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Marine Expedition - Mexico

Learn how to dive in the beautiful Caribbean Sea - Mexico and take part in coral reef research.

Earn an internationally recognised PADI diving qualification whilst taking part in important coral reef research. Situated in Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula you will have the chance to work both in the Caribeen waters and to help educate the local community about sustainable tourism.

Five great reasons to become a Smaller Earth Volunteer

  • Increase your personal knowledge of the tropical marine environment, its importance and the threats to it, whilst you help to increase both local and global knowledge and awareness
  • Learn a variety of marine survey skills within the tropical environment
  • Learn to dive to a certified, internationally recognised level, up to PADI Advanced Diver
  • Immerse yourself in a remote tropical paradise that is one of the world’s few remaining truly pristine environments, living within the biosphere reserve, experiencing a new culture, food and way of life
  • Experience warm, crystal-clear water diving upon one of the most immaculate and spectacular examples of the coral reef environment in the world and, if you are lucky, see turtles, dolphins, manatees and sting rays up close in their natural environment

Program Details

Volunteers can expect to do 1 - 2 dives or snorkles per day, 4 days a week (weather depending). On the 5 day, in the morning will be fun dives with relaxing in the evening and weekends off. Over the first three weeks you will learn both how to dive and the skills needed to conduct a marine survey. Research work involves assessing the health of the Meso-American Barrier Reef system and collecting data on fish, coral and other benthos.

It is extremely beneficial and important for expedition participants to learn as many of the area’s marine species as possible before starting the project, as this will save you numerous hours of basic learning and prepared to start the ID process when you arrive.

As well as diving you will get involved with training sessions on base, beach cleans, base duties and working with local communties to deliver English lessons and environmental education workshops. 

Program Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in a truly remote tropical paradise, one of the world’s only remaining truly pristine environments, living in a beautiful part of a different country, with the opportunity to experience a new culture, food and way of life
  • Learning about the Mesoamerican coral reef and how to identify the wildlife it supports
  • Participating in monitoring dives that explore different sites along the coast
  • Seeing mega-fauna such as dolphins, sharks and manatees
  • Snorkelling in cenotes or waterways
  • Searching the beach at night for turtles laying eggs (seasonal May to Oct)
  • Joining in with community programs
  • Teaching English and raising the environmental awareness of the local community

Sample Day

Days are long and hard, but most importantly FUN! A typical day might consist of the following: kittig up and equipment prepration, travelling to the survey sites, conducting survey work, returning from the sites, washing down the equipment, filling air tanks ready for the next day and finishing late once all the data collected has been reviewed and then input in the database. At the end of the day, the whole team gathers in the evening to debrief, eat and socialise over a few beers as the sun goes down. This schedule can of course vary if other activities or lessons are arranged for that that day!

On the days off (Thursday to Friday evening), you have free time to spend however you like! Expedition staff can assist volunteers organise dive and snorkelling trips to hidden cenotes, excursions into the jungle to the untouched local Mayan ruins and the famous Mayan sites of Coba and Tulum. 

Smaller Earth can arrange for Spanish crash courses for volunteers who wish to learn or review the basics before commencing the expedition.

For volunteers heading out May to October you will also be participanting in beach turtle patrols, this is an exciting opportunity to help with the critical efforts to monitor nesting and hatching turtles. These nightly surveys will be rotates between volunteers, starting at sundown and finishing early morning. This does mean however that not every work day will be dive related as you will need to rest the next day. 


Located about an hour from Tulum on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the expedition base is situated in the heart of the Sian Ka’an (Mayan for ‘Where the Sky is Born’) Biosphere Reserve at Boca Paila. The fishing village of Punta Allen, founded by the infamous pirate Blackbeard in the 18th century, is two hours drive away. The Mayan ruins of Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza can also be visited in the area. To reach our partner's remote marine base you travel on a dirt track through dense jungle from Tulum into the biosphere reserve, meandering south along this beautiful peninsula past Caribbean beaches.

What's Included?

  • Arrival orientation
  • All food and accommodation
  • Transfer to base location 
  • PADI Open Water (for 8 & 12 week placements) and Advanced Open Water diving courses
  • PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality and heavily discounted further dive training options up to PADI Divemaster
  • An introduction to community work orientation 
  • Technical dive equipment and science equipment
  • An Emergency First Aid course
  • 24-hour in-country support and a 24-hour emergency phone line

What's Not Included?

  • International flights and domestic airport taxes
  • Personal kit (including the wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel)
  • Medical and travel insurance
4 weeks - 3 months

Gap Year Vitals

  • Location: Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Boca Paila, Mexico
  • Duration: 4 weeks - 3 months
  • Price: 4 week £1795, 8 week £2595, 3 month £3395



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