Scuba Diving to Repair Coral Reefs in Borneo

Video and Photos

The view from the island.
The Living/Dining Room.
The Bedroom.
Green turtles are common - several are seen on every dive
Coral Biscuits in the process of being moved to the nursery

About

We live on a beautiful island with white sand beaches and azure blue warm tropical seas. Turtles abound in the ocean & nest on the beaches. Our house reef is one of the most diverse coral reefs in the world! Unfortunately, coral reefs around the world are in serious trouble.

The reefs are hidden from view and the general perception is that because the tourists are coming, the reef is doing OK. Nothing could be further from the truth. The tourism industry takes visitors to the few healthy reefs & avoids the reefs where there is serious damage. Surveys show less than 5 market sized fish in areas which should support 1000's of large fish.

As a volunteer, you will dive and protect the great reefs, and plant coral on the damaged ones. Our projects increase biodiversity and protect fish & turtles. Our volunteers ARE making a difference.

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

99%
based on 15 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.9
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 15
Bryan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

truly natural experience!

I was there for a week to volunteer.

this place is filled with nice and kind-hearted people devoted to taking care of the corals and making some fun out of it!

Highly recommended should you thirst for a truly natural experience (and be prepared for it.

Please do stay longer to make a real impact! (I feel my 1week stay has not helped much actually)

more of you should be doing this!

Visited August 2016

What would you improve about this program?
more first aid equipment
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Julia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Just wow!

TRACC is the best! You get to:
-Live on a tropical island.
-Swim with turtles and so many other beautiful marine creatures.
-Dive and see the most beautiful coral reefs in the world (many of which TRACC have created/gardened themselves).
-Hang out with the loveliest people.
-Get stuck in with every project.
-Eat homemade fried chicken.
Oh...and save the planet all in just the small space of a 2 week holiday!
I am 100% sure that I will be returning.

What would you improve about this program?
It can't!
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Leo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible!

Trying to think about beginning this review is already proving difficult because it's hard to find the words to describe what an incredible place and experience this is. My girlfriend and I stumbled across TRACC whilst looking for somewhere to do some volunteering and I can't tell you how happy we were to have found it.

TRACC is incredibly well run. There is such a relaxed atmosphere but yet everything still gets done. Every evening, the staff set out the relaxed timetable for the following day and everyone can sign up to what they want so you can dive as much or as little as you want. We were only snorkelling so signed ourselves up to carrying out the Turtle Survey every day and what better way to spend your days than swimming with turtles every day?! After speaking to other staff and volunteers about our ambition to learn to dive, we had multiple offers of everyone wanting to take us out for a DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) and obviously we took up the offer! If you're just Snorkelling like us and want to learn to dive then TRACC is the best place to do it.

You stay in a spacious tent (although dorm rooms are currently being built as well), you have a shower as well as western toilets, delicious meals are cooked for you every lunch and dinner, you can dive as much or as little as you want, you can learn to dive, and most importantly, you get the chance to make a real difference to marine life. All you have to do is grab a mask, go for a quick swim in the house reef and you can see the incredible work that TRACC are doing and the improvement they are making to marine life.

Whether you're old or young, single or a couple, diver or a snorkeller, you should have no hesitation to go and volunteer at TRACC.

You'll meet some amazing people, you'll make a real difference and you'll have so much fun doing it! We miss it so much already and we've not even been gone for a month!

What would you improve about this program?
Air conditioning in all the tents! ;)
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Lark
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Happiness

My time at Pom Pom and with TRACC was so free, so happy, and so expansive for my knowledge and my mind. There was the freedom to dive as much or as little as I wanted, to grab a tank at 5am or 10 pm, to be involved in a number of awesome conservation projects and create my own. My knowledge expanded with every dive, even diving the same site, the same house reef everyday, I would seeing new creatures, or noticing a new coral, or a new behavior. And everyday every question or new observation or little problem was met with such enthusiasm by the Pom Pom community – everyone was talking and thinking and experiencing and loving the ocean all day everyday, making learning something new everyday come so naturally. The community and the people were also awesome – everyone helped each other out and shared their knowledge about the diving and the life and the conservation project. TRACC and Pom Pom Island has so much to offer, and if you get really involved it can give you so much!

A few recommendations… bring your own mask, fins, booties, wetsuit/rashgaurd/whatever you wear to dive in and snorkel – it’s a conservation organization and although there is spare BCD’s and Reg’s the smaller things are harder to come by.

Be prepared for simple living and ready to adapt to jungle camp life and island time – I loved my tent and all the joys that come with living freely and simply on the island, but it means insects, and slightly salty showers, lack of/faulty electricity and sand everywhere.

If you are going for your Divemaster (like I did) it is not a totally traditional dive school in that there are not a lot of other students coming through. This means a lot of the teaching assistance exercises are simulated with other Divermasters. But for me (who is making marine conservation my career) that was far outweighed by the knowledge I gained about the ocean life and ocean processes, the conservation projects and techniques, and the many experienced Divemaster's that shared so much knowledge, and simply the total freedom of diving so so much, and practicing Divemaster skills in other ways such as leading conservation dives and instructing new volunteers on how to do some of the conservation work underwater.

And most importantly – get involved and ask questions! If there is something you really want to know or do just ask someone or engineer a project and start it! There is plenty to be gained if you express the desire to accomplish something!

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Megan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The most amazing, life changing experience of my life and I can't wait to go back.

I have been back for a total of three weeks and the buzz and memories from being on the small island of Pom Pom has yet to fade. It was the most amazing experience of my life and one that I would love to make an annual occurrence. As the lifestyle and experiences gained out there were truly magnificent, from saying goodbye to internet, tv, stairs, cars and real life on the island to swimming with some of the most amazing creatures in the sea.. Green sea turtles and Hawksbill its truly magical.
I went to Pom Pom for four weeks and it was in no way long enough, I could have easily stayed for double the length of time and if money was no issue... indefinitely.

I went as a snorkeler but you could visit Pom Pom as a diver also, with amazing dive sites around the island and other dive sites and islands in the surrounding area with so much to see. From the ever-growing biodiversity that TRACC is working so hard to bring back after unsustainable and illegal fishing methods previously devastated the vast coral reefs and fish, sharks and mammals in the surrounding area. The organisation not only offers a brilliant experience for volunteers but also providing a future for the ocean and its inhabitants.

Although the conditions are not ideal for everyone, I believe that any keen conservationists or students looking for a future in marine biology, ecology or conservation would look past the camping style accommodation and enjoy their trip for the amazing work they would be doing and the wonders they would see in the waters. But the accommodation is always improving and the TRACC organisation would love to provide more suitable living arrangements for volunteers of all ages and traveling abilities.

This was my first ever solo travel/stay abroad and I was a little shocked at first at the toilet, shower and washing facilities but 3 days in I just didn't care. You had what you needed.... running water to shower in, a western toilet to sit on, a tent to call your own with a working fan and food available whenever you wanted it. Albeit a little samey and lacking of vegetarian options but you would never starve. With weekly trips to the mainland for shopping and drinking water, additions could be made to the regular shopping list and if there was enough space on the boat a trip to Semporna could usually be arranged.

And if you wanted to spend a night or two in a hotel or a room with a proper bed, there are cheap alternatives to your tent if a little bit of civilisation is craved in Semporna.

I would say a good mosquito repellent, an open mind and the love for the ocean is definitely required with all volunteers. If you have that you will love every second! It opened my eyes to the big wild sea and living without home comforts and I love it! Already plan to return next year and carry out my PADI open and advanced water and I can't wait!

What would you improve about this program?
Updated introductory information to be sent out to all new volunteers before they arrive on the island.
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Kathleen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Tropical heaven for a gap year volunteer

I volunteered with TRACC Borneo project and had a great Gap Year experience, Pom Pom Island is offshore from Semporna in Sabah at the North of Borneo. The famous island of Sipadan is only 70km away and Pom Pom is just what you dream of for a romantic or getaway holiday . It is a white sand beautiful offshore island with blue blue sea and lots of turtles and colourfull fishes. I saw barracuda, bumphead parrotfish and lots of Nemo.
The instructors taught me to dive and I had lots of fun doing it.
Recommended for anyone who wants to go underwater. Especially if you are into conservation. Thats what TRACC does - we planted lots of reef. Great fun.
Accommodation is in tents -comfortable rainproof tents with a real bed, a fan and electricity.
I stayed for 6 weeks which was great but not enough. The staff were teaching the marine science A level course when I was there and I would like to go back and do that. A real A level the same as at school except on a fantastic beach.
If I died and go to heaven, this is what I want it to be like.

What would you improve about this program?
When I was there there was no Internet but from the Facebook posts I think that has changed.
The tents were ok but i would have liked an on suite bathroom. Costs more I suppose.
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Caitlyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A real project doing actual conservation

I have been on other conservation and gap year projects but this is the first where i thought the efforts would actually make a difference. We learnt to dive, we actually made reef and planted it. we attached coral of just the right type and we could see the reefs from last year were growing and attracting fish. A great social scene with parties, bbq and games on a regular basis.
The beach was fantastic and i really enjoyed exploring the cliffs.

Thank you to all the staff. from instructor to cook to scientist you all did a great job while i was there.

What would you improve about this program?
more internet, less bugs would always be nice.
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Scott
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

cheap diving and Coral reef conservation in Borneo

This was a great experience, the staff knew so much about marine life and were always willing to share. I helped with a biodiversity survey as part of the development of Tun Mustapha Marine Park. I learnt the names of lots of fish and then we did dives to try to find them. I learnt to dive here with a great instructor - thanks Evie - and I made a lot of friends. Recommended to everyone who cares about the ocean,

What would you improve about this program?
The weather, hot or rainy but then we stayed in a tropical rain forest