Scuba Diving to Repair Coral Reefs in Borneo
99% Rating
(15 Reviews)

Scuba Diving to Repair Coral Reefs in Borneo

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.

Locations
Asia » Malaysia
Length
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
Language
English
Starting Price
$2,000.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Everything is included in the package price, dive courses, (beginner or advanced), marine science instruction, food, accommodation, transfers from Tawau airport, jumping from the jetty, making friends and having fun.

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    95%
  • Support
    98%
  • Fun
    95%
  • Value
    99%
  • Safety
    96%

Program Reviews (15)

Bryan
Male
30 years old

truly natural experience!

10/10

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

How can this program be improved?

more first aid equipment

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Julia
Female
24 years old
London

Just wow!

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

It can't!

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Leo
Male
27 years old
London

Incredible!

10/10

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!

How can this program be improved?

Air conditioning in all the tents! ;)

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Lark
Female
29 years old
Anchorage

Happiness

10/10

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
Female
28 years old
Portsmouth, United Kingdom

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

10/10

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!

How can this program be improved?

Updated introductory information to be sent out to all new volunteers before they arrive on the island.

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Kathleen
Female
24 years old
Dublin
Dublin City University

Tropical heaven for a gap year volunteer

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

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
Female
24 years old
leeds UK

A real project doing actual conservation

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

more internet, less bugs would always be nice.

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Scott
Male
24 years old
Bangkok Thailand
University of Cambridge

cheap diving and Coral reef conservation in Borneo

10/10

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,

How can this program be improved?

The weather, hot or rainy but then we stayed in a tropical rain forest

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Jackie
Female
24 years old
Chuncheon, South Korea
Northern Michigan University

TRACC is terrific!

10/10

Though the program changed during my stay there, the staff was beyond fantastic at accommodating everyone and making our stay perfect. The food was magnificent (Robbie, you are the best) and the day to day operations were right in line with the objectives of the current program to make the Tip of Borneo a protected marine sanctuary. I could not have asked for a better experience!

How can this program be improved?

The program was going through some changes during my stay, so I feel that changes that I would suggest would not be applicable to the program now.

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Bec
Female
42 years old
Melbourne Australia
Southern Cross University

Seven amazing weeks at TRACC’s Kudat camp

10/10

I have just spent 7 of the most amazing weeks of my life at TRACC’s Kudat camp. The diving on the west coast of the Kudat Peninsula is absolutely staggering, with heaps and heaps of colourful corals and a huge diversity of fish and other marine life as well. When the weather prevented us from diving on the west coast, we took day trips to the east coast which is just as awesome. During my time with TRACC I completed my open water and Advanced Open Water Diver certification and was able to participate in loads of underwater adventures.
Learning to make several different types of artificial substrate, using glass bottles, plastic bottles, crates and black pipe all anchored in cement bases, helping to search for suitable locations and then placing the constructions in those locations gave me a immense sense of triumph, especially when small fish began to explore them and as soon as the structures were in place. We collected lots of live coral fragments from storm damaged reefs at the lighthouse, attached these fragments to the substrates and watched them grow. It was truly incredible to see how quickly the corals are able to begin colonisation and flourish on the new substrate. Towards the end of my stay, I participated in several survey dives to search for cuttlefish along the inshore reefs and describe the topography and features of the reef in preparation for a cuttlefish spawning event that is expected to take place in January/February next year (I only wish I could be here for that).
I was also a willing participant in several exploration dives to off shore reefs rarely explored by humans. These expeditions were a highlight of my internship, being able to compare the difference in diversity of the near shore reefs and the off shore ones. The visibility at these reefs went forever and the fish species were abundant.
Steve and the staff at TRACC are extremely friendly, helpful and full of information for those who want to learn, all you have to do is ask. I have learned more in the past 7 weeks than I have in the past two and half years of study. It is an honour and a privilege to have been involved with such a fantastic organisation and able to help with their conservation projects to preserve the biodiversity in this area. I will miss you all and look forward to seeing you again soon.
I have already booked my return trip next year so that I can bring my husband and two teenage sons over here to see for themselves how being passionate about something and getting involved can actually make a difference.

How can this program be improved?

less bugs would always be nice. And of course more boats or minibuses or canoes so we could do more great trips away from camp

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Lewis
Male
24 years old
United Kingdom
University of Plymouth

Borneo

8/10

The trip was great fun, the reefs around the new site near the tip of borneo were incredible. I could only afford to snorkel which was a shame as the diving they did on the reef sounded amazing. I would definitely revisit it is worth every penny. Try to go when the weather is calm, the two weeks I went a few storms happened which ruined the visibility, it was still an unbelievable two weeks. Highly recommended.

How can this program be improved?

Apart from a few surveys I didn't quite see what conservation efforts were happening. Would be nice to be more in the mix about each conservation effort, many ears are better than a few.

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Katie
Female
24 years old
Vermont
Middlebury College

An AMAZING experience

10/10

If you’re able to travel to Pom Pom, do yourself a favor and go! Volunteering with TRACC was one of the best decisions I ever made. I didn’t exactly know what to expect before going – I had never dived before, knew little about marine biology, and had never traveled alone before (I was only 19). But the moment I stepped off the boat and onto the island, I was in awe. I was greeted warmly, shown around the site, and introduced to everyone. I immediately began my PADI certification training and was diving comfortably within a few days (by the time I left, I had become certified as an Advanced Diver). My instructor was really helpful, kind and down to earth.

Life on the island is pretty idyllic. While you won’t be staying at a five-star hotel, the basics are all taken care of -- everyone is provided a tent with an air mattress and a fan. I was rather happy with my accommodation – it was all very comfortable. Lunch and dinner are typically rice or noodles with vegetables, and there’s always some meat for the carnivores out there. For breakfast, you have the kitchen at your disposal and can eat whatever you choose to make (I typically just ate toast with marmite and fruit). Toilets and showers were substantial (cold showers… but in the Borneo heat, you wouldn’t want anything else).

I would typically go on two dives a day. Either they would be “work dives”, in which we would collect or plant hard/soft coral, or simply fun dives. The diving was spectacular – multiple different sites, each with SO much diversity. And at the end of the day, you can lie on a hammock under the jetty and read a book or have a beer.

On top of learning a lot about fish aggregating devices, reefs, and species identification, I feel like a made a lot of really wonderful friends. The people on Pom Pom were always SUCH great company, and after spending a month there, it was very hard to leave. If I get a chance, I know I’ll be coming back! I’d suggest volunteering at TRACC to anyone.

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James
Male
42 years old
London
Other

Simply book this up immediately.

10/10

I'm 35, I live in London and travel quite a lot with work. I didn't take a gap year and have never travelled alone before. So it was with some anxiety that I decided to book up this four week trip to TRACC. I love and care about nature and all animal life, so I knew that I'd be going to a place which would attract like minded people, people who care and are compassionate. That's what separated this adventure with one of hosteling around the world to various cities, a common ground before you've even arrived. After 34 hours of travelling I was met in Semporna and taken to a small boat for the last hour of my journey. The boat to Pom Pom Island. As the island came into view I knew I had made the right decision to go. Every hour of my journey was worth every minute on this island. I had the best four weeks I think I've ever had. Importantly it's about conservation. I had never even worn fins before (I wasn't allowed to call them flippers) so diving to me was brand new. In 30 days I totalled 35 dives, this was down to excellent instruction and a get-on-with-it attitude from Steve, TRACC's Director and founder. Such a refreshing attitude because once you can dive you can start to make a real difference in the regeneration of marine life around the island. I was doing fish surveys, planting and collecting corals, marking out mooring sites and much more. I've seen and swam with creatures that I've only ever seen on the wonderful Attenborough programmes. I just can't stress enough how wonderful the whole experience was. The best decision I have made, that's for sure. It is important to go to TRACC for the right reasons. Marine conservation is that reason. If you don't want to help and just want a sunbathing holiday then it's not the place for you. If you'd like to make a difference and throw yourself at the challenges of the island then you'll have the best time ever. Maybe I was lucky with the particular group of volunteers and staff we had there at the time...? I certainly felt lucky, but I think you'd have to try incredibly hard to NOT have a good time on this project. Steve's passion is evident and infectious. The diving leadership and instruction was superb. The food was great (and cooked for you!). The social side was brilliant. I learned so much about so many things and have a real drive to now continue that.
Are there any bad parts you may wonder? Well the flies were a bit annoying occasionally. That's it. Will I be making a return to TRACC on Pom Pom Island again? ..... Without a shadow of a doubt!

How can this program be improved?

That time went slower on the island

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Sam
Male
24 years old
Canada
Washington State University- Vancouver

If you care about reefs ---- come here!!

10/10

Days were busy actually making a difference, we mixed cement and made bottle reefs, we planted the corals and we transfered coral biscuits to the nursery. I was particularly excityed by the survey dives we made on the new TRACC reef. This was one of the best reefs I have ever seen anywhere, fantastic corals and fish. The research projects that we helped the scientists with will definitely make it easier to create a marine protected area.
OH - There are also more turtles than you can count and this was so much fun. Great people and a sense of a job well done make this a program above the rest.

How can this program be improved?

Breakfast was make your own and that meant we were sometimes late to go diving as volunteers made amazing omelettes and piles of toast. Earlier start and less choice at breakfast would have been better.

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Sonny
Male
24 years old
Malaysia
Bangor University

Come join us!

10/10

Hi everyone!

My names Sonny and I’m currently a member of staff here on Pompom. I’m lucky enough to be a marine biologist on the island. I came in May 2013 as a Science intern, spent 3 months out here and couldn’t face leaving, so I didn’t. I love my job as being out in the field it varies daily and builds me both as a person and a scientist. On a usual day we get 3 dives in, see awesome marine life and make a real difference to the adundance of 3d habitat. In the turtle season we collect eggs roughly 4 times a week and towards the end of it we release turtles at approximately the same rate.

Since being on the island one of my most memorable experiences occurred as a result of a boat collision with a turtle near the large resort. I had recently just become a member of staff, and most of the long term staff were absent, so I was dropped in at the deep end. Myself and the volunteers came to visit the turtle and ended up taking it back to the camp in a make shift turtle carrying device. Everyone was on hand to either be carrying the injured lady or making a deluxe short term enclosure (including en suite pool). It was amazing to see how all the volunteers banded together to try and help her. The next day we all took a trip to Semporna (you can see this on the video enjoying pizza etc). With help from the WWF I managed to arrange transport with the wildlife department, we shipped her across Malaysia to a turtle rehabilitation center in KK to give her the best possible chance of survival. Green turtles are considered endangered by the IUCN redlist thus each individual is important, here at TRACC we can be proud knowing we always do our best.

In the next two years I’m most excited about the marine protected area(s) we are setting up. Around SE Asia the seas are heavily overfished, whilst dynamite fishing is illegal sadly it is also still very present. With more defined protected areas it will help all stakeholders. These pockets of protected areas will maintain / increase biodiversity, this will please us as we are a conservation center (also provide some good areas to compare degraded and non-degraded sites and recovery rates), this will also please divers and dive shops alike. Surprisingly fishermen will be pleased as the MPA’s will have a brood stock of fish and so increase fish abundance through a spill over effect. Basically it’s all win, and that’s why this is my favorite future project.

I hope after reading my small caption upon TRACC I have shown you that we are a worthwhile and fun organisation. So if you’re prepared to pitch in and make a difference, come along. We’re always to see new enthusiastic faces and share knowledge.

About The Provider

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Paradise - that's where we are. Tropical beaches, nesting turtles and azure blue warm water. This is the perfect holiday destination, and a great place for your volunteer or gap year trip.

Though we dive & snorkel on fantastic reefs, we know all too well

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