Borneo Marine Conservation

Volunteer to preserve and restore coral reefs at the Borneo Marine Conservation Project

Volunteer at this amazing conservation project that focuses on protecting and replanting coral reefs. No previous experience or qualifications are required as this project allows volunteers to gain diving qualifications while assisting the project in carrying out their vital work.

Talk to Jim who knows the project and will be happy to help! E-mail me directly at or use the contact form below:

Project Overview

Restore coral reefs on a picturesque island in Borneo to help save this amazing ecosystem!

Volunteer on one of the most important turtle nesting islands in Malaysia.

This project provides an amazing volunteer experience on a beautiful small island, whilst protecting the surrounding marine life.

Join us at this impactful project and gain your diving certification whilst making a real difference.

Project Summary

The Project: The marine conservation project focuses on protecting and replanting coral reefs damaged by 45 years of illegal blast fishing around the islands of the Celebes Sea, Malaysian Borneo. Damaged reefs offer no hiding places for fish, and blast-rubble scattered over the sea floor leaves bare sand, which supports few species.

Project Location: The marine conservation centre is located on a small and remote island, 45 minutes by boat from the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The nearest airport is Tawau which has excellent connections to Kuala Lumpur.

Main Volunteer Activities: Volunteers focus on scuba diving, coral reef restoration and marine species identification

Hours: Volunteers work six days a week, usually from around 9am to 5pm. This allows for three to four dives a day with unlimited snorkelling opportunities.

Duration: Volunteer placements are year-round and from 2 to 12 weeks.

Accommodation: Volunteers have individual, private tents with mosquito nets, complete with comfortable airbeds, sheets and real pillows, and electric light & fan. Couples travelling together may share if they wish.

Volunteer Requirements: Volunteers at this project must be aged 18+ and confident swimmers.

Volunteer Placement Fee: From UK£1,165 / US$1,750

In Detail

This superb project was set up in 1999 to counteract the damaging effects of more than 45 years of illegal blast fishing around the islands of the Celebes Sea off Northeastern Borneo.

Through raising environmental awareness, campaigning for tighter restrictions on illegal fishing, and volunteers’ conservation efforts, the project is creating solutions to these problems and aiding the recovery of the reef and greater ocean environment.

How the project is helping

By collecting fragments of hard and soft corals and transplanting them into damaged areas, the project is aiding the recovery of these habitats and increasing biodiversity. Greater fish populations encourage larger predators such as reef sharks and rays to remain resident in this marine sanctuary, which is the ultimate goal.

Why the project need volunteers

The project receives no state funding, but through volunteer support, private donations and grants the project is able to continue its vital work in conserving this amazing marine environment, preserving the habitat of many endangered species.

Volunteers have made a huge difference in marine conservation in this area. Since volunteers have started at the project, fish are more plentiful, the coral is growing and there are more turtles and sharks. The increase in marine life is because of the work volunteers have done helping replant coral off the island. Some of the coral is now saucepan sized, and there is an incredible difference in fish numbers in these planted areas versus the non-planted parts.

Find out more about the importance of the coral reef, turtle egg poaching and the impact of shark fin soup on our blog about the Borneo Marine Project.

Typical Volunteer Duties

Volunteers at the marine conservation project work from about 9am until about 5pm, six days a week. Some of your duties while at the project will include:

  • Collecting hard and soft coral fragments from various reefs.
  • Moving prepared samples to the ocean nursery.
  • Transplanting samples from nursery to reef.
  • Attaching soft coral pieces to concrete bases on the reef.
  • Mixing concrete and producing bases for hard and soft coral planting.
  • Scuba diving at various reefs to record progress of coral growth and species present.
  • Underwater photography and documentation.

Volunteers at this project spend the majority of each day working in the water. You will be diving on a daily basis in order to help with coral reef conservation and regeneration. Volunteers who are new to scuba diving will be given training in order to achieve their PADI open water dive certification. Those who already have open water dive qualifications will be able to achieve their advanced certification.

Diving certification

If you are new to scuba diving, your first few days will be spent achieving your PADI Open Water Dive Certification, or training to Advanced Certification if you have trained previously. These courses include theory sessions and tests, and will equip you with the necessary skills to work effectively in the ocean as a dive volunteer.

Divers usually make up to 3 to 4 dives per day, with unlimited snorkelling opportunities. Volunteers work together to produce coral bases and samples to be transplanted in the reef. Many of the underwater duties can be performed by snorkelling as some reefs are at a depth of 3-5m.

Volunteer Accommodation at the Marine Conservation project

The marine conservation centre is located on a small and remote island, 45 minutes by boat from the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

After collection from the airport in Tawau, you will be taken to the jetty at Semporna, the closest coastal town to the island, where a scenic boat ride will get you to the camp on Pom Pom, which is surrounded by deserted white sand beaches, crystal clear water and a panorama of tropical, jungle-clad islands.

The marine conservation centre is on the beach and volunteers sleep in individual, private tents with mosquito nets, complete with comfortable airbeds, sheets and real pillows, and electric light & fan. Couples who wish to share can be assigned two tents - one with a double mattress and one to store your clothing and other belongings.  The tents are protected from rain by large plastic sheets that also create a large porch area around each tent.

The volunteer camp has a shower and toilet area along with a dining and communal area. Electricity is available from a generator and all the tents have fans and lighting. Phone and 3g internet is available on the island, although this cannot be guaranteed.

Volunteers cook with others on a rotation, and the project provides food for three meals per day. Vegetarians can be catered for.

NB: There are currently travel warnings in place for Pom Pom island due to some isolated local incidents.
We ask volunteers check the FCO website or their own country's government travel advice before travelling.

Free time
The island where the project is based offers endless scuba diving and snorkelling. If you really want to kick back and relax after a day’s diving, it is the perfect place to unwind during free time, either on a deserted stretch of beach or in the centre grounds. The centre also hosts regular barbecues on the beach, and there are two dive resorts on the island, where you can go for drinks in the evening. Those expecting a wild night life will be disappointed.
Overnight trips to Semporna on the mainland can be arranged, where volunteers can visit the few bars and restaurants that cater to diving community, dive instructors and backpackers, but again the scene is very low key. In Semporna you can organize dive or snorkel trips to other famous dive sites in the area such as Sipadan and Mabul.

There are some tasty and inexpensive seafood restaurants as well as great Indian food available in the Tamil restaurants. There is also a very well stocked supermarket here for buying up provisions to take back to the island. Internet cafes are found here too.

Weeks £GBP $USD
£1,165 $1,750
£1,370 $2,055
£1,580 $2,370
£1,695 $2,545
£1,900 $2,850
£2,245 $3,370
£2,555 $3,835
£2,815 $4,225
10  £2,935 $4,405
11 £3,175 $4,765
12  £3,415 $5,125

What’s Included

        √  Transport arranged from Tawau airport.
        √  Accommodation in individual tents.
        √  All main meals.
        √  In-country support from the local staff.
        √  All necessary equipment and materials.
        √  All necessary training by experienced staff.
        √  Project donation.

For volunteers without certification, your placement fee also covers the cost of gaining your PADI certification as detailed below. Diving volunteers who already have PADI certification will automatically qualify for a discount.

Dive Certifications

Dive volunteers with no certification can gain PADI certification during their placement as follows:

  • To gain your PADI Open Water Certification you must volunteer for a minimum of two weeks
  • To gain your PADI Advanced Open Water Certification you must volunteer for a minimum of four weeks
  • To gain your PADI Advanced Open Water and your Emergency First Response Certification you must volunteer for a minimum of six weeks
  • To gain your PADI Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response and Rescue Diver Certification you must volunteer for a minimum of eight weeks
Discounts for PADI certified dive volunteers

Scuba diving volunteers with PADI open water certification or higher are eligible for a discount.

If you have a PADI Open Water certificate then you will receive a discount of £160 / US$210 for durations of two weeks or more.

Volunteers with PADI Advanced Open Water certificate will receive a discount of £320 / US$420 for durations of four weeks or more.

If you have an Emergency First Response certification then you will receive a discount of £480 / US$630 for durations of six weeks or more.

Volunteers with a PADI  Rescue Diver certification will receive a discount of £640 / US$840 for duration's of eight weeks or more.

Start dates

Unqualified divers looking to get their PADI Open Water certification must start their placement on the 1st or 3rd Monday of the month.

Open water certified divers looking to get their PADI Advanced Open water certification must start on the 2nd or 4th Monday of the month.

Advanced qualified divers looking to get their Emergency First Response and PADI Rescue Diver certifications can arrive on any Monday.

Financial Transparency

As a UK registered Charity, Globalteer is required to be financially transparent to our donors. You can therefore see a full breakdown of where your money goes and our independently audited accounts by clicking below:

Where Your Money Goes

To discover why you should consider choosing Globalteer, please visit the following page:

About Globalteer

Why do we charge a fee for volunteering?

Globalteer requests a donation from volunteers to allow us to achieve our charitable objectives and support our partner programmes. In return, Globalteer provides volunteers with an amazing, responsible and ethical volunteer experience. Ensuring that your placement is responsible as well as rewarding, safe and enjoyable takes a good deal of work.

A summary of Globalteer’s total expenditure for the last financial year is shown below:

Donations and Grants 60% – This includes a share of volunteer placement fees, grants we have secured for our projects and donations managed by Globalteer that are made by individuals and groups to our projects and partner projects.

Support Costs 29% – This includes volunteer accommodation, volunteer transport, support staff costs, travel costs and some volunteer meals.

Operational Costs 11% – Costs of running Globalteer.

What’s not included
  • Flights
  • Cost of your taxi that we arrange from the airport - approximately MYR25 (£5, US$6)
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Onward transport at the end of your placement
How much do everyday items cost?

The official currency of Malaysia (and Malaysian Borneo) is the Ringgit. There are around 5.5 Ringgit to the pound and about 4.35 Ringgit to the US dollar. The cost of living in Malaysia is very low compared to most countries in the developed world. There is little opportunity to spend money on the island itself, but in the nearest "mainland" town of Semporna you can buy a range of goods. The costs of some typical items are:

  • Short journey by taxi - 4 to 6 Ringgit
  • Meal in a local restaurant - 3 to 8 Ringgit
  • Western food such as pizza - 24 Ringgit
  • Small bottle of water - 1.5 Ringgit
  • can of beer - 8 to 10 Ringgit
“Words cannot begin to describe some of the moments I had”

Stephen, UK

Volunteer rated at
(4.7 / 5)

Borneo Marine Conservation Project Photo Gallery

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