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Specialist Forums > Conservation Forum > GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
posted : January 14, 2006 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?

Eco experience of a lifetime? I am emailing this forum as I would like to pass some information on to fellow divers about a Global Vision International (GVI) trip to Mahahual, Mexico that I went on in October 2005.

My fiancé and I are AOW divers with over 50 dives each and we’re used to a variety of diving practices gained from holidays in Spain, Thailand and Egypt (and from a quarry in Edinburgh!). We were delighted to be accepted on the Expedition and spent the year getting organised, buying necessary kit and telling all our friends and family about the impending trip.

The purpose of the expedition was to monitor coral and fish due to the increasing tourism in the area to ensure that there were no detrimental ecological effects. Originally the trip was for AOW only (and this was the reason for selecting this expedition), I found out when checking the website, post booking, that this was changed to OW.

The living conditions were as expected (very basic) but unfortunately the tent supplied for us was not watertight so we had to sleep on damp mattresses and use mouldy pillows. The alternative accommodation in dormitories was also letting water in as there was only sheeting at one of the sides of the room. This was pretty horrendous bearing in mind this was the ‘hurricane season’. My fiance also had several items stolen and was never given the chance to report to the police. Finally, the staff were extremely patronising (I am 32 and my fiance is 39 and we did not need to be treated like children).

In addition, all the fun was taken out of the diving, examples are as follows:
• There were numerous duplicate buddy checks that were totally unnecessary. As a conscientious diver, I am aware of the importance of buddy checks but some days this was in triplicate and became something that you did not pay attention to.
• The dive times were fixed so you were surfacing with up to 100 bar.
• The space between buddies was ridiculous -we were told to stay so close that we were constantly bumping into each other and generally getting in each other’s way. This led to spending most of the dives checking that you were not knocking your buddy’s regs!
• The equipment was pretty shoddy, there was not enough BCDs and approximately 25% of all regs were in need of repair by day 3!
• The dive profiles of the staff were horrendous, they moved up and down continuously and we were concerned about the younger divers that didn’t know any better than to follow!
• There was no light on the boat (which wasn’t fantastic when we got lost in a storm and the boat couldn’t see us).
• There were no dive spares carried on board the boat so several divers had aborted dives when faulty equipment was not identified until they were in the water.
• There are a series of test on Fish or Coral and these run over several weeks not just within the first week – a huge amount of study time is required.
• The first week most of the time was spent teaching AOW to the OW expedition members – I was allocated one dive a day a 12.30 and had been up since 6.30am!

Most importantly, in the 5 weeks, no monitoring work was undertaken. Apparently this is the first time that this has ever happened but I believe that the next set of 5 week trippers also had carried out limited monitoring.

3 of us ended up leaving at the end of the first week (we preferred to go Cenote Diving in Tulum – would recommend Hidden Worlds- and then ended up in Cozumel where the diving was amazing!). This however, meant that a quarter of the paying members had left by day 7! In addition, another member left a few weeks later and he should have been there for 10 weeks!

I know that the company has received some good feedback from people, but I feel that I have a duty to inform other divers that things are not always as great as they appear. The expedition cost £1350 each plus flights (£500 each as scheduled flights) so this is also something to bear in mind as we could have gone on am amazing diving holiday for £3750!


Beth C
posted : August 8, 2006 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
Hi Pippa,

I hope you don't mind me replying to you, as I also work for another volunteering organisation, Quest Overseas.

We have recently started our first Conservation Dive Expedition (after diving in Mozambique on our travel expeditions for over 5 years) to monitor and provide data on Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.

I was really interested to read all your points and I'm so sorry to hear what a terrible time you had on your volunteer expedition.

It's so important to let people know if you've had a bad experience, so I'm glad you are keen to let people know. All too often people keep quiet and it's very difficult to tell a good company from a bad one, just from a flashy website.

Can I also offer some advice to any people reading these blogs that are keen to join a volunteer project - as there are some very good companies out there.

Check out This is an independent website which offers advice and a list of questions to ask any volunteer organisation before you sign up.

It's a good place to start and I hope it will encourage others reading this that volunteering can be an amazing experience, as long as it's planned and organised well in advance, by a good company, which has solid ethics and procedures in place and long term contacts with local project partners.

I do hope this hasn't put you off for good Pippa and the best of luck with your future diving.

Best wishes,
Beth Chapman
Africa Operations Manager, Quest Overseas
01444 474744

posted : August 8, 2006 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
Yes, agreed, and well done Pippa.

It is essential that everyone who returns from a negative experience tells people about it. Pippa, have you written to GVI as well? And maybe to the Year Out Group? GVIs partners in Mexico? Anyone else? The RGS Expedition Advisory Centre?

It is so frustrating when organisations abuse the money and good will of individuals. Unfortunately I know that you are not alone and so anyone who is out there please write complaints here about any similar experiences. If these negative experiences are not highlighted then the whole industry (of which I am also part) will suffer.

Bring it on I say and lets see how some of these so called conservation organisations fare!

I will post a another topic with a title about this too. Volunteering can be good, why let Conservation as a whole suffer because of misguided and mismanaged projects!

Also great that you could recommend something as part of your e-mail, just as important as saying what is bad, it is essential that people say what is good!!

posted : October 5, 2007 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
their website looked good. Anyone else have any experience with other companies?

posted : February 22, 2011 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
URGH! It's so unbelievable that 6 years later GVI are still operating in the same manner in the same place. I am currently in Mahahaual and felt compelled to write the following email to the company yesterday:

I am leaving base 4 weeks early with 5 others to try and save something from this disastrous and expensive, mis marketed excuse for a marine conservation project. Avoid unless you are an 18 year old whose parents will pay for them to sit on a beach for 10 months and become a dive master.

I haven't even addressed the issues with the over protective dive practices, scientific methodogy (a joke) and real issues with the base location.

The email:

I am aware you have been contacted recently by at least a couple of my fellow volunteers, currently on GVI placement at Punta Grusea, Mexico. Unfortunately, as a volunteer on a ten week program, I also feel compelled to write to you. I hope my comments will be taken together with theirs as you consider your response.

Today is the first day of week seven. To date I do not feel I have contributed to a marine conservation project and I am overwhelmingly disappointed. That is solely what I paid two thousand 500 pounds to do here. I have felt despondent with GVI as an organisation since week two, when, as I pushed to make myself ready for monitoring, it became apparent there were only a total of 2 weeks worth of monitoring to complete anyway, so why rush. While I do appreciate the importance of the process of training, I feel it has been dragged out and delayed to ridiculous proportions. The preparation for scientific monitoring is simply an aside to teaching a host of kids to dive in preparation for internships. That, and staff training.

I passed my fish test within 2 days of being on base. I came to base already a qualified dive master. I have been confident on fish spots for some time and feel I have essentially sat and waited for 6 weeks watching other people learn to dive. Last week I (finally) undertook my first practice monitor and was told the next one could count. As such, I feel I could have been monitoring weeks ago, if it was necessary. But it just isn't. There is next to no science to do. In truth, the group is so large (as to prevent anyone from getting two dives per day) and the science is spread so thin that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that we are here solely to bring in revenue for GVI.

Last week I watched a volunteer on a five week program leave base (a week early) totally deflated. She saved for years to make it here. She couldn't afford to come really. She learned her fish in advance, but by week two had come to the same sad conclusion as the ten weekers. That she had been duped by the GVI marketing machine and there was never a hope she would contribute to the monitoring. She cleaned base, and watched the interns learn to dive. She was mis sold the program as I feel I have been. I sincerely believe selling the 5 week program is totally unjustifiable. Specifically, I would like to know from GVI what people who pay to do the first five weeks of the program can ever hope to contribute scientifically.

I was lured to GVI under the pretence I would be contributing to a ten week MARINE CONSERVATION program for CERTIFIED divers. It was not made clear I would have to wait weeks for people to complete advanced courses, rescue courses, staff training and for scholars to do dive master training. It was not made clear there would be only two weeks of monitoring. It was also not made clear that diving was very much subject to the accessibility of one pass through the reef which is hampered by weather most days. I think there are some issues over the choice of location for this site. I have done 15 dives in the 6 weeks.

In a similar vein to my fellow 10 week volunteers, I would like to leave base. I would like to know beforehand, however, if GVI will refund the 5 week portion of the program outstanding on the basis it was misrepresented in the marketing prior to sale. Given the amount of money I feel I have lost here, if I do not receive a satisfactory response, I will be pursuing the matter when I return to the UK.

I look forward to your response.

posted : April 2, 2011 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
Oh, Pippa and Redlizy, what awful experiences you had! I feel so sorry for you both.
You are right to let other divers know about this. It makes me really sad and angry to hear that these big organisations are ripping volunteers off. It would be such a shame if it has put you off for good, as we really need the help of dedicated volunteers to protect our oceans.
I am a volunteer diver myself, with the SILMAR Project in Spain, where I live. Our work depends on divers who are prepared to volunteer their holiday dive time to doing real survey work. The SILMAR Project is in its second year ('though I've been doing survey work with volunteers here since 2003) and intends to have 80 research stations around the Iberian peninsular - all monitored by volunteers.
Most of these will be local divers, but for the two research stations for which I am the voluntary coordinator, the research is carried out in English by volunteers who come from the UK, USA and other English-speaking countries.
Most of my volunteers are already qualified divers but if training is required that is always done separately so that volunteers can get on with the research! That shows that GVI is not interested in doing real research and is just there to make money. My volunteers do 2 survey dives each day, Mon - Friday, and are mostly trained "on the job" so as to get real experience a.s.a.p. Volunteer accommodation is basic shared bunkhouse (no leaks!) and costs are subsidized to make it affordable for marine biology students and such, although any diver keen on doing real conservation research is welcome to join the programme.
Please do contact me if you or any other divers would like more information.

posted : November 17, 2014 Post subject: GVI - Experience of a Lifetime?
I have been looking into the Under 18 youth program GVI offers in Mexico for marine conservation awareness. It sounds exactly what I have been looking for. It is very expensive and I wanted to learn more about the organization before making any commitment. I found your response and some others on different websites talking about how it is a scam. Do you know anything about this program? I'm sad to find out about this.

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