Program Details
Academic Disciplines Biological and Environmental Sciences
Marine Biology

Mexico Marine Awareness Service Learning Program

Learn about marine conservation in Mexico and contribute towards vital environmental preservation efforts

Program Information

Dive into a marine conservation program on Mexico’s Mesoamerican coral reef, the second largest reef in the world. Learn about coral and fish identification strategies, environmental issues facing the area, and earn your PADI diving qualification in order to better study the reefs.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


Our projects in Mexico are just south of Cancun on the Yucatán peninsula within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a recognized UNESCO world heritage site. The peninsula comprises the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, and is best known for its stunning Caribbean coastline, and is a fascinating place to learn about Mayan culture, try complex and variant dishes, and explore the world’s second largest barrier reef. The program will focus on gaining a better understanding of the local ecosystem in Mexico, and preserving its biodiversity. Other elements that may be examined are water security, climate energy, and access to clean energy.

These projects range in content suitable for students studying academic disciplines such as:

- Education
- Biological & Environmental Sciences
- Marine Biology

Example project activities include:

- Coral reef ecology workshops
- Turtle surveys and monitoring techniques
- Marine species identification
- Environmental advocacy/eco-tourism workshops
- Invasive species investigation/removal.


I only knew what I wanted to do as a recent graduate from a B.s in Biology, but I didn’t know how to get there. Then GVI’s Mexico Marine Expeditions came along. They not only gave me training, but a whole new experience and expertise in marine science work; and lots of good friends from around the world. Because of my GVI experience, I was able to get a paid job in a marine protected area, doing what I love the most, diving and helping protect the ocean. After a year I became the biological and reef monitoring coordinator in an NGO, turning a dream into reality.
- Lluvia Soto Jiménez (Mexico)

Program Details

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This inter-disciplinary program introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development in content and practice, in Mexico. Through lectures, discussion, research, service, and reflection (beginning two weeks prior to their departure and continuing two weeks after their return home), students in this program engage in meaningful, context-driven service-learning at home and abroad. Emphasis will be placed on relating long-term project goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in daily reflection surrounding the experience, which will be led by qualified group facilitators who are trained to enhance individual student development. The program curriculum will be tailored to your students’ academic needs as well as any faculty requirements.

A GVI service-learning program provides students with the opportunity to live and work within the “classroom” of their chosen field of study, and to develop professional capacities associated with intercultural competency, global citizenship, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership. By participating in this program, students will be prepared to contribute to solutions for critical global issues related to sustainable development within a local community, and alongside an international team.

The Project

The objectives for each GVI project are based on specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Mexico, students will largely contribute to pre-established marine environmental monitoring and research initiatives by collecting and reporting critical data. Emphasis will also be placed on increasing awareness surrounding pertinent conservation issues and knowledge of the local environment.

Pez Maya'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 Pez Maya:

1. Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management within the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, and to have a better understanding of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system.
2. Raise environmental awareness within the reserve.
3. Minimise the environmental impact that Pez Maya visitors and other people have within the reserve.
4. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve


Example Itinerary:

This program varies in duration, depending on project requirements as well as cultural expeditions or activities. The below outlines a one week in-country program; however, your in-country service can run for as many weeks as set by your academic curriculum, objectives, and requirements.


Two weeks prior to departure, students will be assigned readings and assignments. These assignments make sure they have a basic cultural understanding of Mexico and it’s local conservation-based issues; a foundational understanding of international service learning and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and begin a dialogue surrounding global engagement. Materials will be chosen based on collaboration with the group’s educational leader to ensure the work fits within the group’s in-class curriculum.


Day 1- Arrival at Cancun Airport and Transfer to Base

Your team will be met at Cancun International Airport by a GVI staff member or appointed representative. The group will travel immediately to the project location near the town of Playa del Carmen on the beautiful Yucatán Peninsula.

Students will be accommodated in dorm-style rooms, and will have a chance in the afternoon to relax and settle in. In the afternoon, there will be an initial welcome presentation and introduction to the GVI staff, history and background of the projects, as well as a health and safety breakdown.

Day 2- Welcome and Orientation

The next day will include a welcome presentation and introduction to the history and background of the conservation efforts GVI is involved in, both in Mexico and worldwide. There will also be a guided introduction to the local area, as well as an educational culture and language class. In the evening, a reflection period will take place in which participants will debrief and review their initial reactions and observations on the experience and location.

Day 3-5- Daily Structure: Service, Education, and Reflection

During the week the group will learn the art of snorkeling. Guided by GVI field staff they will learn the do’s and don’ts of exploring reef environments without damaging the fragile ecosystem. They will snorkel in a number of environments where they will be exposed to a variety of coastal marine ecosystems and learn about various areas of conservation and environmental awareness. The group will learn basic fish and coral identification, techniques used in marine research and monitoring, take part in beach cleans, and listen to lectures and workshops by GVI field staff and local partners on the effects of tourism and development on coastal ecosystems.

All service elements will be connected to a greater understanding of the cultural context in which the students are working. Assignments, in the form of lectures, readings, written response papers, journal entries, group presentations, and miscellaneous creative projects will be conducted daily to enhance student learning from their service involvement. Daily reflection sessions will act as the bridge that connects and helps to synthesize the many aspects of the experience.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which participants are working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students will critically examine their part in this process, by analyzing their contributions, challenges, and observations.

Day 6- Exploring Mexico

To continue the marine awareness focus of the trip, groups might partake in a snorkel adventure at Akumal, where students can swim alongside turtles feeding on sea grass. If arriving in season, there may also be a chance to learn about nesting turtles and hatchlings as well as the conservation issues surrounding their protection. Another option is to visit a Cenote, a natural swimming hole formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which reveal a secret subterranean world. The team will learn about the system of cave cenotes that spread through southern Mexico and hear why Mayans regard them as ‘sacred wells’. There is also the option to explore a local Mayan Ruin, taking a peak into the lives of the ancient civilizations that inhabited the region, and relishing in the gorgeous views of the Yucatán coastline before heading out for a last traditional Mexican meal.

Day 7- A Fond Farewell

GVI field staff transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavor to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field and with particular reference to the projects participants contributed to during their time in Mexico.


Students will continue to engage with active reflection and educational expansion two weeks after leaving Mexico, with emphasis placed on incorporating the international experience, and insights gained which are then applied to the students’ home context. Assignments will involve generating ideas to continue global engagement, connecting the experience to personal and career goals, and reflecting on the insights gained while in the field.

What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • A dedicated course co-ordinator
  • 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
  • Flight bookings service on request
  • In-country transport costs
  • Insurance on request
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs


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Enquiry Details

Speak to us about Scholarships, available if you book before the end of August.