What Are REEF Trips?
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 both novice and experienced fish surveyors! In addition to 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.
When you travel with REEF, you make a difference in the health of our oceans by supporting marine research, conservation and education. 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!
Frequently Asked Questions About REEF Field Survey Trips
Do I have to have any experience doing REEF surveys or identifying fish to join a REEF Trip?
We welcome surveyors of all levels on all REEF Trips. No previous surveying or fish identification knowledge is necessary. If you’re a beginner, we will teach you everything you need to know to get started with the Volunteer Fish Survey Project.
Do I already need to be SCUBA certified join as a diver?
If you plan to dive on a REEF Trip, we highly recommend completing your dive certification prior to the trip. 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, many of our trips are appropriate for non-divers. Some destinations may be more suitable than others, so please contact us to discuss which trips are the best fit for non-divers or snorkelers.
I booked a trip! What happens next?
Check out the individual trip webpage for travel information so that you can make your flight arrangements. REEF is not able to book airfare. As your trip approaches, you will receive more details about the schedule as well as suggested resources for fish identification. We will also send you links to complete some paperwork, such as liability waivers and registration forms. Before the trip, we will mail you a package containing a limited edition REEF Field Survey Team shirt and materials for fish surveying such as a slate, underwater paper, and identification cards. If you have questions at any point, please contact us.
What is included in the cost of my trip, and what other fees should I anticipate?
Package inclusions vary depending on each trip. Please consult the individual trip webpages to determine what is included in the price of your trip, as well as other fees that are not included.
What are the payment and cancellation policies?
Please review our Trip Policies for detailed information about the payment schedule and cancellation policy.
Who is my trip leader?
REEF Field Survey Trips are led by REEF staff, board of trustees, and longtime REEF members who are surveying experts. You can read about all of our REEF trip leaders on the Trip Leader Bios page.
What is an average day like?
This varies depending on the destination, but a typical day on a REEF Trip includes at least a half day of diving along with evening fish identification classes taught by your trip leader. These classes are a great way to expand your fish id knowledge, get to know your fellow surveyors, and discuss that day’s dives.
What should I bring on my trip?
Again, this varies depending on the destination, but as a starting point we suggest bringing the following: passport, dive gear, dive certification cards, survey materials, fish identification guidebooks, underwater camera (if you have one), laptop computer or tablet, casual clothing, reusable water bottle, sunglasses/hat for sun protection, and any other necessities.
What if I need to rent dive gear?
Although availability varies for each location, most dive operations are able to accommodate full gear rentals for an additional fee, which can be paid onsite. If you have specific questions about gear availability or pricing, please contact us.
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.
Are you ever going to offer a trip to (insert amazing dive destination here)?
Each year’s Field Survey Trip schedule includes a wide variety of destinations, ranging from tropical to temperate, all over the world. We typically offer about 15 trips per year, and are always gathering information on new locations so that we can continue to expand our offerings. If you don’t see your dream destination on our current list of trips, please feel free to contact us with ideas and suggestions.
What is the trip I am interested in is already full?
We can add you to a waiting list for any sold out trips.
Still have questions?
If you have any questions regarding REEF Field Survey Trips, please contact us at trips@REEF.org or 305-588-5869. We are happy to answer any of your questions!
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
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.
REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project
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.
Invasive Lionfish Research Program
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.