Volunteer in Cuba with IOI: Marine & Coastal Habitat Restoration

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As the Marine and Coastal Habitat Conservation Volunteer, you will contribute to an ongoing initiative to improve and monitor marine and coastal ecosystem health. The data collected will help guide the environmental planning of this protected area.

Your volunteer time will consist of marine and coastal habitat restoration work. On land, this includes, invasive species removal, reforestation, bird diversity counts and data collection. Work in the water includes snorkeling to conduct fish and seagrass surveys, underwater trash pickups, and invasive species removal (lionfish capturing).

Accommodation is provided at Villa Arrecife, our volunteer house and dive center. The house has air conditioned bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and back patio and is minutes from the ocean.

  • Live in a picturesque Cuban coastal community and learn about Cuban culture.
  • Participate in a marine conservation community initiative, protecting Cuba's important natural resources.
  • Bond with other volunteers, staff, and community members.
  • Spend time under the water snorkeling.
  • Explore Cocodrilo and Cuba's Isle of Youth--a truly hidden treasure!

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Questions & Answers


9.38 Rating
based on 8 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 75%
  • 7-8 rating 25%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 10
  • Fun 8
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 8
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Beautiful Cocodrilo

My wife and I stayed in Cocodrilo with Nene for two weeks in March 2020. The program was well run and Nene was a great host. The chef, Marie, was a fantastic cook/personality. We felt very welcome throughout our stay and ate very well! Mornings were spent helping Nene perform various conservation activities - lots of snorkelling. Most beaches were accessed by bicycle so we ended up pretty fit by the end of the program. We also spent a few days collecting seeds in the forrest and planted them on the beach. Afternoons we spent relaxing and interacting with the local community. It was amazing to spend time living as a local and helping the community where we could.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have practiced my Spanish more! We learnt Spanish for 6 months before going to Cuba. While we could understand all of the basics we would have liked to understand more to get the most out of this trip.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A fun and unique experience

Going to Cocodrilo was a once in a lifetime adventure! We had a fun and relaxing time while doing projects that were helpful to the people and the environment. Nene worked hard to make us feel at home, and to explain everything about the habitat and the village. He is very knowledgeable and took time to be sure our questions were answered. We learned a lot about the culture and history of the area, and the snorkeling was terrific. We were glad we brought full wetsuits, as the water temperature in Feb. is chilly. We also brought plenty of very strong mosquito repellent, which is essential. I'm very glad we were able to meet the wonderful people in the program, and have this experience!

What would you improve about this program?
I think having mosquito nets in the room for sleeping would be helpful. We would have brought work gloves if we had known.
Bring your own wine or rum if desired, as well as snacks, cookies, tabasco sauce. Also need more vegetarian options.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience

I spent 2.5 weeks in Cocodrilo in Jan 2020. The program and Nenes projects are fantastic and I'm happy I could support it.
There isn't much to buy or do in the village, a great getaway to live and relax away from all the commerce.

The work itself was fun and not too hard. Nene is a really good guy who knows so much. His wife is also great and introduced me to local people which helped me to get to know the village better.
The area around Cocodrilo is just stunning. If it weren't for the mosquitoes...

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring a lot of mosquito repellent!
Without speaking Spanish on at least level B1, it will be hard to interact with the locals.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Go! Before this place is discovered

Cocodrilo is a tranquil paradise in an unassuming village, practically untouched by time or outsiders. It was my first extended snorkeling trip, and Renaldo was most patient and informative, providing tips and guided instruction for ease. I cannot begin to describe what magical vistas awaited underwater. Each day we explored a different section of unique reef, seeing abundant marine life. The format of the project provides a perfect balance of work in the sea/on the beach and time to engage with the community and explore the area. And the food! 3 awesome Cuban meals a day--so much delicious tropical fruit. I have done a number of international volunteer/immersion trips. This ranks at the top. I appreciate that this NGO is small, run by few, but truly impactful for the ecosystem we all share!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Leila's Review

I really enjoyed my stay in Cocodrilo!
Diving was excelent and until now, one of the best places I've been to for diving. Because Cocodrilo is a small village there is nothing to do for entertainment, but I had a great insight into the life of local Cubans, when I met Yemmys family and some young people from the village.
The food was just perfect and always fresh prepared.
Overall I just could recommend the volunteering program because there is so much to learn in the sea but also with talking to the locals and learning about the life there.
Sometimes when you're alone, life could be lonely but Yemmy and Nene were so kind and like a replacement for my family. They offered me a perfect stay with all their heart and I really had a good time with them.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
My experience with fishing while snorkling. It was a really nice experience to snorkel in a beautiful seascape and looking for lionfishs. After catching them, Nene prepared them sooo delicious for a nice dinner!
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Culture Immersion + Coral Reef Restoration

This was one of the best experiences I've ever had, and I've traveled to over 20 countries. Besides the helpful work on coral reef restoration, the beautiful and remote location of this work made it worthwhile. Our small group was taken into this community where we learned all about Cuba, its people, and its customs. For a short 10-day stay, it was one of the most immersive trips I've ever been on. I would say 10 days is the minimum! Stay longer if you can!

We spent each day scuba diving in the reef, led by an expert master diver who educated us on the reef and the work that they're doing. While sometimes we didn't feel as effective doing the hands-on reef work, I think it's more important as an educational tool for travelers to bring with them.

Not only was this some of the most beautiful diving, the food they cooked was incredible! Freshly caught seafood every day, the freshest juice, and served three times a day. It felt like a resort more than volunteer service.

We want to come back, to spend more time in Cocodrilo, to visit our far-away Cuban family, and to work more with a brilliant and fledgling program.

What would you improve about this program?
Our Spanish wasn't the best (but did it get better!), but a bit more information and transparency about the coral reef work and the long-term work IOI has been doing would go a long way. We found this out gradually, and again, there was a bit more of a language barrier than we expected. Knowing a decent amount of Spanish would make things so much easier!
Response from Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI)

Holly, thank you very much for your review and thank you so much for your kind words about our program. We are happy to hear that this was a great experience volunteering with us! It is amazing how one's Spanish improves as we are immersed - we're so glad to hear you had a great experience practicing your Spanish. We agree that the longer people stay, the better. We hope you join us again in the future!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience!

I had such an incredible, life changing experience on my trip with IOI to Cocodrilo. Pre-Trip communication was clear and my pre-trip questions were quickly responded to. I felt extremely prepared and well informed for my trip.
During my trip I felt well taken care of and supported by the IOI Cuba staff. More specifically, my time spent in Cocodrilo was a perfect mix of beautiful, safe, and exciting. The volunteer opportunities were very accurately advertised and the diving and snorkeling were breathtaking. I gave the social scene a 10 because I loved interacting with locals, heading to the "circulo" to listen to music and talk with locals.
The house in Cocodrilo (Villa Arrecife) is very comfortable, the community is nice, safe, and engaging. The food was really amazing - delicious, filling, and healthy!
It felt so empowering to be a part of this program and to be able to help. There is so much to do and so much to see in this small town! I was in Cocodrilo for 3 weeks and could have stayed longer. I cannot wait to be involved in another program with this organization!

What would you improve about this program?
There is really nothing I can think of in the realm of improvement.
Response from Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI)

Thank you very much for your review, Jamie! We are happy to know that our communication with you before the trip was clear and that you felt prepared to travel to Cuba. We are also happy to see that you felt empowered and that your experience was a blend of conservation and cultural experiences. That's exactly what IOI strives for. Please come back any time. The community of Cocodrilo missed you!

Read my full story
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience in Cocodrilo

If you are looking for a really meaningful opportunity to gain experience with on-the-ground community-based conservation in Cuba, I highly recommend going to Cocodrilo with IOI! I had the opportunity to be involved in and learn firsthand about the innovative marine conservation/education programs being led by local community members in conjunction with IOI. Cocodrilo is an incredibly unique place with a really special potential to serve as a model for eco-tourism benefitting both the community and the environment. Not only was it wonderful to get to know such a great town, but also once you see what's underwater you will be mesmerized. A truly beautiful place.

What would you improve about this program?
Have more vegetarian options at meals.
Response from Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI)

Thank you for the positive feedback, Alex! It's true as a volunteer in Cocodrilo, you'll see firsthand the exciting marine conservation initiatives and be able to participate in them. I can speak for the community members when I say they loved getting to know you! And since you've been there, the chef has really expanded the option for vegetarians. You were probably one of the first vegetarians Cocodrilo has seen (!) but now the chef can accommodate all restrictions--from vegetarians to vegans.