Mexico Marine Research Conservation (Beginners)...
Costs£1675 / $3350 (US) / €2100
Group SizeUp to 20
Dates06 May to 10 Jun 2011
01 Jul to 05 Aug 2011
01 Jul to 09 Sep 2011
05 Aug to 09 Sep 2011
30 Sep to 04 Nov 2011
Click here for all dates
  • 30 Sep to 09 Dec 2011
  • 04 Nov to 09 Dec 2011

Mexico Marine Research Conservation (Beginners): Full Itinerary

- Costs

Pound sterling (£) US Dollar ($) Euros (€)
5 weeks 1675 3350 2100
10 weeks 2695 5390 3375

For novice divers wanting to start on the 5 week expeditions starting in May, August or November.
The start date will be a week earlier than listed to learn PADI Open Water. An additional £100 is charged for accommodation and food.


Weeks 1, 2 & 3 - Be immersed in a tropical paradise, learn about marine conservation, train to dive on the amazing Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and become a valued member of the marine conservation research team!

This volunteering expedition begins in the coastal city of Cancun, which is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Here you will meet your fellow volunteers and be transported to the beautiful city Playa Del Carmen, to spend the night. The following morning, you will rendezvous with the expedition staff and the rest of the team and then make your way to the secluded marine base that will be your new home. The volunteer base is situated in the heart of the Sian Ka’an (Mayan for ‘where the sky is born’) Biosphere Reserve at Boca Paila. The base is located south of Cancun and about an hour from Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in an area that is rich in Mayan history, having the ruins of Tulum, Coba and Chitchen Itza situated in close proximity. To reach the remote marine base, you will travel along a dirt track through dense jungle from Tulum into the Biosphere Reserve. As volunteers meander south along this spectacular peninsula, you will pass endless Caribbean beaches until you reach your very own! Upon arrival, you will get a chance to recuperate from your journey and acclimatise to your new tropical surroundings.

The living conditions are basic but comfortable. Sleeping arrangements are in the form of shared cabanas, each with bunk beds or camping facilities (our own choice), second to none scenic views of the ocean, a basic kitchen, a main social area and our very own beach. A rainwater well supplies washing water for the base, but there is a 'dry' season, so bucket showers are rationed. A generator is put on each night for a couple of hours, but it’s only enough time to charge an ipod or camera. You will truly be back to basics with no running water or permanent electricity; essential food supplies (mainly rice, beans and pasta) and basic living conditions, the conditions are unsophisticated but comfortable. It may take some adjusting at first, but the conservation-minded approach becomes second nature and makes you appreciate all the luxuries you have at home as well as the untouched tropical paradise you’ll be living in!

The initial few weeks of this volunteering expedition are usually the most demanding as you will learn all the skills you need for both elements of this volunteering experience – the scuba diving and the marine conservation. In order to become proficient scuba divers from a beginner's level, volunteers will learn both the PADI Open Water and PADI Advanced level diving courses. Volunteers will learn the Open Water course through lectures, skills exercises and qualifying dives at sea. The qualification covers a range of subjects, including equipment set up, hand signals, buoyancy control and over twenty other essential scuba diving skills. You will then progress to the Advanced level course, and learn more complex skills, such as underwater navigation and deep diving. Finally, volunteers will complete the PADI Coral Reef Researcher qualification, to learn how to carry out the marine conservation research.

A few examples of the marine conservation subjects that you will learn about during this initial training period are shown below:
  • Fish identification
  • Habitats
  • Adaptations, lifestyles and schooling of fish families
  • Appearance on the reef
  • Feeding and defence
  • Cleaning symbiosis
  • Reproduction
  • Coral identification
  • Marine plants and algae.

There’s also the opportunity to earn college credit (if relevant to you) along the way.

Once you have acquired all of the necessary marine surveying techniques and PADI diving qualifications, you will be able to carry out the research proficiently. All volunteers are assigned alternating duties on a daily basis, and are then responsible for fulfilling that role and contributing towards team life. Examples include camp duty (such as cooking and cleaning) or boat duty (including preparing the boats for dive and stocking them with equipment, such as water and first aid kits, etc).

At the end of the day the group is assembled to debrief, eat and socialise over a few cold beers while you watch the sunset in your new home – the tropical Mexican coastline!

- A Typical Diving Day for the Group

Please note that this is only a rough guide to give a better idea of what to expect during your stay. All volunteers can expect between one and two dives per day (when not working on other projects and weather permitting).

0600 – Wake up
0630 – Breakfast
0700 – Boat push
0730 – Dive one
0930 – Dive two
1130 – Lunch/siesta
1200 – Dive three
1400 – Dive four
1500 – Private study
1700 – Staff meeting
1900 – Dinner
2000 – Crocodile research (when this study is being carried out by Amigos de Sian Ka’an)

Bedtime is at your own discretion

Week 4 onwards - Put your newly acquired knowledge and PADI scuba diving skills to the test as a valued member of the marine conservation research team, immerse yourself in the remote tropical surroundings, teach in local communities as part of community development initiatives, experience one of the world’s last remaining true pristine environments and perhaps even spot some rare and endangered species!

In addition to the underwater work, volunteers will rotate between projects, to take some time away from the hard scuba diving work and free up your time for other activities. The days continue to start early and are long, to make most of the daylight hours. On a typical day you will travel to survey sites, take part in the survey work, return from the sites, wash down equipment, fill the air tanks ready for the next day and then normally have a late finish, once all the data collected has been received and put into the database. You can expect to do one to two dives per day, six days a week (weather depending) to assess the health of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system and collect data on fish, coral and other benthos.

The community development aspect of the expedition involves training local fishermen, helping with marine education and awareness programmes, and providing English language tuition. Volunteers will teach English in the local school and community to give the local population a better chance of developing from the influx of foreign revenue into the area.

In your spare time, you might decide to have a game of volleyball, relax on the beach, explore the local area or even learn to surf using the expedition’s surfboard! You may also choose to learn or brush up on your Spanish, either by interacting with the local communities or taking an informal evening class. A National Scholarship Programme also runs that allows Mexican nationals to join the expedition for free, which in turn provides volunteers with the excellent opportunity to practise Spanish with them. If you wish to learn some Spanish before the expedition, please mention it when completing the online booking form to volunteer in Mexico.

At weekends (Saturday afternoons to Sunday evenings), your time is free to spend however you see fit. Expedition staff may run optional fun dives and can help you to organise diving and snorkelling trips to hidden cenotes. They can also help you to arrange going on excursions into the jungle and trips into the untouched Mayan sites of Coba and Tulum. Also do not forget, you can enjoy the infamous and well deserved Saturday Night Volunteer Fiestas!

Whether you in Mexico for five or ten weeks, once your initial weeks of training are completed, you will spend the rest of your time making use of the new skills and knowledge that you have acquired on this marine conservation volunteering expedition.

The Aims of this Expedition Are To:
  • Conduct coral reef and fish monitoring surveys
  • Conduct daily sea turtle nesting surveys (seasonal)
  • Conduct underwater sea turtle sighting surveys and log any incidental sightings of fauna
  • Teach local fisherman and guides English and train them in diving and survey techniques that aid sustainable development
  • Develop the research base as a Children’s Education Centre
  • Assist the education and awareness programmes at local schools, communities, fishing lodges, the research base and in the open environment
  • Conduct activities on behalf of our local partners, Amigos de Sian Ka’an and others, sharing all data to help them achieve their aims.

Opportunity to achieve a Level 3 BTEC Advanced Certificate (Open to all 10 week volunteers only)

There is also the opportunity to gain a BTEC in Biological Survey Techniques (which could act as a CV booster and help toward getting into university) whilst on a ten week expedition. This Level 3 BTEC Advanced Certificate teaches you to supervise biological surveys, and once completed should enable you to plan and run survey teams in the field. You can perfect the skills you learn with the direct, hands-on experience you learn in the field, and will be transferable to any environment around the world, providing your CV with an invaluable boost. Those opting to complete the BTEC will complete five core units that have been developed with our field team’s extensive experience and skills-base in the field:

  • Target Species Identification – to introduce the learner to the fundamentals of identifying species and habitats, and bring them to a level accurate enough to ensure reliable survey results are always collected.
  • Survey Techniques – to build on the learners identification skills, putting them into practice out in the field. Students also learn how to supervise surveys through briefings and debriefings and how to collect, collate and verify data.
  • Managing Risk – to teach the learner the fundamentals of risk management, emergency planning and health and safety; building on the Emergency First Response training that all volunteers receive.
  • Expedition Logistics – to train the learner in the practical and logistical aspect of managing a field-based biological surveying operation.
  • Community Relations – to instil an understanding that successful long-term biological conservation is best achieved through the cooperation and support of local agencies and indigenous peoples.

Recognised and approved by Edexel, the UK’s largest awarding body, this qualification can help your entrance into university or give you the boost you need for a career change. Therefore, the qualification is open to all volunteers of all ages. For more information on this opportunity, please mention it when you complete the online booking form to volunteer in Mexico.

- Arrival Information

Volunteers must make their own way to Cancun, where you will be met by an expedition staff member. Volunteers will receive more information when making your booking.

- What's been happening recently with the Volunteering?

We’ve recently welcomed a new group of volunteers for the next phase of the project, ready to have the time of their lives and experience and learn all about coral reefs and its inhabitants, whilst making a positive contribution to Marine Conservation in the area.

A real highlight of the last few weeks was when our local wildlife expert, Vidal treated our volunteers to a boat tour through the still, crystal clear waters of the nearby mangrove system, manoeuvring the boat through narrow channels bursting with wild orchids, across the lagoon, pointing out manatees and many species of birds en route. Our tour ended at the ancient Mayan ruins of Muyil where volunteers had the chance to explore this fascinating site.

During the last phase we also had many incidental sightings, including spotted eagle rays, reef sharks and most thrilling of all, a bottlenose dolphin that surprised volunteers on their last dive of the phase. A pod of three dolphins was spotted from the boat, coming to ride the bow wave but disappearing before the divers had time to enter the water. However much to everyone’s delight, one dolphin found us and decided to join us for a swim! An incredible experience and a great story to tell friends and family back home!

Tom, the Volunteer Coordinator at Yomps, recently visited the Mexico Marine Research Conservation volunteering project and has created an online account of his experiences. So if you're interested in reading more about this particular volunteering trip, flicking through recent photo's and checking out some of his diving movies, then visit his Mexico Marine Conservation Blog (opens in a new window).

- Expedition Skills Required

No previous experience of marine research or foreign language skills are required to join this expedition, as volunteers will receive a comprehensive training programme designed to give them all the necessary skills they need. However, all volunteers must be able to pass a medical examination to prove they are physically fit to dive. All volunteers will be tested on arrival at the base, which consists of an unaided 200m surface swim, followed by a 10 minute float, or a 300m swim with a snorkel, mask and fins, followed by a ten minute float, both in the open sea environment. Volunteers must also be 18 years of age or older and speak English. Additionally everyone must be able to work as part of a team and have a strong interest in wildlife and conservation. Participants must also be enthusiastic, adventurous, have a good sense of humour and be respectful of the host country’s environment and cultures.

- Extra Activities Available

Volunteers have the opportunity to complete further diving qualifications during your time in Mexico. The following prices include a 15-25% discount on the rates normally charged by PADI dive centres and are fully inclusive of training manuals and equipment (yet please note that the science and community work will always take priority over any extra dive training):

Course Cost Minimum Trip Length
Rescue incl. Emergency First Response Certification £190 / US$350 5 weeks
Divemaster £350 / US$595 10 weeks
Rescue & Divemaster £485 / US$850 10 weeks

- Malaria Awareness

Travelling to long-haul destinations can be a wonderful and exciting experience. Before you go, make sure you take the right travel advice about visiting Malaria risk countries. At Yomps we are committed to stopping traveller deaths from malaria which is why we support the campaign being run by Also, we have an article written by a travel nurse about how to avoid mosquito bites and other insect bites (opens in a new window).

Our Partners On This Trip -

We work in partnership with established projects, courses and expeditions. The information on our website comes from our local partners and we work with them to ensure the information is as accurate as possible. However, due to the very nature of the trips themselves the exact details of what happens on a daily basis can vary.

To contact us phone 0845 006 1435 or email us at

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