Different expeditions and volunteering opportunities suit different people. The quality and type of experience varies considerably among different organisations, so you should make sure that you do a bit of research to find the right trip for you.
You may like to consider asking some of the following questions:
Remember that an attractive website with appealing marketing does not necessarily mean that the expedition itself will meet your expectations, or give you the experience that you are looking for.
Speaking to the organisation and asking a few direct questions can help you to decide which organisation to travel with. We are always willing to talk, so give us a call on +44 (0)207 697 8598 to discuss our expeditions in Madagascar and Belize.
What makes Blue Ventures different?
Our organisational structure
Our award-winning expeditions are run by a social enterprise which fuels our marine research and conservation work in Madagascar and Belize. Profits generated by Blue Ventures Expeditions (a private company) are re-invested to maintain the standard of our expeditions and further channelled to Blue Ventures Conservation (registered charity number 1098893) in order to support the development of our innovative and integrated community-based programmes.
Our conservation impactWe have hosted more than 1,800 volunteers at our sites over the last decade, resulting numerous reports and scientific papers being published about the state of Madagascar and Belize’s coral reefs, and directly contributing to the development of our marine conservation work.
Our expedition volunteers also play a vital role in diversifying income-generating opportunities away from fishing within coastal economies, generating more than US$100,000 for local homestays to date in Belize alone.
Our volunteer to staff ratioWe limit the number of our volunteers on each expedition to a maximum of three per staff member (with an average group size of 12-14 volunteers) so that everyone receives a high standard of science and dive training and support, no matter what their background.
Other organisations offering similar research opportunities and expeditions tend to accept greater volunteer to staff ratios but we feel that this can limit the learning experience, availability of facilities and diversity of activities that volunteers can participate in.
Our expeditions are run by experienced staff recruited, trained and managed by our London headquarters to ensure we deliver consistently high-quality training, safety and expedition experiences. The teams consist of at least four international staff members (including PADI dive instructors and marine biologists) working alongside at least four local staff members.
Our science and dive trainingAll of our volunteers complete an intensive two-week science training programme run by our field scientists at the beginning of each expedition, to ensure that their knowledge is sufficient to carry out underwater surveys with our marine biologists coordinating the research.
Both qualified and non-qualified divers are welcome to join our expeditions, with the PADI Advanced Open Water course offered to those without this qualification. PADI Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses are also available for those who wish to advance their diving qualifications.
Our health and safetySafety is our top priority when working both above and below the water in remote environments. Our volunteers are required to complete a medical check with their doctor before joining an expedition with us, and we aim to have a qualified medic on site at all times, with additional 24-hour medical support provided both from our UK based medical professionals and within each expedition country.
Rest days (decompression days) are incorporated into our schedules, and conservative dive profiles allow for a large safety margin. Communications can be difficult on remote expeditions so our field sites and research boats are connected by VHF radios and/or mobile and satellite phones at all times, and our research boats carry medical oxygen on all diving trips.
We have a worst-case scenario medical evacuation (Medivac) plan, supported by 24-hour contact with our head office staff and medical advisers. All of our expeditions staff are experienced divers, with training in first aid and practical rescue management skills.
Our accommodation and foodOur expedition volunteers stay in beach-front eco-cabins at our dive sites in Madagascar and Belize, with a maximum of four people per bungalow. We offer private accommodation for a small supplement; ideal for couples, families or those wanting their own space.
Three meals a day are prepared by local chefs, with plenty of fresh vegetables and seafood, and we are normally able to cater for those with specific dietary requirements. Volunteers are also given the opportunity to learn how to make traditional snacks, such as doughnuts, fish samosas and tortillas. Tea and coffee is available with most meals and treated drinking water is freely available on site, with bottled water and other beverages available to purchase from local restaurants or shops.
Our value for moneyThe cost of our expeditions is among the most competitive in the sector, and we believe that we offer the highest standards of science and dive training, accommodation and food. We don’t charge for dive kit hire (we have all of the expensive equipment that you need available for you to use at our research sites) and PADI dive courses are subsidised to keep prices low.
Our expeditions help to finance our marine conservation programmes in Madagascar and Belize, and we want as many people as possible to join us, learn with us and contribute to this work. We recommend that you compare our prices, quality and reputation versus other marine conservation expedition providers in the market.
Year Out Group and all of our expeditions abide by their Code of Practice and Charter. We spend more than 70% of volunteer fees in our expedition countries, with the remaining sum used to support our UK-based team, marketing, insurance and payment protection.
We have been recognised six times in the annual Responsible Travel Awards, winning the prestigious 'Best Volunteering Organisation' in 2010, and also winning the ‘Best Volunteering Organisation’ in the British Youth Travel Awards in 2012. As a leader in responsible travel, we have also been recommended as an ethical volunteering organisation by the Guardian and the Telegraph.