Marine conservation travel guide

There are lots of common misconceptions about marine conservation: it's hugely 'serious'; a perpetual science lesson; issues only affect far-flung exotic places; and volunteering vacations are aimed at gap year students and are always very intensive.
Marine conservation vacations are aimed at anyone with a passion for the marine environment; enthusiasm is valued over experience and you don't need to be a scientist to make a difference
Of course, marine conservation is a very serious matter. The health of our oceans and seas and the incredible life that lives in the water is so often taken for granted and is hugely vulnerable to harm by tourism and human activity, but that's not to say you can't be in the company of some really interesting people and have a lot of fun while helping out with it. It's also a global issue which affects everyone, from those who have fond memories of afternoons spent rock pooling in Lyme Regis to those who have been enchanted by a chance encounter with a whale in Sri Lanka. Intensive projects still exist, but they exist alongside other initiatives that are able to cater for someone wanting to help out for as little as a week.
Get to grips with what a marine conservation vacation entails and how you can choose the right one for you with our marine conservation travel guide.

Is marine conservation for you?

Go on a marine conservation vacation if...

You are passionate about the marine environment and want to help preserve it. You love snorkelling and are not yet a diver, but are keen to learn. You want to understand marine conservation’s bigger picture and are comfortable that research and science are a really important element of doing that. You are looking for a really alternative trip. Marine conservation vacations are nothing like booking a villa for a week somewhere sunny, they’re an entirely different experience. You will be helping to do something incredible, but perhaps out of your comfort zone too. Thankfully, the relationship between the local community and conservationists is becoming stronger and one of the markers of a conservation project’s success now is how well it works within the local community. It isn’t compulsory to get involved with the local community, but most people want to and an active interest in the local lifestyle will help you get the most out of your time. It's important that you find a marine conservation trip that matches your own interests and skill level. Find out if you need previous diving experience, or any prior training, so the trip matches your own expectations of what you want to learn and achieve.

Don't go on a marine conservation vacation if...

You want to go somewhere to party. Don’t confuse a relaxed environment with the fact that you’re actually helping out as part of an important environmental picture. You’re hugely unfit. Conservation work is pretty hard work. Some trips involve up to three dives a day and while you don’t have to be an Olympian, you do need a moderate level of fitness. You may also have to walk a few miles comfortably as well as feel happy to lift and carry equipment. You’re no good in the sun. Marine conservation projects are often based on smaller islands off the mainland in hot locations. You want air-conditioned, resort style accommodation and umbrellas in your cocktails. The locations may be 5*, but they’re not 5* resorts and conservation work is far more about local people and living how they live than creature comforts. You need a regular sleep pattern, or a set routine. Particularly in turtle conservation projects, you’re going to be walking up and down a beach several times a night, so your sleep pattern will be more erratic. Flexibility is a must for any conservation trip because you are working within nature, which essentially has no rules, so you need to be prepared for changes to your daily plan. You’re not able to manage your expectations. One night you might see 20 turtles, the next you might see none – there is neither rhyme nor reason to their behaviour.

Our top Marine conservation Vacation

Marine conservation in Belize

Marine conservation in Belize

Monitor reefs in the Caribbean

From US $1330 5 days ex flights
Tailor made:
Departures on weekends but transfers can be made on other days at an extra cost
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Marine conservation or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

What do marine conservation vacations entail?

A marine conservation trip is essentially a working vacation joining a team of trained researchers and scientists working on a long-term project to protect and preserve ecosystems in oceans and seas around the world. A lot of the work that goes into conservation requires large amounts of manpower, so volunteers are needed to support this. They can do a combination of research-based activities, such as data collection and data entry, which can be done on land and from the deck of a boat, and reef protection and restoration activities, which require more time to be spent diving in the water.
Not all marine conservation vacations involve diving - some shark monitoring trips in South Africa, for example, involve observing the sharks from above the water, and turtle conservation is very much based on land and with far less science involved than if you were assisting on an intensive coral protection project. And if your dream marine conservation vacation does require diving skills, you don't have to be a diver before you go, as PADI training is often factored in and can be completed in a week.
Without question, what you absolutely need before booking a marine conservation trip is passion for marine life, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Learning to dive involves reading and studying, and you’ll be learning about conservation and attending lectures frequently, so a genuine interest is imperative.

The idyllic beach setting runs the risk of people presuming marine conservation trips are a bit more of a vacation than they actually are; they can be very hard work and demand long days with quite physical, but very rewarding, work involved. Although accommodation will be provided and some is more plush than others, you should approach marine conservation expecting a 5* experience, not a 5* resort.
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: USFWS - Pacific Region] [Is this vacation for you: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters] [What it entails : U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] [Divers: Frontierofficial]
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