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Mexico Marine Awareness Course

Learn about marine conservation in Mexico and contribute towards vital environmental preservation efforts

Dive into a marine conservation course on Mexico’s Mesoamerican coral reef, the second largest reef in the world. Learn about coral and fish identification strategies, environmental issues facing the area, and earn your PADI diving qualification in order to better study the reefs.

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Course Overview

This inter-disciplinary course, accredited by universities and colleges around the world, introduces students to international service-learning and sustainable development, both in content and practice, on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

Through lectures, discussion, research, service, and reflection (beginning two weeks prior to their departure and continuing two weeks after their return home), students in this course engage in meaningful, context-driven service-learning at home and abroad. Emphasis will be placed on relating long-term project goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in daily reflection surrounding the experience, which will be lead by qualified group facilitators who are trained to enhance individual student development. The course curriculum will be tailored to your students’ academic needs as well as any faculty requirements.

A GVI service-learning course provides students with access to skill development and practical experience while engaging with a rigorous curriculum. By participating in this course, students will be prepared and encouraged to discuss and contribute to solutions for critical global issues related to sustainable development, within a local community and alongside an international team. By providing students the opportunity to live and work within the “classroom” of their chosen field of study, they will develop professional capacities associated with intercultural competency, global citizenship, teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership.

For full details of the curriculum, you can download our Service Learning Curriculum PDF here.

Learning Objectives

Participants in this course will:

  • Experience global learning contexts associated with international service-learning
  • Learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how they are implemented both domestically and abroad;
  • Explore their role as a development actor through in-country service-learning and reflection;
  • Develop greater intercultural competency, global awareness, and a sense of global citizenship; and
  • Build personal and professional capacities of writing, reflection, communication, flexibility, adaptability, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving.


The Project

Each projects’ objectives are based around specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In Mexico, students will largely contribute to pre-established marine environmental monitoring and research initiatives by collecting and reporting critical data. Emphasis will also be placed on increasing awareness surrounding pertinent conservation issues and knowledge of the local environment. These initiatives collectively incorporate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals listed below:

  • SDG no.6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
  • SDG no.7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
  • SDG no.12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • SDG no.13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact
  • SDG no.14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources


The program will focus on gaining a better understanding of the local ecosystem in Mexico and preserving it’s biodiversity. Other elements that may be examined are water security, climate energy, and access to clean energy. Students will critically examine their individual and collective on the ground impact asking pertinent questions in order to evaluate their successes and challenges. They will receive continuous support from qualified staff members who will help relate and connect the students involvement with the community development projects and the SDG’s.

Please note that courses can tailored to a group’s in-class curriculum; however, specific work will always be dependent on the needs of the community and our local partners at the time.


Our projects in Mexico are just south of Cancun on the Yucatán peninsula, close to the beautiful resort towns of Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Projects take place within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a recognized UNESCO world heritage site. The peninsula comprises the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, and is best known for it’s stunning Caribbean coastline. The area is also a fascinating place to learn about Mayan culture, try complex and variant dishes, and explore the world’s second largest barrier reef.


Example Itinerary:

This course varies in duration, depending on project requirements as well as cultural expeditions or activities. The below outlines a one week course; however, your in-country service can run for as many weeks as set by your academic curriculum, objectives, and requirements.


Two weeks prior to departure, students will be assigned readings and assignments. These assignments make sure they have a basic cultural understanding of Mexico and it’s local conservation-based issues; a foundational understanding of international service learning and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and begin a dialogue surrounding global engagement. Materials will be chosen based on collaboration with the group’s educational leader to ensure the work fits within the group’s in-class curriculum.


Day 1- Arrival at Cancun Airport and Transfer to Base

Your team will be met at Cancun International Airport by a GVI staff member or appointed representative. The group will travel immediately to the project location near the town of Playa del Carmen on the beautiful Yucatán Peninsula.

Students will be accommodated in dorm-style rooms, and will have a chance in the afternoon to relax and settle in. In the afternoon, there will be an initial welcome presentation and introduction to the GVI staff, history and background of the projects, as well as a health and safety breakdown.

Day 2- Welcome and Orientation

The next day will include a welcome presentation and introduction to the history and background of the conservation efforts GVI is involved in, both in Mexico and worldwide. There will also be a guided introduction to the local area, as well as an educational culture and language class. In the evening, a reflection period will take place in which participants will debrief and review their initial reactions and observations on the experience and location.

Day 3-5- Daily Structure: Service, Education, and Reflection

During the week the group will learn the art of snorkeling. Guided by GVI field staff they will learn the do’s and don’ts of exploring reef environments without damaging the fragile ecosystem. They will snorkel in a number of environments where they will be exposed to a variety of coastal marine ecosystems and learn about various areas of conservation and environmental awareness. The group will learn basic fish and coral identification, techniques used in marine research and monitoring, take part in beach cleans, and listen to lectures and workshops by GVI field staff and local partners on the effects of tourism and development on coastal ecosystems.

All service elements will be connected to a greater understanding of the cultural context in which the students are working. Assignments, in the form of lectures, readings, written response papers, journal entries, group presentations, and miscellaneous creative projects will be conducted daily to enhance student learning from their service involvement. Daily reflection sessions will act as the bridge that connects and helps to synthesize the many aspects of the experience.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which participants are working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students will critically examine their part in this process, by analyzing their contributions, challenges, and observations.

Day 6- Exploring Mexico

To continue the marine awareness focus of the trip, groups might partake in a snorkel adventure at Akumal, where students can swim alongside turtles feeding on sea grass. If arriving in season, there may also be a chance to learn about nesting turtles and hatchlings as well as the conservation issues surrounding their protection. Another option is to visit a Cenote, a natural swimming hole formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which reveal a secret subterranean world. The team will learn about the system of cave cenotes that spread through southern Mexico and hear why Mayans regard them as ‘sacred wells’. There is also the option to explore a local Mayan Ruin, taking a peak into the lives of the ancient civilizations that inhabited the region, and relishing in the gorgeous views of the Yucatán coastline before heading out for a last traditional Mexican meal.

Day 7- A Fond Farewell

GVI field staff transfer the team back to the airport and bid them a fond farewell! GVI will endeavour to keep the group informed of any updates there might be in the field and with particular reference to the projects participants contributed to during their time in Mexico.


Students will continue to engage with active reflection and educational expansion two weeks after leaving Cape Town, with emphasis placed on incorporating the international experience, and insights gained which are then applied to the students’ home context. Assignments will involve generating ideas to continue global engagement, connecting the experience to personal and career goals, and reflecting on the insights gained while in the field.

What’s Included


  • A dedicated trip co-ordinator
  • Pre-departure information
  • Flight bookings service on request
  • Accommodation
  • In-country support
  • Group leader
  • Insurance on request
  • 24/7 back up and support
  • Food and drinking water
  • First aid equipment
  • Comprehensive health and safety procedures (Emergency Action Plans and Risk Assessments)
  • In-country transport costs
  • Access to local medical facilities
  • Up-to-date safety and country information
  • Highly experienced and well qualified GVI field staff

What’s Not Included

  • Visas
  • Vaccinations
  • Personal kit
  • Additional spending money
  • Flights

Please note prices are subject to seasonal fluctuation and will vary depending upon the needs of the group. **Optional extras include travel insurance and flight services

Course Details


Latin America – Mexico – Yucatan


From 1 week +

Course Focus

Marine Conservation

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7 Day PDF


14 Day PDF


This genuinely taught me more and led to more opportunities and adventures than I would have ever expected. Looking back, I wouldn’t have imagined I would have so many amazing stories from some of the best days of my life.

Diana Geppert

Mexico Marine Conservation 2014, US

We started off by releasing tens of day old loggerhead turtles into the sea. It was a serene moment of reflection, only 1 in 1000 baby turtles reach maturity. Each turtle we discovered gave me a renewed astonishment and awe because they are such majestic, beautiful animals. Under the red humming glow of Enrique’s torch I brushed the sand of the turtle’s shell and head and measured its size. It was such a privilege to come so close to the turtle. This experience will resonate within me for a lifetime and I have Lluvia, Enrique and GVI to thank for it.

Gabriela Saldanha Blackwood

Mexico 2015

Interested in this exciting opportunity?

Get in touch, and secure your future by learning the right way.

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