Philippines Reef Conservation Project

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Taking part in one of our expeditions is an amazing opportunity to see some of the most spectacular reefs in the world all whilst doing your bit to help conserve them. You will spend your first week training up to Advanced Open Water and then move on to the science program, where you will learn how to identify different species of fish, coral and invertebrates and how to survey. Once signed off you will spend your days surveying the beautiful clear waters of the Philippines, on reefs with the highest marine bio-diversity in the world. You may even spot Whale Sharks!

We have been in the Philippines for nearly 20 years. Our research teams on site collectadata on the current health of the reef and forest. This information is then used to develop plans for the government to ensure that the area is used in a way which will ensure sustainability and promote conservation. This is achieved by working with the local communities to create locally managed Marine Protected Areas.

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based on 2 reviews
  • Impact 8.5
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 10
  • Safety 10
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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!

How can this program be improved?
I am not sure if it can! It was all great and I would definitely go again.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program

About Coral Cay Conservation

Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) is an award winning conservation NGO, that has been running projects for over 30 years. CCC pioneered the idea of 'citizen scientists', meaning that no matter your background you can join a CCC expedition and make a...