Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Malaysia
March 10 – 22, 2013
– April 5, 2013
– April 19, 2013
Expedition cost: £1,470 (approx. €1770 | US$2330 | AU$2260)
This SCUBA diving voluntourism project will take you to Tioman, the Malaysian island named by Time Magazine as one of the world's most beautiful. Pulau Tioman is located 40 km off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. The island has a relaxed, quiet feel with beautiful, sandy beaches and a densely forested interior. The island's population is just over three thousand.
The reefs of Pulau Tioman Marine Park are some of the healthiest and most diverse around peninsular Malaysia and lie just inside the 'coral triangle', an area that has been identified as having the highest diversity of coral species anywhere in the world. The reefs in the coral triangle support 600+ genera of reef-building corals, 3000+ species of fish and contain 75% of all coral species known to science. The coral triangle was identified as a priority area for marine conservation and, during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change conference in Bali, a pledge to protect this marine environment was drawn up between the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Pulau Tioman was gazetted as a nature reserve and Marine Park in 1998 to protect these valuable resources. A Marine Parks division of the government is present on the island.
However, the island's growing tourist trade, crown of thorns population booms and developments on land are threatening the reefs' health and so data on the current biological status of the reefs and of population levels of key indicator species are crucial for park management and educational efforts. Tourism development is a priority for the government, but sustainable tourism is being overlooked in favour of cheaper, and more damaging mass tourism. If Malaysia's government and local populations can see small scale, responsible tourism development working for them, then the country's rich, natural resources could be protected more effectively.
Working in a very small group of five participants, one scientist and one expedition leader, you will assist the local researcher to study and protect the local Marine Park's beautiful but fragile coral reefs, as well as its marine megafauna such as sharks, dolphins & turtles. For the first five days of training and familiarising yourself with the Reef Check research techniques, you will be based at a beach chalet resort on Tioman island. After this, you will move to a 45 ft sloop rig sailing yacht research vessel, which will take you to remote areas of the Marine Park. The expedition includes training as a Reef Check EcoDiver. Please note that you need to be a fully qualified diver to take part in this expedition (minimum PADI Open Water or equivalent).
For more information about the Malaysia EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:
Reef Check/ECoSwiss EcoExpedition: Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
April 10 – 19, 2013
Expedition cost: $2,000
ECoSwiss welcomes all passionate divers who care about corals and conservation to join the Reef Check Expedition to our study area in Myanmar! This project is part of our trans-border MABR conservation programme and promotes international collaboration on nature conservation and awareness. We particularly encourage recreational divers to join reef scientists in the first extended expedition to survey the basic health of the coral reefs around the Bada Island group. Burmese, Thai and international divers and scientists are warmly welcome!
10 days expedition onboard MV Thai Sea, from 10 to 19 April 2013.
We'll explore and collect data at our study area, the Bada Island group (about 12 islands) in the southern part of the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar.
1.To collect information on coral reef health status and composition in the study area (Bada group of islands)
2.To train Myanmar, Thai and international divers and researchers in Reef Check survey methodology
•Up to 3 dives per day including 1-2 Reef Check surveys in unusual dive sites and additional recreational dives (day & night). Coral reef surveys include identification of substrate, fish & invertebrates
•Wherever possible, manta tow surveys for coral distribution mapping and estimation of coverage of different ecosystems
•Theory classes on Reef Check methodology and marine biology
•Entry and evaluation of collected data on board. These data are submitted to the global database
This expedition focuses on Reef Check surveys. The minimum requirement for participants is a diving certification (PADI, SSI, etc.) and an excellent buoyancy.
For more information about the Myanmar EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:
Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Maldives
June 30 – July 6, 2013
July 7 – 13, 2013
Expedition cost: £1,690 (approx. €2110 | US$2680 | AU$2580)
Many reefs in the Maldives are in a relatively pristine state and of high aesthetic quality. The Maldives Marine Research Station of the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture identified a need for further research and monitoring work as far back as 1997. Biosphere Expeditions is addressing this need and is working with Reef Check (RC) and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) in order to provide vital data on reef health.
Data from the coral reef surveys will be used at international, regional and national levels to provide a 'status report' on the health of Maldivian reefs. At the national level, it will be used to help make informed management and conservation recommendations. Surveys will be carried out both inside and outside current Maldivian Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to continue the work of the Marine Conservation Society, which is investigating the impact of MPAs on fish and coral populations.
As regards whale sharks, during transfers between the Reef Check dive sites, the expedition will endeavour to record presence / absence of whale sharks from the vessel. If there is the opportunity, the expedition will enter the water with the sharks and attempt to take pictures of their gill area. Gill areas photographs are being used by the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme to record presence / absence of whale sharks in the archipelago. Photos of the markings in and around the gill / pectoral fin areas are unique (like a human fingerprint) for each individual. The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme can then match one individual's unique markings with the photographic record and add that image and the whale shark's location to their database, and see if it has been recorded before, and from where. This will then allow conservationists at the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme to map where individual sharks go, how often they are recorded at individual locations, and whether further protection mechanisms are needed for individual hotspot locations.
Coral reef structures of the Maldives archipelago are extraordinarily diverse and rich. The fish populations of the Maldives are also exceptionally rich in terms of diversity and biomass. Shark fishing within the atolls was banned by the Maldivian government in 2008, and their numbers appear to be increasing, and small reef sharks are still commonly observed in Maldivian waters. Many thillas lie in areas of strong current, and can be visited at times when jacks, snapper and shark forage for their prey. These reefs are 'fed' by the channels between the outer barrier reef that punctuate this vast archipelago, where the diving can be exciting. The unique location and geology of the Maldives also makes it a rich area for filter feeding whale shark and manta rays, with observations of these species an exciting event for those on board live-aboard dive trips.
Dives range from thillas, walls, fore and back reefs, where gently sloping reefs are covered by hard corals, and the regionally abundant black tube coral, Tubastrea. All of our survey dives are to a maximum 18 metre depth, which generally are the shallow water areas that provide the richest coral growth.
For more information about the Maldives EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:
Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Musandam, Oman
October 6 – 12, 2013
October 13 – 19, 2013
Expedition cost: £1,280 (approx. €1550 | US$2030 | AU$1940)
These SCUBA diving conservation volunteer holidays will take you to the United Arab Emirates and from there to the remote and mountainous Musandam peninsula of Oman. There you will study the diverse coral reefs fringing the areas where the mountains plunge into the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. This is a pioneering study to map this currently unprotected underwater environment. The reefs boast a rich mixture of beautiful corals and a multitude of fish and other animals. Data on the current biological status of the reefs and of population levels of key indicator species are therefore crucial for educational purposes and to be able to put forward ideas for future marine protection areas. Data collection follows an internationally recognised coral reef monitoring programme, called Reef Check, and will be used to make informed management and conservation decisions within the area. The expedition includes certification as a Reef Check EcoDiver. Please note that you need to be a fully qualified diver to take part in this expedition (minimum PADI Open Water or equivalent).
For more information about the Oman EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:
2008 trip report
2009 trip report
2010 trip report