This is your chance to improve your species ID skills and contribute to the creation of marine protected areas in the heart of the coral triangle.
Join us the beautiful warm, clear waters of Southern Leyte, Philippines, all whilst contributing to the protection and restoration of the area's coral reefs. Our expedition site is based right by the ocean’s edge around the corner from South Wall, one of the best locations for diving in Southern Leyte.
Coral Cay Conservation has been operating in the Philippines since 1995 and moved to our current location on Panaon Island in 2002. Since then we have been working closely with our project partners the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PRRCFI) and the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte (PGSL) to survey and monitor the coastal resources of Sogod Bay.
How does it work?
This project is for anyone who is already PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) certified. If you are not please see our volunteer program for 'Dive Trainees'. On arrival you will be taken on a quick check dive with our resident scuba instructor on site, to make sure that your skills are up to scratch. Once signed off you will be able to get stuck straight into the two-week Skills Development Program (SDP), where we teach volunteers how to identify the survey species and of course how to survey. Once a volunteer has successfully completed this training they are free to join our research teams. If you are keen to gain further courses whilst on site we are happy to take any volunteers staying with us for longer durations through further dive training, such as the PADI rescue course (4 weeks minimum stay) or the professional Dive Master course (12 weeks minimum stay).
The bigger picture
Our research teams on site consist of trained volunteers, local scholars and staff. Once trained through our unique two-week Skills Development Programme, you will become an integral part of our survey team collecting ecological data to assess the health of coral reefs within Southern Leyte. Intensive baseline surveys were conducted pre-2013, enabling us to map the various habitats and understand the ecological status of residing communities; concluding areas of high biodiversity or those that require greater conservation management.
Following 2013 and to date, we are successfully undertaking our following phase. The aims of this next phase are to supply local barangays (Filipino villages) and provincial governments with scientific data to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the prosperity of local, marine resources. You will conduct scientific surveys on coastal areas around Southern Leyte, collecting data on the abundance and diversity of fishes, invertebrates and substrates, whilst also assessing the perceived impact on the reefs. The goal of collecting this data is to provide recommendations on the suitability of the reef for an MPA or whether limited, local resources should be directed to other areas.
In addition, where an MPA is already established, surveys and data will be utilised to inform managers on the status of the protected area, providing recommendations where required. Following surveys, and whilst still active within the region, CCC will then implement their various education and capacity building initiatives to ensure success through compliance and local stakeholder empowerment for the future generations of Southern Leyte.
The expedition site
You will be based at our permanent expedition site. The accommodation is dormitory style and as we are in a remote area living conditions are fairly rural. There is a large communal area and classroom providing lots of space for meals, lectures and relaxing at the end of a long days diving. You will have the ocean on your doorstep and South Wall, one of the top 10 diving sites in Southern Leyte metres down the coast, and a very short walk from the base you will find a beautiful white sand beach and the mooring for our trusty dive boat, Nudihunter.
What will you do?
What you get up to each day depends on what stage of the expedition you are at. During SDP you will learn how to identify 14 hard coral lifeforms plus various substrates and oceanic organisms, approx. 30 fish species plus around 10 subspecies, and 30 invertebrates.
Once you have successfully completed the SDP tests you are able to start to survey. You will be one of a four-person team, surveying transects parallel to the shore along 100 metre long transect lines. In a standard Marine Protected Area, assessment four transects are conducted inside the MPA and four outside, split evenly between two depth contours. One complete transect is comprised of four 20 m replicates. Detailed data is recorded for different elements and there are a number of specific roles in the survey including:
Alongside surveys, we also occasionally welcome local children onto the site as part of the 'Reef Rangers' education program, in addition to in school education courses and community days. This is a great opportunity for you to get involved and meet our local community members.
Who will you work with?
You will work alongside fellow volunteers, Filipino scholars and our wonderful staff team.
The staff team generally consists of 4 roles:
We also have a number of local staff on site who act in the roles of boat operator, deckhand, compressor operator and chef (who prepares evening meals only). We also have two very friendly dogs on site.
What requirements do we have?
We require all of our volunteers to be at least 18 years of age, and you must be able to pass our medical. This is a simple 5 page document which would need to be completed by your GP or a local Dr. This is then either cleared in house or if needs be we send it to the Diving Diseases Research Centre for further clearance. Please note it will not be possible for you to pay your deposit or be accepted onto the expedition until we have conducted a prior assessment of the PADI Medical statement (this will be issued to you for completion). You do not need to have any science training to join us as we will provide all necessary training on site. You will need to provide us with proof of your Diving certifications.
In addition to your personal kit volunteers will need to provide their own dive kit, consisting of the items below. Please note it is not possible to rent these on site and anyone arriving without an item will need to purchase one in country:
We are happy to lend all volunteers regulators, BCDs, weights, and tanks during their stay.
What does the fee cover?
Your expedition fee covers your accommodation, meals, science training, diving costs (including marine park fees) ECP First Aid Certification, Reef Check EcoDiver certification (4 week+ stays only), taxi from Tacloban airport to site. The other costs you need to consider are your initial travel to/from Tacloban and your return site - Tacloban transport, insurance, visa, personal kit, spending money and your GP's charge for the medical forms.
What you get up to on a daily basis depends on what stage of the training you are at but some elements are pretty much always the same. The below schedule is, of course, subject to change due to the flexible nature of expeditions, weather, and health.
A typical CCC week:
Day 1: SDP Training/Surveying
Day 2: SDP Training/Surveying
Day 3: SDP Training/Surveying
Day 4: SDP Training/Surveying
Day 5: SDP Training/Surveying
Day 6: Recreational Diving
Day 7: Day off/Community work
A typical CCC Day:
07:00 – Breakfast
07:30 – Chores (everyone helps with these, it can include making breakfast for the team (in pairs), sweeping, mopping, cleaning up after breakfast, etc.).
08:30 - SDP Training/Surveying
12:00 – Lunch (prepared by pairs of volunteers/staff on a rota basis)
13:00 – SDP Training/Surveying
18:00 - Dinner (prepared by a local chef)
SDP is taught through a combination of classroom-based and practical diving (or very occasionally snorkeling) sessions. It’s generally, a classroom-based session followed by a snorkel or dive ‘pointy’ and then the same again in the afternoon. SDP is based on an extended version of the globally recognised ‘Reef Check’ methodology.
Once SDP trained we aim to do 2 survey dives a day over 5 days, a fun dive on the 6th day and then a rest/de-gas day on the 7th. This is of course dependant on weather and health. All volunteers are also certified in the Expedition Care Programme which is an extensive First Aid Course adapted to expedition situations.
Please note we are in a very remote area so externally planned activities in the area are rather limited, there is a town nearby, but it is very small! When there are no CCC activities scheduled volunteers are of course welcome to sign off-site and go for walks, a swim/snorkel, read, write letters, chat, etc. In the evening we have strict drinking rules but one night a week is ‘party’ night when these are relaxed, and the team usually heads to a local karaoke bar or has a party on the beach. On Sundays, people either relax on site or will plan a larger outing, such as a hike to a local waterfall.
Please note that due to the regular diving schedule, diving in your free time is not possible (for safety reasons).