REEF Field Survey Trips are eco-vacations led by REEF’s ocean experts. Each year we offer a schedule featuring many exciting destinations. Each trip itinerary is customized and includes daily seminars along with a full diving schedule. The trips are a great introduction to fish identification for novice and experienced fish watchers alike! Trips are a fun way for fish surveyors to build their life list while interacting with fellow underwater enthusiasts. In addition to our trips that focus on marine life identification and REEF surveying, we also coordinate several trips to support REEF’s Invasive Lionfish Research Program each year. Read more about these different types of trips here.
Why should you go on a REEF Trip? When you go on a REEF Trip, you are truly taking a dive vacation that counts! You’ll join like-minded divers for an exciting and fun week, and you will make a difference for the marine environment. For two decades, REEF volunteer surveyors have compiled the largest fish sighting database in the world, led the way in management and research of invasive lionfish and pioneered research for the preservation of the Nassau Grouper populations. We hope you will join us!
Explore. Discover. Make a Difference.
If you would like to see a list of upcoming REEF Trips, click here.
If you would like to see a list of past REEF Trips, click here.
What people are saying about our REEF Field Survey Trips!
“In 1990 I experienced my first salt water diving in Grand Cayman. The fish numbers and species were spectacular and I was hooked! Ten years later, fish numbers were reduced by half. At that time, I read an article about REEF and an introductory course they offered-which I took. It gave purpose to my diving, I met experts worldwide who taught me how to identify and record fish species all while diving at exciting locations with skilled divers, dedicated boats at sites not often dived. REEF is a winner for all!!!” —- Patricia Broom, REEF Member
“From the first time I dove in the tropics, I wanted to learn what all of the fish were. Fish ID books helped, but it was not until I found resources from REEF that I felt like I really started to get on top of fish id. REEF trips are like fish boot camp! They are an amazing way to really learn the fish (of whatever region) and meet a great group of generally experienced divers who are out to find as many fish as possible and enjoy the dive no matter what. I know that my experiences with REEF have helped me approach and appreciate other diving in a different way.”—- Alice Ribbens, REEF Member
Do I have to have any experience doing REEF surveys or identifying fish to join a REEF Trip?
No. All divers (and snorkelers!) are welcome on REEF Trips, regardless of survey level. No previous surveying or ID experience is necessary. Just pack your gear and get ready for a week-long dive vacation! If you are a brand new diver, it is recommended that you build up your confidence in the water first before doing REEF surveys.
Can my non-diving or snorkeling companions join too?
Yes! Most of our trips are suitable for your non-diving friends and family. Some destinations are better than others. Our staff can help identify those for you.
What should I expect once I have booked a trip?
Our staff will provide you with details on airport and transfer information so that you can make your travel arrangements. REEF is not able to make airline bookings. As the departure date approaches, the Trips Program Manager and/or Field Survey Trip Leader will contact you with trip details, logistics, what to expect from your expedition, and resources to get the most out of the trip. You will also receive (either prior to departure or upon arrival) a limited edition REEF Field Survey Team t-shirt, a survey starter kit and/or survey slate, waterproof survey paper, and waterproof fish ID guides. Don’t forget your camera and passport!
What are the payment and cancellation policies?
Please visit our Trips Policies and Resources page for complete information.
Who will my Trip Leader be?
Visit the Trip Leaders Bio page to read all about them.
Are REEF Trips tax deductible?
Because tax circumstances for individuals vary, REEF does not give, and cannot assume responsibility for, tax advice to its volunteers and contributors. We strongly recommend that you consult your own tax advisor to determine how these general rules might apply to your own particular situation. Click here for more information.
Still have questions?
If you have any questions regarding REEF Trips, please feel free to email us at trips@REEF.org or call us at 305-588-5869. We are happy to answer any questions you might have!
Our Field Survey Trips have two main focuses: the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and the Invasive Lionfish Research Program. Read below to find out more.
The REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project is our cornerstone citizen science program. Started in 1993, this project engages volunteer SCUBA divers and snorkelers to collect and report information on marine fish populations as well as sea turtles and select invertebrate and algae species. One of the most effective and powerful ocean citizen science programs, it has generated the world’s largest database of marine fishes. This data is being used to better understand and protect ocean ecosystems worldwide.
Typical REEF Field Survey Trips study the diversity and abundance of species found within a selected project region. Each diving day, participants will head out with slate and underwater paper in-hand and start counting species. If you aren’t familiar with all your fish families and species prior to coming on the trip, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the region’s fish during daily educational Fish ID seminars led by the project leader. Once the trip is complete, participants may upload their valuable survey data into REEF’s online program.
Past trips have gathered total species counts ranging in the hundreds and even uncovered some region’s more elusive and unexpected species as well. Fishery protections around the world depend on high quality data. With REEF data, submitted by citizen scientists, researchers are making exciting discoveries about marine ecosystems and policymakers have more information to refine conservation efforts.
If you want to learn more about our Volunteer Fish Survey Project, click here.
REEF’s Invasive Lionfish Research Program continues to lead the way in developing and implementing research initiatives, response strategies, outreach and awareness and control programs throughout the region. Invasive lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, were introduced to the Atlantic via the aquarium trade more than 25 years ago and are severely impacting western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico marine ecosystems. Lionfish are causing dramatic impacts to these environments with their voracious appetites depleting native fish and invertebrates, rapid reproduction producing over 2 million eggs per year, and bodies equipped with defensive venomous spines resulting in a lack of known controlling predators. Though populations continue to increase throughout the region, the good news is that continued removal efforts are successfully reducing local populations and minimizing impacts.
Although complete eradication is not likely given the current range and distribution of the species, localized control is possible through consistent and sustained harvest pressure. On REEF’s annual Invasive Lionfish Control Studies participants will document the establishment and consequences of invasive lionfish as part of REEF's ongoing effort to minimize the Indo-Pacific predator's impact on native fish populations. Participants will also have an opportunity to be trained in lionfish collection and dissections of specimens to document prey. These unique research trips are led by Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects and Peter Hughes, REEF Board member and dive industry legend.
Click here to see some results from the annual Lionfish Study Trips.
If you want to learn more about our Invasive Lionfish Research Program, click here.