Global travel has been brought to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all of those dreamy vacation plans put on the back burner. Rather than jetting off to an all-inclusive beach resort or a high-end city stay once the restrictions lift, why not plan a more meaningful post-COVID vacation while being immersed in Mother Nature. Our marine ecosystems could always do with a helping hand and just happen to be located in some of the most beautiful settings on Earth.
1. Climate Change and Coral Bleaching in Caqalai with GVI
Scattered across the South Pacific, Fiji is a paradise unlike any other. It’s often referred to by divers as the “soft coral capital of the world” due to its mesmerizing reefs blanketed with vividly colored corals.
The tiny tropical island of Caqalai is the base for GVI’s Climate Change and Coral Bleaching project, which is working in collaboration with the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network. They are doing their bit to conserve and protect local marine resources by researching the impacts of climate change and coral bleaching on the surrounding reefs.
Aside from gaining a solid understanding of the threats that face coral reefs, you’ll play a hands-on role in conducting coral surveys to monitor reef recovery and coral bleaching events. It’s an exceptional opportunity to hone your diving skills, with the program including the PADI Coral Reef Research Diver specialty where you’ll learn to conduct reef surveys upside down.
In addition to working alongside a team of leading marine conservationists and dive experts, you will get to live on an idyllic island and experience the laid-back Fijian lifestyle first-hand.
More info is available at GVI.
2. Conserve Marine Iguanas and Sea Lions in the Galapagos with Projects Abroad
If you’re not a confident diver but still want to participate in an ocean-focused volunteer project, then this Galapagos Islands adventure ticks all the right boxes. While the archipelago has garnered a global reputation for its biodiversity, it’s constantly under threat from the impact of humans and invasive species.
Staying on San Cristobal Island, you’ll follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin while tracking sea lions and caring for the Galapagos’ iconic giant tortoises. Your days will be varied and may also include monitoring Galapagos petrels (one of the archipelago’s six endemic seabirds) or participating in a census of marine iguanas.
Aside from wildlife conservation activities, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in planting trees or engaging in beach cleanups with the local communities. This project is ideal for people with a broad interest in marine or environmental conservation who want to discover where their passion lies.
More information can be found at Projects Abroad.
3. Marine Conservation Volunteering in Madagascar with Volunteer HQ
Experienced scuba divers wanting to put their underwater skills to good use should consider jetting off to Madagascar. This island nation off the east coast of Africa boasts crystal clear waters and incredible marine biodiversity, as well as stunning white sandy beaches where you can kick back at the end of the day.
Working in collaboration with several oceanographic organizations, you’ll play a vital role in monitoring the biodiversity, health, and growth of the reefs around Nosy Komba, a volcanic island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Your day-to-day may include observing the density and biodiversity of nudibranchs or helping to record the various species of sea turtles that visit the area, as well as conducting reef regeneration by coral propagation.
This project is geared towards people who are currently studying or have an interest in marine biology and want first-hand experience in marine conservation. It’s essential that you have at least an Open Water Dive Certification before you start the project (this can be completed on arrival in Madagascar), although an Advanced Open Water Certification would be ideal.
You can find more information at Volunteer HQ.
4. Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica with GoEco
There are few marine creatures as endearing as sea turtles, with images of these ocean-going reptiles caught in fishing nets and six-pack rings becoming a symbol of our . Three species are listed by the IUCN as either “Endangered" or "Critically Endangered”, which is why sea turtle conservation projects around the world are so vital.
With two picture-perfect coastlines where sea turtles come to lay their eggs - the Pacific and the Caribbean - Costa Rica is one of the best places where you can get hands-on in sea turtle conservation. This project with GoEco will see you conducting night patrols and collecting eggs, as well as caring for newbornGO hatchlings before being released into the ocean.
It’s a great opportunity for anyone interested in combining their love of marine conservation with a cultural experience, with the project itinerary including Spanish lessons, Latin dance classes, and Costa Rican cooking sessions. You’ll have the weekends free to explore the country’s spectacular national parks or just kick back on the beautiful beaches that are a dime a dozen.
More info can be found at GoEco.
5. Humpback Whale Research in Mozambique with Conservation Travel Africa
For up-close encounters with one of the world’s largest mammals, head to Mozambique for an unforgettable experience in Tofo. From July to September every year, hundreds of humpback whales migrate along the coastline to breed and calve, with researchers using this opportunity to gather vital data that’s used for international policymaking.
Participating in boat-based whale expeditions, you’ll assist researchers in gathering data on population numbers, behavioral observations, and pod structure while learning about biopsy sampling and acoustic recordings. The research also focuses on the levels of toxins accumulated in whale blubber, offering volunteers a unique insight into the biology and ecology of these magnificent creatures.
Tofo is a legendary scuba diving and snorkeling destination in Southern Africa, with manta rays, dolphins and hammerhead sharks regularly spotted in the surrounding waters. It also boasts one of the largest concentrations of whale sharks in Africa, making it a paradise for divers who love encounters with big marine life.