Get a taste of life as a conservationist or marine biologist when you travel to south-eastern Mexico’s pristine Yucatan Peninsula and discover a new underwater world by learning to dive in the spectacular Caribbean Sea.
You will learn first-hand about the issues facing marine ecosystems and learn valuable skills such as fish and coral identification and how to conduct reef-based research as a base for a career in marine biology, conservation or professional diving from a local and international team. Spend time discovering the local sights and sounds in between putting your new skills to use.
Please note that this program offers durations of 2 to 3 weeks. Please speak to your Country Expert for further information.
Complete your PADI Dive certification in perfect turquoise waters and discover abundant marine life. You may see marine turtles, dolphins, and perhaps even whale sharks! You will explore ancient Mayan Cities and discover rich Mexican history set deep in tropical jungles, and have a chance to maybe even visit fascinating cenotes, underground river networks in the Yucatan.
"Martin was the first one who spotted it. Approximately 2.5 metres of pure bull shark madness faced us. We just couldn’t believe it! So graceful it swam around us for a minute or two and we studied every single fin move motion. It swam in a half circle in front of us then turned around, swam back and disappeared."
What's Not Included
See below for what you can expect from life on the project...
Once you’ve arrived at base and settled in after being collected from Cancun airport, you’ll ease into project life with some introductions, background information and local history before getting stuck into the formal and practical learning which will be focussed on the marine environment and conservation in general.
When you get started on your PADI Open Water diving course, you’ll spend a few days finding your fins with some confined water training to prepare you for the open ocean. The course includes most of your specialised dive gear, training materials, confined water training followed by ocean dives, your exams and your certification. Since you’ll be learning from experts, you’ll pick up on some of the best tips and tricks and learn more about marine conservation on the way, all while experiencing some of the best diving conditions the world has to offer.
Once you’re comfortable in your new aquatic environment, you’ll be able to test and refine your newly-acquired skills and knowledge by snorkelling and SCUBA diving on the coral reefs where you’ll identify various marine species and the conservation issues you have been learning about. Since you’ll be with a team of project staff, conservationists and local dive experts, you’ll constantly be able to continue your learning!
You’ll have the opportunity to visit the GVI marine conservation program base in Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve with a team of local and international researchers to learn about their efforts to conserve the this stunning area.
What's Not Included
GVI’s work in the region consists mainly of collecting data in the northern section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. We work with local partners with the aim to form a comprehensive overview of the ecological health of the reef, determine the species and breeding success of marine turtles in the area as well as develop an ‘Ecological Research and Awareness Centre’ with education and awareness programs for the local community.
Overall, our monitoring program 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.
From a personal perspective, being able to experience this region and having access to local examples of the principles and techniques, will provide you with practical experience in the basics of marine conservation as well as confidence and a clear understanding of important concepts such as best practise principles. You’ll develop effective teamwork and leadership skills and be prepared for working in remote and challenging locations. A strong base of primary knowledge in terms of fish and coral identification, the threats facing reefs, as well as the hazards of conducting reef-based research will further prepare you.
The new life skills you’ll develop will improve your understanding of the relationship between environmental sustainability and communities, a key understanding when working in the field. Your ability to live and work in a foreign country as a part of an international team and manage individual and team responsibilities with good communication and collabourative skills will be invaluable in your career.
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
What's Not Included
Although this trip follows a structured itinerary, don’t think you won’t be seeing and doing some amazing things! During your weekend with us, you’ll embark on an amazing weekend trip before returning to base to continue with more diving and underwater conservation.
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."
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.
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!
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!
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!
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."
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!
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.
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.”