About This Trip
- Learn reef monitoring techniques and fish ID from local biologists.
- Snorkel and explore the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve and learn about its importance to the local community.
- Visit the offshore reefs of uninhabited Desecheo Island.
- Stay in the small surf town of Rincón and learn about the sea turtle conservation efforts at Tres Hermanos Beach.
This immersive volunteer vacation will sharpen your reef fish ID skills and get you familiar with field techniques that scientists use to evaluate the health of coral reefs. Working with local biologists you will explore the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve and support their efforts to monitor the health of the reserve.
There will be opportunities to learn about local sea turtle nesting populations, to dissect lionfish and learn about how this invasive species is impacting reefs across the Caribbean, and to compare the near shore marine reserve reefs with the offshore remote reefs of Desecheo Island. In between these activities you will meet local conservationists, artists, and have a chance to participate in a local cooking class, all while staying in the seaside surf town of Rincón.
Notes on Trip Costs
Single supplement $895. There will be a surcharge of $475/person for groups with fewer than 10 total passengers. Trip prices do not include international airfare. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.
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Founded in 1969, Oceanic Society is America’s oldest 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation. As pioneers of “eco travel,” our expeditions have been designed to directly support our mission. They not only positively impact our travelers, but also the people, places, and wildlife we go to see. Your expedition costs include fees that support conservation and promote sustainable livelihoods in the communities we visit, and Oceanic Society's earnings are invested back into our global research and conservation programs. In 2019, we also established our Expedition Impact Fund (EIF) as a way to grow our impact. The fund is seeded annually with money earned from our expeditions, and supplemented by donations from Oceanic Society travelers. Through the EIF, we award grants to our partners for their on-the-ground efforts to protect ocean habitats and the wildlife and human communities that depend on them.
Day 1: Old San Juan
Arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital and largest city, located on the island's northern coast. Tonight we will stay in Old San Juan, a charming and historic portion of the city, with cobblestoned streets, colorful Spanish colonial buildings, and several 16th century landmarks.
Day 2: San Juan - Rincón
After breakfast we will transfer to the quaint surf town of Rincón on the island's western coast, where we will be staying throughout our expedition. Enjoy a guided snorkeling tour of Tres Palmas Marine Reserve; learn about the reserve and its importance to the local community, as well as about the biology and ecology of corals. In the afternoon, we'll have an introduction to techniques used to record and remove marine debris, including the use of GPS to mark debris and debris removal. Evening lecture.
Day 3: Coral Reef Monitoring in Tres Palmas
Today we will learn to measure coral colonies and to look for signs of coral bleaching and disease. Time will then be spent assessing coral health within the reserve. In the evening, a lecture on fish ID will help prepare you for the days ahead.
Day 4: Fish ID & Puerto Rican Cooking Class
Enjoy a snorkel outing to practice your newly learned or improved fish ID skills. In the afternoon, we'll have a guest lecture by a local scientist, and, in the evening, a Puerto Rican cooking class.
Day 5: Desecheo Island
We'll take a chartered boat to Desecheo Island, 13 miles offshore. Desecheo is a small, uninhabited island that is a National Wildlife Refuge and a prime location for scuba diving and snorkeling. Our boat will take us to snorkel some of the reefs around the island, and we will compare fish communities and coral heath between Desecheo (offshore) and Tres Palmas (near shore). In the afternoon we will visit with the non-profit Friends of the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve to learn about their work.
Day 6: Coral Reef Monitoring
Today we will provide introductions to coral reef field sampling techniques, as well as lionfish awareness and a lionfish dissection. In the evening we'll head to the Rincón Art Walk in the town's central plaza to see local arts and crafts and listen to music.
Day 7: Waterfall and Sea Turtle Monitoring
In the morning we'll hike to a secluded waterfall, and in the afternoon there will be a talk about sea turtle biology and conservation in preparation for the evening. After dinner, we'll head out under the stars to participate in sea turtle monitoring with a local volunteer group.
Day 8: Rincón - San Juan - Fly Home
Transfer back to San Juan to catch your flight home.
The first night of our expedition will be spent in charming Old San Juan. In Rincón we will stay in a two-family home, where each level has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a kitchen, living room, wifi, satellite TV and A/C. Each level has: 1 master bedroom with a queen bed and attached bathroom, 2 rooms that can be made up with 1 king bed or 2 twin beds. These two rooms have a shared bathroom. There is also an enclosed outdoor shower.
Your expedition will be led by one or more of the following expert naturalist guides: