professional survey techniques for underwater data collection on the health of the reef. Volunteers will specialize in either fish or coral research techniques during their initial training to prepare for their dives. Training will include learning to identify the various species and learning how to take measurements underwater as well as an introduction into marine conservation. Depending on weather conditions, we aim for everyone to get into the water everyday to dive or snorkel but this is also dependent on the needs of our partners as there are conservation measures in place which will not require you to dive 5 days a week.

Besides diving, you should expect to be involved in additional projects and activities, including training sessions, marine debris surveys and removal, environmental education session or alternative income training, depending on local and project needs. Although working at night means that you will need to skip some diving, as well as the work itself being quite challenging, it is an incredibly unique and very rewarding experience!

While your living conditions will be basic, our base is located on a property a few hundred meters from the beach. When not working, you can take the opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of the reef and marine species, explore the nearby cities, cenotes, relax with your fellow volunteers or just take in the stunning sunsets that have to be seen to be believed.

When not working, you can take the opportunity to brush up on your knowledge of the reef and marine species, relax with your fellow volunteers or just take in the stunning sunsets that have to be seen to be believed.

Project Details

GVI is collecting data in the northern section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, working with our local partners with the aim to:

  • Form a comprehensive overview of the ecological health of the reef

  • Determine the species and breeding success of sea turtles (seasonal)

  • Develop education and awareness programmes within the local community


Overall, our monitoring programme in Mexico aims to provide a long term record of coral and fish species abundance over time to contribute to the long term survival of the reef.

Akumal's short, mid, and long-term objectives:

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 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 visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Akumal:

  1. Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management, and to have a better understanding of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system.

  2. Raise environmental awareness within the area and local community.

  3. Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the bay area.

  4. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the area.


 

How this programme makes a difference

Over time and with the contributions of a small number of volunteers, Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA) have been able to amass a large database on the condition, health and changes of this section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. With all our helpful and hardworking participants we can help our partners move forward providing great support to their work these other areas of the reef.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

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.


Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

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


 

Impact Reporting

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


 

Working Against Dependency

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


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

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


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

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


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conduct, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

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


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

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


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.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Community work workshop
  • Coral reef ecology
  • First Aid & CPR training
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality
  • Real hands on experience and learn about the challenges of marine conservation has in this region
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Transfer to base location
  • Use of O2 equipment workshop
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal dive kit, e.g. mask, fins, wetsuit, timer, DSMB and reel, slate, etc.
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Some equipment is not included
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

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.


Support

Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Upon arrival at the airport participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. Our minimum staff to participant ratio is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

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 just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

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 health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

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 a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

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 around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


Country Exploration

Volunteering with GVI not only allows you to participate in programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your programme. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.

Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Yucatan field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Mexico!

Optional Side Trips
As a large and vibrant country, Mexico can seem daunting at first, but here are a few ideas to get you going in the Yucatan Peninsula on your weekends off:

In this region you are spoilt for choice in the number of opportunities to try out different dive sites away from the expedition. You could start with a dive or snorkel within the unique cenotes (the underground river systems); dive Cozumel, where the wall dives along the island have been voted as part of the world’s best top ten diving locations; or, for a full weekend, try Isla Holbox, a small island off the north of the peninsula. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place, great for a quiet weekend away. Whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) migrate up near the island from June to September and snorkelling alongside them while they filter feed is a truly breath-taking experience!

Alternatively, if you are looking for a break from the water, make your way to Río Lagartos where flamingos flock and river crocodiles abound; visit Bacalar – known as the lake of seven colours due to the various shades of blue; or visit prime breeding areas for the hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtle (May to October).

Immerse yourself in the surviving Mayan culture of the area and visit remote and untouched Mayan archaeological sites, such as the famous and easily accessible sites of Tulum and Coba, or visit the beautiful and majestic Mayan ruins of Palenque in the Chiapas region. And finally, the colonial city of Mérida is the peninsula’s cultural capital and the local artisans of Izamal will be sure to offer you some souvenirs of your trip.

Further Travel Opportunities
If you want to travel throughout the rest of Mexico either before or after your time with us, there is more than your fair share of interesting places that are well worth a visit. Take a trip to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and experience lowland tropical forests and have an opportunity to try and seek out threatened species; the island of Espíritu Santo offers kayaking with whale sharks (seasonal) and sea lions; if you are keen to try surfing, Puerto Escondido is rated as one of the world’s best surfing spots.

Oaxaca is a beautiful city to visit on the Pacific Coast, a colonial city with some of the nation’s most magnificent architecture, also offering several archaeological sites including the Zapotec ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further south, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, is definitely worth a visit. Colourful buildings, historical architecture, and impressive nearby ecological sites with fun activities will easily keep you entertained for days.

Neighbouring countries to the south, Guatemala and Belize offer something different yet again. In Belize, island hop all the way down the coast, stopping to dive the Blue Hole, another world-class dive site. Guatemala can be reached easily by bus and offers everything from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Antigua, to volcanoes, the beautiful Lake Atitlan, adventure sports such as mountain biking, and the majestic Mayan ruins of Tikal.

If you do decide to spend time travelling through Central America, make sure to allow yourself time to take it all in, because this region will pull you in and not let go!

The Team

Daniela Pineda

Base Manager
Meet Daniela, our awesome base manager in Playa del Carmen. She is passionate about working with kids and being involved in education in Mexico, her home country. Daniela has a degree in psychology and obtained her Masters  in psychoanalysis, which facilitates her with the interaction with kids and volunteers.

Her volunteering journey started out when she joined GVI on our National Scholarship Program and now she has returned to the field to continue making a difference. Daniela worked as a therapist with adolescents with addictions and as a teacher of a special need school and being with other human beings is her speciality. She has travelled to many places abroad and she also used to be a professional dancer for a few years of her life to pay for some of her studies. "I trained in a circus, from acrobats to juggling, I wasn’t really good but the family you get to know there is amazing."

Olivia Rodriguez​

Community Officer
Meet Olivia, our fantastic community officer in Playa, Mexico. She was a volunteer in a Animal Shelter in San Antonio, Texas. She then started working  as a Intake Coordinator for the City.

She loves traveling, learning new things, being on the move and meeting new people. Her favourite part about working with GVI is helping others, making a difference in the world, meeting new people and the opportunity of traveling to another countries.

Friso Dekker

Science Officer
Meet Friso, our sensational science officer in Pez Maya, Mexico. He has backpacked through Australia for 6 months, travelled in South-East Asia for a total of about 3 months. He's spent 5 months on Curacao, Dutch Antilles, and 3 months in Indonesia (Sulawesi and Borneo) for research projects. He Lived and studied in New-Zealand for 6 months and spent another month as a volunteer in a resort in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

He has a Bachelor degree in Earth Sciences and Master degree Limnology & Oceanography at the University of Amsterdam. He is also a PADI Divemaster and thus member of PADI Pro’s.

What he loves the most about GVI is firstly, the people, who he works with at the moment and secondly, practically living on a beach and having an amazing coral reef right on his doorstep is pretty great!

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.

When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!

Kopa Mchasa

Community Field Staff
Meet Kopa, our Kenyan born Community Field Staff Member in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This ambitious African studied Community Health and Development at the African Institute of Research and Development studies. It was GVI’s objectives and sustainable projects that first attracted him to join our team.

Kopa joined GVI in 2012 as a valued staff member in Kenya. Here he put his skills and knowledge to work and managed to upgrade a new health project to a standing one. Kopa, or Doctor as his friends call him, also worked with PSI (Population Services International) for 15 months and with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health for 4 years.

Kopa is crazy about Zanzibar’s golden beaches and apparently he is quite the multitasker - he can make sounds from his mouth and whistle at the same time! Living in Mexico, he is having the time of his life, meeting different people with different cultures from all parts of the world!

Kerry Passingham

Dive Officer
Meet Kerry, our IDC Staff Instructor in Pez Maya, Mexico! Kerry's diving adventure began in 2008 in Coffs Harbour, Australia, where she managed a hostel with an onsite dive shop. After attempting a 9-5 lifestyle, Kerry decided the ocean was calling and joined our Divemaster Internship in Mexico. She completed her work placement at XTC, which led onto her completing her Instructor Development Course as well!

Kerry went on to use her qualifications to work as an instructor at a PADI Career Development Centre in Vietnam, where she progressed to an IDC Staff Instructor whilst managing two of their dive centres.

Since leaving GVI it was always Kerry's aim to return as a staff member and we are thrilled to have her back! "I am excited to see many new Divemasters and Instructors as a result of these internships and see them on the road towards an exciting and rewarding career path."

James Clark

Base Manager
Meet James, a certified Dive master, EFR Instructor and a graduate in Environmental Science. James is our base manager and a very skilled boat driver, teacher and maintenance guy at our Marine conservation program in Pez Maya, Mexico!

Before joining GVI James worked with various NGO’s around the World and has even lived in Madagascar! “It’s such a massive country! There’s so much to do and see and the biodiversity on land and in the ocean is incredible!”

What’s James’s favourite aspect of his job? “The point when volunteers have been here for a few weeks and start to remember the names of things in the sea, seeing that extra bit of excitement when they see something and can name it – that’s when I know I’m doing my job right.” The most interesting discovery up to date was when he found an anchor which they have lost a few months previously, with a fairly large octopus attached underneath.

Random fact about our James, he can sing All The Countries of The World by the Animaniacs! Make sure you request a rendition when you visit our Pez Maya hub!

Alejandro Vazquez

Logistics Coordinator
Meet Alejandro, our logistics coordinator in Playa del Carmen. He started out with GVI as one of our National Scholarship Program participants in 2007. With a degree in Tourism Management and a passionate commitment to improving our world, we just had to keep him!

Alejandro’s favourite aspect of his job? Our Partners. “The opportunity to partner with organisations that share our goal to make the world better is amazing, also seeing the way volunteers connect with the children and the huge effect they have on their development, even over a short period of time. They’re a great resource for the children’s education.”

When he’s not working, Alejandro likes to explore the local area, visiting the Mayan ruins and national parks, or relaxing at the beach.

Lluvia Soto

Country Director
Meet Lluvia, our Country Director for Mexico. With a history in environmental education, she initially joined GVI as a participant in our National Scholarship Programme, and we just couldn’t let her go!

Lluvia is a qualified Dive Master and Biologist, who she spent 3 years working as field staff and base manager in Pez Maya.

Her favourite experience since she joined GVI? Diving with dolphins. ”We were on our way to a dive site when a pod of dolphins came along and started jumping in and out of the water alongside the boat. They stayed with us for the entyre dive, getting really close and were looking at us. It was of course, my best dive ever!”

What does Lluvia think volunteers contribute to the projects? “The work that the volunteers do is extremely important; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to run the projects. The different activities they do like collecting data on the reef, delivering environmental education lessons, helping out running the toy libraries, all help our partners to achieve their goals.”

Select a Start Date

  • 2019
  • 2020

Select a Duration

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Select Add-Ons

+ R255
 
+ R5,100
 
+ R3,315
 
+ R7,435
 
+ R935
 
+ R6,500
 

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, 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.
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. 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.