Volunteering abroad used to be a long term commitment for a highly qualified few. Today, opportunities have opened up for people of all skill levels, in virtually every country in the world.
Where to go on a marine conservation vacation
From the vibrant culture of Thailand to the rustic Atlantic coast of Portugalís Azores, the locations that host marine conservation vacations are as diverse as the work you can do on them. Although once youíve arrived youíll be traveling by boat, either on short journeys between different dive spots, or spending the duration of the day out at sea, itís worth thinking about the travel that actually getting there entails. When youíre thinking about where to go on a marine conservation vacation, consider how seasoned you are as a traveler Ė some projects are tucked away on faraway islands and require additional onward flights or long stretches of road travel to reach and may not suit everyone. Think about the logistics involved and donít be immediately wowed by the location.
1. The Azores
4. Costa Rica
11. South Africa
4. Costa Rica
11. South Africa
1. The Azores
Best time: Apr-Aug. A pocket of rugged Portugal in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Azores is a hotspot for whale and dolphin conservation. Join a dive-free expedition on a research boat IDing whales, including might blue and sperm whales, recording vocalisations and logging important ecological data alongside a team of biologists.
Best time: Year round. There are masses of options in beautiful Belize – home to the second biggest barrier reef in the world – from five days learning to dive and helping marine conservationists with ad-hoc tasks, to volunteering trips for a maximum of 12 weeks, with a focus on spearing invasive lionfish. Kids over 10 years old are welcomed on many trips, too.
Best time: Feb-Aug. If you love diving (or want to learn) and hope to use your skill to do something worthwhile, head to Cambodia. Here, you can build manmade coral reef pods under the water surrounding a remote tropical island, track and monitor endangered seahorses, and when you’re not diving, teach English to local kids and help install vital infrastructure in surrounding villages.
4. Costa Rica
Best time: Jul-Dec. Working on a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica gives you the chance to explore its unspoiled coastline while helping to protect this precious environment for its shelled inhabitants. You’ll patrol the beach, monitor nests, protect new hatchlings and record observations for future protection campaigns. A great option for families, too.
Best time: Jun-Sep. Greece offers various marine conservation options. Support the turtles that come ashore to lay eggs on the beaches of the Peloponnese by protecting nests and improving public awareness, or head to sea to live the life of a full-time researcher, collecting valuable data on the four dolphin species found in Greek waters.
Raja Ampat is a gorgeous marine paradise of white, sandy beaches and turquoise sea located in the East Indonesia/West Papua region of the Coral Triangle. The marine diversity here is astonishing, with 80 percent of the worldís coral species found here. Youíll be working not only to protect the coral reefs here, but to improve the lives of the communities that rely on them.
Join a small group of volunteers on a six day research cruise in the Ligurian Sea to identify, track and record information on the whales and dolphins that live here. Youíll delve deep into the marine ecology of the Med, helping preserve it for generations to come, helping log data on behaviour and population numbers, as well as soaking up the sun and spotting superb cetaceans.
Best time: July. Head to the Caribbean Coast of Mexico to discover a giant of the ocean, the whale shark. Swimming with them is unforgettable, but you can also help with ongoing research here alongside two whale shark researchers. Once in the water with them, you will assist in digital photo IDing and recording their behaviour and also the other species which use the whale sharks as mobile habitats.
Work with local experts to protect the marine ecosystems of Portugalís Atlantic coastline. This is all about diving, with all abilities welcome. If youíre a beginner, learn here with a local diving school, before plunging in to see Portugalís beautiful marine life up close. Tasks vary, but you can expect to identify fish and seaweeds, and clean up rubbish. More experienced divers can explore caves and wrecks, too.
Best time: Year round. An natural utopia, the Seychelles are a serene set of islands, but the conservation work that needs doing there is tough, with long days and early starts. Vacations include turtle conservation with beach patrols at night, and coral and fish surveys along the coast. Sometimes, other conservation work is combined, such as bird counts or alien vegetation control. Full-on fun.
11. South Africa
Best time: Year round. The shores of South Africa's iSamangaliso Wetland Park offer a host of work around the conservation and distribution of megafauna. We're talking turtles, sharks and whales here! Expect to be monitoring numbers, collecting data and uploading photos to global databases. If you're a beginner diver, you can do PADI Open Water training in the first week, too.
Best time: Year round except Oct to mid Dec. Varied research and restoration activities make every day on a marine conservation vacation in Thailand different. Monitor reef health, help construct artificial reefs, erosion control and releasing turtle hatchlings are all included plus the chance to work with community groups to raise awareness, help with educational workshops and perform underwater clean ups.
Our Marine conservation Vacations
If you'd like to chat about Marine conservation or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Typical daily timetables
Marine conservation in Belize (from 1 week)
Turtle conservation in Costa Rica (from 1 week)
Marine conservation project in the Seychelles (from 4 weeks)
More about Marine conservation
Let us guide you underwater as our marine conservation travel guide allows you to find out whether a marine conservation vacation is for you and what Responsible Travel recommends when it comes to our marine conservation cultural pick.
Choosing a marine conservation vacation will help you find which type of vacation is right for you with research projects, land-based itineraries and expert advice from our suppliers all combining to let you learn how to choose a marine conservation vacation that ticks all the right boxes.
Aside from taking the chance to explore your underwater world, marine conservation activities will also take you above the ocean wave with time to get out and about, as you live alongside the locals, just as important as what lies beneath.
What will you see in the ocean is just one of the questions that travelers ask before undertaking marine conservation wildlife vacations but itís not until youíve seen passing whale sharks, a vibrant coral reef and sea turtles first-hand that youíll really get to experience wildlife in all its natural glory.
Itís not usually the done thing, killing fish around a highly protected reef system.
Volunteer with marine conservation in the Seychelles to combine a vacation in paradise with an award winning effort to restore the ecosystems and native biodiversity of North Island.
Marine conservation vacations in Timor-Leste revolve around the island of Ataķro, whose waters are packed with a diverse collection of fish and other marine life, all flitting around some of the best corals the planet has to offer.
Weíve garnered some tips from our friends in marine conservation including training advice, work-vacation balance tips, location advice and how to do marine conservation safely to ensure youíre equipped with all the marine conservation advice you need to find the right trip.
If you want to travel right on a marine conservation vacation then be responsible.