DAY TO DAY
Most days saw us all getting up at 6:30am to do duties, which included raking the grounds, cooking breakfast, preparing the boats and cleaning the communal areas. After breakfast, we all grouped together for boat push and prepared for the days diving.
People on first wave would kit up, and be briefed on the dive before heading out. Anyone left on base would help out by filling tanks on the compressors, manning the radio, preparing lunch or learning their fish or coral species.
Diving days usually consisted of 4 waves with 12 divers on each one, this meant that everyone on base managed to get 1 dive everyday and two if your hut was not on kitchen duty.
After all the waves had gone out we'd help to push the boats back on to the beach and de-kit the boats.
Dinner would be served around 6:30pm. Due to the low availability of electricity on base there is NO refrigeration so all meals are vegetarian. After dinner we often played cards, watched films or just chilled out in the communal area. There is a strict 3 beer limit on nights preceding a diving day.
Party nights, however, often saw slightly more alcohol consumption... They also meant a later evening meal, cooked by the staff which included meat!
I had never dived before I went on this volunteering trip and was a little nervous to begin with. The staff are fantastic teachers and very safety conscious. They are focused and enthusiastic. I earned both my Open Water and Advanced Open Water while on camp and now feel very confident while diving!
The coral reefs are beautiful and their protected status means that they are well populated with many different species of fish and coral. Rare species can often be spotted here.
A personal highlight was seeing a Hammerhead shark during my second ever open water dive!
All meals, with the exception of dinner on party nights, is vegetarian. As an avid meat eater I thought this would be a problem, but I honestly didn't miss meat at all. The quality of meals really depends on how keen you are to make it. There is a helpful recipe book to get you started if you are unsure on how to go about it and the other volunteers are very enthusiastic. I felt that the quality of the food was fantastic during my 2 month stay in Mexico.
On base health and safety is the number one priority, this means that occasionally it can be frustrating if a diving day is called off for what feels like only a little wind or a small amount of swell. However this does mean that EVERY dive is a safe dive. I never in danger while I was diving with GVI.
The general area I visited in Mexico, Quinatana Roo, was very safe. There is a strong police and army presence which is there to make you feel safe.
The cost may seem high at first glance but factoring in the number of dives, the qualifications and the quality of instruction. The diving itself makes it worth while. Let's not forget either that you will be living on a tropical beach in a beautiful country!
The local town, Tulum, is a vibrant but small urban area. We found that all our needs could be met there. There were a variety of bars and restaurants as well as an internet cafe, the hotels are reasonably priced. We recommend the Hotel Maya and Chilam Balam, both of which are secure, well priced and comfortable.
Playa del Carmen and Cancun both offer a more urban break for those that desire it. You should be aware though that the prices go up for everything in both these places.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Hostel 615 (Located on 6th and 15th)
-Friendly family owned
-Recommended by GVI
5th Avenue runs close to the beach, most of the bars, restaurants and clubs are on or near this street. (200-400 pesos for club entry)
-Much more expensive
-Hotels and Hostels in the downtown area (near the bus station) offer more reasonably priced beds, the Hotel district itself is very expensive and even more so at night. (700-900 pesos for entry to clubs)
-The Hotel district can be reached from downtown using the buses for approx 30 peso and the beach is free to use. Cancun beach is by far the best & busiest beach we visited.
Bring a camera, preferably a waterproof one. Invest in a GoPro if you can afford it.
Bring a BOX mosquito net, as these are the only ones that fit the beds.
Learn as much as you can about the topic you are given to study, the more you know the faster you will be able to monitor.