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 and consistently leave us in wonder.
Oceans sustain us, as a marine conservation volunteer you can help to maintain, protect and, in some cases, improve them. You’ll contribute your time and skills to help collect vital data and help support critical marine 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 and Australia to the shores of Costa Rica and Portugal.
Whether you’re at home in the sea, passionate about marine conservation, or want to experience island life, there’s 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, Croatia and Belize. If you’re more suited to life above the water, or you’re an animal lover, think about volunteering to support sea turtle conservation in Guatemala, Costa Rica or Bali. You might consider a project with a more coastal conservation focus in Italy, the Philippines or New Zealand, or, for a program with a mix of all of the above, Marine Conservation in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia might be right for you.
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 and 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. You can take your scuba diving course and get certified on the program, before using your new skills to benefit the local environment! Learning to dive opens a window into a new and exciting underwater world, awash with vibrant colors and enthralling encounters with unbelievable marine life.
Marine Conservation Volunteering in Madagascar
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. Marine Conservation volunteers in Madagascar 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 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 and other molluscs in the area. The health of these colorful species is considered a good sign of water quality.
- Beach Cleans: Help prevent marine animals getting caught in and/or eating marine litter as well as removing synthetic, damaging material from the ecosystem.
- Community Education: Support educational campaigns in 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 increase the coral reef size and heath in the area, 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 four 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$1460 for four weeks
Environmental Scuba Diving in Portugal
If you’re passionate about ocean cleanups, tackling ocean pollution and working with a passionate local dive community, then the Portugal Environmental Scuba Diving project is right up your alley!
You’ll have the opportunity to help with underwater clean-up efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem off the coast of Portugal. Volunteer tasks can include removing rubbish on the seafloor, learning more about the marine ecosystem and how to protect it, observing and identifying fish and collecting data on fish numbers.
With the beautiful coast around Cascais on your doorstep, a 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 before starting your volunteer program. The certifications that you complete depends on your diving experience as well as how long you’re volunteering for. The courses range from Open Water Diver through to Advanced Adventurer, and specialties such as Buoyancy, Marine Ecology and Fish Identification 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 hire and 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 ocean pollution
- The program is based in the waters off Cascais, near Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon
- 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$905 for one week
Marine Conservation Volunteering in Croatia
Croatia has become a popular destination for travelers in Europe, with picturesque harbor cities lapping on the shores of the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea. Now, volunteers in Croatia can enjoy the tourist-friendly culture in the iconic city of Split while basking under the sun and in the water, and making a difference as a marine conservation volunteer.
You’ll be based at a local dive school, helping to restore and maintain the Adriatic Sea with ocean and beach clean-ups, observing and identifying fish and learning all about ecosystem conservation.
This program is available for those without scuba diving experience. You’ll complete your certifications - which are internationally recognized - before taking part in conservation activities. Experienced divers are able to upskill on a wide range of additional certifications, including Fish Identification and Marine Ecology, or start volunteering in earnest straight away.
Your Program Fees will cover the cost of your scuba equipment hire, your online and in-person training and supervision from an experienced local instructor.
Croatia Program highlights:
- Available for first time scuba divers, or experienced divers. Ideal for any volunteers passionate about marine conservation
- Based in the stunning Croatian coastal city of Split
- Flexible program dates from 1-12 weeks
- The program is open year-round, with start dates on the first and third Monday of each month
- Affordable program fees from $549 for one week
Marine Conservation Volunteering in Belize
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 local marine biologists to gather data, conduct surveys and remove invasive species.
Your role on this project can include:
- Coral Reef Surveying: Climate change is having a tangible effect on 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 by humans. They have no natural predators, feed on the native species and reproduce at a fast rate. You’ll help to remove these invasive and damaging species by spearfishing and taking the fish back to the island where they can be eaten or have their spines turned into jewelry.
- Marine Species Survey: Lobster surveys are conducted regularly to gain insights into 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 marine conservation volunteering in earnest on 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, you will join the conservation efforts alongside the other volunteers.
Those who have already completed their PADI Open Water Certification have the option of taking more advanced courses. The PADI dive certification courses offered in Belize are as follows:
- PADI Open Water Certification – US$100
- PADI Advanced Open Water Certification – US$150
- PADI Rescue Diver Certification - US$200
- PADI Dive Master Certification (four week minimum stay) - US$400
- PADI Specialty Course: Deep Diver - US$100
- PADI Specialty Course: Fish Identification - US$100
It’s important to note that due to the 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$720 for one 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 1 - 24 weeks
- Program fees from $355 for one week + 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 six days a week in 4 - 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 $535 for two 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 six days a week, for between 6 - 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:
This is a hugely popular program, allowing you to give back alongside the local team and government authorities at a turtle sanctuary, collecting vital baseline data on the turtle population on the island Nusa Penida.
- You can choose to volunteer for 2 - 12 weeks
- Program fees from US $630 for two weeks
- For your first week of the program, you will participate in a five-day orientation in Ubud
- Volunteers engage in hands-on work with the turtles for one to two 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.
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 for a comprehensive 10-day tour, with nights spent in rustic overnight camps and your days visiting and volunteering on 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
New Zealand is a remarkable place to visit for its natural landscapes, and you’ll see this for yourself as you address the challenge of litter and its impacts on New Zealand’s marine environment. Volunteers will be able to spend time all over 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 indigenous 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
The island of Palwan is known as home to some of the most stunning beaches anywhere in the world, and as a volunteer you’ll be working to restore and conserve this amazing environment. The main focus of this project is mangrove rehabilitation as these have seen a decline in recent years. Mangroves provide habitats 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.
Australia - Marine Conservation
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most iconic reef systems in the world, but is sadly declining at an alarming rate. By volunteering on this project, you’ll be assisting on vital work to help prevent the decline of the reef, and making an important contribution to the sea life that call the region home. Volunteers can help with reef monitoring, debris collection and sea turtle rehabilitation. This is an exciting project that enables volunteers to work on the coalface of a significant natural asset that needs intervention to overcome the challenges of climate change. Find out more about the Marine Conservation volunteer project in Australia here.
Contemporary environmental issues like climate change and overpopulation are creating issues for marine ecosystems like never before, and intervention through these kinds of marine conservation volunteer projects can achieve a lot in offsetting the effect of these challenges. They promise to be rewarding, impactful and fun all at the same time - being a marine conservation volunteer could just be your best decision yet!