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Travel: 5 international diving projects to get behind in 2022

Seeking to do the things you love while travelling isn’t only more gratifying, but better for the local communities you’re travelling to. It helps alleviate the negative social and environmental impacts of over tourism; like pollution, price rises and housing crisis.

Most of the below suggestions are paid programs. While it might seem strange to pay to volunteer, the fees mainly cover board and food. This means volunteers don’t become an expense for these organisations, who need to pour all their resources into conservation efforts.

Below are five marine conservation projects for beginner divers or diving enthusiasts to take part in, now the world’s opened up again:

Marine Conservation and PADI Divemaster Internship in Fiji

If you’re after your PADI divemaster certificate, why not combine it with a trip to Fiji and some marine conservation? Backed by one of the world’s top conservation and community development programs GVI, you’ll receive vital conservation research, while exploring some of the world’s most breathtaking and remote underwater wilderness. Majority of your time will be spent underwater, with two dives per day, so you’ll need your PADI Open Water certificate to partake. Participants who want to stay an extra two weeks can gain their Coral Reef Research Distinctive Specialty certification for conducting underwater reef surveys. 

Restore reefs in Bali 

The North Bali Reef Conservation is a locally run NGO founded by Ketut De Sujana Mahartana, who founded another NGO that provides free education for children in his community. Ketut’s family has deep roots in the fishing community and as a keen diver, he noticed a decrease in biodiversity in the area and an increase in plastic pollution. What he witnessed inspired the North Bali Reef Conservation project, which invites divers from all over the world to help build artificial reefs where natural reefs has been destroyed. So far they’ve built 7,000 artificial reef structures that facilitate coral growth. Their program offers diving lessons at an additional cost for new divers. 

Great Barrier Reef 

After experiencing its 4th mass bleaching event in six years, the Great Barrier Reef is in need of a lot of regeneration. In the spirit of David Attenborough’s statement “no one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they’ve never experienced,” Oceans 2 Earth combines diving lessons with conservation practices to collect valuable data for marine organisations to use. Starting in Cairns, volunteers conduct marine research while snorkelling via the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s ‘Eye on the Reef’ surveys, which entails beach clean ups, monitoring coral and identifying turtles. Volunteers also complete an Open Water, Advanced Open Water or Rescue Dive course as part of the program. 

Reef surveying in Madagascar

Working in collaboration with oceanographic organisations, Madagascar Volunteers gives a crash course in monitoring biodiversity and reef health, before diving into the exotic waters of Nosy Komba. Swim through crystal blue seas while regenerating reefs with coral propagation and removing plastic pollution. You’ll need an Open Ocean Diving certificate to take part in this one and there’s a preliminary training to learn to conduct underwater research. Divers also need to bring gear, since it’s not available on the island, but as with all higher barrier-to-entry experiences, it’s worth it to explore such a unique part of the world underwater.

Shark Conservation Fiji

For those who brave enough to swim with sharks, Shark Conservation Fiji is available for both new and experienced divers, offering an Open Water Certification in the first two weeks of the program if you need it. You’ll learn to safely feed, tag and identify sharks from some of the “top minds in marine biology,” so it’s a great course for the budding marine conservationist to add to their CV.