Borneo Marine Conservation FAQs
Borneo benefits from year-round temperatures averaging between 27°C & 32°C. Roughly speaking, Sabah has two seasons, the wetter season runs from September to January and the drier season from February to August. However the distinction between seasons is not very marked, and the weather patterns and rainfall levels are unpredictable.
You will be on a small beautiful island so extra activities are usually based on the mainland during time off or before and after your volunteer placement.
Divers often make up to 3 to 4 dives per day, with unlimited snorkelling opportunities. Volunteers work from around 9am until 5 pm, 6 days per week.
You need to be able to speak English, as this is the common language at the centre, and PADI Dive courses are also conducted in English. Travelling in Malaysia is easy as English is widely spoken. Despite that, learning a few words of Bahasa Malaysia is appreciated and a great way to make friends with locals.
The majority of volunteers are from the UK, United States, Canada and Australia. We also place volunteers from Holland, Germany, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand although all nationalities are welcome. The majority of volunteers travel alone to the projects, although we also accommodate couples and groups.
The centre has no wifi available, but trips are regularly made to places where the 3g signal is good enough for internet use. You are welcome to bring a laptop or other internet enabled mobile device. Many smart phones can get very slow internet at camp. Phone signal coverage is patchy but skype and calls can be made using local sim cards can be bought at minimal cost.
Yes of course, in fact we have a page all about how you can fund raise for your trip here.
Although camping is basic, the tents are made comfortable by inflatable mattresses, bed sheets and pillows. There is a plastic storage box in each tent, and electric light. There are showers and a plentiful supply of water and the toilets are western style flush toilets. There is also a communal area to relax, socialise, read a book, play games or occasionally watch a movie.
There is a communal cooking area where volunteers can prepare extra snacks for themselves if they need a between meal snack. All food is provided by the centre, so if you have a particular need, special diet or culinary desire, you need to make sure you give the centre plenty of advance notice. Being a Muslim country, pork is not widely used, and not served at the project. Vegetarians, vegans and special requirements can be catered for if advanced notice is given. Hot drinks and toast are self service and available all day. Soft drinks and alcohol are also available at an extra cost.
Yes you can. There are several bars close to the centre or in town, but not a great deal of choice of drinks. Alcohol is available at the project too, however drinking is really only done on a Saturday night as volunteers have a free day on Sunday. Smoking is permitted at the project but we ask that you dispose of cigarette butts responsibly, and not litter the beach or ocean further.
The currency in Malaysian Borneo is the Malaysian Ringgit. ATMs are available throughout the mainland on Borneo for all major credit cards. Credit cards are accepted in higher end businesses.
Borneo is a very safe and friendly, as always when travelling you must take the usual precautions to make sure you stay safe. Common sense and knowledge is the key phrase, and on arrival you will have an orientation meeting to advise you of any precautions you need to take. There are currently travel warnings in place for Borneo due to some isolated local incidents. You should take this into account and research the risk before you book. For more information, visit our International Travel Advice Page
We recommend that you let your health professional know that you will be volunteering at a marine project and discuss the various vaccination options. For more information, visit our International Travel Advice Page
Finding the right insurance to cover your travels can be daunting, confusing and time-consuming, however – travel insurance is a must. You never know what could happen, and if you are unlucky enough to get ill or find yourself in a sticky situation, being uninsured can be really expensive and downright dangerous. This is why we strongly recommend that all our volunteers take out suitable travel insurance. We also recommend that your purchase your insurance and soon as you book your trip to cover you for all up-front costs in the event of cancellation due to any unforeseen circumstances. Globalteer has formed a partnership with a leading travel insurance provider to help you through this process.
Borneo is more conservative than other South East Asian destinations, and you are encouraged to dress accordingly – beach wear is fine for the beach, but not in town.
Malaysia is a multicultural nation, where Malays, Chinese and Indians have lived together for generations. In addition, the Sabah region has a myriad of ethnic groups, all with their own cultural heritage. One of the minority groups of Sabah are the ‘Bajau’, also known as ‘Sea Gypsies’, who are traditionally nomadic and responsible for the majority of the blast fishing that has devastated the reefs. Around Semporna, before you take the boat to the island, you’ll notice that most of the local inhabitants are Muslim, or Indian – mainly from the Tamil Nadu area of Southern India. Borneo is more conservative than other South East Asian destinations, and you are encouraged to dress accordingly – beach wear is fine for the beach, but not in town. Pork is not readily available, and neither is alcohol, except in the restaurants aimed at tourists, such as Arthur’s Bar or Scuba Junkie in Semporna. Some customs worth remembering for greetings are that it is impolite for a Malay man to shake a woman’s hand, so instead he may bow while placing his hand on his heart. Women do shake hands with each other. The Chinese handshake is light and rather prolonged. Men and women may shake hands, although the woman must extend her hand first, and many older Chinese lower their eyes during the handshake as a sign of respect. Indians shake hands with members of the same sex, but when greeting someone of the opposite sex, nodding the head and smiling is usually adequate.
No, you don’t need previous experience. Snorkelling with fins makes things easy, and volunteers are not expected to snorkel to depths more than 4m. Two week diving volunteers will be trained to PADI Open Water level, and 4 week volunteers are able to achieve PADI Advanced Open Water certification. For these qualifications (and for general safety) you must be able to swim 200m with mask, snorkel and fins.
Yes, on arrival you will receive orientation from the project coordinator, giving local information and advise. Training will be given to ensure you achieve the project objectives, including PADI certifications. You will continually be learning from the professional staff.
You will be picked up from the airport or hotel in Tawau.
Globalteer is fully committed to ensuring that your volunteer placement is responsible. More information can be found on our Responsible Volunteering Page.
As a UK registered Charity, Globalteer is financially transparent, our accounts are independently audited and posted online. You can read a full report on where your money goes here.
We understand what motivates volunteers and what makes a memorable volunteer experience. We have been placing volunteers at our projects since 2006 and have built up a wealth of knowledge in those years about what makes volunteering rewarding for volunteers as well as impactful for the fantastic projects we work with. You can read here why we think you should choose Globalteer.
You can read more about this project on our blogs page.