from 5,390€

Perfect 4.6rating (17)

Marine Protection and Conservation

4 - 10 weeks  ·  Age 18 - 50+

rating  Perfect 4.6  · 
  Verified by Volunteer World
  Below average response rate


  • Complete your PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water qualifications
  • Become a PADI Divemaster (10-week program only)
  • Contribute to international coral and fish surveys
  • Learn Marine Conservation techniques
  • Only PADI Centre in Central America offering training and certification in unique marine conservation specialties

Especially suitable

Age 18+

About the program

Ready to take your scuba diving to the next level? Passionate about the world of Marine Conservation and Marine Science? Become a professional PADI Divemaster now! 🤿

Who is this Course for? 

This course is for anyone passionate about studying the earth’s oceans and how to help protect them for years to come. You will experience top of the line professional PADI Dive training with practical science lessons and internationally recognized survey work. This is an ...

About the program

Who is this Course for? 

This course is for anyone passionate about studying the earth’s oceans and how to help protect them for years to come. You will experience top of the line professional PADI Dive training with practical science lessons and internationally recognized survey work. This is an entry-level dive and marine conservation program meaning you can join without having any prior dive or marine conservation experience! The course is therefore ideal for those interested in getting into the field of Marine Conservation, to gain valuable experience either as a way into the industry or as a platform for further studies, and for those just wanting to learn more about the fascinating life found in our oceans whilst developing a new skill at the same time!

Ready to take your scuba dive training to the next level? Passionate about the world of Marine Conservation and Marine Science? Based at a Five Star PADI centre on the beautiful Pacific coast of Costa Rica, this 4 & 10-week course trains you up to become a professional Divemaster while also teaching you practical marine science survey techniques. During the course, you will be able to contribute to the ongoing reef surveys which collectively help monitor the health of the ocean, and also master an impressive set of dive training skills. 

Project Background 
Your home away from home for the duration of your course is the beautiful town of Quepos on Costa Rica’s stunning Pacific coast. As well as receiving first class dive training from our awesome team at the Dive Centre, you will be getting involved with a range of local conservation initiatives to complement your training. Some examples of current ongoing projects you may be involved with include: 
  • REEF Fish Surveys: REEFs mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public. During the course, you will actively take part in Fish Surveys and counts, uploading the data to REEF to be used around the world looking at diversity and numbers of residents on Coral Reefs. 
  • Coral Watch Surveys: These surveys are performed in conjunction with the university of Queensland. Coral Watch is a program that we run on our dives that looks at the health of corals around the world. By looking at colour of individual corals and formations and comparing them we can get an indication of how healthy our marine ecosystem is. 
  • Coral Restoration: In partnership with a local non profit partner, Marine Conservation Costa Rica (MCCR), teams assist on the restoration of coral reefs in the Manual Antonio National Park. These complex ecosystems are vital to keep our oceans healthy, and MCCR grows coral fragments in ocean nurseries and then outplants these to the reef. To date, MCCR has managed to outplant over 300 new coral colonies onto target reefs for restoration from where they monitor their health and growth, as well survey the reef ecosystem as a whole.

We will train you in three different areas to make sure you get all tools needed to support us in our work:

  • Comprehensive dive training to become a PADI Advanced Open Water diver in our 5-Star PADI dive centre
  • Conservation and research methods to practically help us doing research underwater
  • PADI speciality courses to learn about selected topics crucial for a healthy ocean

A more detailled description of the 4 and 10-week program can be found below:

Phase One: PADI Dive Training
Week 1: PADI Open Water and Advanced Training
You’ll be collected on arrival at San Jose International Airport by one of our in-country staff and then transferred over to our base camp on the Pacific Coast. Your initial briefing from the Dive centre staff will prepare you for your action-packed course. Based at our PADI Educational Dive centre, you will spend the next 10 weeks working your way up the PADI qualifications.

  • PADI Open Water Certification: Your course begins with your entry level PADI Open Water Diver course which will teach you the basic principles of scuba diving through a combination of confined Water Dives to learn basic scuba skills and Open Water Dives to review skills and explore. 
  • PADI Advanced Open Water Certification: On successful completion of your Open Water training, you will then move straight onto Advanced Open Water Diver course which helps divers to increase confidence and build scuba skills to become more comfortable in the water. This course builds on what you have learned and develops new capabilities such as underwater navigation, deeper water diving and buoyancy control fine tuning.

Phase Two: Marine Conservation Training
During the course of the next three weeks, you will be taught a range of science specialty courses and contribute to the ongoing reef survey work being conducted in the local marine parks.
Week 2: PADI Marine Conservation and Research 
Take part in the only centre in central America offering training and certification in these unique marine conservation programs. Armed with your new certifications, week two marks the beginning of your conservation training when you will learn different research and survey techniques including fish and reef biology. This is the only PADI centre in Central America offering training and certification in these unique marine conservation programs. You will also have the chance to put your new skills to the test this week as you help on one of the many reef surveys taking place in the local marine parks.

Week 3: PADI Nudibranch Awareness specialty and reef surveys
This week you will develop your science training further with Nudibranch awareness. Nudibranchs are some of the smallest most interesting inhabitants of the reef and you will learn about their different behaviours and identification of some local species. As part of this week you will head out onto the reef and complete dives looking for local nudibranch species, as well as continue with the reef surveys from the previous week.

Week 4: PADI AWARE Shark specialty and REEF surveys
Always a favourite topic - sharks are crucial to marine ecosystems, yet are in a global decline. This course teaches you about the value of sharks and what is causing the rapid loss of shark populations. By the end of this week you will also complete your reef surveys and help input the date into the international database which collectively helps monitor the long term health of the reef and the marine life it supports!
For those booked onto the 4-week course, your program ends here. You will be transferred back to San Jose airport for your flight home.

Phase Three: PADI Dive Safety Training
Week 5: Dive Safety Training and Emergency First Response 
Continue your training this week with all things safety and security. Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency is crucial to your dive progression. This week you will complete both your PADI Emergency First Responder and Rescue Diver certifications. This training will complete your recreational dive training and prepare you for your first step into the world of being a professional diver! 

  • PADI Emergency First Response: The EFR course is a basic First aid and emergency management course, which teaches internationally recognised first aid and lifesaving skills. Discover simple to follow first steps in Emergency care. Build your confidence and willingness to respond when faced with a medical emergency in a non-stressful learning environment. 
  • PADI Rescue Diver: Speak with a scuba diver and they will likely describe the PADI Rescue Diver course as one of the most challenging, yet rewarding courses they have ever taken. Why? This course will teach you how to prevent and manage problems in the water. You will become a more confident diver, knowing that you can help others if needed. During this course, you learn to become a better buddy through practicing problem solving skills. Plus, you will likely enjoy some contagious laughter and fun between the focused learning. Topics include: Self-rescue, Recognizing and managing stress in other divers, Emergency management and equipment, Rescuing panicked divers and Rescuing unresponsive divers.
Phase Four: Marine Science Training
Week 6: Marine Scientist Specialties 
Your marine science training is about to come full circle as you continue with ongoing conservation work this week.  Additionally, you will expand upon what you have learned, completing two distinctive PADI certifications. 

  • PADI Sponge ecology - From the ecology, to life cycle and identification, this is a fun program highlighting an important integral member of any reef.  Hit the coral reef, locating and identifying local sponge species in the area. 
  • PADI Juvenile Fish ecology - Discover the life of Juvenile fish on the reef. From thir behavior, life cycles and independent roles. Go out and examine the juvenile fish on the local reef, survey and identify for international research.
Phase Five: PADI Divemaster Internship
Weeks 7-10: Divemaster (4 weeks)
The final 4-weeks of your course are dedicated to working your way towards completing your Divemaster certification, the first professional dive qualification and an absolute must for all budding marine scientists. Your training during this phase will become much more hands-on as you learn to become a leader and take charge of activities. A large part of your training at this stage will include assisting with live dive shop customers, which is imperative to practice your teaching skill

PADI Divemaster Internship: Through knowledge development sessions, water skills exercises and workshops, and hands-on practical assessment, you develop the skills to organize and direct a variety of scuba diving activities. Topics and practical workshops include:
  • The role and characteristics of the PADI Divemaster 
  • Supervising dive activities and assisting with student divers 
  • Diver safety and risk management 
  • Divemaster conducted programs and specialized skills 
  • Business of diving and your career 
  • Awareness of the dive environment 
  • Dive setup and management 
  • Mapping an open water site 
  • Conducting dive briefings 
  • Organizing a search and recovery project and a deep dive 
  • Conducting a scuba review and skin diver course
On completion of the full 10-week course, you will be a fully qualified PADI Divemaster with a focus on Marine Science and Conservation, ready to act as an ambassador for the ocean as you develop your chosen career!

Staff: Your dive training will be conducted by highly qualified PADI Dive Instructors, and you will also have a local supervisor at the Dive Centre who will make sure you have the best possible experience in Costa Rica. Your local supervisor also provides you with 24/7 emergency support.

Visa: It is up to you to sort out your individual visa requirements and ensure you fullfill any other entry requirements stipulated for the destination country. Please check the regulations using the advice of your home countries government before you get on the plane. Visas can take several weeks to process, so make sure you allow time for processing.

Flights: The arrival and departure airport is Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose (SJO). You are responsible for booking your own flights or transport to SJO airport. Information and advice about booking flights will be provided upon booking but please do not hesitate to contact us if you need further assistance. Do not forget to upload your flights details on your account before you go!

Climate: Costa Rica is a tropical country with two seasons: dry and green! The dry season with very little rain is generally between late December and April and the green (or wet) season runs throughout the rest of the year, but still offers on average 5 hours of daily sunshine.

Insurance: We insist that you have repatriation and medical insurance before you travel with us on our trips and expeditions. Please check that your insurance will return you to your home country in the case of any type of emergency. We also strongly recommend that your policy includes cancellation & curtailment cover. It should also insure you to dive down to 40m.

Medical: It is your responsibility to check with your own doctor or travel clinic which vaccinations are recommended for your expedition and we recommend you do this at least 2 months prior to the start of your expedition. You must also complete both a Gapforce & PADI medical form and have it signed by your GP or Doctor.

Kit: Upon booking you will be provided with a comprehensive kit list. Being prepared is of paramount importance and our advisors are happy to help with any kit related queries you may have.

Spending Money: You will need money for extra drinks and snacks, as well as for any activities not on the itinerary. We advise you to budget for $80 - $100 or £50 - £60 a week. Please note this is a guideline only.

Supervision and Optional Activities: During the course of your program, there will be times outside of scheduled dive activities when you are not under the direct supervision of Gapforce e.g during free time at weekends and evenings. During these times, your supervisor and other dive staff will be in the vicinity but may not be able to intervene immediately in the event of an emergency and you are therefore expected to act responsibly and be safety minded at all times. Your program supervisor will provide you with 24/7 contact details for emergencies. 

Any optional activities not included in the program fee that you choose to book with local activity providers will not have been risk assessed by Gapforce and you will therefore be outside the jurisdiction of Gapforce from the moment the activity begins until you return to the group. Check with your insurer beforehand that you are covered for that particular activity

Travel & Covid-19: Gapforce always follows the advice of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and will not run programs to a destination whilst the FCDO advises against travel for tourists. 

At destinations that the FCDO considers to be safe, Gapforce will be implementing preventative measures aimed at reducing the risk of participants and leaders becoming infected. All group members will be expected to follow required safety protocols and instructions, however there will still remain a risk of exposure to the virus that could lead to infection or other consequences, such as periods of quarantine, during your program. By travelling on one of our programs, participants are confirming that they accept the risks of travel during this pandemic and will not hold Gapforce responsible if they become infected with the virus or if their program is otherwise disrupted due to Covid-19.

It is recommended that all participants have adequate insurance that covers them for covid-related incidents including medical cover, cancellation, curtailment and quarantine costs. Check you meet the entry requirements of the destination before travel. Any covid tests required before or during the program will need to be paid for by the participant if not provided free of charge by the State.

Further information on the measures and action plans that Gapforce has in place to respond to Covid-19 will be provided after booking, or on request.

Our Credentials

Here at Gapforce, we are committed to providing the highest levels of customer service, and we demonstrate this through our accreditation and membership of the following organisations:

Protected Trust Services (PTS): Through our membership of PTS, we offer full financial protection for all customer money paid to us through Package Travel Regulations compliance and the PTS trust account. Businesses must have extensive experience in travel and undergo stringent financial and risk checks to qualify as a member of PTS. Our PTS membership number is 5482.

Year Out Group: We are a full member of the Year Out Group; an association of approved gap year organisations committed to providing high operating standards. In order to become an approved organisation, members must evidence a demanding set of criteria including liability insurance, financial protection, program authentication, risk assessments and crisis management plans.

Young Explorer’s Trust (YET): Our Gap Year and school group programs are BS 8848 compliant following an external audit of our operating standards by a panel from YET. British Standard BS 8848 are standards set “for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK”. These rigorous standards provide a recognized benchmark against which to assess the acceptability of safety and general good practice on overseas expeditions.

WYSE Travel Confederation: We are a member of the World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation. Their global community consists of over 600 members in 70 countries and aims “to contribute to the personal and professional growth of students and young people and positively impact our global community by fostering international understanding, responsible international travel, cultural exchange and education”.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE): We are an Approved Activity Provider (AAP) for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a leading youth development charity. By encouraging them to take part in new and exciting activities, the DofE Award aims “to inspire, guide and support young people in their self-development and recognise their achievements”.

Pharos Response: We utilise the services of Pharos Response to ensure our staff both at home and overseas have access to comprehensive emergency and critical incident support. Through their team of experienced incident managers, Pharos Response provides 24/7 support and assistance in the event of an emergency.

Travel Aware: We’ve partnered with Travel Aware to ensure British nationals are better prepared for a safe and healthy trip abroad. Together with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, they provide essential travel advice and up-to-date country information for those living and travelling overseas.

Typical day

You will be active in this program 6 days a week with one day off (usually a Sunday). Your day typically either starts early in the morning and ends in the afternoon (7 am - 2 pm) or starts a bit later in the morning and ends later in the afternoon (10:30 am - 6 pm). This mostly depends on the phase ...

Typical day

You will be active in this program 6 days a week with one day off (usually a Sunday). Your day typically either starts early in the morning and ends in the afternoon (7 am - 2 pm) or starts a bit later in the morning and ends later in the afternoon (10:30 am - 6 pm). This mostly depends on the phase and week of the program you are in. You will have theoretical classes during the day as well as dives to learn for your dive qualifications first and later for the reef surveys. As you will be busy during the day your host family will serve you a breakfast in the morning and a dinner when you return home.

Free-time activities

In your free time there is plenty things to do as Costa Rica is famous for its beautiful and diverse nature: Visit volcanos, rivers, rain forests, endless beaches or – if you are adventurous – try optional activities like surfing or ziplining. For all other activities you might like to do just ...

Free-time activities

In your free time there is plenty things to do as Costa Rica is famous for its beautiful and diverse nature: Visit volcanos, rivers, rain forests, endless beaches or – if you are adventurous – try optional activities like surfing or ziplining. For all other activities you might like to do just ask our staff there - a lot of them live there since a very long time and will be able to give you recommendations for anything you have in mind.

Costa Rica as a country is the perfect choice for a program like this as it is very active in nature protection. Within a fantastic surrounding it is a true paradise for everyone who loves nature. You will swim with turtles, rays, sharks, dolphins and even whales! In your free time there is plenty to do: visit volcanos, rivers, rain forests, endless beaches or - if you are adventurous - optional activities like surfing or ziplining!

A popular optional trip close by is a guided trip through the Manuel Antonio National Park - which is home to a rich variety of wildlife including Sloths, monkeys, toucans, raccoons, owls and much more.




Minimum Age: 18 years

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.

Language Skills

You need to speak English (basic level)

Required Documents

Medical Document, PADI document and Copy of ID

Nationality Restrictions

No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.

Other Skills

You should be passionate about the ocean and protecting it actively, keen to learn about this intersting field, open-minded to meet new people and be able to communicate in English on a daily basis. Besides that we just want you to have a great and informative time in Costa Rica!

Time Commitment

Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

What's Included

What's Included

Services by Gapforce

Included in this price is:

  • Pre-departure briefing
  • San Jose Airport Pick up and return (flights excluded)
  • Local co-ordinators
  • Homestay accommodation including breakfast, dinner, Wi-Fi and laundry
  • PADI Open Water certification
  • PADI Advanced Open Water certification
  • PADI Emergency First Response certification
  • PADI Marine Conservation specialty
  • PADI Nudibranch Awareness specialty
  • PADI AWARE Shark
  • Survey dives
  • 24/7 emergency back-up
  • Financial bonding
Not included: 
  • Personal dive equipment, kit list provided upon booking 
  • Lunches

Airport Pickup at Juan Santamaria International Airport

Pick up and return to San Jose Airport (SJO).


We have some local guest families we work together with for a long time now. You will be staying with them in an authentic home, getting home-made breakfast and dinner and also WiFi is available here. Besides that the guest family offers a laundry service for you.

You will stay with other dive participants in a homestay within walking distance of the marina. You will be sharing single-sex bedrooms with between 2-4 beds. Bathrooms are shared with the whole house. You will be living in the host’s home, along with their family, giving you a wonderful insight into typical Costa Rican life and culture. All family members speak Spanish with only limited knowledge of English. To communicate more fully with family members, you may wish to learn a few key phrases and words of Spanish in advance or download a translation app onto your phone before you leave home.

Food & Beverages

You will be provided with breakfast and dinner every day at your homestay during the dive training (lunch at your own expense). The food will be mostly local dishes, which are known for being flavourful, yet fairly mild, with a high reliance on fresh fruits, vegetables, rice and beans.

Internet Access

Good access at the project site

What's NOT included?

What's NOT included?

Flight Tickets

The nearest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica. FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS

Travel Insurance

Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Costa Rica provides security and is a plus to have. GET A QUOTE


If you are intending to volunteer in Costa Rica you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Costa Rica. VACCINE CHECKER

Details on arrival

We run our program four times a year. Typically in January, April, July and November. The start date is the day you need to arrive at the airport in San Jose. We will pick you up there so the next day we all start our program together.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Program fees

4 weeks (min. stay) 5,390€
10 weeks (max. stay) 9,751€
Average fees 1,161€/week

Program fees

1,161€ per week 4 - 10 weeks Age 18 - 50+

Payment methods

Visa Master Card Maestro American Express PayPal



4 - 10 weeks


The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.

Final Payment

Your final payment will be agreed with Gapforce during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Meet your organization


Perfect 4.6 rating (17 reviews)

Non-profit - founded in 1989

Verified by Volunteer World

  Below average response rate

Coordinated by


Spoken languages: English

About the project

Gapforce runs volunteering projects in many areas, such as marine & wildlife conservation, child care, community development & animal welfare.

Meet your organization

At Gapforce, we are proud to offer unrivalled experience in structured gap year programs, volunteer projects and extreme expeditions. Founded in 1989, the Gapforce family takes great pride in organising unique, exciting gap year and overseas volunteer projects that enable young people to become global citizens and make a real impact on the world.

What Makes Us Different

There are a number of organisations that offer programs abroad, and here’s what sets us apart. We feel these are important to consider when making such an important decision and starting your adventure.

  • Our overseas gap year projects are run by UK-trained leaders. Trained from the top down, our leaders are prepared and knowledgeable on our destinations.
  • Our UK-trained leaders are well-researched and our local programs are vetted for sustainability and longevity.
  • Supported and safe.


Some of the biggest adventure names have been involved in our programs.

  • Bruce Parry (BBC TV "The Tribe" & "Amazon") was a Gapforce Expedition Leader for over 6 years.
  • Ben Fogle (TV Presenter) filmed "Extreme Dreams" reality TV series on our projects.
  • Jack Osborne (MTV "The Osborne’s") filmed "Adrenalin Junkie" on our programs. In addition we have had the BritishRoyal Family member and over 15,000 student participants.

Safety is the number 1 priority on all Gapforce programs. Our programs are basic, potentially hazardous and should not be considered a conventional holiday, however with over twenty years’ experience we aim to reduce your level of risk compared to independent travel.

To guide us, we have been independently inspected to BSI8848 “Specifications for visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK and now self regulate. We are also members of YearOut Group, who set guidelines and policy for UK Gap providers, Marcus was Chair for 7 years of the Membership and Safety Committee overseeing members safety.We are a Professional Association of Dive Instructors Education Centre and aDuke of Edinburgh Award Centre.

17 reviews · rating4.6

As a bit of a nature freak who dreamed of traveling to Costa Rica since I was about 5 years old, this program seemed too good to be true. Based in Quepos, not 15 minutes from the world famous Manuel Antonio national park, prepare to be surrounded by a cornucopia of exotic animals ranging from ...
Christian rating5

2020 at South American Experience

I had a great time on the South American Experience program. I only did the 4-weeks, but I really enjoyed everything in the program. I’d have to say my favorite activity was the Salkantay trek to Macchu Pichu, despite it getting hard at times, it was a great experience and very rewarding once you ...
Alexander Lorenz rating4.8

2020 at South American Experience

It was a lot of fun, great combination of travelling and volunteering. Very nice atmosphere in the travel group and great leader. A lot of fun activities. You see a lot of each country and get a great feeling for every place. Definitely ...
Zara rating4.8

2020 at South American Experience

I did this trip just before everything locked down and I can safely say this was the best trip of my life. The treks have amazing views and are hard enough to make seeing machu picchu rewarding but not too tough for those who want an easier walk! The itinerary for this trip is completely action ...
Sarah rating5

2020 at South American Experience

I was really scared going into it because I’ve never traveled alone before but I had nothing to worry about. Everyone I met was fantastic. They were down to earth, nice, and so much fun. I can not describe how beautiful Peru and Ecuador are, I’ve never been anywhere like it. There are definitely ...
Davies rating4.4

2017 at Orang-Utan Protection

I felt it was a life-changing experience. I had a great 6 weeks living in the jungle, learning many useful skills. I met some great people and made life-long friends. The local people were also amazing as they were so hospitable and ...


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