Coral Reef, Turtles & Shark Conservation project in Borneo

Volunteer with an ongoing coral reef research programme and help protect coral reefs for future generations. TRACC has worked in Borneo for 16 years and has identified all the issues. We need you to be part of the solution. You will replant a coral reef, protect turtles, sharks and rays at the same time as you develop snorkel & dive skills. Diving is not required but if you want to experience the full beauty of a coral reef we will will guide you through your dive course and help you get qualifications in ideal conditions. You do not need to be a student or a scientist, to benefit from getting up close to nature: writers, photographers and artists came to our previous projects to gain inspiration, if you work with media come and visit.

Different people get different things from volunteering with TRACC, we have had gap and year out students looking for a useful interesting career or simply a break from study. We have had career change and retired people chasing a dream or on a holiday with a purpose. We have had underwater photographers building a portfolio, and divers from all walks of life trying to get off the beaten track. This is an enriching experience of proactive Coral reef, Turtle & Shark conservation, this is the front line where you and your colleagues will make a difference. If you don't already have life skills of team-building and leadership, you will learn them here as well as independence and the ability to make decisions & complete tasks.

When you leave you will be able to speak knowledgeably about a range of current environmental issues. Good for interviews and a range of social occasions. If you are a Student with an undergraduate or postgraduate projects, this is one of the best & cheapest places in the world to get coral reef research experience. (Learn more about our completed projects or suggested projects.) One question we get asked is how does this benefit the local community? The local people are mostly fishers but the reefs have been badly destroyed by bomb and cyanide fishing. The simple answer is a protected area increases the fish available by allowing some of the fish to grow big and reproduce.

On fished reefs there are no large fish. Only on reefs protected by resorts – like Pom Pom – are there any big fish. Big fish are important – they are the ones that reproduce and in many species, the big fish change sex to become the other partner. Reefs with no big fish have only individuals of one sex. The humphead wrasse changes sex to male at 20+kg, which is a big fish! All over the world, communities and managers have proven that if 20% of the reef is protected there is a 200-500% increase in available fish in the un-fished areas. So a small protected area benefits all the surrounding reefs. This is a great place to meet people from all walks of life who have similar goals and aspirations.

The work we do is stimulating and interesting but not hard work, a great way to relax and rejuvenate as you chill-out on a beautiful island with a fantastic beach and amazing reefs. You can escape from the rat race and simply have a holiday with a purpose. This is a chance to make a difference, an opportunity to create a small part of a global change. Somewhere you can visit with your children in 20 years and say “I planted these corals & the parents of the sharks and turtles you see were protected by us”.

Pre-Apply Now

What to Expect?

The water is warm, the sun is hot, the diving is fantastic. It is only 25m (80feet) across the shallow lagoon to the azure blue at the edge of the reef. There are creatures here you have never seen, brilliant colours and weird behaviour. Stay in the water for hours, absorbed by the beauty, Some call it paradise!

The project starts 1st & 3rd Wednesday in each month in Sabah, East Malaysia at the N end of Borneo. You can fly to Kota Kinabalu or Tawau airport, we arrange your transfer to Semporna. The boat trip to the island takes one hour – the sea is normally calm, we have no real seasons. On the island we introduce ourselves and brief everyone. The accommodation is in spacious 2 person tents. Food is provided by the cook 3 times per day and there is unlimited cold water, hot drinks and toast for snacks. Diving uses a lot of calories so if you don't eat too much you will lose weight. See what to bring. See who should come.

The island is safe, there is no malaria, few mosquitos and almost nothing that will bite you. The biggest risk is damaged feet from not wearing shoes. If there is any medical problem, the hospital in Semporna is 1h away.

Communication is good, we have phone signal and limited internet. You can send messages to your loved ones but don't expect to be able to facebook or twitter.

Initially you will spend about 6h per day learning about diving for your PADI course, As a break from lessons, you will plant coral for about an hour. The PADI course starts in 4 feet of water just in front of the resort and progresses to deeper water as your skills improve. Most courses take 4 days. During your course you will spend the evenings studying for the next day. After your course the days are more relaxed, a couple of dives in the morning, coral planting and a dive in the afternoon with the evening free to read, relax or write a journal. Keen divers or photographers often go for a night dive before or after dinner. The evenings during the turtle nesting season require several beach walks to monitor and protect the nesting turtles. A typical day is described here.

We work 6 days a week, Saturday is a recreation day and we mostly do non work dives and prepare for a party in the evening. Sunday is a day off and we generally recover from the party, catch up on mail, reading or go snorkelling. Frequently Sunday involves a trip to Semporna town for a bit of shopping and a walk around town.

We also have a sporadic programme where volunteers help out in the local schools and the teacher training college comes out to learn to dive.

Volunteer programes that involve diving are not cheap, boats and equipment costs are high, we keep our costs down through a sponsored programme, much of the costs are covered by the sponsors. Volunteer money is spent directly on the volunteers or on the conservation of the reefs. A dive trip here with unlimited dives is one of the best places to learn to dive and one of the cheapest. See the project summary for options and costs.


  • Program ID: # 1951
  • duration:
    1 to 2 Weeks
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
    1 to 3 Months
    More than 3 Months
  • location:
    Pom Pom Island Semporna , SB
    4° 32' 56.5656" N, 118° 51' 0.3528" E
    Sabah MY
  • Fitness level:
    Light Impact
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Please contact program
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
    Learn Abroad
  • Click Here for More Info

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