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Ten Eco-Friendly Dives that Help the Ocean

Exploration meets conservation.
By Melissa Smith | Updated On June 23, 2020
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Ten Eco-Friendly Dives that Help the Ocean

Why not do some good while you’re having fun below? These experiences are guaranteed to offer both.

1. South Florida and the Florida Keys

Fight invasive species off the Florida coast by participating in a lionfish derby. In these spearfishing tournaments, divers aim to remove as many of the invasive species as possible over the course of a weekend. Various prizes are awarded, and tournaments often close with a festival of music, art and lionfish cookouts. Reef Environmental Education Foundation plans derbies in Fort Lauderdale in July and Key Largo in September.

2. Los Angeles, California

American Academy of Underwater Sciences divers who find themselves in Southern California can join Los Angeles Waterkeeper and volunteer for projects like removing non-native sargassum algae from reefs and restoring giant kelp forests. And any diver can help out the cause by adding sargassum sightings to the organization’s iNaturalist database after a day on the water.

Diver off coast of California shines light at a fish.

Record non-native sargassum sightings off the southern California coast or join an organized removal dive.

Reinhard Dirscherl/Biosphoto

3. Roatan, Honduras

In partnership with the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, Anthony’s Key Resort has been rehabilitating natural fragments of elkhorn and staghorn corals since 2017. Divers can take a coral restoration course, maintain the baby corals by removing algae or predators, or volunteer to re-home coral from the garden’s “trees” to local reefs.

4. Gloucester, Massachusetts

Each July, Reef Environmental Education Foundation holds the Great Annual Fish Count, encouraging divers worldwide to learn about marine biodiversity and conduct volunteer fish surveys in their local waters. The New England Aquarium Dive Club has been participating in this survey for 19 years, recording populations off the coast of Massachusetts. This year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s on the dive club’s calendar for July 2021.

5. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Visiting Misool’s sustainable private island resort helps to safeguard some of the most pristine reefs in the world. Part of the price of every stay goes toward local conservation efforts; thanks to the area’s strict environmental policies, the resort’s house reef and sites in the surrounding Misool Marine Reserve have astonishingly high biodiversity.

Woman paddle boards over sharks in Indonesia.

Part of the price of every stay on Misool's private island goes toward funding local conservation efforts.

Courtesy Misool Foundation

6. Gozo Island, Malta

Dive Against Debris events are held worldwide, but Bubbles Dive Center Gozo makes every dive a cleanup dive. This Mediterranean Sea operator encourages all divers to remove any trash seen underwater, gives tips on how to be a low-impact diver during briefings, and even displays each day’s debris collection outside the dive center to raise community awareness.

7. Charlotteville, Tobago

Coral-surveying nonprofit Reef Check operates a facility out of Tobago’s Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville, where open water divers learn to conduct their own surveys over a three-day course. Divers looking for an even more immersive experience can do daily research dives on a one- or two-week expedition.

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Divers can help monitor the world’s largest reef by submitting photos and observations—including sightings of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish—to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef app. Occasionally, there are opportunities to volunteer for crown-of-thorns starfish removal dives, run in partnership with local operators and authorities.

A snorkeler behind a sea turtle on a coral reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef app enables divers to support reef conservation.

Courtesy Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

9. Koh Tao, Thailand

Take dive training a step further with specialized marine conservation courses that teach about coral restoration, keystone species, pollution, ecological monitoring and more. New Heaven Dive School offers marine ecology training through its Conservation Diver courses, allowing divers to appreciate, explore and give back to the underwater environment while visiting Koh Tao.

10. Landaa Giraavaru, Maldives

With Manta Trust’s IDtheManta database, it’s easy for any diver to contribute to scientific research by simply uploading photos and locations of any manta encounter. A sure spot to see these gentle giants is the Maldives, where Manta Trust has a network of researchers working on its Maldivian Manta Ray Project.

Mobula rays

Manta Trust’s IDtheManta database uses diver photos for scientific research.

Stephen Wong