Bahamas Marine Conservation with Gapforce

Video and Photos

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 16 - 28 of 28
Default avatar
Laura
10/10

Basic but an amazing experience

I would strongly recommend this project to anyone, even if you have no diving experience. I was there for four weeks and wished i went for longer, in that time i did a lot. I was nervous about diving before i went however James the instructor was brilliant and i managed to complete the advanced course in 10 days.
The staff were good at having days planned, and the project was good value for money. Any issues the volunteers had, were addressed by the staff and things were changed swiftly after which made the trip run more smoothly. The food was very basic however i'm gluten tolerant and i took supplies with me and it was no issue for me to eat alternatives. Everyone helps with the cooking which makes it more of a social activity and everyone's preferences in the kitchen are accommodated for. There is also a shop five minutes away to get snacks from in between meals.
In my phase, there were only 10 volunteers and we all got on well, you get to know everyone as you spend most of the day together and as cliche as it sounds you become a little family. which is why i would recommend going for as long as possible as if you leave early it is hard to say goodbye.
Anti-insect repellent is a must as the sand-fly bites can be particularly nasty. Although everything is quite basic you soon get used to it.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing i would change would be that the food had more vegetables and meat. I think the staff should receive more money so that they can afford fresh meat instead of the processed alternatives.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Lucy
9/10

O'fish'ally 'Fin'tastic ;)

This trip has truly been amazing. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from it when I booked it but it exceeded what I imagined. For my gap year I first wanted something to do which wasn't travelling around and was by an organisation I looked at volunteering and treks but none had quite as much spark as diving everyday. I had been diving before so it really sounded like the perfect trip for me. There were many people who had never been diving before so they got qualified in the first few weeks, I thought that was quite bold to commit to 3 months of unknown, but they all enjoyed themselves so much and were lil pro divers by the end.
Even when we could not dive due to weather issues, we were still on the largest island in the Bahamas so there was so much to explore. We went up north to Morgan's bluff where there were ship wrecks we could snorkel, another time we went to captain Morgan's cave and then to the most northern tip of andros. On the island there were hundreds of blue holes we could of explored, my favourite of the blue holes was churches; it had a platform to jump, dive or flip off depending how ballsy you were, a bbq and toilets!! Another bh had a rope swing which was very entertaining.
All these day trips were organised by our amazing scientist Sam and expedition leader. Both Sam and James slaved away to plan these trips for us so we weren't sitting around camp all day.
There was a point during the 10 weeks where Sam was on his own supervising 12 people, whilst leading 4 dives a day and having to buy groceries (without a car) so then hitching back, taking hours. He must have been exhausted by the end of the day, but he never complained and was always still willing to listen to moans or suggestions. Also he would have to teach us our fish and coral lectures in between dives. it was clear the passion he has for his subject, which made the lessons so much more bearable and interesting. He would come up with quirky ways of remembering either the fish or coral, which always stuck in my brain. This man deserves a medal.
I would recommend staying for the full 12 weeks, just because you get so close to your fellow volunteers, like a big family, leaving early upsets the family and you won't want to leave them having all the fun!
If you're a cool kid, this trip is for you. Yes, you'll miss home sometimes and yes you'll miss vegetables (shocker) but that's not the things you remember from the trip.
You'll remember the crazy underwater creatures and the awesome people you meet. I'm tempted to book for next phase!
It is advertised as 2 dives a day for 6 days a week. Now thats a lot of diving! For the 10 weeks I was there I was sold the idea of 120 dives. To put this into perspective, I did 32 dives. all of them were amazing and so much fun, but its still about a quarter of what is advertised.
I would recommend checking out the weather conditions of the time of year you intend to visit, so you get your moneys worth.

How can this program be improved?
A bit more loving from London. It feels a tad neglected; the phase before, unfortunately had issues with the boat which resulted in it being out of action. London should have actioned this over December since they had a whole load of new volunteers arriving in january expecting to dive from a boat. To rent a boat (which we had to do) cost about $200 a day, this is not a cost effective solution which should have been dealt with.
Another improvement could be to change the way the trip is advertised. Gapforce stated 2 dives a day for 6 days a week. On average i was doing about 3.2 dives a week. I feel London are a bit disillusioned with what is possible when weather is bad, or boats are broken, or there is not enough equipment.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Philipp
9/10

Loved it :D

I took part in the Greenforce Bahamas project in January 2015- march 2015 and I would definitely recommend this project to everyone who loves meeting new people, diving, beach life and sun. Every thing is obviously a bit basic but I believe this adds to the whole experience and makes everything a bit more fun. The dive sites are also really good and if you are lucky you might see sharks, dolphins and turtles. My fellow volunteers and staff members where extremely nice and supportive and I have definitely made awesome new friends. Food is basic just like the whole research station but if you are not a picky eater you will be just fine. Andros is really a beautiful island with so many things to visit and the locals are very friendly and funny. The only thing I was disappointed about was that it seemed like Gapforce has neglected this project a little bit the main problem being that we didn't always have the proper equipment or it wasn't working properly. But none the less the staff always tried to make the best of the situation and often did. All in all I have to say that going to the Bahamas was an experience of a life time and I would recommend it to everyone.
If you have any questions feel free to ask :)

How can this program be improved?
I think the equipment is a little rundown but is still working fine. I think the project is just missing a little more funding from Grapforce for it to be perfect .
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Alistair
8/10

Good trip, good staff, bad support from London

Generally the trip was generally really fun. The diving is amazing and when the weather is good there is loads to see from parrotfish to the occasional shark and ray.

The staff (my dive instructor & marine biologist was Sam Healy) during my phase were really good and professional in the way they certified us and conducted the dives. Greenforce does tend to be slightly conservative with diving in other than perfect conditions but on the whole I do not find this a bad thing. Apart from anything else when the water is choppy the visibility is lowered to a few meters.

The accommodation is basic but for me this is part of the charm, although no warm water does take getting used to. You sleep on the air mattress you bring as the bunk beds are wooden frames so a thicker mattress is not a bad idea. There is also a small social area to hang around in, listen to music, watch films and play games, etc. But don't expect to be able to surf the web as wifi is only available on Sundays unless you buy data on a prepaid sim card ($35 for 2GB). The social area is also where the cooking is done. The food is fairly basic due to GapForce giving the instructors a tight budget (I think too tight). I would definitely recommend bringing vitamin tablets as you cannot get them on the island, due partly to the budget and partly to the lack of fruit and vegetables available on the island you do not get the vitamins you need. Most people also end up buying a few loafs of bread a week to keep them going in between the meals.

As I mentioned before I feel that Sam (our primary staff member after the second instructor had to unexpectedly leave early on) did a really good job, especially considering he was on his own and (with the intern- Scot), responsible for twelve people. Being the marine biologist he also gave the lectures on the fish species that we had to learn. They were fairly easy to learn as he was always prepared to ask questions and always had a funny way of remembering the species main traits. Sam is knowledgable and his passion for the marine sciences is evident.

Where the staff were effective, I feel the support they and the volunteers get from London once in the Bahamas to be less than satisfactory. Given this they do an even better job. We had multiple problems with boats, which cost us multiple diving days. Greenforce used to have a boat but have not done anything to replace it after it got damaged a few phases ago. This means that we have to rely on renting boats. At first we had one of the locals, which barely worked (there are very few mechanics and even less spare parts on Andros). Then due to the second instructors contacts at the five star resort down the road we were able to rent their spare boat. Obviously though this came with a few more restrictions. They were not really a hinderance but just one more thing on top of other complications, which Sam did not need. I feel that GapForce left Sam to deal with these problems on his own and with a tight budget. I also think that GapForce should provide an extensive 1st Aid kit (not for minor use i.e cuts and scratches) but if there was an emergency ther does not seem to be anything and there are no medical supplies on the island.

Furthermore be aware... GapForce advertises one to two dives a day. I will admit that after four weeks we were meeting this promise but only because we had three people leave the program (only booked a month). Before this there was not enough space on the boat and not enough equipment. Due to the lack of equipment I dove with an S,M and L BCD's on different occasions, meaning that often the equipment was ill fitting and banged around. There is only one large BCD and two mediums. The rest are small and extra-small (not really appropriate for the guys). Sam was doing four dives a day to get the two groups of six volunteers two dives a day. This is not really an ideal situation for him either as it means he was not getting a rest or often much food throughout the day. To add to this Sam is the one who has to do the grocery shopping and because there is no car he has to hitchhike the half hour journey down to the closest "town", which not only is difficult but also time consuming.

The bottom line is I would recommend this program but you have to be aware that it is probably not the cheapest option (partly due to prices on Andros) and that if you are not here for more than seven weeks you will just be on a diving holiday and not marine conservation (as you have to learn everything before doing the surveys).

I just hope that GapForce gets a boat sorted, which should make things easier and would stop a big waste of our money ($500 a week without fuel for the rent). Also for groups bigger than about twelve to fourteen people there needs to be more equipment otherwise their advertising of 1-2 dives a day needs to become: a dive a day (max). So basically it was a good experience due to the actual diving the people on the trip and the Staff (Sam and Scot) but let down by GapForce's administration, which left the feeling of being ripped off (i.e not cost effective).

How can this program be improved?
GapForce needs to supply more equipment, get a boat sorted so they are not wasting $500 a week renting the boat and advertise more correctly what you are actually getting. Also there needs to be an extensive permanent 1st Aid kit (aside from the personal ones people bring) for the instructors to use. There is nothing if there is an actual emergency other than oxygen.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Jesie
9/10

Bahamas

Diving was fantastic and I learnt so much about the reef, marine animals and the coral. Sam the scientist made learn not only interesting but fun playing games to help learn the species of fish and coral.

Some of the days were boring when we couldn't dive as most of us just sat around doing nothing. More team games or activities would have improved days like this.

Only real negative of the trip was the boat disaster no ones fault but I think gap force should have another boat in place that could have been used when the rental boat was not able to be used.

How can this program be improved?
Would have been better when we couldn't dive we had other things to do. Some of the time when it was sunny but too windy dive we did nothing for days. Games or doing group tasks would have made it more fun and worth while.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Casey
9/10

Oct 2014

I had always loved scuba diving and headed down to the Bahamas to learn more about marine science. The program balanced learning and fun very well and I ended up having one of the best experiences of my life. Be prepared that this is not a resort location. I feel that the fact that the location is a little rustic and rugged only adds to the experience. You are right on the beach and dive everyday (weather permitting). I would recommend going during the spring or summer season, as the winter winds can sometimes leave you stranded on land. For the price and location, the food, the diving, and the accommodation were great and plentiful. Plan to learn a lot and never want to leave!

How can this program be improved?
Food wise, there could always be more options. More back-up for boat or weather predicaments. Otherwise, great trip!!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Hayden
8/10

So much fun, has potential to be even better!

I went down to the Bahamas not expecting much at all and I believe those are the expectations you have to have if you're going to a project like this one. I had loads of fun during my time in Staniard Creek, but unfortunately, due to some uncontrollable factors such as weather and the fact that Andros is so remote this projects full potential was not completely reached. Saying this, there was nothing that the staff could do and they worked their hardest to try and make the windy (no diving) days as enjoyable as possible with lots of out trips. These trips were to AMAZING blue holes, surrounding towns and to more sheltered areas close by where volunteers were able to complete their PADI courses in time before they left. So the staff was great, especially Sam, the chief scientist who was a fantastic teacher and more importantly a great person. He made lessons fun and interactive, while putting emphasis on accuracy and the importance of what we had come to do. If not for the windy weather and trouble with getting boat parts I have no doubt that we would have been making the 5 minute boat ride to the beautiful reef to dive and survey almost every day. So I'd suggest to anyone interested to definitely check the seasonal weather patterns before they go. It's too bad that I wasn't there at another time of year when it wasn't so windy, because if not for the wind and a few other uncontrollable factors I would be giving a 10/10.

How can this program be improved?
I think if the program had of had a better boat that could have allowed for more diving, but I believe they have gotten one since I was there!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
The
10/10

Incredible

We went scuba diving almost everyday, we saw sharks and turtles and dived in a blue hole for the first time! One of the nurse sharks even came really close to the shore, we could see it from the volunteer house!
Met some of the most amazing people who I will never forget. Thanks for one of the best experiences ever Greenforce!

How can this program be improved?
Cost was high for what was given (food, etc)
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sebastian
10/10

Bahamas July 2013

I could write pages and pages about this amazing experience. As someone from my phase said to me, it sounds cliche but it is indeed a life changing experience. I can only agree.

As a advanced open water, I was looking forward to dive the reefs of Andros. And they lived up to my expectations! The oceanic blue hole King Kong is the most stunning dive I ever did. The geology is outstanding!! The reefs lay deep, but provide an amazing topography and the drop off called Tongue of the Ocean is dramatic and makes one realize how small and insignificant a human being is in the ocean. During every single dive we had a lot of fun, fooled around (of course within saftey regulations) and cracked jokes before and after.

The camp itself was perfect. We had a huge group (I recon 25 volunteers +staff) so they were people everywhere. But if one wanted time off, relax and enjoy the silence, people went up on the balcony where the `chill area` was and could do just that. Otherwise there was always something going on. The other volunteers were fun loving, it did not take long until we all became close friends. I really hope to have a reunion. Same goes for the staff, they did a awesome job coordinating our group and making sure everyone feels good and gets to dive as much as possible. I can´t lie, they were just as fun loving as every volunteer and always good for a laugh. And yeh, Saturdays were the best evenings.

About the lectures, teaching, and the program: If somebody is interested in Marine Science I would highly recommend it! It is a great chance to get some skills, knowledge and to be involved in intercultural education as it is a big part of the whole program to educate the local community about various topics. We also did beach clean ups, set up survey sites, did a lot of identification dives and had lectures about Fish, Corals, Invertebrates, Turtles, Ecology and and and...we watched documentaries in the evening from time to time which gave us a great idea about issues and life out there.

Other days were spent at the blue wholes, which you see in the videos (one of the best days we had was there) or by some randome activities which were up to you.

Before I go on and write a book let´s just say that this trip was not only great but a perfect chance to dive every single day and learn about the oceans and marine conservation. If you can imagine doing this for weeks or months, go!! Don´t hesitate because I am sure you will never regret it.

How can this program be improved?
FOOD. Small portions, high carb diet. Well better count in some extra bucks for food. But that sounds worse than it is. We all were good with it, as we bought some things from the local shops and mixed it up.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Becks
10/10

Bahamas Marine Conservation July 2012

The experience of living outside by the ocean for 5 weeks is one which I will never forget. There is not a day that goes by which I don't think about my time on Andros and I would recommend this trip to anyone.

There wasn't ever an average day on Andros but most days were spent diving for half of the day and then learning about either the various types of fish and coral and the marine environment. We also learned about other conservation efforts taking place around the world and species that were in danger. Diving is one of the most incredible activities and the reefs around Andros were a spectacular vantage point for marine life. It felt like descending into a complete other world on my very first dive - one which I never wanted to leave once I was in it.

Other days were spent seeing the island and taking in the local culture. We would take trips to the amazing blue holes on the islands, sometimes with picnics and sometimes stopping at local cafe's and restaurants. We would also get involved with teaching local kids to swim or educating them about what they could do to aid the protection of the marine environment.

By the weekends after all that hard work we'd definitely earned alot of rum drinks from the beach bar we were based near to. The social side of this project was brilliant and the pictures from our Saturday nights will always help us to remember the amazing times we had together. On this trip you can't help but make friends that you'll keep for life.

If you want an out of this world experience, cut off from the world's life in one of the most incredible settings, where you contribute to the conservation of the world's oceans then this trip is definitely for you!

How can this program be improved?
The food wasn't very varied and the portions were smaller than usual to try and minimise the costs so that money could be spent on more important dive equipment. It was a high carb diet to give you all the energy you needed for the dives so you didn't tend to notice the portions but some big eaters might want to factor in extra costs of food from the locals shop.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
S.J.T
10/10

Bahamas 2012 : July Phase

I love the ocean and marine life, so when I stumbled upon the greenforce Bahamas trip I was excited but really didn't know what to expect. However, once I got there I never wanted to leave! The relationships I made with the interns, supervisors and other members are ones I will always cherish, and we are all still in contact. We became a team and looked after each other, we all had chores and all worked together to make the experience as good as possible. I not only developed a true passion for the marine environment, but through fish and benthic lessons and actually seeing the underwater world first hand, am now studying environmental science in Uni, using a lot of what I learned in the Bahamas. I would recommend this to anyone, it developed me as a person who is more open to making new friendships, and 'literally' diving into unknown experiences.

How can this program be improved?
The variety of food lacked, but we always had fun experimenting with what we had. Meal times were never boring.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sam
10/10

Amazing experience!!

I spent 6 months on the island of Andros. 3 months as a volunteer and 3 months as an intern. Both phrases were excellent!!
The island holds some awesome natural beauty which include the blue holes and the beaches. I loved waking up every morning on the beach and seeing the sun.
You do work hard during the week with many dives, school lessons and fish learning but this makes the weekend fun at the bars feel even better.
I will never forget my first dive on the reef, it felt like I was on another planet and I would recommend diving to everyone because of that experience.
If you like sun, sea, sand and alcohol this is the trip for you!!!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Matt
10/10

Bahamas 2012

I had the best diving trip of my life out in The Bahamas. I felt it was a very authentic experience of the country because we weren't in any touristy areas. Having a huge bay all to ourselves was brilliant and being able to stop the boat and dive anywhere without anyone else around was a unique experience I haven't had diving anywhere else.
Day to day we would be up early; first group would dive while the rest of us learnt how to identify all aspects of marine life from the fish to the reef. Then everyone would be in camp for lunch before we would swap diving and lectures around.
With perfect conditions we were able to get 2 dives per boat trip, but due to weather it didn't always happen.
The marine life was insane with me seeing my first site of sharks, sea turtles and a spotted eagle ray within my first 2 dives!
The people were just awesome as well and made the trip that much more of a quality trip. We've already had one reunion in the UK and have another on the way.
Things didn't always go to the exact plan, however that's what this kind of trip is all about. It made the experience that much more exciting!

Yes, I recommend

Interviews

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,...