Marine Conservation Volunteer Program in Jamaica - St Mary
Ready to make a splash as a Marine Conservation volunteer in Jamaica? International Volunteer HQ’s Marine Conservation project sets volunteers up with this exciting opportunity to help restore and protect the coral reefs of Ochos Rios. Volunteers will gain experience in scuba diving and marine conservation while supporting reef life and the local community that partly depends on it for their livelihoods.
- Programs start every first and third Monday of the month
- Affordable fees from $395 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, daily breakfast, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Use your scuba diving skills to help to restore coral reefs
Discover Jamaica’s rich and vibrant culture
Stay with other volunteers near James Bond Beach in St Mary
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
Coral reefs are an attraction in tropical countries all over the world, but are sadly being damaged by a range of human factors and the effects of climate change. On top of that, marine debris represents a significant threat to the ecosystem and is having a devastating impact on marine life in Jamaica. Volunteers are able to help to reduce these effects by using scuba diving skills to help with important conservation efforts.
As a Marine Conservation volunteer in Jamaica you’ll focus on the restoration of the coral reef in Ocho Rios. You’ll support marine life and local community through a range of initiatives, including:
- Dive tasks: Coral cleaning and monitoring, removing invasive species, transplanting, coral surveying and data collection.
- Site maintenance: Beach cleans to remove damaging litter and other waste, and helping with ground beautification of the local area, through painting and other maintenance tasks.
- Administrative tasks: Update records, help with preparing written reports, planning, monitoring and data evaluation.
- Community outreach: Help to improve environmental awareness in schools and community groups in order to proactively assist conservation efforts.
Volunteers are required to bring their own diving equipment, but scuba tanks will be provided.
Why do Marine Conservation volunteering in St Mary with IVHQ?
As a Marine Conservation volunteer in Jamaica you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Supporting local efforts to protect marine life
- Learning about environmental issues and solutions
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining scuba and marine conservation experience
- Immersing yourself in Jamaican culture
- Exploring Jamaica’s coral reefs
- You will need to have completed at least 20 dives before starting conservation efforts. If you haven’t, you can upskill in Jamaica before starting on the volunteer project.
- Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.
- All volunteers are required to speak fluent English, have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ before departure.
Jamaica photo gallery
Diving certifications and requirements
You will need to have completed at least 20 dives before starting conservation efforts. If you haven’t, you can upskill in Jamaica before starting on the volunteer project. A complete two-week pre-project training course that includes dive certification and 20 open water dives is available for US$1300. If you are certified but haven’t yet completed 20 dives, you’re able to take a 10-day, 20-dive experience for US$900, or gain dive experience with an instructor for US$50 per dive.
On the world stage, Jamaica is the star of the Caribbean. Home to the Rastafarian religion and culture, reggae music and known for its sporting efforts, it also boasts dazzling beaches, plentiful wildlife and being the backdrop for many James Bond films. It has long been a popular tourist destination. But despite all of this, Jamaica has a history of slavery, unemployment and slow economic development that are still in the process of being remedied today. Volunteers are needed to provide support for people who face the challenges of living in low-income communities and to help address socioeconomic inequalities so this island nation can continue to grow and prosper.
Tucked up on the stunning north-eastern coast is the parish of St Mary where IVHQ’s Jamaica program is based. Volunteer projects are located in St Ann and St Mary, within 10 to 50 minutes from the volunteer accommodation and close to the port town of Ocho Rios, which is a resort and cruise ship harbor and has plenty of restaurants and craft markets which volunteers can explore in their free time.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of each month and volunteers need to arrive in Jamaica on the Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Sangster International Airport (MBJ) which is the closest airport to the volunteer accommodation. Airport pick up is provided on Sundays only.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in St Mary (around 1.5 - 2 hours away). Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in Jamaica prior to your volunteer program, you will need to liaise with the local team to arrange a pick up from your location, or make your own way to the volunteer accommodation.
Orientation is provided by our Jamaica team at the volunteer accommodation. Orientation begins at 9:00 AM Monday morning and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Jamaica – an introduction to Jamaica, Jamaican customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Jamaica, and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.
Volunteer schedule example
You will be taken to your placement by a local team member and introduced to the placement staff.
You may have a morning or afternoon shift, or both, and can expect to work a minimum of 3 hours, Monday through Friday. Start time and daily workload depends on your chosen project. A typical daily schedule would be as follows:
|7:30 AM||Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.|
|8:00 AM||Travel to placement to join local placement staff and begin work on your project.|
|12:00 PM||Break for lunch.|
|1:00 PM||Work at the placement commences if you have been assigned with an afternoon shift.|
|3:30 PM||You are free to travel back to the volunteer house to relax, go sightseeing or do some shopping.|
With weekends free, you’ll be able to explore all that St Mary, Ochos Rios and wider Jamaica have to offer, including the country’s distinctive food, music and culture.
The area is a popular destination for resorts and cruise ships, and you can expect to discover beautiful beaches, waterfalls and art galleries within close proximity of the volunteer accommodation. Snorkeling, hiking and other adventure activities are also popular with visitors to Jamaica. You can also visit notable spots like James Bond Beach; the Firefly Estate which once belonged to Sir Henry Morgan - of Captain Morgan rum fame - and then English playwright Noel Coward; or the Castleton Botanical Gardens which are among the oldest in the western world.
The team in Jamaica also have a range of tours that you can book directly with them, either before or after you arrive in Jamaica. These include but aren’t limited to a Kingston city tour where you’ll visit the Bob Marley Museum, an eco-community and a have cultural music lesson; a Black River safari on which you cruise down the Black River and see alligators, tropical birds and mangrove trees in their natural setting; and a surf camp.
Accommodation and WiFi
You’ll stay in a dormitory-style volunteer house. Living is comfortable with electricity, running water, WiFi and western bathrooms. There is no air-conditioning in the accommodation, however fans are provided.
Bedrooms have bunk beds and you can expect to share a room with one to three other volunteers of the same gender. Low pressure showers should be expected and the water is usually not heated. You should bring your own toiletries and towels.
A basic daily breakfast of toast, spreads, cereal, milk, tea and coffee is included and you’re free to help yourself to these each morning at the volunteer house.
For lunch and dinner, you can cook for yourself in the communal kitchen at the volunteer accommodation - this has a gas hob, oven, kettle, microwave, fridge, freezer and pantry space. Alternatively, you can buy lunch and dinner from nearby restaurants for between $5 and $25 per meal.
For volunteers who would like to have their dinners provided, a home-cooked weekly dinner plan (Monday - Friday) is available for $40 per week. You can arrange this at your program orientation and pay for it through the local team in Jamaica. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for, however not all diets can be covered. Please speak with the team in Jamaica about any requirements you have before you book the dinner plan.
Tap water in Jamaica is generally safe to drink but please check with your accommodation host if you are unsure. We encourage you to bring a reusable water bottle to refill so you can avoid buying plastic water bottles.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||$395 Equivalent to $57/day|
|2 weeks||$715 Equivalent to $52/day|
|3 weeks||$1,000 Equivalent to $48/day|
|4 weeks||$1,275 Equivalent to $46/day|
|5 weeks||$1,540 Equivalent to $44/day|
|6 weeks||$1,795 Equivalent to $43/day|
|8 weeks||$2,290 Equivalent to $41/day|
- Daily Breakfast
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of $299 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, some meals, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Jamaica generally find US$250 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches and dinners, and local tours and activities.
Recommended activities and tour add-ons
The Blue Hole is located in St Ann, Jamaica, and is a perfect 2.5 hour excursion for outdoor adventure enthusiasts looking to spend an afternoon cliff jumping and swimming in a natural series of waterfalls and swimming holes.
This excursion cost $46 per person and is available on the first and second Tuesday of each month. This fee includes your entrance fee, transportation, a locker, and a personal guide for your 2.5 hour visit.
The Green Grotto Caves & Luminous Lagoon experience is a 4.5 hour tour where you will visit the historical caves of Green Grotto once home to the first inhabitants of the island. You’ll participate in a guided tour of these caves and then enjoy lunch at a local famous jerk chicken hot spot. After lunch your tour will continue with a swim in the glowing water of Luminous Lagoon, one of only a few like it in the world. This natural wonder offers a once in a lifetime experience.
This excursion costs $98 per person which includes your entrance fee, transportation, lunch, boat tour and a personal guide for your 4.5 hour visit.
The Kingston city tour is not one you’ll want to miss! On this 5 hour guided tour, you’ll dance through Kingston - known as the city of music, discover the home of the iconic Bob Marley. Followed by a trip to the historic Devon House home of Jamaica’s first Black Millionaire. Driving around Kingston you will see the hustle and bustle of the city and the heart of Reggae music.
This excursion costs $85 per person and includes your entrance fee to the Bob Marley museum, transportation, and lunch.
Learn the latest Jamaican dance moves with a local reggae professional during a reggae dance class with your fellow volunteers!
This activity costs $20 per person and the dance class will take 1.5 hours to complete.
Learn to prepare Jamaican dishes from a local expert alongside your fellow volunteers; you’ll be sure to impress everyone back home!
This activity costs $20 per person and includes a professional instructor, ingredients, and a complimentary beverage for the cooking class which will take 2.5 hours to complete.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to sign up or to get more information about any of these activities and tours.
Check what's required to visit Jamaica
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Currency||Jamaican Dollar (JMD)|
Weather and climate
The climate in Jamaica is typical of a Caribbean climate - warm days year-round with rainy winters and dry summers. The pleasant Jamaican climate makes travel possible at any time of the year. The rainy season is generally from May to November. Average temperatures in Jamaica range between 70°F and 80°F (21°C to 28°C), with July and August being the hottest months and February the coolest.