This expedition is based on Utila island and is aimed at training you to become a PADI Divemaster (DM). You need to be qualified to PADI Rescue Diver and have 40 logged dives before starting on this course. The course involves a combination of dive theory, in water practical sessions, and shadowing instructors teaching PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses. The training costs of the course are included in the expedition, though you will have to purchase the necessary PADI training materials ahead of joining the expedition and pay PADI registration fees after completion. During your expedition you will also have time to complete our Caribbean coral reef ecology course and will learn how to identify most of the coral and fish species encountered in the Caribbean, as well as gain an insight into the marine research being carried out by our team. One of the benefits of Divemaster training with Opwall is that, assuming you perform well on site, we can offer Divemaster positions on our various expeditions around the world in subsequent summers.
Utila and Tela marine biodiversity research
This research team is split across two centres – one on Utila Island and one on the mainland at Tela – and has published 60 papers from just the last few seasons. For your first week at the centre you will take part in one of the courses, either learning to dive to PADI Open Water level, or completing the Caribbean reef ecology course if you are already dive trained or have chosen to snorkel instead. If you are spending two weeks or longer at the marine sites, you will then either complete the Caribbean reef ecology course in your second week or help the researchers with multiple marine research projects. On these projects, you will help collect valuable data to contribute towards our Caribbean research and conservation goals, and you will have the choice of rotating between multiple teams or focusing on a single project, depending on your own interests. Projects will either focus on the use of technological solutions in coral reef research (e.g. stereo-video surveys of fish biomass, machine learning in reef health surveys, and 3D computer modelling of reef architecture), or on improving our understanding of the ecology and behaviour of key coral reef organisms (e.g. cleaning interactions, invasive lionfish).
In the Caribbean, there are a number of core issues that have been affecting the biodiversity of coral reefs, including the mass mortality of keystone sea urchins that have allowed algal colonisation of reef areas, an invasive predator (lionfish) originally from the Indo-Pacific that has spread across the Caribbean, and overfishing of reef fish by local communities. Opwall has two marine research sites in Honduras where these issues and many more are studied: one is on the island reefs of Utila and the second on the coastal barrier reef of Tela. At both sites, teams of Opwall scientists and students collect annual monitoring data to assess temporal patterns in reef community health, alongside novel research to address key conservation priorities and gaps in our current understanding of these fragile ecosystems. Honduras is also home to Opwall’s pioneering efforts to integrate technological solutions into the monitoring and study of coral reefs, including our 3D computer modelling method. Opwall’s team of marine scientists in Honduras helps to support not only international academic research and new method development, but also supports local non-governmental organisations with their efforts to improve marine conservation in Honduras.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
Our marine sites are hot and usually dry, but with occasional storms.
Fitness level required
Moderate – High. As a Divemaster, a fair level of fitness is key to ensuring divers stay safe in the water. This will naturally improve as the course progresses on your way to becoming a PADI professional.
Facilities are comfortable but basic. There is phone signal and limited wifi that is often unreliable.
It is sometimes possible to use an Operation Wallacea expedition to gain credits from your own university. Find out more here.Learn more
Find out all about how you could fundraise for an expedition.Learn more