Volunteering

Sea Turtle Conservation in the Mexican Caribbean

Volunteer on conservation programs that help to protect sea turtles.

Durations: 2 - 12 weeks
Fieldwork hours35 hrs of fieldwork per week
Participant ratio1:6 staff to participant ratio
GVI experiencesIncludes GVI Experiences

Program information

Learn about sea turtle biology and ecology, and gain insights into local and global threats to the survival of this species. Working hand in hand with our local partner – the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) – and the local community, participants assist with monitoring sea turtle nests and hatchlings, and help to develop and implement environmental education programs.

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Overview
Dates & Prices
Itinerary
What's Included
Life On Base
Experiences
New
Free time & cultural immersion
Speak to alumni
MEET THE TEAM
Parent Info
Arrivals &
Flights
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training Options
Support & Safety

Program overview

Seven out of the eight turtle species in the world nest along the Mexican coast. All these species are unique in their biology, feeding habits, ecology and evolutionary history. 

Our conservation programs are run in collaboration with locally-led partner organisations based in Puerto Morelos and are focused on three species:

  • Green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
  • Loggerhead or Caguama turtles (Caretta caretta
  • Leatherback or Laud turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)

Gentle and charismatic, these ancient citizens of the sea have survived on Earth for more than 100 million years – and yet today their future hangs in the balance. Sea turtle conservation can be challenging, especially because turtle nesting sites – which have remained unchanged for millions of years – are often found on popular tourist beaches. The human activity, pollution and habitat destruction of these sites makes it difficult for the turtles to continue using them – leaving them with nowhere to nest.

Puerto Morelos is nestled in between the mega tourists hubs of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It is also a marine protected area with a coral reef system and seagrass beds that have remained viable feeding grounds, with protected beaches that the sea turtles are still able to use for nesting.

Our sea turtle conservation programs have the following objectives:  

  • Reduce all external stressors when they come ashore to nest.
  • Protect the turtles nearshore habitats.
  • Leverage turtle conservation efforts to improve overall ocean health.
  • Generate a better understanding of sea turtles through environmental education initiatives in the local community.

Participants on this program will:

  • Conduct beach patrols (mainly at night), locating fresh turtle tracks and nests.
  • Monitor the status and success of nests.
  • Monitor turtle hatchlings. 
  • Conduct beach cleans.
  • Record data and measurements and nest relocations.
  • Identify new and returning sea turtles.

Highlights

Support UN SDG 14
Participate in a range of impactful marine conservation initiatives that are guided by UN SDG 14: Life Below Water.
The beauty of sea turtles
Experience hands-on sea turtle conservation with green and loggerhead turtles. Witness the miracle of life during nesting and hatching.
Be part of the real deal
Contribute to ongoing environmental projects that address critical challenges aligned to the global UN SDGs.
Join ethical initiatives
Join local conservation partners and qualified professionals to ensure your efforts are highly ethical, meaningful and sustainable.
Experience unreal adventures
Venture outside typical travel itineraries to get exclusive access to extraordinary remote habitats, rare species and unique ecosystems.
Make friends for life
Share epic experiences with like-minded, passionate changemakers from all over the globe.
Enjoy a hassle-free, safe trip
With expert local staff and 24/7 support at every step – you can relax and enjoy the experience stress-free.
Take a break
Disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature, yourself and your purpose.

Activities

Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.

Fieldwork training
Identify different species of sea turtles. Collect data to build a comprehensive database of sea turtle nesting sites and populations in the area.
Conservation surveys
Assist with sea turtle nesting and hatching surveys, collecting data on the success of the nesting season and the number of hatchlings monitored.
Conservation project work
Assist with additional research activities such as coral restoration, seagrass monitoring, beach cleanups and community conservation outreach.
PADI Emergency First Response
Learn primary and secondary care theory. Then practice 8 essential skills in role-playing scenarios to enhance first aid skills for emergencies.

Skills

  • Data entry
  • EFR training
  • Marine conservation
  • Species identification
  • Survey research
  • Volunteering

Partners

Some of the partners we work with on base.

CRIP
Healthy Reefs for Healthy People
CONANP

Program details

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

This is summer!

Chase that feeling! Save up to 15% on selected programs.

Book and pay by 31 July to claim offer.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date.

06:30

Take in the views and fresh sea air with breakfast – and say hi to our curious local coati (racoon-like critter).

07:00

Lend a hand with base duties and help to get everyone’s gear ready for the day’s activities!

10:00

Learn more about diving, the coral reef system and the most critical marine conservation challenges in this area.

12:00

Sample and savour delicious (mostly vegetarian) Mexican dishes prepared by a local cook.

14:00

Enjoy an afternoon of diving to conduct coral reef surveys that will help our local partners with their initiatives.

17:30:30

Dinner is enjoyed as a group. It’s a great time to share news, achievements and plan the next day's activity details.

18:00

After dinner, it’s time to relax! Head to the town square to grab a coffee, go shopping, or just soak up the Mexican Caribbean vibes.

What’s included?

What's included
General
Food
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Airport pick up (unless stated)
All project equipment
24-hour in-country support from local staff
24-hour emergency desk
GVI Experiences
Activities
Sustainable project work
Data collection and research
Pre-program training
Pre-departure webinar
Pre-departure training (online)
University of Richmond endorsed specialisation course
Welcome training
GVI welcome presentation
Health & safety
Local culture & environment
UN SDGs
Impact & ethics
Child protection
Certificates
Program certificate
University certificate – specialisation (University of Richmond)
What's excluded
Not included
Flights
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Visa costs
Police or background check
Personal items and toiletries
Additional drinks and gratuities

Life On Base

Our Puerto Morelos research station – where you’ll take part in project work – is located 80 metres from the beach. Your accommodation – where you’ll hang out, sleep and eat – is located 15 minutes by car, 45 minutes by bike or 90 minutes on foot from the beach. One of the best-kept secrets in the Yucatan, the small town of Puerto Morelos is incredibly safe and has a laid-back vibe with a friendly and welcoming local community. There are no big resorts or casinos here.

Mexico, while culturally diverse, is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

From mariachi bands to Mayan temples, Mexico is best known for being the birthplace of the iconic taco. Puerto Morelos is the oldest port community in the Mexican Caribbean. Home to the northernmost tip of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the second largest barrier reef in the world), Puerto Morelos is a spectacular diving location. You’ll spot sea turtles and various rays – from the famous Caribbean stingray to the spotted eagle ray. If mammals are more your thing, West Indian manatees have been seen and a pod of bottlenose dolphins are frequent visitors. The mangroves offer the chance to see a variety of animals and waterbirds, including protected species like the American crocodile.

Your typical day includes diving, lab work, training on base, beach cleanups and community work. Rounded off with evening debriefs followed by dinner and time to relax – taking in a beautiful sunset, and sharing stories with your fellow team members.

On weekends, participants enjoy free time until Sunday dinner at the base. Local fun includes games, movies, beach time and beach volleyball. The base has kayaks and SUPs that participants can use in their free time under the supervision of a staff member. There are also 5 bicycles that participants can use. Getting around is easy with affordable public options, taxis, or bike rentals (30 – 100 USD/month).

Accommodation

You will live in shared dorm-style accommodation, with four beds per room, giving you the perfect opportunity to connect. The accommodation features shared facilities such as a com...

Transportation

We provide transportation to and from the airport up to three days prior to your arrival and three days after the end of your program – only from Puerto Morelos to the Cancun Airpo...

Communication

There’s limited access to long-distance communication when you’re on base, so make sure your friends and family know how often they can expect to hear from you. There is Wi-Fi avai...

Meals

You’ll get the opportunity to prepare breakfast in groups from our choice of cereals, pancakes, eggs and porridge. Lunch and dinner will be prepared for you during workdays. On wee...

Climate

Puerto Morelos is on the Riviera Maya, which is known for its tropical climate. The temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year – roughly 26°C ( 80°F). This means t...

Smoking and vaping regulations

Since January 2023, smoking in public areas is prohibited, with fines up to £150 for violations. Owning or using vaping devices and solutions is now unlawful in Mexico, including s...

GVI experiences included in your program, at no extra cost.

Offered once a month, expand your adventure with GVI Experiences. These are just some of the activities offered on your program!

We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards –  the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development. 

Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.

Learn to cook traditional Yucatan food
Tastes of Mexico
Visit a Mayan ruin
Ancient empire
Take a beach yoga class
Sunset flow
Dive through the cenotes
An underwater world
Stand-up paddleboard at sunrise
Cruise the coastline
Climb rock formations in the jungle
Boulder hopping
Learn the unique geography of the Yucatan Peninsula
Last of the dinosaurs
Explore the ancient city of Coba
The road less travelled

Free time & cultural immersion

By joining a GVI program, you not only contribute to preserving unique ecosystems but also get the chance to explore the surrounding area or venture further to see what else the region has to offer on weekends.

Our field staff are a great source of advice on local travel options. Many participants choose to travel before or after their experience, solidifying friendships made on the program. 

Engaging with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in today’s world. Cultural immersion is encouraged, and there are many activities to enjoy during your free time or before and after your program. Please note, these suggestions aren’t included in the program fee and are at your own expense.

Festivals

January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the predominantly Catholic population celebrates el Día de Reyes, the Day of the Three K...

Music

The most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is unique to a specific region of Mexico, Guad...

Dances

The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. A male and female perform this dance. The male partner dr...

Cuisine

Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to experience authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients, such as tomatoes, chillie...

Religion and local customs

The legacy of colonialism means that most of Mexico’s population are Catholic. However, much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures that ...

Languages

As a result of colonialism, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language globally, visiting Mexico is an excellent oppo...

Weekend trips

Snorkelling with whale sharks

On the northern coast of Quintana Roo, where the crystal-clear water of the Caribbean sea meets the nutrient-rich water of the Gulf of Mexico, an oceanographic phenomena of upwelli...

Bull shark diving

From November to March, on their annual migration to give birth, female bull sharks congregate off the coast of Quintana Roo. With the opportunity to get up close to these magnific...

Mayan ruins

Many Mayan ruins are scattered throughout the Riviera Maya, and the province in which Puerto Morelos is located, Quintana Roo, is no exception. One of the most popular sites is Tul...

Eco adventure parks

A top destination for those visiting the Riviera Maya are the eco-adventure parks, like Xcaret and Xel-ha. These are beautiful, biodiverse areas featuring Mayan ruins that have bee...

Cenotes

The Yucatan Peninsula is a large karst system with the world´s longest underground river. Characterised by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves, karst systems are ...

Diving and snorkelling

Experience the stunning diversity of underwater life within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef in the world. While diving is a part of all our mari...

Further travels

Other Latin American countries

Mexico is the perfect destination from which to travel to other Central and South American countries. Head to the jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica and then further down to Peru’...

Mexican culture

Mexico City is the home of many iconic cultural sites, including the Frida Kahlo Museum (also known as The Blue House) and the Palace of Fine Arts, where the work of her husband, D...

Hiking and rock climbing

There are plenty of excellent hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing destinations in Mexico. Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s highest peak, followed by the active volcano Popocatépetl,...

Whale spotting

On the west coast of Mexico, Baja California is a peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sea of Cortez to the east. One of the main reasons to visit this locat...

Speak to alumni

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.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Meet the team

Get acquainted with the GVI Latin America, Mexico, Puerto Morelos family

Miguel Angel Lozano

Program Manager

Miguel Angel is GVI’s Program Manager for the Marine Conservation Programs at GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. He has a backgr ...

Claudia Frederici

Dive Officer

This is Claudia, she is our Dive Officer at the GVI Puerto Morelos base in Mexico. Claudia is originally from Spain and helps out with everything from scientific research to fie ...

Kayla Moore

Science Officer

Meet Kayla, the Science Officer for GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. She is originally from Canada where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine an ...

Parent Info

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

GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.

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 and high participant ratios.
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

We meet you at the airport.

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. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals.

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.

Flights

Find your flights with our partner, Student Universe.
Flights are not included in your program fee
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Please note that if you use this service delivered by Student Universe and / or if you buy your ticket through this portal you are agreeing to the Student Universe Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. Your agreement regarding flights will be between you and Student Universe or as per their terms and conditions.

As GVI is providing this portal as a service we are not responsible for the accuracy of this site.

We are also not responsible for any loss, damage (including loss of profits or consequential damages), injury, illness, harm or death in relation to your flight and travel arrangements.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (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.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

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

Puerto Morelos is the oldest port city in the Mexican Caribbean. Used as a port since the Mayan empire, its history as a modern port dates back to 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from gum trees and wood from dye trees. Together with fishing, these were the main productive activities in the area.

There is a unique diversity of ecosystems – including low evergreen and swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System – home to thousands of marine species.

Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120-kilometre-long tourist corridor located between Cancun and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels and holiday accommodation along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba-diving, snorkelling and free-diving tours in the Caribbean Sea, as well as reef lagoon, sportfishing tours, and tours to (and diving in) cenotes close to the town.

Fishing is the second most common commercial activity after tourism. Small skiffs are used to collect lobster and many species of commercial Caribbean fish. Local fishing organisations are aware that unsustainable fishing leads to the destruction of the reef, loss of fishing resources, and harm to ecotourism activities. GVI assists our partners in Puerto Morelos by collecting and collating data which helps decision-makers in coastal zone management. 

Fish and coral surveys

We have several monitoring sites that we survey each year. The data we gather helps us determine the abundance and size of the fish, and understand the changes in the fish community dynamics. The information on coral, and other benthic organisms like sponges and macro algae is used to understand the reef’s coral coverage and overall health. The surveys are simpler for 4-week short-term interns as we aim to gather high-quality data by focusing the learning on fish species while touching on other topics such as coral species. The aim of this is to collect biomass data and information on coral illnesses and bleaching.

We also assist our partners in a coral reef restoration project. Through cloning (coral fragmentation) and assisted fertilisation of coral gametes, we assist in incrementing the biomass and genetic diversity of the hard coral population. We collaborate on coral nursery maintenance (inland and in water). And finally, we assist with transplanting coral colonies back into the reef to regenerate degraded sections of the reef in the ocean.

The Caribbean King Crab project rears juveniles to sufficient sizes and numbers to be used during coral restoration work, which increases the survival of transplanted fragments or recruits by actively counteracting macroalgae proliferation. You can play a part in the regeneration of degraded sections of the reef and rebuilding the ecosystem.

Turtle monitoring

The National Park of Puerto Morelos is abundant in seagrass, one of the favourite meals of green sea turtles. GVI participants assist with monitoring sea turtle populations by taking pictures of them while snorkelling and diving. This helps with identifying new and returning sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is from May to October.

Invasive lionfish monitoring and education

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Mexican Caribbean. We carry out lionfish data collection during our dive activities – registering size, quantities, location and depth, as well as taking photos of the specimens. We turn this information over to local authorities who keep track of the lionfish population dynamics. At times they request our assistance in removing this invasive species from the sites.

Incidental sightings of megafauna

Every time we dive, we look for megafauna species such as sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, eels and rays. We input sightings of these species into our database. The presence of these species can be an indicator of the health of the reef and general biodiversity.

Plastic pollution cleanup

We have weekly beach cleanups where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach. We classify it and count or weigh it into different categories, depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners in Ocean Conservancy. After adding it to their worldwide data bank, they analyse the information – looking for trends on sites and classification of rubbish.

Environmental education

By joining a GVI marine conservation program in Mexico, you’ll get involved in vital project work that directly impacts our partner organisations’ ability to promote their initiatives and carry out their mandate. This includes things like the creation of marine reserves, zonation schemes, and management policies. In turn, you are helping to protect Mexico’s precious marine life and the ecosystem.

You will be able to work closely with our local partners – collecting and collating data that is used to aid decision-makers in the coastal zone and resource management in Mexico.

You’ll also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. Once a fishing village, the town of Puerto Morelos is now part of one of the largest marine parks in Mexico. Fish is still an important food source in the community, and fishing provides a daily source of income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes fishing and international tourism profitable. We work to support the local community’s efforts to learn about and protect their marine resources and the health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.

These initiatives allow us to support the conservation work, the community, and our local partners. They also address two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), namely Goal 4: Quality Education and Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Project objectives

 

GVI Puerto Morelos Marine Long-term Objectives:

1. Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management within the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park, and collaborate in the coral restoration project.

2. Raise environmental awareness with the community in Puerto Morelos.

3. Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the national park.

4. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park.

 

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.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

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.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

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

03

Impact Reporting

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

04

Working Against Dependency

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

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

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

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

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

07

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.

08

Local Ownership

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

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

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

10

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.

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

Learn more
No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

Learn more
No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

Learn more
Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

Learn more
No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Learn more

Training

A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.

For all participants at Puerto Morelos

Conservation: survey techniques and logistics

An introduction to different survey techniques and best practice guidelines for surveys; introduction to different types of data and how to record information via a datasheet.

Conservation: biodiversity & target species identification

Learn about biodiversity and how biodiversity is measured, and classifying different species and how to identify species that indicate the health of the habitat.

Marine conservation: pollution and plastics

Learn about issues with plastic and measures that can be taken to help reduce plastic consumption.

Marine conservation: coral reefs

Learn about what a coral reef is, its importance, how it is formed, how this ecosystem works.

Fish and Coral Identification

Learn how to identify fish and coral species that are important to our marine conservation partners. This training includes a powerpoint identification exercise and an in-water identification exercise.

Environmental Education Community Project