Marine Conservation and Diving in Colombia

Discover Colombia – one of five so-called “mega-diverse countries” in the world that exhibits extraordinarily high species diversity. Although the country (located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea) accounts for less than one percent of the Earth’s surface, it ranks among the top countries in terms of number of endemic species. The country’s tropical rainforests have a well-documented biodiversity and the two oceans present a vast marine territory.

All marine ecosystems of Western Tropical Atlantic are represented in the warm enclosed waters of the Caribbean Sea which is second in the world in number of coral species after the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Eighty percent of species are found in the surroundings of the Archipelago of San Andres and Providencia. A total of 215 mollusk species and 115 crustacean species have been recorded at sea bottoms. You may get a chance to view humpback whales from mid-June to November and there are unique diving areas for hammerhead and silky shark sightings.

Rates from $699/wk for a minimum 3 week duration. Fees help covers the following:
- Food
- Accommodation
- Internal ground transfers & in-transit accommodation (free for volunteers arriving on the first Monday of the month & those joining for 4+ weeks)
- Pre-departure support
- Travel & medical advice & documentation
- Local orientation
- Project training, equipment & materials
- Use of dive kit including Regs, tanks, BCDs, weights, compressor
- In-country emergency support

Pre-Apply Now

What to Expect?

The promotion of marine sciences and the protection and sustainable use of marine resources are a national priority in Colombia. In particular, the loss of marine biodiversity, the increasing destruction of coastal habitats by agriculture, industry and tourism, as well as the adverse influence of global warming, has long been of concern for politicians and scientists.

On this project you will be conducting research that will be of huge benefit to the conservation of these incredible coral reefs and from this you will gain immense satisfaction from knowing that you have helped protect these precious natural resources for future generations. The results from your investigations will supply vital information on the Colombian coastline to enable the sustainable management of natural resources in the region and the protection of the marine wildlife.

Through underwater SCUBA and snorkel surveys you will be monitoring coral, fish and benthic species as well as assessing biodiversity and ecosystem function, sustainable development, and live history of key coastal species. Diving under the supervision of a professional dive officer, you will become confident and comfortable underwater. Your results will help determine the biodiversity of these waters and help develop further marine park management plans and sustainable resource use within local communities.

Other activities include surveying mangroves, a vital buffer against elements such as tsunamis, and also documenting coastal bird and reptile populations, an important part of the coastal ecosystem. If you are only able to join the project for 2 or 3 weeks your involvement in the surveys and conservation work will be limited.  

To gather the data needed you will be diving regularly (weather permitting) with Sunday off.  If you need dive training we will train you up at the start of the project. You'll also explore the luxuriant mangrove forests and record the rich variety of organisms living there and in the other intertidal zones.  Whilst diving you will discover dense sea grass beds rich sources of nutrients for the marine communities. 

You will deploy a wide range of newly learned research skills and scientific techniques including: underwater visual census of reef and commercial fish, assessment of algal and coral cover to determine the extent of coral bleaching and damage, and line intercept transects for benthic life and indicator invertebrate species such as nudibranchs. You will record observations of the feeding habits and behaviour patterns of a range of marine life.

You will get to study the impact of potentially destructive fishing methods on the corals reefs, study the effects of global warming on marine communities or note any indication of the impact of the marine-curio trade on endangered marine invertebrates.

Whilst diving, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from colourful reef fish species to turtles, sea cucumbers to feathery starfish, and spiny urchins to octopus. By the end of your project you will be expert at identifying hundreds of multi coloured and patterned reef fish as well as being an experienced and competent diver. Although the work is intense and challenging you'll get immense satisfaction from having survived and from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this untarnished marine wilderness. Volunteers who join the project for less than 4 weeks will not be able to participate in the full range of survey activities, but will still be able to make a valuable contribution to the work. You will return home with thousands of photos, lots of new friends, a wealth of fascinating stories and extraordinary memories.

You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and saving endangered life. Your staff will be young, friendly individuals who are highly experienced in their research field and many of whom will have been Frontier volunteers at an earlier stage in their career.

On Arrival:
Volunteers arriving on the first Monday of the month will be welcomed by a local representative at Cartagena Rafael Núñez International  Airport. Those arriving on other dates can book an airport pick up from our field team at a reasonable local rate. From the airport it's a short minibus or truck ride to the town centre from where you be transferred on to your project site. You will meet the staff, receive some initial briefings, including an introduction to the science programme and techniques used, as well as health and safety lectures, so make sure your medical kit is complete and start reading your your field briefs and welcome documents. All dive trainees will complete their dive theory during their time with the project.

At the end of your stay we will transfer those of you who are on the monthly program, back to Cartagena Rafael Núñez Airport from the camp in time for you to head back home or continue on your independent travels. If you are joining for less than 4 weeks you will make your own arrangements to return to the airport at the end of your stay, from where you can continue your own independent travel or return home.
Independent travellers arriving on dates other than the first Monday of the month can arrange a separate airport collection (extra cost) by contacting the camp staff in Cartagena.  

Where you'll be staying:
During the project you'll live in the beach camp close to Cartagena and the National Park forest alongside other volunteers and staff. The program aims to provide you with a unique and memorable living experience. The camp was constructed by volunteers working with local craftsmen, using traditional building techniques and locally sourced environment-friendly, building materials. The camp which is situated in a clearing on the beach has been designed to blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Camp life is very simple, unsophisticated and fun.

You will be staying in simple communal cabanas, local style dwellings, your "shower" will be a jug or a bucket of water and you cook over an open campfire: so prepare for the basic, virtually footprint less, unencumbered lifestyle! On occasions you may have to journey further to reach a remote dive site, then you will stay in a "satellite camp"; basically a mosquito net pitched on a distant beach.

What you'll be eating:
Food on camp is simple and nutritious and consists largely of locally sourced fresh vegetables and fruit, rice, beans and noodles, all of which are purchased from nearby communities thereby helping to support the local economy.  Luxuries such as chocolate, peanut butter and drinking chocolate are only available in the main city, so make sure you stock up before heading to your field camp.

Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking. Creating spectacular meals over an open campfire or baking bread in the campfire oven will become second nature: so get your cookbooks out now and start thinking up recipes!  Also, with luck you'll be invited to local feasts and fiestas – a great way to engage with local communities and discover local cuisines and cultures.

  • Program ID: # 2545
  • duration:
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
    1 to 3 Months
  • location:
    10° 8' 59.9928" N, 75° 39' 49.5252" W
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Cartagena (CTG)
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
    Over $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
  • Click Here for More Info

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