Best Marine Conservation Volunteer Programs
Do you have a passion for marine conservation? You can become an ocean conservation volunteer and provide vital support to the preservation and rehabilitation of fragile marine ecosystems and protection of threatened marine species.
Our oceans are crucial to life on Earth, they store carbon, regulate the earth’s temperature, shape coastlines, are an invaluable source of food for humans and other land animals, are largely undiscovered and consistently leave us in wonder.
Oceans sustain us, as a marine life conservation volunteer you can help to maintain and protect them. You’ll contribute your time and skills to help collect vital data and help support critical marine environmental conservation work. You’ll also have the unique opportunity to explore some of the world’s most incredible and undiscovered natural landscapes, from the reefs of Madagascar to the shores of little-known islands off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Whether you’re at home in the sea, passionate about marine conservation, or want to experience island life, then there is a marine-focused project that’s perfect for you!
What Are The Best Marine Conservation Volunteer Programs?
As a marine conservation volunteer, you can work below the waves, giving back on unique scuba diving volunteer opportunities in Madagascar, Portugal and Belize. If you’re more suited to life above the waves then think about volunteering to support sea turtle conservation in Guatemala, Costa Rica or Bali. Otherwise, consider a project with a more coastal conservation focus in Indonesia, Italy, the Philippines or New Zealand.
If you know what kind of project you’re looking for then jump straight to it:
- Scuba diving volunteer opportunities
- Sea turtle conservation projects
- Marine environment and coastal conservation projects
Scuba Diving Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer scuba diving opportunities give you the chance to contribute to the protection of the marine ecosystem, help provide vital support to local staff and experts, while exploring a new culture and being immersed in the local community.
Diving volunteer opportunities aren’t just for certified divers, they are also a chance to start your diving career in the best possible way. On IVHQ programs you can take your PADI course abroad or gain SSI certification. Learning to dive opens a window into a new and exciting world, awash with vibrant colors and enthralling encounters with unbelievable marine life.
Madagascar Marine Conservation
If you love the idea of living and volunteering in a destination where the ocean is always by your side, Madagascar has your name on it! Crystal clear waters, incredible natural marine biodiversity, white sandy beaches and welcoming local communities make this destination immensely special and captivating.
Volunteers on the Madagascar Marine Conservation project have the opportunity to join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem surrounding the African island.
You’ll work in collaboration with, and on behalf of a number of, a oceanographic organizations to gather vital raw data through a number of initiatives, including:
- Reef Surveying: Monitoring the biodiversity, health and growth of the reef system surrounding Nosy Komba through fish, invertebrate and coral surveys using scuba equipment.
- Turtle Monitoring: Establishing an estimated inventory and census of Madagascan turtles. To determine the frequency and population strength of the varying species of turtle that visit the area.
- Nudibranch Research: Through surveys using scuba equipment volunteers are able to provide data to determine the species density and biodiversity of nudibranchs in the area as well as associated substrates.
- Beach Cleans: To preserve marine animals that get caught in and/or eat marine litter as well as removing synthetic, damaging material from the ecosystem.
- Community Education: You’ll support educate campaigns within the local community, raising awareness about environmental issues, conservation and protection of biodiversity and marine resources such as food.
- Reef Regeneration: Through reef regeneration by coral propagation and litter removal volunteers can aim to increase the coral reef size and heath in the area, thus providing more habitat space for reef fish.
Madagascar Program Highlights
- This project is perfect for people looking for specific marine biology volunteer opportunities and/or Madagascar diving programs
- The program is based on the slopes of Nosy Komba, an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar, just a few kilometers from the larger island of Nosy Be
- The program is available year-round and starts on the first and third Monday of every month
- This project has a minimum duration of 4 weeks and volunteers must have Open Water Dive Certification and Advanced Open Water Dive Certification. PADI diving certification can be completed in Madagascar for at an additional cost.
- Affordable program fees from US$1400 for 4 weeks
Portugal Environmental Scuba Diving
If you’re passionate about ocean cleanups, tackling increasing ocean pollution with tangible action and working with a passionate local dive community, then the Portugal Environmental Scuba Diving project is calling your name.
You’ll have the opportunity to help with underwater clean-up efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem on the coast of Portugal. Volunteer tasks can include removing rubbish on the seafloor and logging information on items collected, learning more about the marine ecosystem and how to protect it, observing and identifying fish, collecting data on fish numbers, and more.
With the beautiful coast around Cascais on your doorstep, buzzing cafe culture and plenty of weekend adventures to be had, basing yourself in Lisbon as an Environmental Scuba Diving volunteer is an amazing idea.
The program is open to beginners without any diving experience; however, volunteers will have to learn the fundamentals and safety measures before engaging in any type of conservation activities.
You can complete internationally recognized SSI (Scuba Schools International) diving certifications. The certifications that volunteers will complete depends on their current diving experience as well as their chosen program duration. The courses range from Open Water Diver through to Advanced Adventurer, and specialties such as Buoyancy, Marine Ecology, Fish ID are also available for volunteers who have completed the Open Water and Advanced certification courses.
The program fee covers the cost of the required SSI online and in person training, full scuba equipment, and volunteers supervision from an experienced dive instructor.
Portugal Program Highlights:
- This project is perfect for volunteers that don’t have prior diving experience and want to gain SSI certification and/or want to focus on ocean cleanups and the environmental impact of rising ocean pollution.
- The program is based in the waters off Cascais, near Lisbon the capital and largest city in Portugal.
- Flexible program durations from 1 - 4 weeks
- The program is available from February - November and starts on the first and third Monday of every month
- Affordable program fees from US$825 for 1 week
Belize Marine Conservation
Want to take part in a marine conservation on an island in the Caribbean? Volunteering in Belize gives you the unique opportunity to live on, and dive in the ocean around, a beautiful and remote island in the Caribbean sea. This small island sits 26 miles off the mainland of Placencia, Belize.
During your weekends, head back to mainland Belize to get your dose of life above the waves - start the day with an amazing coffee, then explore ancient Mayan ruins, wander through one of the many wildlife sanctuaries and finish the weekend off zip-lining through the jungle.
You’ll become a pro at spotting and identifying marine wildlife, including lionfish, corals, whale sharks and queen conch! On a day-to-day basis, you’ll work alongside Marine Biologists to gather data, conduct surveys and remove invasive species.
Your role on this project can include:
- Coral Reef Surveying: Climate change is causing changes to coral reefs and volunteers play an important role in collecting data about these changes, which is shared with conservation groups.
- Invasive Species Removal: Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific and were introduced to the Caribbean sea by humans. They have no natural predators, feed on the native species and reproduce at a fast rate. You will be removing the invasive species by spearfishing and taking the fish back to the island where they can be eaten or their spines turned into jewelry.
- Marine Species Survey: Lobster surveys are conducted regularly to gain data which could help answer questions as to why their population has decreased significantly over the last few decades. Queen Conch is a large marine mollusk and is overfished due to the commercial value of its large spiral shell. The purpose of carrying our Queen Conch surveys is to gather data on their breeding patterns.
- Whale Shark Research: The Whale shark is the largest fish in the sea and survives mostly off plankton. Their fins and meat are well sought after which has led to overfishing and their population declining. While it can’t be guaranteed that you will see a whale shark during your time on the program, if you do, it will certainly be an amazing experience!
Certified divers will be able to start diving and assisting with the conservation efforts upon arrival to the island. For volunteers completing their certifications on the island, the first three days consist of completing the written and practical certification modules. Once certified, they will join the conservation efforts alongside the other volunteers.
Those who have already completed their PADI Open Water Certification have the open of taking more advanced courses. The - PADI dive certification courses offered in Belize are as follows:
- PADI Open Water Certification – $100 USD
- PADI Advanced Open Water Certification – $150 USD
- PADI Rescue Diver Certification - $200 USD
- PADI Dive Master Certification (4 week minimum stay) - $400 USD
- PADI Specialty Course: Deep Diver - $100 USD
- PADI Specialty Course: Fish Identification - $100 USD
It’s important to note that due to size of the island, there is a maximum capacity of 17 volunteers on the program at any given time. With this in mind, we recommend applying and registering with as much notice as possible, to maximize your chances of securing a spot on this unique marine conservation program.
Belize Program Highlights:
- The program is based on a beautiful and remote island in the Caribbean sea
- Flexible program durations from 1 - 8 weeks
- The program is available year-round and starts every Monday
- Affordable program fees from US$690 for 1 week
- You can expect to take part in up to 13 dives per week
- A range of dive certification options
- Eat freshly caught seafood and local cuisine - all diets are catered for
Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer Work
If you are looking to volunteer with animals abroad, then consider the top sea turtle conservation projects in Guatemala, Bali and Costa Rica. With rising ocean pollution, habitat destruction, commercial fishing and illegal trade, endangered sea turtle species are becoming increasingly threatened. Your work with the local community helps support the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of these incredible marine animals. Deep dive into IVHQ’s Sea Turtle Conservation opportunities.
Sea Turtle Conservation In Costa Rica:
Work alongside a local marine biologist to assist with studies of the four sea turtles species in Costa Rica - Leatherbacks, Greens, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill. Your volunteer time will be heavily centered around protection work and sustainable egg protection programs.
- You can choose to volunteer for 2-24 weeks
- Program fees from $635 for 2 weeks + US$65 per week project surcharge for supervision, materials and the logistics
- Based at one of four beach locations around Costa Rica: Ostional, Matapalo, Junquillal (based on the Pacific Coast) and Parismina (based on the Caribbean Coast)
- Volunteers can expect to work 6 days a week in 4 to 7-hour shifts per day
- These shifts may include beach patrols, building hatcheries to protect eggs from predators, beach cleaning, counting and tagging sea turtles, locating nesting females, collecting eggs and replanting mangroves
- Explore the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation project…
Sea Turtle Conservation In Guatemala:
You can help critically endangered sea turtle species, Hawksbill and Leatherback, flourish in their natural habitat in Guatemala which is vital for the ecosystem and long-term sustainability.
- You can choose to volunteer for 2-24 weeks
- Program fees from $545 for 2 weeks + US$65 per week project add-on for supervision, materials and the logistics
- Based on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, in a small fishing village near Sipacate
- Volunteers can expect to work 6 days a week, for between 6 and 8 hours per day
- Find out the Guatemala turtle hatching season and year-round volunteer work
- Explore the Guatemala Sea Turtle Conservation project…
Sea Turtle Conservation In Bali:
Ready to give-back alongside the local team and government authorities at a turtle sanctuary, collecting vital baseline data on the turtle population in Nusa Penida?
- You can choose to volunteer for 2-12 weeks
- Program fees from US $600 for 2 weeks
- For your first week of the program, you will participate in a 5-day orientation in Ubud
- Volunteers engage in hands-on work with the turtles for 1 to 2 hours each day, which includes feeding and cleaning turtles, caring for turtles who are victims of commercial fishing and cleaning the turtle tanks. Additionally, volunteers are involved in beach clean-ups and the collection of live food for turtles. The second half of the day focuses on proactive conservation efforts
- Explore the Bali Sea Turtle Conservation project…
Marine Environment And Coastal Conservation Projects
If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities on dry land, that still support marine conservation then IVHQ has a number of unique opportunities that focus on the marine environment and coastal conservation.
Indonesia - Island Conservation project:
If you’re looking for a project that offers a variety of conservation volunteer work, an incredible marine environment to explore, passionate local team, tropical climate and white sand beaches - then the Indonesia Island Conservation project is perfect for you. You’ll be based out of an eco-minded surf resort on Simeulue Island, a beautiful tropical paradise off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and play an important role in supporting a range of conservation activities to help preserve the eco-systems and species on the island. Your volunteer work can include marine surveys, organic gardening, marine debris surveys and turtle conservation efforts.
Madagascar - Island Outreach project:
You won’t find a more unique volunteer opportunity than the Madagascar Island Outreach project. A 50ft research vessel will be your home base over the 10-day tour, with nights spent in rustic overnight camps and your days visiting remote islands and villages. A key focus of the trip is scientific research through forest walks and snorkel surveys to identify changes in habitats and species populations.
New Zealand - Coast and Waterway Conservation project
On this project you’ll be working to address the challenge of litter and its impacts on New Zealand’s marine environment. Volunteers will be able to spend time on both the West and East Coast’s of Auckland’s picturesque coastline, collecting harmful litter from harbors, inlets and estuaries. This project also focuses on the restoration of land that is important to Māori communities, with volunteer activities including working in the native plant nursery, removing invasive species, planting native trees, collecting seeds, composting and mulching.
Italy - Environmental project
On this project there are a number of placements that volunteers can support, one being the protection and monitoring of a marine reserve off the coastline of Naples. Volunteer work is heavily focused on conservation and preservation of the natural marine habitat. As a volunteer, you can expect to be involved in beach cleanups, kayak patrols for illegal fishing activities, preservation of archaeological ruins and environmental awareness. Learn more about the Italy Environmental project.
Philippines - Environmental project
You’ll be working to restore and conserve the amazing environment that Palawan is famous for. The main focus of this project is mangrove rehabilitation as these have seen a decline in recent years. Mangroves provide habitat for nursing fish and other marine life as well as many native birds, including the Palawan fruit bat. Learn more about the Philippines Environmental project.
Ocean conservation volunteer programs are an awesome option, whether you’re looking for an IVHQ marine conservation program that provides real-world experience and an international perspective on marine biology, or just looking for something unique to do that’s meaningful and allows you to explore the natural world.