Join a Reef Buddy Diving Volunteer Programme in the Caribbean

Become a Caribbean Reef Buddy volunteer and join us on the beautiful island of Carriacou, just north of Grenada. Learn to dive in the warm, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and play an active part in marine conservation as a member of our research team.

You can volunteer with Caribbean Reef Buddy for 2 to 8 weeks from April to October every year. 

Individuals, groups and students conducting research projects are all welcome.

Cost for hotel accommodation, breakfast & evening meals, PADI dive training, use of equipment, underwater research and training starts at £1599.

Learning to dive in CarriacouTaking part in underwater monitoringVolunteers monitoring the reefsLion fish Volunteers receive speciality training in digital underwater photographyVolunteers will get the opportunity to see lots of underwater wildlife!The view of Paradise Beach from the volunteer houseVolunteers have plenty of free time to relax and exploreVolunteers assisting with lionfish containment Volunteers undertake PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water dive coursesA beautiful sunset on Paradise BeachVolunteers aboard the boatTaking part in reef surveysGuided tours of the island are available Enjoying some underwater photography View from the boat deck Sunset over the seaResearching coralsVolunteer lionfish huntersBiologist and dive instructor Kate

About the Project

Become a Caribbean Reef Buddy volunteer and join us on the beautiful island of Carriacou near Grenada. Learn to dive in the warm, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and play a full and active part in our exciting marine conservation projects.

Volunteer Programme

An underwater photo of volunteers divingBy choosing to join Caribbean Reef Buddy you will be undertaking the following:

  • PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water dive courses or free in lieu fun dives.
  • Advanced diving techniques including navigation and buoyancy control.
  • Specialty training in digital underwater photography.
  • Specialty courses in coral and fish identification.
  • Specialty training in Lionfish containment, including hunting, analysis and data collection.
  • Internationally recognized reef survey protocols, fish, benthic and coral survey techniques, including Reef Check.
  • Lectures, classes and support from our resident biologists.
  • Training in equipment maintenance.
  • Day trip to snorkel with Green and Hawksbill turtles in the Tobago Cays Marine Park, the setting of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
  • Snorkel trips to the beautiful Sandy Island and White island.
  • Hike through the Nature Reserve to the summit of High North.
  • Turtle monitoring with our friends at Ocean Spirits in Grenada (only on combo package).

All of the above courses and training will ensure you are well prepared to join us in our conservation and monitoring projects and help us to protect and preserve the beautiful reefs around Carriacou.

All diving equipment, course materials and research/project equipment is provided by us.

Eagle rays at Sandy IslandDuration of your stay

The training, knowledge and experience you gain will be dependent on the duration of your stay with us. A 2-week stay will provide you with dive training up to PADI Advanced Open Water, and introduce you to some of our monitoring and data collection protocols.

Join the conservation program for 4-weeks and you will have the opportunity to conduct more research dives, learn advanced monitoring techniques and build your dive portfolio!

If you choose to become a research assistant for 8-weeks, you will join our team on additional data collection surveys, and build on your first month of training. Qualifying in Emergency First Response, Rescue and Divemaster courses, leaving the island as a professionally rated diver with all the tools to work in diving and marine conservation.

A volunteer surveying fishReef Monitoring

The coral reef systems around Carriacou comprise a beautifully special and biodiverse coral reef ecosystem on which the population of this island relies. Though still teeming with life, increasing stress due to over-fishing and invasive species could ultimately threaten their collapse!
Through reef monitoring and data collection, a better picture can be obtained concerning stressors to the reef ecosystem and strategies by which they can be mitigated. We work together with universities and individual researchers around the globe that share our goals to protect this beautiful and productive ecosystem. Caribbean Reef Buddy employ a variety of monitoring techniques ranging from Coral Watch, Reef.Org, Reef Check and AGRRA. Our resident biologists are on hand to provide help, assistance and training.


Lionfish Containment

Caribbean Reef Buddy has received funding by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) which is implemented by UNDP, to run a Lionfish Containment programme and reduce the populations of these invasive fish around Carriacou. Through this programme, we have trained a team of local community members to dive and safely hunt Lionfish during weekly culls. Any catch is sold to local restaurants for sale to hungry customers. We work in conjunction with rangers of the local MPA in order to raise awareness about the invasive Lionfish in the community through school programs, a Lionfish jewellery programme, and quarterly derbies covering all of Carriacou and beyond!

The coral reef nursery

Coral Reef Nursery

Following a pilot program implemented in conjunction with UNEP, TNC, and the government of Grenada, Caribbean Reef Buddy has established their very own coral nursery and created a training program to involve volunteers. The PADI Caribbean Coral Nursery Diver Distinctive Specialty was written in-house and designed to teach Caribbean Reef Buddy volunteers about the construction, population, maintenance, monitoring and out-planting of a coral nursery using Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) coral species.

In June and August of 2018, Caribbean Reef Buddy volunteers completed the training, built nursery structures and populated them with fragments of Elkhorn coral- a critically endangered species. As part of our regular program intervals, volunteers will have the opportunity to complete the PADI Caribbean Coral Nursery Distinctive Specialty, partake in coral nursery work, and in doing so aid in reef restoration efforts and the recovery of a threatened species.

Caribbean Reef Buddy 

Group volunteer photoCaribbean Reef Buddy is a registered NGO, partnered with Deefer Diving Carriacou, a PADI 5 Star dive centre. With a team of concerned, ecologically-conscious dive professionals and biologists in place, it is our goal to meet and support the marine conservation needs of the island.

The decline of coral reefs across the Caribbean has been well documented. Climate change, over-fishing and increased commercial development are all playing their part. Through our frequent presence under water, we have noticed these threats beginning to impact the coral reef systems of Carriacou. We understand that a healthy marine ecosystem plays an important role in sustaining the livelihoods of the local population, and have taken initiative to protect the biodiversity and ecological wealth of the island.

Caribbean Reef Buddy works hard with our partners and friends to help develop an understanding of the threats to this amazing ecosystem, as well as working with government representatives and agencies to help protect and preserve the reefs

Our Friends and Partners

We have partnered with Ocean Spirits in Grenada to deliver combo programs in reef conservation and turtle monitoring. Ocean Spirits utilize their expertise to train volunteers in Leatherback turtle monitoring during summer programmes.

We also work in conjuction with Canadore College to deliver summer field camps and training in our reef monitoring and Lionfish containment protocols. We also support University of Guelph researchers studying Carriacou’s reef ecosystem for conservation-oriented data collection.

Throughout our work our aim is to inspire people and lead by example, to encourage environmental awareness and individual development. We are proud that people who come to work with us leave as friends.

Chameleon in the trees

Dates & Costs

Volunteers can join our conservation team for 2, 4 or 8 weeks. We have something to suit everyone, and anything is possible. From your first steps in diving and coral reef ecology, through to professional Divemaster training. Our professional programs are complemented by advanced research protocols for those wishing to work in the field.

For further information on start dates and alternate placement durations please email: victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com

The dates below represent arrival and departure dates to and from Carriacou. Projects will start the day after arrival. In order to ensure our volunteers receive the best training possible, we limit numbers to 10 per programme.

2018 Dates

2-week dates - £1886:

August 19th to September 1st - fully booked
September 16th to September 29th
October 14th to October 27th
November 11th to November 24th

4-week dates - £2995

August 19th to September 15th - fully booked
September 16th to October 13th
October 14th to November 10th
November 11th to December 8th

Reef monitoringThinking of a career in diving and marine conservation? Caribbean Reef Buddy are excited to announce a new Eco Divemaster programme!

You will develop a detailed understanding of our coral reef conservation programmes, by joining our conservation team as you complete your dive training to become a PADI Divemaster.

After 8 weeks with us you will leave with the professional qualifications and experience required to work in the dive industry and field of coral reef conservation. For more information contact Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com

8-week Eco Divemaster Programme dates - £4979

July 22nd to September 15th - fully booked
August 19th to October 13th
September 16th to November 10th
October 14th to December 8th
November 11th to 5th January

Volunteers working with leatherback sea turtle research in Grenada

 

2019 Dates

2 weeks - £1916:

28th April to 11th May
26th May to 8th June
30th June to 13th July
28th July to 10th August
25th August to 7th September

4 weeks - £3093:

28th April to 25th May
26th May to 22nd June
30th June to 27th July
28th July to 24th August
25th August to 21st September

8 weeks - £5102:

28th April to 22nd June
26th May to 20th July
30th June to 24th August
28th July to 21st September

We are also offering combination trips with Ocean Spirits Leatherback Sea Turtle Programme in Grenada

"Combo" week programme available on the following dates in 2019:

28 April to 25 May (Reef Buddy) then 25 May to 15 June (Ocean Spirits) = 7 weeks
4 to 25 May (Ocean Spirits) then 26 May to 8 June (Reef Buddy) = 5 weeks
4 to 25 May (Ocean Spirits) then 26 May to 22 June (Reef Buddy) = 7 weeks
6 to 27 July (Ocean Spirits) then 28 July to 10 August (Reef Buddy) = 5 weeks
6 to 27 July (Ocean Spirits) then 28 July to 24 August (Reef Buddy) = 7 weeks

For further information on "combo" pricing please email: Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com

Costs

Volunteer Lionfish hunters

All costs include hotel accommodation (based on shared double rooms) with breakfast and evening meals provided. All dive training, or free fun diving in lieu of courses, equipment rental, PADI manuals and course fees, project t-shirts and wristbands are included.  Extra nights accommodation on Carriacou is available at £26.75 per night.

Airfares, transfers to Carriacou, medical/travel insurance, lunches, and personal expenses, are not included. It is compulsory for all volunteers take out travel/medical (including dive) insurance prior to joining the project.

Food, Accommodation, Travel & Free Time

BBQ on the beach

You will be based in a quaint family-run hotel, just 2 minutes walk from the dive centre. Mishka, the owner / manager is a true Caribbean gem, her and her partner Tim, will be on hand to ensure your stay is as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Just a short hop over the road from the hotel and you will find yourself on the beautiful island beaches where you are able to relax, chill and soak up the unique island atmosphere.

You will be provided with breakfast every morning, usually comprising of cereals, toast, eggs, bacon, fresh juices, tea and coffee. When you return from your diving activities you can expect delicious dishes such as home-made lasagne, burgers and traditional meals from the West Indies - such as the famous rotis and Oil Downs! For those volunteers with special dietary requirements, please ensure you include this as part of your application.

Requirements

• No previous experience is required, all training, materials and equipment is provided.
• Minimum age 18+ years.
• A good team player with a positive ‘can do’ attitude, a sense of humour is a must!

Tobago Cays trip with turtlesFree time

Your time with us will be busy and immensely rewarding, particularly if you are only with us for 2 weeks. However, we fully appreciate that this is your trip and your experience, and we want you to get the most from it. Volunteers will be given one day off a week for island exploration and relaxation, and if more time off is needed the programme can always be adjusted to suit. Some potential activities outside of our programmes (additional costs incurred) include:

• Guided tours of the island.
• ‘Castaway’ remote Island trips and island bbq.
• Kite surfing on Union Island with our friends at the JT Pro Centre.
• Visit to ‘Happy island’, an island containing nothing but a bar!
• A nature walk through mangroves and the nature park at High North.


Bobcat diving boat for volunteersTravel to Grenada

If you are travelling from the UK or Europe, direct flights are available with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Alternatively, flights via Barbados, Trinidad and the US are available with BWIA, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines. If you are travelling from the US or Canada, flights are available with American Airlines and Air Canada. Flight prices do vary so please book early to get the best prices!


Travel to Carriacou

Carriacou is a short boat ride from Grenada. There is a daily ferry leaving the Osprey terminal in St. George’s at 08:30am Monday to Saturday and 8:00am on Sunday. Depending on your flight time, there may be a requirement for an overnight stay in Grenada, please factor this in to your travel plans to ensure you arrive in time to start your programme. A member of the team will be waiting to meet you as you step off the ferry in Carriacou. In the event of an overnight stay in Grenada, we offer a discounted rate of $35USD per person per night (room only) at the Sea Breeze Hotel located right on the famous Grande Anse beach.

The beach at sunset

About Carriacou – Isle of Reefs

Carriacou is the sister isle of Grenada. Just 13 square miles in size, Carriacou is surrounded by beautiful beaches of white, golden and volcanic black sands. Coral reefs surround the island, providing a base for our beautiful sandy beaches - Carriacou is perfect for beach walks, snorkelling and sun bathing. The weather is warm and sunny all year round with air temperatures ranging from 23°C (73°F) during winter to 30°C (86°F) maximum in the summer, and sea temperatures never falling below  26°C (77°F). Carriacou represents the authentic Caribbean, you will find no glitzy resorts or tourist traps on the island, just warm and genuinely friendly people who are simply pleased to see you! We are sure you will fall in love with the island, the culture and the people.

Carriacou is also close to the famous Tobago Cays, which provided the setting for the film Pirates of The Caribbean. The Tobago Cays Marine Park is also a turtle sanctuary, where you can swim & snorkel with hawksbill and green turtles. Boat trips and tours can be arranged for you.

Please see below for a video showcasing some of the activities at the project:

Volunteer Testimonials
 

Volunteer diver in the Caribbean

Rhiannon O'Neil from the UK, joined the project for 2 weeks in March 2018: 

I had a wonderful time with Caribbean Reef Buddy. Everyone at the dive centre were very friendly and helpful. My instructor Katlynd was an excellent teacher and made me feel very safe. My training was also a really fun and enjoyable experience and I loved every dive. The dive sites were incredible and all the staff were extremely knowledgeable. The conservation project was amazing and I felt like I was making a difference. I really enjoyed being part of it. Again, Katlynd was excellent teacher which helped me feel confident. I couldn't have asked for a better diving and conservation experience and I would love to return one day.


Volunteers in the Caribbean

Bonita Gray, from the UK, joined as a volunteer for 3 weeks in October 2017: 

It was the best experience I have genuinely ever had.  Everyone there was lovely and helped make the experience as good as it was. The accommodation is good and you are certainly well fed. I believe these guys are genuinely interested in marine conservation and these are not just tick box exercises for them.  Great to go away with so much knowledge that I can pass on to others.

All of the teaching be it diving or the various speciality subjects such as Reef watch, underwater photography etc  were brilliant. I struggled a bit with diving for the first few days but the instructors were patient and soon I forgot the struggles I had originally had. I may well return there and If I don’t I will certainly be diving more and gaining more PADI certificates.

Thoroughly recommend these guys and would still be there if I didn’t have a job to return to, and mortgage, dogs etc!


Shanna Clark was a volunteer on the 8 week Eco Divemaster programme from July to September 2017: 

Volunteer diver at Reef Buddy project in Carriacou

I've loved it so much here that what started as an 8 week trip has turned into an 18 week trip. Yesterday, I completed the program I came for and my Divemaster training and am now staying on as an intern to continue learning more about the dive industry and to keep working with this amazing team.

I can hardly believe how much I have learned in 8 weeks. Before coming here, my primary goals were to learn more about marine wildlife and conservation efforts, and to become a better diver and get the training needed to be able to work in the industry, so that I can travel as a dive professional. The amazing team at the project have taught me all of that and more. They have instilled in me the same passion that they have for the underwater world, and they are also fantastic dive instructors.


Samantha Wilson was part of the 8 week Eco Divemaster programme in May to July 2017: 

Volunteer part of the eco diving project in Carriacou

My 8 week Eco Divemaster programme was a memorable experience. 8 week time well spent I was surprised how much I learnt in this time frame. This was going to be my first volunteer work abroad in Coral conservation and Lionfish containment.

My objective during this volunteer programme was to learn and contribute to Coral conservation work and Lionfish containment and to progress in scuba diving, as I wanted to venture in a whole new career in the diving world, to certify in PADI open water, Advanced open water and Divemaster. That’s exactly what I accomplished during this 8 week programme. I gained confidence and valuable diving experience at the Reef buddy project.

Beach of Caribbean project locationThe Reef buddy project has an incredible setting to learn various dive courses and to learn and contribute to Coral conservation work and Lionfish containment. The Turquoise and Cobalt blue colours of the Caribbean sea is incredibly beautiful, I was always looking forward to getting in the water when I was there. It made me feel so refreshed. There are various dive sites you can visit, each has its own unique qualities. Reef walls/ volcanic bubble gardens and a wreck with sightings of exotic fishes and wonderful marine life.

The team at the project are full of enthusiasm and inspiring knowledge and will happily make your diving experience an enjoyable one. I also have to add my lovely 8 week stay at John’s Unique resort. Owners are a delightful couple Tim and Mishka with their friendly staff, made my stay so warm and hospitable which I'll never forget. I had a wonderful time and so should other people out there. It's absolutely rewarding and gives you a fresh perspective on life. Thank you too WorkingAbroad for giving me the opportunity and to many more people in the future.


Isobel Sherlock from the UK spent 4 weeks volunteering on the project in 2015: 

Isobel Sherlock after helping with lionfish containment I spent 4 weeks volunteering on the Reef Buddy project during the summer of 2015. It is certainly one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life and I am counting down the days till I go back!

Before arriving in Carriacou I had one very brief Scuba diving experience in a UK aquarium – needless to say a world away from diving in this paradise. So it was fair to say I had no idea what I was doing when it came to diving. But I need never have ever worried that I had no experience whatsoever – the dive shop will provide you with everything you could possibly need (all of which is brilliant quality), the staff endeavour to make you as comfortable as possible; they are patient, enthusiastic and as thorough as ever each time you go diving.

I gained my Open Water, Advanced Open Water PADI certifications along with several other including, Wreck diving, underwater photography and fish identification. I was there to gain these qualifications and contribute to the volunteer programme by collecting data and taking part in lionfish culls but I came away with so much more than that.

The island itself is not only beautiful but safe, extremely welcoming and vibrant. The locals are keen to chat to you and help you in any way possible, you could spend hours enjoying the lengths of white sandy beaches, swimming and snorkelling in the turquoise waters or hiking around the island. The programme attracts like-minded individuals and I met some great people who I am sure I will stay friends with.

The programme itself is well structured and thoughtfully planned. Each day brought something to new to the table, the staff are extremely knowledgeable so we were learning new things each dive. The centre is flexible and will strive to accommodate your every need. In the four weeks there I saw something new everyday – no dive is the same. The dive sites are vivacious and utterly amazing with a range of habitats that sustain a variety of marine life.

I cannot recommend this volunteer programme, the dive shop, the staff or the island enough!


Volunteer with an invasive lionfish

Sabrina Conliffe from Canada participated in the Reef Ecology Programme: 

Participating in the reef ecology program was the experience of a lifetime! This fast paced program is jam packed with fun and engaging activities. I did not have a lot of diving experience prior to joining the program but the instructors were super friendly and welcoming, which helped me feel comfortable in the water. During the program I was able to attain many dive certifications through PADI such as my advanced open water, Caribbean lionfish containment specialist, and coral & fish ID certifications, to name a few.

Not only did I gain experience as a scuba diver, I also got to participate in conservation projects such as lion fish culling and reef monitoring. The program gave me the opportunity to gain experience in hands on field work that I would not have been given anywhere else, and their passion for reef conservation and management is truly inspiring. The best part of about the organization is the emphasis they put on community involvement. Through the program I met a lot of members of the local community, who have received training in scuba diving and lionfish hunting with the project, an opportunity they may not have otherwise been offered. This shows the dedication that the team has put forth to ensure that their projects are improving the health of the reefs as well as benefitting the local communities while being sustainable in the long term. I recommend this course to anyone who is interested in hands-on learning about reef conservation in a fun and unique setting!


Laura Bradley from the UK joined both our Ocean Spirits Project and Carribean Reef Buddy Diving Projects:

Volunteer Laura Bradley

After spending 3 weeks with Ocean Spirits in Grenada, I was lucky enough to be able to spend the final weeks of my travels at the Reef Buddy project in Carriacou.  Although my visit was rather fleeting, I was able to gain my open water PADI qualifcation and was lucky enough to learn with a group of 6 locals who were being trained up to be Coral gardeners as part of conservation works. Whilst I was staying, the project had 3-5 volunteers who had been there for around 4/5 weeks they seemed to have really enjoyed it, amassing around 40-50 dives during their stay, diving 5/6 days a week and always enjoying Sundays off to explore the Island or relax on the beach.

The days would involve getting to the dive shop around 9 o'clock and then having a couple of dives before lunch, and maybe one afterwards, which meant getting back to the guest house around 4 o'clock, time enough for a bit of a relax, a shower or a drink or two at the local bar. The accommodation was shared rooms (with the other volunteers) with ensuite bathrooms in a guest house located right on Paradise Beach which was a picture postcard location. The facilities were fine, clean, tidy and the manager was very helpful and accommodating of any requests. Breakfasts and evening meals were included and cooked by the guesthouse and were really tasty, on the chefs/managers night off we had a group meal provided for us at the local bar 'Off the Hook'. The guesthouse also arranged for a bus to pick us up everyday so that we made to the dive shop safely and (usually) on time!

All of the staff at the dive shop and the project were lovely and friendly and the conservation and community work the project is undertaking is really interesting and very valuable to the local ecosystems.  I would highly recommend the project to anyone interested in any aspect of marine conservation.


Volunteer Taylor divingTaylor Dupont, a student from Canada, joined the project in July: 

As a student entering my first year of university, I had the urge to do something exciting for the summer. I was a part of the Reef Buddy Eco program for the month of July and it was the best experience I've had! The team there is amazing, their hard work and passion for the ocean is inspiring. They always made sure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves. We went diving about twice a day and always saw something new at every beautiful dive site... each day was an adventure. We were able to complete our Advanced Open Water qualification as well as 6 other certifications. From this trip I've made so many great memories and friends, the Reef Buddy project has sparked my love for diving THANK YOU!
 

 

 


Volunteer Ryan Horricks

Ryan Horricks, a Ph.D. Candidate from Canada talks about his time with the Reef Buddy project: 

I have worked with the Reef Buddy project since their inception. I have drawn heavily on their diving resources and extensive knowledge of the local marine environment when establishing underwater research sites in the near-shore waters of Carriacou. Their professionalism and commitment to marine health and conservation were the primary reasons that I chose to work with them these past few years although I have developed several more since. They have always been extremely amenable to the almost unavoidable short-notice timetable changes associated with field research and have been very accommodating with respect to the particularities of our dive program’s safety requirements.

Carriacou provided us with an excellent opportunity to assess coral reef health at sites within and outside the boundaries of a newly established marine protected area. Carriacou is isolated from the heavy tourist traffic that larger or more popular destination islands suffer which has lead to a marine environment in relatively good condition. The combination of the charm of Carriacou with the professionalism of the Reef Buddy project has strongly influenced our decision to work with them again in the years to come.

Paradise beach where the volunteers live in Carriacou

How to Join this Project

If you are interested to join one of the Caribbean Reef Buddy volunteer programmes, you need to fill out the online application form. To secure your place, please submit the form complete with an application payment of £180 GB pounds.  If for some reason, your application is not accepted, your payment will be reimbursed in full. For those accepted, full payment must be made 2 months prior to departure (for 8 week Eco Divemaster volunteers, we will request a 10% down payment on the full payment shortly after your place has been confirmed, as we will have to purchase training materials well ahead of time). Once you have been accepted on the programme, we will send you a confirmation email including a short welcome pack full of information and facts to ensure you are fully prepared for your visit.

Apply Now


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