Philippines Coral Reef Conservation Project

Video and Photos

Volunteers
Volunteers
Sunset
Sunset
Coral reef
Coral reef
Sunset over Sogod Bay
Whale Shark

About

Coral Cay Conservation offer volunteer opportunities for the conservation of coral reefs. See some of the most bio-diverse reefs in the Philippines all whilst contributing to their conservation. Since 2008 our volunteer teams have helped the local communities of Southern Leyte to establish 11 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), now we are at a critical phase, identifying whether those MPAs are succeeding. Undertaking evaluation ensures that we are not merely creating 'paper-parks', and allows us the opportunity to undertake education and capacity building work which creates conservation advocates and further ensures an MPA's success.

We will take you through an in depth and interesting Skills Development Programme, where you will learn about coral reef ecology, how to identify our key species, and our surveying protocol. Once signed off you will join our survey teams collecting vital data on the health of the reefs, and assisting us with our community outreach work.

Highlights
  • Live on the shores of Napantao Marine Reserve, a reef boasting approximately 50% hard coral cover, 28% more than the national average
  • The data collected by volunteers is a critical component of our approach, and is used to establish Marine Protected Areas.
  • Gain your Reef Check EcoDiver certification and join Reef Check dives throughout the Indo-Pacific
  • Gain your one day Expedition Care Programme certification, a First Aid course designed specifically for expedition situations
  • A portion of each volunteer's fee goes towards our Scholarship Programme, offering free 4 week stays to local Filipinos as part of our Capacity Building efforts.

Impact

The volunteers that join us are absolutely critical to our efforts in country. The MPAs which we establish, and the assessment of their success is based on the data which our volunteers collect. Filipinos are extremely positive about the sustainable use of their marine reserves, but are not always sure of how to achieve this, this is where CCC come in. Local communities invite our teams to assess the health of their reef. The data that you collect is then analysed and presented to so that we can work with them to come to a consensus of what management actions are needed to protect their reefs. Alongside this our teams undertake community education to ensure that everyone from the village captains and fishermen, to the children understand the importance of the reef. Each volunteer that joins us contributes to our Scholarship Programme, which offers local Filipinos the opportunity to join us for 4 weeks for free, as part of our capacity building work in country. An effort which builds local skills and ensures that locals can continue to manage their own marine resources when we leave. The programme has proven to be highly effective leading to the creation of locally lead green organisations and career progression in marine fields.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

98%
based on 4 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.8
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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jasmine
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Such a rewarding and educational experience!

The location of Coral Cay Conservation's base in the Philippines is truly serene...the base looks over a Marine Protected Area that is teeming with life. It is the perfect place to learn about all of the biology and ecology of the coral reef ecosystem.
You can gain a huge amount of knowledge from the science programme, both theoretically and practically, due to a great balance of classroom and in-water sessions.
The staff on site and in the head office are efficient, helpful and truly want the best for all of the volunteers.
You are able to get a real taste of life in the Philippines, as Coral Cay makes a huge effort towards community engagement.
You get to take part in community days in which you present your research to the communities that live in the areas you are conducting the surveys - it is a great opportunity to spread vital knowledge about the need for the preservation of marine environments and to get to know some of the locals.
Coral Cay Conservation works very closely with the local government, who use the data collected to contribute to the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, so you can really see your contribution to the project making a difference.
It is a very social environment, yet you can also get your peace and quiet...the friends you make at the base will remain friends for life.
I would highly recommend Coral Cay Conservation to anyone that wants to gain more knowledge, learn how to dive or (improve their diving ability) in a beautiful environment, and to contribute vital data collection towards the much needed protection of marine ecosystems!

Default avatar
Angus
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Nine Months of Fun!

I decided to spend my time with Coral Cay because from the very beginning they were dedicated to making the experience beneficial for both Coral Cay and myself. During the process of finding an organization that would be a good fit for me I reached out to several NGOs that were similar to Coral Cay, but I ultimately chose CCC because they were the only organization who didn't immediately agree to the idea of my project. The Coral Cay team organized a Skype call with me because they had several questions about the Fellowship which showed me that they were dedicated to maintaining the quality of their projects and ensuring that the Coral Cay vision would be kept to a high standard.

My proposal was awarded the funding necessary so at the end of July I hopped on a plane and started my nine-month journey in the Philippines and it was absolutely wonderful. For the first month I went through the standard scientific training that every volunteer goes through and and spent the next two months surveying and completing my PADI Divemaster course. The diving was magnificent as Coral Cay's house-reef is a pristine example of how a well-managed Marine Protected Area leads to increased biodiversity in and around the reef. After getting a feel for the expedition and how it ran, I then spent the next six months on two-month rotations where I shadowed the various on-site staff members. This gave me valuable insight and experience for working in the conservation industry and enabled me to take on additional responsibilities for the project. I was able to assist with the Skills Development Program and help train new volunteers, I had additional opportunities to meet with local stakeholders, I helped with data management, and I even learned about the logistics behind the operation of a remote field base.

My time with Coral Cay allowed me to grow as an individual due to the mentorship provided both by the Coral Cay staff in the Head Office and on the Expedition Site. The experience I received about working in the conservation industry has been invaluable, Coral Cay truly is world-class in the manner they conduct their research projects. I am incredibly thankful for the time I spent in the Philippines and I am looking forward to any opportunities that would send me back there!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have taken more initiative within the program
Default avatar
Lucy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Five Weeks at Coral Cay Conservation

I have just come back from an amazing five weeks at CCC. I enjoyed it so much that I cancelled
the few days travel I had planned at the end of the trip and stayed on base until the very last minute!

I arrived as a dive trainee and so underwent a week of training to get me to Advanced Open Water diver. The instructors were great and we all felt really comfortable training with them and the fact that we were learning to dive on House Reef, just a few steps from our accommodation and some of the best diving in the world, according to the diving veterans amongst the group, just made it even better.

After learning to dive was two weeks of science training where we learnt the different subtrates (corals, sponges etc), invertebrates, and fish, and surveying techniques. Science training was tougher than I expected but it is necessary- if you aren't sure about what you are seeing on the reef then you are not going to be able to perform accurate surveys. Once I had learnt it all, surveying became fun, and diving is way more interesting when you can recognise what is going on beneath the surface!

Once surveying started, we would spend our days on the Nudihunter, CCC's dive boat. We would travel to the site, do the first survey dive, then eat lunch, hang out and snorkel etc as we waited for the next dive, then we would do the second survey dive and travel back around the bay to base. It was always fun to be on the boat because the scenery was amazing and once we even saw a whale breaching!

The base is basic as you might expect for this part of the world so be ready for no running water, shared rooms etc However, everyone works together to keep the place spotlessly clean and you soon get used to not having luxuries like working taps (and there is an outdoor shower so washing is easy enough)! The base is quite big and with a large area outside so there are lots of places to chill out in between dives and science training so you can have as much or little space as you want. The base is located within the village of Napantao and further beyond we could travel to Liloan to stock up on any toiletries etc we needed.

The other volunteers were of a mixture of ages (ranging from 18-51 when I was there) with most of us around early twenties to mid thirties, and a range of nationalities and backgrounds (some were scientists, others like me didn't work in anything related to this but were just interested in science and conservation). Everyone was lovely and there was a relaxed, social vibe at base. Everyone has an interest in diving, conservation, and adventurous travel in common so friendships grow easily here! In the evenings we would chill out together on the porch- sometimes there would be guitar playing, salsa lessons, movie nights, and impromptu spanish lessons!

Saturday nights were "party night" and we would celebrate with a few options- a trip into Napantao to the karaoke bar, a beach fire, and a trip across the bay for a night dive at the Sogod Bay Dive Resort. On Sundays we would have the day off and we would either spend those days snorkelling on the reef or else exploring Leyte. In the time that I was there we visited some hot springs, hiked to a waterfall, and climbed a volcano.

Most people were staying for four weeks and I stayed for five which barely seemed long enough. If you are learning to dive as well, then you aren't going to get much time to actually survey by the time you finish training so if you can stay for longer then I would definitely recommend it. I really hope to return one day and then I will definitely make sure I have a couple of months to spend there.

To sum up, this was probably the best trip of my life (and I have done a lot of travelling) and it was great to be doing something worthwhile and for such a great cause. I am already planning ways I can take two months off work and return!

What would you improve about this program?
I am not sure if it can! It was all great and I would definitely go again.
Default avatar
Leandra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It's more fun in the Philippines

I spent 3 months with CCC in the Philippines and if I could I would go back and spent the rest of my life there.
My time there changed everything for me. I learned a lot about marine ecology and it never felt like I had to learn it. Everything there made me want to learn everything as quick as possible. I went there right after high school, but you'll find a different range of people in every age: marine biology students, passionate divers or people who just wanted to figure themselves out and do something else.

The accommodation is great, the description says up to 8 people per room but we were never more than 3 girls in our room. You can see the water from your window, you have your own bathroom. In your free time (you'll have lots of it) you can sit on the porch and look at the water or cuddle the dogs or just take a nap. The walls inside are covered in fish paintings and create a homey atmosphere. You'll have lunch and dinner together with all the staff members and volunteers and I promise you'll never want to eat somewhere or anything else in your life. The chef makes great food and everything is fresh and if you're nice he'll give you extra pancakes or fried chicken!

The diving is simply breathtaking. For people who've never been diving before as well as for experienced divers. You'll see a wide range of species: Rays, beautiful reef fishes, eels, nudibranchs, squids, seahorses, sharks, tuna, peacock shrimps and if you're lucky a whale shark will swim past you. And if not, you'll see one of its fins while sitting in the porch and jump in the water to get a closer look while snorkeling.

The equipment is good, the training is great as everyone supports you and tells you their little tricks. If you need help the staff will always support you and make sure everything is okay. Even for people who have zero experience in the field it's not hard to learn the things needed for the surveys. The surveys themselves are good scientific work; everyone is passionate enough to take them seriously. They're always a lot of fun! While you're there you'll contribute to the establishment of Marina Protected Areas. You'll see the differences between the overfished areas and the MPAs and you'll get to know, how hard it is to find a compromise between protecting the environment and not taking the fishermen's livelihood.

The base is located in a rather rural area, which I quite enjoyed. There are not many people around and the beach is always empty. If you want to you can take a bike to one of the towns around and buy fruits and candy or have a basketball match with the local policemen.
The trips we did were amazing. If you get the chance, go and see the waterfalls.
Another way to have fun are the Saturday nights where you'll have a trivia quiz (everyone takes it very seriously) and karaoke in the village afterwards. The life at base is really social, you'll have someone to have fun with all the time.

It's been hard for me to leave this wonderful place on earth and I can happily recommend everyone to take part in the marine expedition of Coral Cay Conservation.

What would you improve about this program?
I would get mugs that still have handles and get the chef to make more of his amazing mango float! And maybe build more closets, so everybody can store their stuff properly.