Best Save-the-Earth Trips
Coral-reef study, Oman, United Arab Emirates
Where you go: Oman’s Musandam peninsula, where the Western Hajar mountains descend fjord-like into the startlingly clear waters of the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. The coral reefs surrounding the peninsula are vibrant with sea life, and—as yet—unsullied by commercial industry or tourist traffic.
What you do: Only certified divers can sign up for this trip; the conservation efforts all take place underwater. Volunteers spend several hours a day documenting the concentration of myriad reef species, including parrotfish, butterfly fish, manta rays, sea whips, and hard and soft corals. The resulting data helps the government and NGOs outline measures to protect the health of the reef.
Roughing-it rating: Low. Volunteers make their home base on the program’s cushy 98-foot dhow (a traditional Arabian boat), which has modern bathrooms and showers, a dive platform and tank-filling station, and a fully equipped kitchen where a professional cook whips up sumptuous daily meals. Each of the eight air-conditioned rooms sleeps two people (so you might want to bring a buddy); you can also choose to sleep on deck under the stars.
Cost: About $1,600 for 7 days.