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PADI Diving and Marine Conservation Teen Volunteering in Mexico

Learn about ocean conservation and earn your PADI Open Water Diver in Mexico.

Program Code: MXPM0510F

Program Information

Earn your PADI Open Water Diver qualification while exploring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Learn about how conservationists conduct research on key species like corals, fish, sea turtles, and mangroves, as well as the environmental issues, like climate change, plastic pollution, and habitat degradation, impacting marine habitats.

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Join other teens between the ages of 15 and 17 from around the world to get a taste of what life might be like if you choose to pursue a career in marine conservation while experiencing the natural beauty of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, home to the resort destination, Cancun. Earn a professional diving certificate, a key requirement for all marine biologists, while learning to dive in the warm waters of the Carribean among the vibrant tropical marine life. GVI has successfully been operating ethical and responsible programs for under 18s since 2012. Since then, it has treated health and safety as a number one priority and takes extra measures for its under 18 programs. As such, it is a British Standards 8848 compliant provider and is also accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

On this program teens will work with real marine conservationists learning about their ongoing projects. The specific projects teens observe, learn about, and participate in change over time, as the needs of the environment and the communities change, and as projects naturally change to accommodate the findings from new research. 

Some of the projects teens might get involved include Coral Watch, a coral monitoring program set up by the University of Queensland. It allows recreational divers to monitor the health of corals and submit the data to an online platform thereby assisting researchers with monitoring the effects of environmental events including climate change on reefs around the world. They might also visit a laboratory where coral fragments are grown and then transplanted onto the reef to assist with reef recovery. Other projects include contributing to endangered sea turtle research by patrolling the beach recording the number of mother sea turtle tracks, nests created, and eggs laid and participating in plastic pollution research by collecting debris from local beaches and submitting a record of debris collected to the Ocean Conservancy, a US-based nonprofit that helps governments make decisions about environmental policies. 

Visits to Mexico’s famously magical cenotes and colossal Mayan ruins are also included. Throughout their stay, teens will be dining on Mexican cuisine and have a chance to practice their conversational Spanish. Teens with less time on their hands can also choose to book onto the program for one week. This allows them to complete volunteering projects included in the two-week program, but not the adventure activities. Although all teen participants are greeted by GVI staff at their arrival destination, flight chaperoning services are also available upon request. Chaperones provide on-flight accompaniment and in-airport assistance. To book this service please contact one of our enrollment managers.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Find out if marine biology is a career you might like to pursue.

  • Get PADI Open Water Diver certified. 

  • Earn your ILM Endorsed Youth Leadership Certificate. 

  • Contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, #14, Life Below Water. 

  • Experience the technicolour underwater landscapes of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef first-hand. 

  • Marvel at Mayan ruins and sample authentic Mexican flavours.

  • Make new friends with teens from all four corners of the globe.

Program Details

Select a Start Date

  • 2020
  • 2021

Select a Duration

Select a start date first.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date. The itinerary shown below has been followed by our staff and group volunteers in the past.

Saturday

Say “hola” to the Mexican Carribean. A GVI staff member will be waiting for you. Travel with your new friends to your accommodation where you’ll enjoy a traditional Mexican meal.

Sunday

Start your PADI dive training. Complete the Knowledge Review portion of your PADI Open Water Diver or PADI Advanced Open Water course.

Monday

Meet your diving instructors. Participate in dive exercises and planning and finish off the theoretical part of your diving course.

Tuesday

Suit up in your diving gear and practice key diving skills in the pool. Practice important underwater skills like buoyancy and underwater breathing.

Wednesday

Head out into the vibrant underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Practice your diving skills on four or five open water dives.

Thursday

Head out into the vibrant underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Practice your diving skills on four or five open water dives.

Friday

Learn the CoralWatch technique, an internationally used method for surveying the health of corals. Find out how to use the coral chart to identify healthy or unhealthy corals.

Saturday

Visit a cenote, a turquoise pool, surrounded by limestone walls, skylit from above. You’ll also climb Coba, the tallest Mayan pyramid in the region.

Sunday

Clean up a beach, help researchers monitor mother and baby sea turtles, and learn how to identify specific coral species common in the Mexican Carribbean.

Monday

Clean up a beach, help researchers monitor mother and baby sea turtles, and learn how to identify specific coral species common in the Mexican Carribbean.

Tuesday

Clean up a beach, help researchers monitor mother and baby sea turtles, and learn how to identify specific coral species common in the Mexican Carribbean.

Wednesday

Find out how and why marine biologists and conservationists study fish species found on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and even learn to identify some yourself.

Thursday

Tour a mangrove forest and learn about the importance of these ecosystems. Then visit a coral growing laboratory to learn about how researchers are helping local reefs recover.

Friday

Visit Chichen Itza, a massive Mayan city. Climb the spell-binding pyramid of Kukulcan, a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Saturday

Head back to the airport along with GVI staff and other volunteers. Watch the Carribbean Sea retreat from view and reflect on all you’ve learnt about protecting the world’s oceans.

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Live Updates

Follow GVI Volunteer-In-Puerto-Morelos's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
GVIMexicoMarineConservation

Arrivals Info

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from their initial contact with us, all the way through their program, and even afterwards, when they become part of GVI’s Alumni network.


Flight chaperoning services are available for all our under 18 participants. To book a chaperone simply speak to one of our enrolment managers. Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a member of our in-country staff, who will be wearing a GVI t-shirt or carrying a GVI signboard, and will always be wearing a friendly smile. From there, participants will journey to their accommodation and meet up with other volunteers in their group to start their GVI adventure.


 
 
 
 

Flights

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We are also not responsible for any loss, damage (including loss of profits or consequential damages), injury, illness, harm or death in relation to your flight and travel arrangements.

Meet the team - Senior Field Management

Alejandro Vazquez

Community Manager

Introducing you to to Alejandros. He is the Program Manager of GVI’s Community Project in Puerto Morelo, Mexico. Alejandro's journey with GVI goes way back. He started in 2007 as part of GVI’s National Scholarship Program. After this, he went onto complete his Masters Degree.


Alejandros came back in 2013 to help run our community development base in Playa del Carmen, where he became the Program Manager. Before GVI Alejandros was an extreme sports guide. These sports include: whale watching, white water rafting, and rock climbing.

Cynthia Arochi Zendejas

Regional Director for Latin America
Meet Cynthia! She is GVI’s Regional Director for Latin America. Her journey with us started in 2006 as a National Scholar in Mexico on our National Scholar Program. Cynthia has a Masters in Environmental Science, which she completed in Sweden. In her life, Cynthia has had a variety of jobs and careers fueled by her love of languages and culture. Such jobs include teaching French, organising games, and working asing a Team Building Facilitator.

Miguel Angel Lozano

Program Manager

Miguel Angel is GVI’s Program Manager for the Marine Conservation Programs at GVI’s base in Puerto Morelo, Mexico. He has been with GVI for over a year now and loves it!


He has a background in Oceanography and a fun fact about him is that before GVI, he completed research on Bull Sharks.

Meet the team - In-Country Staff

Casey Lee

Assistant Field Staff

This is Casey, who is from Virginia in the United States. After completing her Dive Masters through GVI, she went onto become one of the National Scholars and is now one of GVI’s Field Staff.


Casey has a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Science and has always dreamed of becoming a Marine Biologist. It seems that dreams really do come true!

Kayla Moore

Science Officer

Meet Kayla,the Science Officer for GVI’s base in Puerto Morelo, Mexico. She is originally from Canada where she obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology. She was originally a volunteer, when she completed her Dive Masters certificate. After the six months spent doing this, she was kept on as a Staff Member before becoming the Science Officer.


A fun fact about Kayla is that her favorite animals are dolphins, and she recently had the privilege of meeting a few on a dive!

Namate Sililo

Dive Officer

Meet Namate, one of the Dive Officers at GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Namate was born in Zambia, but lived in the UK for much of her life. She has a Masters Degree in Aquatic System Science.


She was a volunteer with GVI, over three years ago. Her belief in marine conservation efforts is what made her want to come back and she is proud to be the first Diver Master at GVI’s hub in Puerto Morelos.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.


Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.


Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Puerto Morelos is the oldest port city in the Mexican Caribbean. The port has been used since the time of the Mayan empire, but its history as a modern port began in 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from the gum tree and the wood of the dye tree, an activity that together with fishing were the main productive activities in the area.


The area has a unique diversity of ecosystems including low evergreen jungles, low swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass, and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, MBRS, considered the second largest reef barrier in the world and home to thousands of marine species.


Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120 kilometer tourist corridor, located between Cancun and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels as well as holiday housing along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba, snorkelling, and free diving tours in the Caribbean Sea and reef lagoon, tours of or diving in cenotes close to the town, as well as sport fishing tours.


Fishing is the second most common commercial activity after tourism. Fishermen fish using small skiffs collect many commercial Caribbean fish species and lobster. Local fishing organisations are aware that unsustainable fishing leads to a destruction of the reef, and therefore loss of fishing resources as well as harm to ecotourism activities.


GVI assists our partners in Puerto Morelos with collecting and collating data to assist decision makers in coastal zone management. We assist them with the manpower, logistical resources, and, in the case of the GVI Trust, finances.


Fish and Coral Surveys


We have several monitoring sites that we survey each year. At each monitoring site, we do 10 adult and juvenile fish transects and five coral community and point intercept transects. The data on fish we gather helps us determine the abundance and the size of fish and understand the changes in the fish community dynamics. The data on coral, and other sessile organisms like sponges and mussels, is used to understand the rate of recovery of the reef and its overall health.


Turtle Monitoring


The National Park of Puerto Morelos is abundant in seagrass which is one of the favourite meals of green sea turtles. GVI participants assist with monitoring sea turtle populations by taking pictures of them while snorkeling and diving. This helps with identifying both new and returning sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is from May to October.


Invasive Lionfish Monitoring and Eradication


Lionfish are an invasive species in the Mexican Caribbean. Lionfish eradication activities are carried on in coordination with local environmental authorities. Local authorities conduct lionfish spearfishing tournaments throughout the year in which we can participate or they assign us dates to carry out lionfish eradication on specific areas of the reef.


Incidental Sightings of Megafauna


Every time we go on a dive we look for megafauna species such as sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, eels, and rays. We then input sighting of these species into our database. The presence of these species can be indicators of the health of the reef and general biodiversity.


Plastic Pollution Cleanup


We have weekly beach cleans where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach and classify it into different categories depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners for analysis.


Environmental Education


They also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. The town of Puerto Morelos was once a fishing village, but is now part of one of the largest Marine Parks in Mexico. Fish is still an important food source in the community and fishing a common means of earning an income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes both fishing and international tourism profitable. Teaching young people and tour operators the importance of protecting their marine resources and how this can be done is vital to ensuring the future health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.


All these initiatives allow us to offer support to the conservation work, the community and our local partners, and to address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as #4 – Quality Education and #14 – Life Below Water.


Please note: Both conservation- and community-focused programs are offered at this location.


Our Partners In Puerto Morelos Marine

Project Objectives

 


GVI Puerto Morelos Marine, Long-term Objectives


1. Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management within the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park, and collaborate in the coral restoration project.


2. Raise environmental awareness with the community in Puerto Morelos.


3. Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the national park


4. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park


Qualifications

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.


Festivals


  • January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the largely Catholic population celebrates el Día de Reyes, the Day of the Three Kings. Traditionally Christmastime presents are open on this day.

  • April: The traditionally Catholic holidays of Holy Week and Easter are honoured with parades through the streets, attending mass at the local cathedral, and quiet meals with family.

  • May: On the fifth of May, Mexico celebrates its independence day, Cinco de Mayo. Parades and feasts featuring national favourites like the Jarabe Tapatío dance and black bean tamales with mole sauce are popular.

  • November: The iconic Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each year on the 2nd of November. While this is considered a Catholic holiday it incorporates indigenous customs that are much older.

  • December: As a mainly Catholic country, Christmas is celebrated with great fanfare throughout Mexico. For nine nights up until Christmas Day children travel door-to-door singly a traditional song. The activity and song is known as posadas and represents the story of the parents of the Christ asking for shelter. Nativity scenes are more popular than Christmas trees in Mexico.

Music

Probably the most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the Mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is actually more unique to a specific region of Mexico, Guadalajara, and only evolved later in the 18th century. It is difficult to separate out the colonialist influences from the indigenous influences, but what is known is that Mayan cultures did have bands featuring among other instruments, drums, trumpets, and maracas. There are many usually opportunities to watch Mariachi bands perform during your time in Mexico.

Dances

The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. The dance is performed by a male and female partner. At one point during the dance, the male partner, drops his hat and the couple dances around the hat. This has earned the dance the name ‘the Mexican hat dance’ in English-speaking regions. Other Mexican dances include La Bamba and Polka Norteno. A popular dance in the Yucatan region is the Jarana. GVI programs in Mexico allow you can participate in dance classes in evenings or during weekends.

Cuisine

Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to sample authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, avocados, and cocoa beans, are indigenous Mexican crops that spread to other cultures as result of colonialism. By traveling to Mexico you can sample these flavours through the eyes of the cultures that first discovered them. Tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas — while these are household names and most of us have tried them before, both Mexican nationals and international visitors would agree, they are best enjoyed within the borders of  Mexico itself.

Religion and Local Customs

Most of Mexico’s population ascribe to the Catholic religion, also due to colonialism. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is home to the most visited site of religious significance for Catholics around the world, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures that predate the colonialist era.

Languages

As a result of colonialism, Spanish is overwhelmingly the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language in the world, visiting Mexico is a great opportunity for learning Spanish and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish on our community development programs. You can even book extra Spanish language lessons for an additional fee. The indigenous languages of Mexico number over five dozen, however, they are not widely spoken, and are considered ‘endangered languages.’

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


 


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.


 

Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Support & Safety

We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.


Support

Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.


Safety

Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.


Health & Safety Case Studies

19 Nov

HOW GVI UPHOLDS HEALTH AND SAFETY

It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.


1 Nov

GVI’S COMMITMENT TO SAFETY AND SECURITY

As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.


6 Nov

HOW GVI REMAINS PREPARED FOR NATURAL DISASTERS

The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.


5 Nov

HOW GVI MANAGES PARTICIPANTS EXPECTATIONS

Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal dive kit, e.g. mask, fins, wetsuit, timer etc.
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Some equipment is not included
  • Visa costs (where necessary)