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Mexico - Diving for Marine Conservation

Learn to scuba dive and assist in preserving the beautiful coral reef off the coast of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. This protected region has a lot to offer participants looking for an educational experience in a quintessential paradise.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectSian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico (about 1 hr from Tulum)
Project Length4, 8, 12 or 16 weeks
Arrival AirportCancun International Airport
Volunteer Workmarine life data collection, beach conservation
Number of Participantsup to 24 volunteers and 8 staff
Age18 - 65

What's Included

Accommodationmixed-sex, bunk-style huts on research base
Food3 meals a day, prepared by volunteers on rotational basis
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport Transfersincluded upon request on the night before the start date. If you arrive before then, transport will not be provided (a bus from the airport to Playa del Carmen will cost around $12)
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Orientation Extensive training provided upon arrival

What's Not Included

Flights, visa, personal expenses, travel health insurance, transportation to airport from Playa del Carmen upon completion of the program, personal diving equipment inc. mask, fins, snorkel, dive watch etc.


This project is located in Pez Maya, Mexico a small region just 30 miles south of Tulum. Pez Maya is a protected conservation site known for its beautiful coastline and thriving biodiversity. Its pristine coral reefs (the beginnings of the Mesoamerican Reef) are home to a wide variety of beautiful marine life which volunteers have the opportunity to observe and study during their time here. 


About the Project

Pez Maya is home to a conservation site aimed at protecting the local coastal marine species and their coral reef homes, while also studying their populations. The researchers here devote time and energy to preserving this area of the Mesoamerican Reef located along the 2 mile stretch of Pez Maya coastline. The long term goals of the conservation are to keep this segment unspoiled and unharmed by the increasing development seen in neighboring areas such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen. 

This project aims to introduce and familiarize its volunteers with the biodiversity of this unique ecosystem. Volunteers will be immersed in the natural surroundings of Pez Maya and get the opportunity to explore the region while contributing to the valuable research being pursued at the conservation site. They will learn the importance of natural conservation and eco friendly living, and will be given the opportunity to reach out into the local communities to spread awareness. 


Volunteer Work and Contribution

Your time at the project will be divided into two segments:

The first three weeks are devoted to training. During this period you will be learning both in the water (about 1 dive per day) as well as in a classroom setting. Your daily schedule will include:

  • PADI open water certification (for those not certified already)
  • Data collection techniques (both underwater and on land)
  • Studying the local species 
Following training, you will enter the monitoring phase of your volunteering. This includes:
  • 1 or 2 dives a day including data collection underwater on the fish and coral status
  • Beach cleans
  • Bird transects
  • Cooking and daily chores
  • Rinsing equipment, filling tanks
  • Attending lectures 
  • Community outreach in environmental education

Four days a week will be devoted to your volunteer work. These days can often be quite long and tiring, beginning around 6 am. If the Scientific dives are going to plan, the fifth day may be dedicated to fun dives in the morning, and relaxing in the evening. Weekends are your free time. 

Please keep in mind that the aim is to get every volunteer out on as many dives as possible, however the weather does not always permit diving. Volunteers must have a flexible attitude about this, as you will not be allowed to dive in unsafe conditions. 


Program Add-Ons:  

Take your volunteering experience one step further!  

Through the Internship Certification Program, you’ll have a personal mentor who will help you develop leadership skills, routinely assess your progress and provide a professional reference upon completion of the program. 

Take part in the Biological Survey Techniques Course for in-depth training that will allow you to effectively plan and execute your own field surveys in the future.     

You can never be too prepared.  Join the EFR training and get certified in First Aid and CPR for adults and children.

Get your PADI Rescue Diver certification and further your diving knowledge.  To take part in this course you must have your EFR certification.

Please note that there is an additional cost for these programs.


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: Volunteers will be living in mixed-sex huts with up to 5 other volunteers. The huts contain bunk-style beds. Electricity access is limited to an intermittent generator and wind and solar power for just a few hours each night. There is no running water on site (no flush toilets or running tap water). Showers are bucket showers. Drinking water is brought in as needed, and the remaining water supply is provided by a well that collects rain water. Because rain in the region is not abundant, showers are limited to 2-3 times weekly (because of all the diving volunteers do, this is generally not a problem). Locked safes are available onsite to store valuables. 

Food: Food is provided and prepared on a rotational basis by volunteers. There is no refrigeration, so meals can be quite repetitive; expect a lot of beans, rice, tomatoes, vegetables, and pasta. 

Internet: No internet available on site. During volunteers’ free time, internet cafes are available in Tulum. 

Laundry: Hand washing available on site. Can take it to Tulum for about 1.50 USD/kilo. 

Please note that as part of your volunteer duties, you will be asked to do daily chores around the site. These include cleaning bathrooms and communal areas, cooking, preparing the boat, raking the grounds, or any other duties to ensure the base runs smoothly. 


Travel Highlights

There are no included program excursions, however volunteers have Saturdays and Sundays to explore the grounds or go off base to discover the surrounding area. There is a lot to see around Tulum such as the Tulum ruins, Chitzen Itza, and the Coba ruins, as well as access to other hot tourist spots such as Playa del Carmen, Cancun, the Biosphere Reserve, and even Merida. 


Minimum Requirements

  • 4-week volunteers must be PADI Open Water certified upon arrival
  • Minimum age 18 years old
  • Good physical shape
  • Must complete the medical form and PADI medical statement. If “yes” to any medical statements, must have a doctor sign approval for the program. 
  • Criminal background check (must be officially translated into English)

Important Notes

The monitoring stage of the program is not begun straight away; the training process for this is extensive and can take around 3 weeks or more, if weather permits. It includes a combination of diving training, book-based learning, identifying species specific to the region, and data collection techniques. It is a possibility that 4-week volunteers may not enter this phase of the program at all.

The educational standards of this program are extremely high. Volunteers will receive materials to study and learn before arrival. Additionally, the first few weeks of training consists of some lectures to be accompanied by further required studying. 

Diving is a weather and tide-based activity, so please remember to have a flexible attitude and that diving cannot be allowed in unsafe conditions.  

PADI Certifications:

  • If you are only volunteering for 4 weeks, you MUST have your Open Water Diving certificate before starting at the project.  While at the project, you can earn your Advanced Open Water PADI certificate.
  • If you are volunteering at the project for at least 8 weeks, you can earn both your Open Water and Advanced Open Water PADI certificates while at the project.
  • Both the Open Water and Advanced Open Water PADI certifications are included in the project fees.
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