Covering over 70% of the earth’s surface and providing the world with oxygen, food, medicine and transportation options, it is no surprise that people are looking into ways to conserving and protecting oceans and seas.
Increasingly more volunteers are turning away from traditional volunteering options of teaching English or building schools in Africa to jobs within marine conservation.
Marine conservation projects will provide complete diving gear, including tanks, regulators and weights. These are expensive items and most volunteers can use those which are provided at the project. Experienced divers who own this equipment prior to volunteering may still want to leave these at home. They are very heavy, and airlines tend to have strict regulations regarding tanks on flights.
So, what else should you take? It’s easier to guess what’s needed for teaching projects in Africa than on marine conservation projects! Here is a quick guide to what we think you should bring or at least check with your hosts:
Your Own Wetsuit
Marine conservation projects usually provide snorkelling and complete diving gear. However, it is always nice to feel comfortable and relaxed in what you’re wearing. Quality wetsuits can be found affordably online.
A question new divers always ask too late, once they’ve been in the water a couple of hours, is “where can I go to the bathroom?” The truth is, divers often relieve themselves in their wetsuit. Dive centres usually clean rental or communal wetsuits after each use, although you may prefer to bring your own.
Fins and Diving Boots
Heat escapes from the top and bottom of your body, often you aren’t allowed in the water without either diving boots or fins. To make sure you have comfortable one which fit, you might want to take some with you. Fins are easily fitted into suitcases, they are lightweight and thin.
An Underwater Camera
The ocean is home to between 700,000 and one million creatures. They are all breath taking and beautiful creatures which you will want to show off to your friends and family, capturing them on camera. Pack a reliable underwater camera and check online what depth it can be used at. Some cameras are advertised as waterproof but are only splash proof or waterproof at shallow depths of 1 or 2 meters.
Weather Appropriate Clothing
Sunglasses with high a UV filter are essential when volunteering on water. Polarized lenses reduce reflective glare from the water surface, the suns reflection off the sea can be blinding. It’s also a suggestion to invest in a Croakie. This attaches to the back of your glasses so that they don’t fall off.
A Scuba Mask
Diving and snorkelling can easily be ruined by a poor mask. Repetitively coming to the surface to let water out which has got in through the leaky sides, along with it constantly fogging up. Purchase a trustworthy mask before you travel.
The only thing you should take on every holiday but hope to never use is travel insurance. There is no special ‘volunteering travel insurance’ or ‘marine conservation insurance’, take out a normal holiday policy that will cover diving or adventurous sports.
A Reusable Water Bottle
Americans use on average 50 billion water bottles each year. Using a reusable water bottle is an easy and safe way to help save the environment and reduce the amount of plastic which ends up in the ocean.
Marine conservation projects are passionate about saving the environment and looking after our blue playgrounds. Endlessly binning bottles will upset your fellow conservationists.
Projects are aware that volunteers travel light. They often provide laundry facilities, even if they don’t there will be facilities close by. This means that volunteers can bring fewer items of clothing. Be sure to bring weather appropriate clothing, check the forecast a week before you travel to know what is best to take. Focus your packing on what you’ll be doing. Try not to take everything under the sun in your luggage.
It’s a good idea to pack more swimwear than you would on a regular holiday as you’ll be in and out of your wetsuit and the water more.
If you are travelling with an organisation, after you have booked you can request a full packing guide, they should supply you with one. The items above the basics of a marine conservation project.
Here’s a few essentials if you’re stuck for what to pack:
- Personal first aid kits are handy to have, rocks underwater can be sharp.
- Dry bag to keep your belongings safe whilst on boats or on projects near the coast with
- Sleeping bag, if bedding isn’t provided.
- Long sleeve top and trousers are useful to protect against mosquitos in the evenings.
- Biodegradable high factor sunscreen.
- Head torch, some coastal projects may be in unlit areas
- Sturdy shoes if you will be on beach clean-up duty or mangrove reforestation projects.
- Lightweight waterproof jacket/poncho.
- Hat, cap or bandana, to stop your scalp getting sunburnt.