Bahamas Marine Conservation with Gapforce

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About

In the teaming waters around Andros island Gapforce groups work with the Bahamas National Trust to survey the Island’s valuable reef and its inhabitants. Our results help create protected marine parks, assist local communities and teach conservation awareness in primary schools.

Being based in a small community in the Bahamas is a massive plus and a short walk from our base on Andros our volunteers work with the local school – Staniard Creek Primary School.

So as part of the team you’ll experience unforgettable diving, make a whole community of friends, become PADI qualified diver, and help ensure that future generations will care for the reef and its long term survival!

Questions & Answers

You don't get any protection, but they aren't interested in humans, we have far too many bones for them. They might be curious but it's highly unlikely that you'll see an aggressive shark whilst you're diving, mostly nurse sharks, reef sharks and, if you're lucky, a hammerhead, but they will teach you what to do if you do. Most sharks will avoid you, and if they do swim up to you then won't come...
Hi Tina, I stayed on Andros for 6 weeks from July - August last year and had an absolutely amazing time. I honestly wish i'd of opted to stay longer. Food is fairly simple but keeps you sustained and full of the energy you require to do a days diving. Meals are normally done on a rota, so for example, on Monday the camp might have bean burgers, Tuesday could be be pasta and salad and Wednesday...
Yes it can, the project can be as short as 2 weeks up to 12, but if you want to get the most out of the project you’re best going for a longer stint. If you’re not a qualified diver or you want to learn more about the science and take part in the surveys then you would really benefit from going for maybe 4-6 weeks, or even the whole 12 weeks.
Okay that is perfect I turned 16 a few months ago! can't wait to get more information on the trip!

Reviews

93%
based on 28 reviews
  • Impact 8.2
  • Support 9
  • Fun 7.7
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 8.9
Showing 1 - 15 of 28
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9/10

Amazing experience in Bahamas

I took a trip to the Bahamas in January 2017 for 10 weeks for the marine conservation program, and I loved it. I met some incredible people, including the staff members, who I'm sure I'll be friends with for years. I had never been diving before so it was a bit of a risky move to jump in for 10 weeks, but I absolutely loved learning to dive, the instructors were great and were really helpful. We had two interns from the previous phase who knew everything about the program and the ins and outs of the camp. The camp was even more basic than I thought it was going to be, but I wouldn't have changed that because it made the experience better - everyone is in the same situation no matter where you're from, just be wary of frogs sitting in the toilet bowls! The camp itself is beautiful, right on the beach which stretches for miles with no other people, and the dive sites you are taken to are amazing - if you are expecting to see sharks, rays and turtles, you will not be disappointed! The showers are outside and are pretty cold, but nice on a hot day. You have to do your own laundry but that's easy! Cooking meals is great fun in teams, although trying to make a meal at the end of the week when you have all the boring ingredients left is hard. One of the few downsides is the food, because it's very basic, mostly noodles, rice and vegetables, but there are two local shops where you can get a few luxuries. The only other thing I would add is that your experience can be made better or worse by the people you experience it with; if you have bad instructors or fellow volunteers that you don't work well with then it can be really hard.

How can this program be improved?
I think that gapforce should give the camp manager a bigger budget for a wider range of food and supplies for activities like paint and sports equipment. There are a lot of things on camp that needed fixing or improving, like lights in the toilets and shower curtains.
Yes, I recommend
Louisa
10/10

12 unforgettable weeks

My time on Andros with GapForce was surely the best time of my life. Not only did I learn a lot about the local fish and coral species, the oceanic environment in general, taught by the very passionate marine biologist Elyssa, I also had the best dive instructor zara, who made me always feel safe and showed me the underwater world. Both of them were precious to the camp and people I would not want to miss. Apart from the learning I had the incredible opportunity to live in one of the most amazing places I've ever been, seconds away from the beach. I saw loads of sharks, turtles, interesting fish and dolphins. And I experienced everything with amazing people I met through this program and who became my friends for a life time.
Also the program around our scientific training was great fun and especially the legendary quiz-nights. The time here was definitely life changing, thanks to the amazing staff people and also all the volunteers.

How can this program be improved?
This phase was a big turning point for the program and already improved through new engines for the boat, a new compressor and some restoration work for the dive and food shed. two points that could make the program even better would be the food and sanitary situation.
Yes, I recommend
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Jake
9/10

Incredible Expirience!

The six weeks proved to be both challenging yet stimulating in the content it offered.

As someone who has never dived before, or undertaken such a huge project so far away from home, the initial arrival into camp proved fairly daunting and nerve wracking.

However friendly and helpful staff and a well ran series of dive and conservation practical and theoretical lessons quickly brushed aside any worry that remained and formed the basis of what would be an incredibly insightful and engaging six weeks.

As of leaving, i am now a qualified PADI Advanced Open Water diver and further the skills i have learned to progress into more advanced fields of diving such as wreck and cave. The work of the camp Marine Biologist and her clear enthusiasm for the field has also helped enforce a real interest in marine biology and conservation and huge desire to take a more proactive approach to looking after the incredibly fragile, beautiful and diverse world that lives beneath the waves.

Perhaps the hardest part of leaving camp is the realisation that I now have to leave behind all the incredible volunteers, both new and old, of whom i have worked, lived and dived with over the last six weeks. The friendships formed over the duration of the project have been a pleasure to be part of and i remain confident that they will continue onward into the forseeable future.

Thank you so much to all the hardworking staff and volunteers on camp for making these six weeks so special!

Yes, I recommend
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Tish
10/10

Wonderful under and over water world

My trip to Andros was amazing. I will never forget it and I will take a lot of calmness and patience with me home. Alone living on a camp directly at a lonely beach and being able to jump into the water whenever it gets too hot, is wonderful! For me this adventure was completely positive as I enjoyed every dive we did – with Elyssa and Zara I always felt safe- , all the lectures we had –Elyssa is a very competent marine biologist-, spending time with the people here, getting to see a bit of the Bahamian life and the island and simply exploring parts, as tiny as they might be, of the stunning underwater world. I had so much fun learning about all the fish, corals etc. that I even would have loved having more lectures, but I noticed that Elyssa was so busy that it wasn’t possible. Its a whole new way of diving when you actually know all the fish you are surrounded with under water. Sadly we had a lot of problems with our boat and the compressor so we couldnt do as many dives as I expected us to do. Nevertheless it was never boring at the camp as we found other things to do instead. The trips to the blue holes of Andros were fun. One day we learnde more about plants at the Forfar station and we even got to try Termites! The best trip was to the bat caves, what was scary and so much fun at the same time! Afterwards we went snorkeling at wrecks what I really enjoyed too. If you dont expect a high living standard and super delicious food you will have a great time with all the people you meet at the camp. Thanks to cool activities like the Quiz Night or Beach Olympics there will be forming a great community. The longer you stay here the more cool stuff you will do because the number of people decreases. If you are motivated and eager to find out more about marine life and how to help saving it, this project is made for you!

How can this program be improved?
It would be good to have better equipment, like a new boat, compressor and truck as these items kept breaking down and so hindered us from going diving. Also it would be better to have three marine biologists who are deeply concerned about the ocean and really into this topic than two.
Yes, I recommend
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Marie
8/10

Bahamas July 2016

I came on this trip because wanted to spend the summer diving in a beautiful country and get involved with a marine biology programme that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I have absolutely loved living in Andros over the past 6 weeks as it has given me the opportunity to not only make great friends from all over the world, but to live on a beautiful white beach and learn and conserve the local eco systems. The lectures Elyssa provided us with were really great as they were really thorough and exciting and she was always available for extra help with the understanding of the fish to those of us who do not study marine biology as a degree. I could really tell she put so much effort into them and it made learning the fish a lot more enjoyable than it could have been. I’d also say that Zara made the running of the camp really fun and up beat as it seems the expedition leader wasn’t available a lot of the time, which almsot all the volunteers found incredbily fustrating and odd. She also took almost every dive during the week days over the time I spent in Andros and was always in a good mood and ready to help even by the time of the last dive of the day. Although I may have written an email expressing my frustration with the facilities here, which still stands true, it has in no way tarnished my experience and time here and I am very sad to be leaving Greenforce and everyone left here. Particular highlights for me visiting the blue holes on Saturday's and all of the incredible diving i managed to do, as well as making really great friends.

How can this program be improved?
Although I was fortunate enough to have a bed, I think that the other living quaters could be improved a lot, especailly the beds and amount of space volunteers have to store space. As well as this I think more diversity between meals would be incredibly benefical. Other than that I really enjoyed a more basic living experience. However, because of the all problems encountered during my time here im not able to ignore the fact that the equipment and facilities seem to need a bit of investment in order to ensure maximum diving, This is especailly true for the compressor and boat.
Yes, I recommend
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Ann-sophie
5/10

Diving

There was one dive where we did a fish point out and it was just amazing. First there were 3 sharks around us and after this we saw a moray swimming which was absolutely amazing. Staying here is amazing because of the nice sea and the diving sites. Even snorkeling is much fun when you can see all the corals and fishes right under you and you can make amazing photos. I liked the trips to the blue holes because it is nice to see these water filled big holes in the middle of the jungle.

Response from GapForce

Hi Ann-sophie, looks like you had a great time on the program and we're happy to have had you! Let us know if you have any feedback about how we can improve. Best wishes, the Gapforce team.

Yes, I recommend
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Andrew
9/10

Blue Hole Day Trip

There were many highlights on this exciting trip in Andros, Bahamas. One of the most memorable moments was the day trip to Uncle Charlie's Blue Hole. I enjoyed riding in the back of the truck with all of my peers. We brought a speaker and listened to our favorite tunes the whole way there, which was a total of about 30 minutes. Our driver was going slow as a saftey precaution so it took a bit longer to arrive, yet I didn't mind from how enjoyable the car ride was. We took turns picking a song, and it was so interesting to hear all of the different styles of music played. Some of the songs I never heard before and couldn't even understand as they were in a different language, but they grew on me. Now, I play them on days we have wifi, because how catchy they are. With the wind blowing in our hair and trying our best to sing along, we created bonds that hopefully last a lifetime.

When we arrived at the bluehole everyone jumped right in to cool off from the sun's rays that give us our golden brown tans. The water was surprisingly warm with such a fresh lake like feel to it. The color of the water was amazing as it reminded me of my ocean back home, in a cool blue. After swimming around we all gathered together for a giant water polo game. I have never played before so it did not take me long to realize how much of a tiring sport it is. My heart was racing as everyone was turning all of their poridge into ATP in hopes of out swimming their competitors. I ended up scoring 6 of our 10 goals but only because I hung out on offense the whole time as I grew tired quickly of swimming the length of the massive water hole. We all took a half time break to enjoy some delicious lunch made by our volunteers. The biggest highlight of the day was the tricks I did off of the table into the water. I started off with a front flip despite caution warnings by the staff. This got my confidence going to where I was able to gather up enough courage to try a gainer flip, something I have aspired to try for a while. I finally did it though and was very proud of myself when I rested my head down later that night.

How can this program be improved?
more diverse diet
Yes, I recommend
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Benjamin
10/10

My Experience

I graduated high school in 2015, not knowing what I want to do. I found Gapforce and knew it was the perfect opportunity to see the world. I have never traveled outside of the United States so I was very excited. I knew I would have the time of my life, and it did not disappoint. I met many new people and gained many new friends that I know I will have for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for Gapforce for giving me this opportunity.

How can this program be improved?
Modernized living, more variety of foods
Yes, I recommend
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Laura
10/10

Summer on Andros

i had the most amazing experience on this conservation trip to Andros! everyday held something knew and we were kept busy doing various activities that were the opposite to boring, the diving especially was unbelievable and learning about the island and all the fish was really interesting. it was also nice to get away from all the luxury and experience living in beautiful remoteness. the people volunteering and all the staff were so friendly and made the trip unforgettable. All i can say is that my time was not at all long enough!

Yes, I recommend
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Fred
10/10

Bahamas 2015

This trip is utterly faultless. I have never been the company of such amazing people doing things that I love. The staff on the phase were brilliant with a huge font of knowledge about the oceans and environment surrounding us. The equipment we used was top of the range, and I felt safe when in the water. The sea life that I was so lucky to see was amazing, from Caribbean reefs sharks to Loggerhead turtles, the Bahamas had it all. Andros, being such a remote island, had a create sense of community, with locals being friendly and generous with their possessions. The social life was great with 'Timmy's bar' being a 30 second walk from the house. We also went to such events like the Islands regatta which was a great way of embracing the culture that Andros so strongly expressed. The living conditions were great taking into account the remoteness of the Island. If you like rice and noodles this trip is the one for you. Overall I had the best 5 weeks and couldn't have asked for better people to spend it with.

Yes, I recommend
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Kami
9/10

An encounter with a Caribbean Reef Shark

It was afternoon by the time the second group set out to go diving. The sun was shining, and see sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. It was hot and humid, and clouds were lining the horizon. We kitted up and loaded everything into the motorboat, and as we undid ourselves from the boje, four very excited volunteers were lying on the front deck. As we approached the dive site (I believe it was Aladdin's) the wind was tousling our hair and a sudden feeling of happiness erupted in everyone. A smile spread across my face as I felt a deep inner enjoyment and content. The sea was calm so we threw in our BCDs and hopped in with our fins and masks to put everything on in the water. As everyone swam to each other Chloe gave the signal and we slowly descended. You felt almost as if you were floating, weightless. The warm water encased you as you started swimming with only board shorts and a rash vest. As we rounded up around Chloe we all got our dive slates out and began the coral point out. Everyone seemed very confident after the last lecture in the morning and some hours to practice. Chloe showed her amazement and joyfulness by giving us energetic thumbs up ever time we identified a given coral correctly. Like this half an hour drifted by seamlessly. I was just watching Chloe when I saw her eyes focus on something in the distance. I swivel around and am astonished to see a Caribbean Reef Shark swimming by silently. You could see the awe stricken faces of all volunteers, and the coral point out was momentarily forgotten as we all watched with wonder this amazing creature of the ocean. As it started to swim away we went after it in hot pursuit until it disappeared in the distance and blended in with the turquoise blue of the warm water. As we ascended to the the safety stop Theo and Lukas were finally able to fool around, they played around by snatching Chloe's fins and taking off her boots. This ended up being a mad chase in circles until the three minutes were over and we were able to surface. As we inflated our BCDs we all erupted in laughter and Chloe had big smile on her face when she said: "You guys were awesome. You knew your corals inside out, and that dive really made my day!" We finished up that great dive with jumps off the boat and swim around before we headed back home to camp.

How can this program be improved?
I believe it was overall an amazing experience, but you could change some housekeeping things such as having somewhere to wash your feet before stepping into the house, to keep the sand from accumulating and thereby the sandflies from hatching.
Yes, I recommend
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Theo
10/10

Truly Incredible

I cannot find any thing negative to say about this program, from the amazing location, incredible diving and wonderful staff members the two months I had the pleasure to spend on the island of Andros was easily the best two months of my life. What the camp lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in location and being surrounded by amazing people and having amazing experiences daily means any missed creature comforts are very quickly forgotten. The diving, the main attraction to the course, is beautiful, being surrounded every dive by exquisite fish and crazy corals is breath taking at first, however after lectures on fish and corals it soon amps up the experience ten fold being able to ID what you are sharing the warm, clear water with. Overall it was an unforgettable experience that I cannot recommend any more to any body considering it, do it, you won't regret it.

Yes, I recommend
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Ollie
10/10

The best thing you will ever do!

I turned up for a month in the Bahamas with people I didn't know and to do something I had no previous experience of.......... and the best time. The instructors are some of the most professional, kind, hard working, good fun and just bloody awesome people you will have the pleasure of meeting and in my experience the same is true for the volunteers. This course seems to attract like minded and fantastic people. The accommodation and food is basic but very homely and a very relaxed environment to live in. Once you leave the comfort and sunny rays of the beach and venture on a dive words just cant explain the beauty that beholds you. Phenomenal reefs and fish, a fair few megafauna and visibility that enables you to see mainland America......... nearly! All in all I cant do this trip justice in words I just recommend you get out there and try it cause you wont regret it!

How can this program be improved?
Get rid of the bloody mosquitos and sand flies
Yes, I recommend
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Alex
10/10

The best month of my life!

The phase was genuinely the best time of my life, as we had an amazing group of volunteers who all bonded perfectly, and staff who got along with everyone. The island itself was enough reason to make me love the whole thing, but the organisation by the staff to get us at least one dive a day in some of the clearest, and most perfect waters imaginable just added to that. Whether you're an experienced diver like myself, or a complete novice then this is the perfect course for you. You can learn to dive in amazing conditions and see an unparalleled variety of marine wildlife just 20 metres from the house! And if you have dived before, whether it's in clear blue waters or in the murky lakes of England (like I was unfortunate enough to learn in) then it's still an amazing experience in itself. I would highly reccomend anyone and everyone to try this out for themselves, even if it's for two weeks, it will be the best fortnight of your life! Not just because of the diving, but the setting in which you are staying. There is so much else to do other than scuba dive, like visiting the blue hole lagoons, which are straight up amazing, and a lovely break from the normal routine on camp. If you do anything on your gap year, and you're even slightly interested in the oceans or scuba diving, I cannot push this option more than anything, as it has truly made my gap year the most memorable!

How can this program be improved?
Nothing, the program really was perfect!!
Yes, I recommend
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Megan
8/10

A very memorable experience

I would recommend this project to those who do and don’t have any diving experience. I was there for the full 10 weeks and it was definitely a memorable experience. As a first time diver I didn’t know what to expect, however, James the instructor was amazing. In just 10 days, I was a qualified advanced diver!

The April phase was pretty good in terms of weather, and there were only a handful of days where we were unable to dive. However, it was made sure that most of these days were used productively. From exploring the islands blue holes to visiting a bat cave.

As a marine conservation project we were there to collect data and, therefore, had to learn fish and coral species. Chloe made learning fish and corals easy, with helpful power points, flash cards and games. I would say if you have an interest in marine life then this trip is definitely suited to you.

For someone who is fairly fussy about food, you may struggle. With the main mealtimes involving, rice, beans, porridge and pasta, it can get a little boring. However, by the end of the phase we were making the most out of the given ingredients. There are also 2 shops in 5 minute walking distance, where you can get some snacks.

This was a really memorable experience and I would urge anyone who wants to try or enjoys diving to go for it!

How can this program be improved?
The website and kit list information should be updated. It seems like head office don't give the support that the team in the Bahamas need.
Yes, I recommend

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About GapForce

Gapforce is a leading provider of structured Gap Year programs and summer opportunities overseas. The wide range of global adventures includes marine conservation, wildlife protection, community volunteering & healthcare, extreme expeditions,...