Pom Pom Island, Coral ConservationVolunteer Project Information
Volunteers or Interns are needed to help protect sharks and turtles while replanting corals on a damaged coral reef.
The ProjectVolunteer with TRACC in Borneo and work on a two pronged approach to marine conservation. While the main focus of this project is to renovate the coral reefs that have been badly damaged due to 45 years of fish bombing, you will also be working to help protect the endangered Green and Hawksbill Turtles who come to Pom Pom island to nest. The ultimate goal of the project is to rebuild fish and coral populations so that the occasional reef sharks are encouraged to stay and remain resident within this sanctuary for sharks, rays, turtles and all marine life. The site is in the coral triangle and has amazing biodiversity: from the occasional whaleshark and manta through to the cute mandarin fish and the flamboyant cuttlefish.
Why the Project Needs YouWith a large area affected, the reefs surrounding Pom Pom are nowhere near as diverse or healthy as they were 40 years ago due to extensive local fish bombing. While the reef damage has now stopped, coral rubble is a common sight on the sea bed and fish & invertebrate populations are low. Marine biodiversity is very high, the site is in the coral triangle for the largest numbers of reef species in the world. While there are many schools of fish in the area, there is neither the coral nor the additional shelters on the reefs to get these fish to stay. Volunteer manpower is desperately needed to repair the reefs by replanting coral and increase the settlement of reef fish juveniles, as well as build fish aggregation devices to retain the large number of pelagic fish in the area. This work is not only for the healthy development of the reefs but also to potentially create a protected area for white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks in Sabah a 3 to 5 year plan for this project. As these particular sharks diet consists of octopus and pelagic fish, numbers need to be increased if the sharks are to be attracted and more importantly to stay.
The turtle nesting season of the endangered Green and Hawksbill Turtles occurs yearly from May to September with hatchlings present upto December. Unfortunately, while turtles are protected, turtle eggs can be easily sold in local markets and poachers have been known to sneak onto the island at night to steal the newly laid eggs from the mother turtle. Nests are easy to spot and a simple target for sea gypsies to come and claim their prize. Volunteers who will be on the island from May to September are desperately needed to carry out beach walks every evening to dissuade poachers from approaching the island. If regular patrols are instigated, poachers will have less inclination to descend upon the island and will finally leave nature to its own devices.
Blacktip reef sharks are occasional visitors
Green Turtles are very abundant and both eggs and adults will be protected from poachers
Aims & Objectives The ultimate aim is a protected reef that can support a reef shark population. To protect sharks, the ecosystem needs repair. This protected reef has been bombed in thepast and no longer has enough fish to feed a shark population. If corals are planted on the damaged areas, there will be more shelter for juvenile fish andeventually better corals with a diverse fish population. The island has a large non resident pelagic fish population, if these can be encouraged tostay, there will be more food for the sharks. The island is an important turtle nesting area and adults and hatchlings will benefit frommore protection and less poaching with a conservation project on the island.
Project LocationYou will be based on the beautiful island of Pom Pom, located in the Celebes Sea in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The journey to Pom Pom will be a one hour speed boat ride from Semporna on the mainland, and will see you careening through perfect turquoise waters. The island itself has romantic white sand beaches, calm waters and shallow reefs. With easy access to over 10 other islands, Pom Pom is a gateway to the underwater dive sites of the coral triangle.
Project Facts Duration: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 weeks Cost: 1175 for 2 weeks, 1675 for 4 weeks (with 2 dive courses) 10% discount for groups of 6 or more. (bigger groups more discount). Requirements: Suitable for anyone, Age 17+, or children with guardians; non divers welcome,School groups (one week expeditions are possible for large groups). Location: Pom Pom island, Sabah, Borneo Map of location Project Activities: Coral reef conservation through proactive reef rebuilding, construction and coral planting, monitoring of turtle nesting, turtle tagging, sharks, rays, reef fish & invertebratesurveys. Diving: Unlimited Working Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 hours per day. Project Availability: First and third Wednesday of the month. Project closed over Christmas and New Year
Whats Included Accommodation: Shared tent on almost deserted beach. OR Stay at beautiful Celebes Beach Resort Food: 3 meals per day breakfast, lunch and dinner, (with professional staff cook) Airport pick up and drop off Training: Orientation and project induction provided, PADI scuba diving Open Water course/qualification for 2 week stays.PADI Openwater & Advanced course included for 4+ week stays.Reef Check Tropical EcoDiver course included for 8+ week stays Support: 24 hour support, Safety & Medical Communications: Regular phone or internet contact with friends or family. University or college projects for individual students are designed and supported for 4+ week stays (qualified diver) or 6+ week stays (diving qualification completed in Pom Pom) Excursion Planning: Staff help organise extra dive courses and additional land or waterexcursions Transport to Pom Pom Island from Kota Kinabalu ( return trip)
All dive equipment (except: mask, snorkel, fins, skins/rash vest/ stinger suit)
Whats Not Included Flights to Kota Kinabalu (Air Asia or Firefly are cheap local airlines, Royal Brunei is often thecheapest International carrier) Insurance (recommend DAN trip insurance) Visas (Malaysia gives 12 weeks free entry visa on arrival for most countries) Water & sand proof watch, ( casio digital or similar) Dive skins & snorkel gear volunteers need to bring their own Underwater or land cameras (computers are available to download photos and burn to disc.)for more information search our website http://tracc-borneo.org
You will be working to help repair the reef by carrying out soft and hard coral planting. The reef environment varies and different techniques will be used to determine how best to stabilize the reef depending on the slope, current and depth. A wide range of species are planted to create a diverse reef and while coral grows slowly; growth and survival of individuals can be clearly seen, monitored and measured in a typical month. After initial training, volunteers work in small groups on daily and weekly projects as well as creating their own masterpiece reef. Lots of the corals are initially planted in tanks on land so non divers will also be busy.
Check out the blog for more on coral planting
You will also be working to help increase the number of fish in the area. This will be done through fish aggregating devices (FAD's)such as recycled water bottles, netlon, canvas and treated concrete structures. As well as creating these devices, you will also be installing and monitoring them underwater. As the fish are attracted to elements underwater that they can hide behind, you will be working to find the best solution in the area and to help implement the underwater planting of these devices.
Alongside your daily dive work, if you are volunteering between May to September you will also be carrying out nightly beach patrols to check for nesting turtles and hatchlings. It takes around 40 minutes to circle the island and you will be on rotation with the other volunteers every evening to help dissuade poachers from stealing the eggs or hatchlings.
This is the ideal place to build dive skills as well as fish and coral identification techniques. Most days have one or more boat dives, 3 dives per day is normal and night dives are frequent. The water is usually crystal clear and due to the strong currents at some of the dive sites many large pelagics are attracted including grey reef sharks, eagle rays and manta rays! If youre very lucky, you may also see the awe-inspiring whale shark (the best time is between April-June).
Non diving days are busy with fish & coral ID, photo & video editing, preparation of coral planting materials, writing or constructing your own coral and fish palace.
Coral fragment has grown to small colony
FAD's are a very effective way of keeping fish within the protected area
Green turtle filling in nest after laying
Research StudentsThere is the possibility of research for students who need to complete a dissertation or thesis. Volunteers have been to Pom Pom to carry out research on their own special project and have stayed for between 3-6 months. Contact TRACC for more details.
Families and GroupsFamilies can camp or upgrade to stay in the neighbouring Celebes Beach resort where children are most welcome. Groups would be fantastic and they will stay in the tented accommodation. The more manpower the better! Max group size is 20.Couples can stay in the tents but sound is an issue, private rooms in the resort are a better solution.
Who should comeThe project has tents on the beach, but is not at all basic. Each dome sleeps two on two single beds and has shared facilities, Resort accommodation is available at slightly extra cost for couples, honeymooners or families. Diving is no