Marine Conservation Volunteering

Dive into rare and beautiful marine habitats

Dive into balmy tropical seas. Drift across great coral reefs. Discover the splendours of the world’s rarest marine habitats. Habitats that are essential to the overall health of all life on Earth. Become a marine conservation volunteer and help restore damaged coastal ecosystems and preserve endangered marine species.

What is marine volunteering all about?
Overview

What is marine conservation?

Hey there, ocean enthusiast! Are you ready to dive into an unforgettable adventure while making a real difference? 

At GVI, we know just what you’re looking for – the chance to live and work in spectacular seaside and island destinations and protect our magnificent oceans and the incredible marine life within them. 

Our marine conservation volunteering programs offer you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the wonders of the deep blue, while actively contributing to scientific research, species protection, habitat preservation and sustainable practices. 

Together, we’ll roll up our sleeves and dive into conservation initiatives that safeguard marine habitats and promote a sustainable future. 

Marine conservation volunteering involves:

  • scientific research
  • species protection
  • habitat preservation and restoration 
  • sustainable practices
  • community engagement
  • environmental education.

 

Our marine conservation volunteering programs align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #14: Life Below Water.

What do marine conservation volunteers do?

As a marine conservation volunteer, you will play a pivotal role in various projects. 

From conducting research and collecting data to raising awareness within local communities, your efforts will directly contribute to the conservation of our oceans. 

This is how you can take action:

  • join a marine conservation research team 
  • monitor marine megafauna
  • restore and rehabilitate coral reefs
  • restore island coastal environments
  • work on environmental education initiatives
  • implement sustainable fishing practices
  • prevent plastic pollution.

 

Why does marine conservation matter?

Marine conservation matters, because without healthy oceans, our planet cannot survive. Neither can we. The ocean covers more than 70% of our planet and is home to a rich diversity of species and ecosystems. It plays a crucial role in regulating the climate, providing us with food and producing oxygen.

Human-induced climate change, overfishing and pollution is threatening to deplete and destroy our oceans. These threats not only harm marine life, but also have far-reaching effects on our climate, food systems and the livelihoods of millions.

 

Warming temperatures, pollution and overfishing are creating several crises:

  • Biodiversity and species loss: Marine megafauna, such as whales, dolphins and marine turtles are now under threat or near extinction. 
  • Coral bleaching: Coral reefs contain 25% of all marine life, protect coastlines from erosion and storm damage, and regulate global climate by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. They are dying because of rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.
  • Overfishing: The depletion of global fish stocks not only threatens to unbalance entire ecosystems but also the food security and economic sustainability of the thousands of communities worldwide that rely on fishing for food and income.
  • Plastic poison: Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic enter our oceans, physically harming marine life and creating long-term toxic effects that impact every animal and human that relies on the ocean

 

Every marine environment is affected, and more and more marine flora and fauna are at risk of extinction each year. This makes marine conservation an urgent task for all of us – but is also an opportunity to live and work in some of the world’s most extraordinary places, meet passionate like-minded people, and contribute something meaningful to the future of our oceans. 

Our programs

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Whale and Dolphin Conservation in the Canary Islands
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Marine Conservation Expedition in the Seychelles
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Island Conservation Expedition to the Seychelles
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Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico
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Volunteer with Turtles in Greece
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Lemon Shark and Turtle Conservation in the Seychelles
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Citizen Science Island Conservation in Tenerife
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Island Biodiversity Surveying Citizen Science Project in Seychelles
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Bird Research in Costa Rica
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Sea Turtle Conservation in the Mexican Caribbean
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Elephant and Endangered Sea Turtle Coastal Conservation in Thailand
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Climate Change and Coral Bleaching in Seychelles
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Plastic Pollution and Conservation In Thailand
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Island Nations Climate Change and Biodiversity Volunteer in Seychelles
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Rainforest Exploration and Biodiversity in Costa Rica
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Sustainable fishing volunteering in Fiji
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Marine, Island and Coastal Conservation Exploration in Fiji and Thailand
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Marine Biology Research and Conservation in the Canary Islands
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Reptile and Amphibian Diversity Research in the Costa Rican Rainforest
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Citizen Science Program in Costa Rica
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Coral Reef Conservation in Thailand
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Tropical Marine Biology and Conservation in Fiji
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Climate Change and Coral Bleaching in Fiji
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Sustainable and Ethical Ecotourism in the Canary Islands
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African Tropical Island and Savannah Conservation
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Marine Conservation Expedition in Fiji
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Coral Reef Research in Fiji

New and Exclusive: GVI Experiences

A locally curated selection of extra activities are now included across our programs.
Learn to cook Malagasy cuisine
Handcraft your own canoes
Forage for local medicinal plants
Visit the island of the lemurs
Snorkel in a marine wonderland
Gaze and wonder at the southern constellations
Watch the sunset at Banyan tree
Sleepover on a remote volcanic archipelago
Species

Becoming a marine conservation volunteer with GVI is an opportunity to make a difference in the preservation of our oceans and the incredible species that call them home. 

Coral reef marine conservation volunteering

Coral reefs are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth. They support countless species, protect coastlines and provide essential resources for local communities – most subsistence fishing is made possible by a reef system. Preserving coral reefs is vital for the overall health of our oceans and the livelihoods of millions of people.

Coral reefs are facing significant threats, including climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution all of which cause coral bleaching – i.e. coral death. 

By joining one of our coral reef conservation volunteer projects, you will have the opportunity to contribute to the restoration and preservation of these invaluable underwater ecosystems, including: 

  • surveying coral reefs
  • monitoring and documenting coral health
  • working in coral nurseries
  • implementing coral restoration initiatives
  • educating local communities on the importance of reef conservation.

 

Whale marine conservation volunteering

Whales are highly intelligent, social and emotional marine mammals that not only play a crucial role in the ecosystem – their nutrient-rich waste supports the growth of phytoplankton, which absorbs carbon dioxide and contributes to climate regulation, for example – but deserve our respect and protection.

And whales are often vulnerable to human threats such as whaling, climate change induced habitat degradation, entanglement in fishing gear, and marine plastic pollution. 

As a whale conservation volunteer, you will actively contribute to research efforts, collect valuable data on whale populations, and raise awareness about the importance of their conservation. Through activities like photo identification, behavioural monitoring and acoustic surveys, you will help deepen our understanding of these incredible creatures and support conservation efforts aimed at their long-term survival.

Endangered sea turtle marine conservation volunteering

Sea turtles are ancient, remarkable reptiles that have followed the same breeding rituals for thousands of years, returning to the same feeding grounds and nesting sites every year. Unfortunately, many of these have been threatened by habitat destruction, coastal degradation, pollution, poaching, and tourism. Every year, fewer and fewer hatchlings make it back to the seas. 

Sea turtles are also essential to several marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and seagrass meadows. 

GVI’s sea turtle marine conservation volunteer programs focus on three species of sea turtle:

  • green turtles 
  • hawksbill turtles 
  • leatherback turtles.

 

As a sea turtle conservation volunteer, you will: 

  • Monitor nesting beaches, protecting nests from predation and poaching. 
  • Survey nesting mothers.
  • Conduct surveys to track population trends.
  • Reduce plastic pollution on nesting beaches. 
  • Work to rehabilitate turtles and turtle hatchlings.
  • Raise awareness among local communities about ecotourism and conservation.
  • Conduct biodiversity surveys on seagrass meadows and coral reefs.

 

Shark conservation volunteering

Sharks are apex predators that regulate the populations of other marine species, contributing to ecosystem stability. Their conservation is crucial for maintaining healthy oceans and protecting biodiversity; the presence of sharks in any marine ecosystem typically indicates the overall health of that ecosystem.

They face significant threats, including:

  • overfishing 
  • finning
  • habitat degradation
  • bycatch.

 

As a shark conservation volunteer, you’ll assist with:

  • data collection and analysis
  • population monitoring 
  • shark tagging programs
  • underwater surveys 
  • developing sustainable fishing practices
  • community education initiatives.

 

Dolphin conservation volunteering

Dolphins are famously intelligent, social and highly charismatic marine mammals that play a vital role in balancing marine ecosystems and the delicate ecological interactions that sustain all marine life.

All over the world, various dolphin species are sadly facing various threats, including:

  • habitat degradation
  • plastic pollution 
  • entanglement in fishing gear.

 

As a dolphin conservation volunteer, you’ll assist research teams with:

  • population surveys
  • behavioural observations
  • photo identification studies
  • educational programs to raise community awareness.

 

Your impact

Community-owned research, backed by cutting-edge science

The data you collect as a marine conservation volunteer, whether you are monitoring marine animals, coral reefs or coastal ecosystems, will directly contribute to essential marine conservation research. Through scientific studies and data collection, we gain insights into the health of marine ecosystems, identify threats, and develop strategies for conservation. This research is the foundation of marine conservation efforts. 

Data is regularly analysed and reported on and is used by local communities and international bodies to establish effective conservation strategies and policies.

Our marine conservation projects link research to the most relevant and urgent conservation needs. As a marine conservation volunteer, your could be focused on any combination of the following:

 

  • Species protection: These projects work on the conservation of a single focus species like sea turtles, whales, or dolphins.
  • Habitat restoration: These projects work to restore or rehabilitate specific habitats, like coral reefs or seagrass meadows. 
  • Ecotourism & environmental education: These projects are at the intersection of community and conservation, working to educate people on the importance of marine life and conservation.
  • Sustainability: These projects work to introduce sustainable practices in communities that depend on marine ecosystems. This could include anything from sustainable tourism to sustainable fishing. 
  • Plastic pollution: These projects work to clean coastal and marine habitats. 

 

All our work is done in partnership with local, community-led organisations. We are led by the objective and agendas of these communities and committed to participating in this work ethically to create enduring and meaningful impact. 

Marine conservation research – going a step further

While our marine conservation volunteer programs provide a comprehensive introduction to marine conservation research techniques as part of broader adventure, if you are someone who’s interested in turning your passion for research into a career or someone already working on research and wants access to remote marine protected areas and exclusive datasets, we offer two more focused program types.

Marine conservation internships – explore a possible career 

Kickstart a career in marine conservation with GVI’s award-winning internships. Join ongoing flagship research projects and work closely with marine scientists in the field, learning expert techniques, gaining practical experience, and developing leadership and project management skills. 

Research fellowship – get your research published

GVI has been working in the conservation and sustainable development space for over 25 years. We have decades of expertise in facilitating nature conservation research projects with students from all over the world, with our research being cited on Google Scholar more than 1,000 times. During your research fellowship, you’ll get the opportunity to author or co-author your findings in a scientific paper and get published. You can also use your research fellowship to complete your thesis or dissertation by accessing unique data sets and utilising the expertise on base.

Not only will this raise your academic profile, but you’ll contribute to research projects that inform real world marine conservation strategies and policies. 

Locations

Whether you’re eager to explore the vibrant coral reefs of the Atlantic or Indian Oceans, engage in sea turtle conservation along the pristine coastlines of Costa Rica and Thailand, join efforts to protect sharks in marine sanctuaries, or witness the grace of dolphins in their natural habitats, there are numerous top travel destinations where you can make a difference through marine conservation volunteering. From diving with marine megafauna to conducting research on unique marine species, these offer both beauty and adventure while allowing you to contribute to the preservation of our oceans and their remarkable wildlife. 

Marine conservation volunteering in Greece

Get ready for an amazing adventure in the beautiful Bay of Kyparissia, located in the western Peloponnese. 

Your mission? Protecting and conserving one of Greece’s most important nesting spots for loggerhead turtles. We’re teaming up with ARCHELON’s local project, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, to make a real difference for these incredible sea turtles in Kyparissia.

Depending on the time of year, you’ll be monitoring beaches, on the lookout for nesting female turtles and their activities or be assisting new turtle hatchlings make their way to the ocean for the first time.

Marine conservation volunteering in the Canary Islands

Join us in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa. 

Aside from the beautiful beaches and sunny weather that makes Tenerife any sun seekers dream destination – not to mention the adventure activities offered on the rugged island – the island also welcomes up to five million tourists a year, who come to see marine animals like whales, dolphins, sea turtles, as well as other marine life. But too many feet treading the island and its beaches means that the natural biodiversity is interrupted by an influx of tourism, boat traffic, overfishing and excess waste on the island shores.

Marine conservation volunteer in Spain will contribute to the following critical conservation initiatives:

 

Help conserve local marine biodiversity, including whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Engage with local communities and learn about their efforts to protect these incredible species.

Marine conservation volunteering in Seychelles

Travel to the paradise island of Mahe, the largest of the 115 islands making up Seychelles. It’s one of a cluster of islands on the inside of the archipelago that are the remnants of a submerged mountain range. Since Mahe is surrounded by other islands, the ocean tides interact with its shores more gently than it does with islands on the outskirts. This has made Mahe the perfect place for large coral reefs to settle into the seabed. This sheltered marine environment is also where many different types of marine life prefer to live. 

Marine conservation volunteers can join a program focused on:

 

Marine conservation volunteer programs in Fiji 

Fiji is made up of 333 islands scattered throughout the South Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of all the oceans on Earth, and the waters around Fiji are home to over 1,500 species of sea life – including the peacock mantis shrimp, masked butterfly fish and humpback whale.

This is one of the best destinations to travel to if you want to get a real feel for island life, while seeing first-hand how climate change can affect island communities.

GVI’s research base in the idyllic rural village of Silana located in the Dawasamu District, where marine conservation volunteers can contribute to:

 

Marine conservation volunteers in Fiji can also join several marine diving programs, complete with PADI certification. 

Volunteering in marine conservation programs in Mexico

Mexico’s ocean waters are home to the second-largest coral reef system in the world, located in the National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is mere metres away from GVI’s base on the coastline of Puerto Morelos. 

This mass of coral reef provides the perfect habitat for many different types of marine life – like the spotted dolphin, rainbow parrotfish and orca. It’s also a very important marine resource that supports marine life, protects the coastline, and offers employment opportunities to local communities. 

By volunteering in marine conservation volunteers in Mexico can either join the research team working towards the conservation of the reef or assist our local partner – the National Commission for the Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) – with their sea turtle nesting and hatching monitoring programs

Most of your time will be spent snorkelling or diving, and we have partnered with Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) to train and certify all our marine conservation volunteers! 

Marine conservation volunteering in Thailand

Journey to the province of Phang Nga, a coastal province found along the beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters of the Andaman Sea. GVI’s base is in the village of Ban Nam Khem, which was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Some of the effects of the tsunami on the community are still apparent, and we work alongside them to help recover both the marine ecosystem and the community itself, which is a top travel destination dependent on tourism for the health of its economy. 

Marine conservation volunteers in Thailand will work on: 

 

Diving

Expert training & the world’s most beautiful dive sites

It goes without saying that diving skills are essential for anyone who wants to work in marine conservation – you’ll be spending most of your time in the water. Or maybe you want to pursue a career diving and become a professional divemaster and instructor. 

 

Either way, we’ve partnered with PADI to give you access to a wide range of diving certifications, including:

 

All GVI marine conservation volunteer programs of 2 weeks or more include a GVI-specific speciality Professional Divers Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) segment. 

Coral reef researcher diving speciality course 

Marine conservation volunteers from Mexico to Fiji spend a lot of time monitoring coral reef systems, learning about coral reef ecology and restoration techniques, and actively contributing to the preservation of these fragile ecosystems. 

So in collaboration with PADI, we developed a specialised coral reef diving qualification that empowers you to make an even greater impact in marine conservation.

If you join any marine conservation program that runs for two weeks or more, you’ll get the Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality course included in your training.

Offered at no extra cost, this added course helps you to refine your buoyancy skills to avoid causing damage to coral reefs and teaches you at least three survey techniques used to monitor coral reefs and other fauna and flora underwater. 

A career in diving 

If you want to pursue a professional career in diving and diving instruction, join one of our professional apprenticeships, where you’ll combine your marine conservation expedition with a 3-month work placement in a dive shop. Find out more

FAQs

Do I have to be able to dive to take part in a marine conservation program with GVI?

No, many of GVI’s marine conservation programs do not require participants to have any previous diving experience. However, there are specific programs where participants are required to have at least their PADI Open Water Diver certification. This will be specified in the program overview. 

Our trusty enrollment officers are also on hand to help you choose the right marine conservation volunteer program based on any diving prerequisites.

What are ethical animal interactions?

Ethical interactions between humans and animals only take place when entirely necessary (where a health check is required, for example). These interactions should be done in a way that does not allow for wild animals to become dependent on human interactions. 

Many animal species are significantly impacted by climate change and the human activities that affect their well-being (like overfishing and chemical spills in the ocean). 

This has made it necessary for some marine conservation efforts to include animal interactions. 

Any volunteer organisation offering animal care programs should have guidelines in place that ensure that all interactions with animals are ethical and only done when strictly necessary. See GVI’s stance on animal interactions here.