Coral Cay Conservation

Diving & Marine Conservation for Dive Trainees

Southern Leyte, Philippines show on map
founded in 1986
Coral Cay Conservation
Coordinator | Tessa
Coordinator | Tessa
This is your chance to learn how to scuba dive (or improve your skills), and contribute to the creation of marine protected areas in the heart of the coral triangle. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:

Learn how to dive in 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 and you will learn to dive on our stunning house reef. We are also happy to take any volunteers staying with us for longer duration through further dive training, such as the PADI rescue course (4 weeks minimum stay) or the professional Dive Master course (12 weeks minimum stay).

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?

Anyone who is completely new to diving, or a PADI Open Water certified (or equivalent) diver joins us a ‘dive trainee’. We will then take you through PADI Open Water (if necessary) and Advanced Open Water over your first week on site. This will give you plenty of time to perfect your buoyancy and gain in confidence. 

Anyone who is already Open Water trained need not redo this course, we’ll just take you through a quick skills check when you arrive on site and as long as all is well you can go straight into your Advanced course. The next 2 weeks is spent on the 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.

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, volunteers 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 CCC 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, CCC are successfully undertaking their 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 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 training you are at. During your first week on site we will take you through all of the theoretical and in water training needed to successfully complete your Open and Advanced Open Water training. 

Once dive trained you will move onto the two week 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:

  • Physical: Records environmental factors, determines the start point and direction of survey and controls the activities of the ‘fish’ surveyors 
  • Fish: Records target fish along a belt transect including estimating size for some species 
  • Invertebrates and Impacts: Records target invertebrates and anthropogenic impacts along a belt transect
  • Substrate: Records substrates (including hard coral species) along a point intercept transect 

Alongside surveys Coral Cay also occasionally welcomes local children onto the site as part of the 'Reef Rangers' education program. On these days any extra pair of hands that want to help with classroom and snorkeling sessions are most welcome. 

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:

  • Field Base Manager - in charge of the whole site, and responsible for all other staff, volunteers and scholars
  • Project Scientist - In charge of the science on site, and responsible for working with our in country stakeholders and partners 
  • Science Officer - In charge of delivering SDP and leading the survey work
  • Scuba Instructor - In charge of all dive training on site
    We also have a number of local staff on site who act in the roles of boat operator, deck hand, compressor operator and chef. 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 you have submitted (and we have pre-assessed) the PADI medical statement (which we will provide to you). You do not need to have any dive or science training to join us as we will provide all necessary training on site. 

In addition to your personal kit volunteers will need to provide their own personal 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:

  • Relevant PADI manuals and certification PICs:
  • PADI Open Water Ultimate Crew Pack and PIC
  • PADI Advanced Open Water Manual and PIC 
  • Mask & snorkel
  • Fins (open foot)
  • Wet suit hard soled booties
  • Dive compass
  • Diving log book (NB. This item is included in the Open Water Ultimate Crew Pack)
  • Diver’s cutting tool (knife, line cutter)
  • Dive computer (preferable) or digital depth gauge with bottom timer
  • A4 size (or 2 x A5) dive slate
  • 2 x pens and pencils
  • Wetsuit (a 3mm long suit is ideal), or a rash vest & board shorts
  • Underwater torch (not required for those staying two weeks only)
  • Cyalume light sticks (not required for those staying for two weeks only)

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 and dive training. The other costs you need to consider are your initial travel to/from site, insurance, visa, personal kit, spending money and your GP's charge for the medical forms.

Typical day

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: Dive or SDP Training/Surveying 

Day 2: Dive or SDP Training/Surveying

Day 3: Dive or SDP Training/Surveying

Day 4: Dive or SDP Training/Surveying 

Day 5: Dive or 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 - Dive or SDP Training/Surveying 

12:00 – Lunch

13:00 – Dive or SDP Training/Surveying 

18:00 - Dinner

SDP is taught through a combination of classroom based and practical diving (or very occasionally snorkelling) 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 Program which is an extensive First Aid Course adapted to expedition situations. 

Details on Arrival

We have start dates every four weeks and are open pretty much all year round. Please note that it is unfortunately not possible for volunteers to arrive out of sync with the dates specified below. Volunteers are welcome to join us from a duration of two weeks but we recommend a stay of at least four if you want to be able to fully experience every aspect of an expedition, including putting your survey skills into action.

Although our start dates are set, and we have a minimum stay allowance of two weeks, you are welcome to join us for as long as you like above this. Many volunteers join for full weeks but you are most welcome to stay for part weeks if that helps with your travel plans.  

Please see a list of dive trainee start dates below:


24th April 2019

22nd May 2019

3rd July - 7th August 2019 - FULL*

7th August 2019

4th September 2019

2nd October 2019

30th October 2019

27th November 2019

Our site will be closed for 2 weeks over the Christmas period, from the 18th December 2019 until January 2020. Many of those who want to join us for longer periods over the Christmas period use these 2 weeks for further travel, returning to us in the new year.

*Please note the site is full from the 3rd July until the 7th August. Those who join us before this date are welcome to leave on the 3rd, take some time to view some of the beautiful sites in the Philippines and return to site when we reopen in August.


8th January 2020

5th February 2020

4th March 2020

1st April 2020

29th April 2020

27th May 2020

24th June 2020

22nd July 2020

19th August 2020

16th September 2020

14th October 2020

11th November 2020

Our site will be closed for 2 weeks over the Christmas period, from the 18th December 2020 until January 2021. Many of those who want to join us for longer periods over the Christmas period use these 2 weeks for further travel, returning to us in the new year.

Your start date is the day you will arrive on site. The rendezvous time is 13:30 at Tacloban airport (Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport). You will need to fly from your home country to Manila via an Asian country of your choice, and then on to Tacloban. Due to the flight times you will likely need to spend one night in Manila before traveling on to Tacloban the next morning. Tacloban airport is very small so any flight arriving until about 13:15 is fine. You can then either take the CCC organised taxi to site or take public transport. 

CCC taxi - If you decide to take the taxi you will be met at Tacloban airport by our driver, Bong, and a CCC representative. The taxi will cost approx. 78 US$, which is divided between the volunteers present.The duration of the journey is approximately 4 hours.

Public transport - Alternatively you are welcome to take public transport. Please note this involves one change and can take significantly longer, however if you would prefer this option we would be happy to provide you with the necessary details.

Free-time activities

When survey activities are not scheduled volunteers are welcome to sign off site and go for a hike or swim. Please note we are in a very remote area so externally planned activities in the area are rather limited. Volunteers can grab the opportunity to snorkel the beautiful house reef. Please note that due to the regular diving schedule, diving in your free time is not possible (for safety reasons). 

Alcohol consumption is strictly controlled throughout the week (due to the regular diving). however on the evening before the de-gas day rules are relaxed. This evening is generally known as 'party night' and is often spent at the local karaoke/pool bar or on the beach. Start limbering up those singing muscles now!


Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (fluently)
Required Documents
CCC Medical forms, Passport scan, Next of kin form, Travel details form, Insurance details and declaration and PADI waivers
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Included Services

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if Coral Cay Conservation cancels your trip
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Coral Cay Conservation.

Before your journey

Profound consulting and ongoing support (free)
Coral Cay Conservation (your host organization) provides consulting and is keen to answer all your questions. Once you reserved your spot, you will receive the contact details of your volunteer project.
Online preparation course (optional, from $49)
Prepare yourself and become a confident and well informed traveler. Global Travel Academy takes you on a journey before you leave home, helping you to become one of the world's greatest travelers. Our trusted partner for online learning offers courses in "International Volunteering", "Travel Health & Safety" and "Travel Safety Abroad".

On-site services

Services by Coral Cay Conservation

Please note that these are guide prices only. The expedition fee is usually charged in GBP Sterling and therefore is subject to currency fluctuations. An updated expedition fee will be given on request.

During the first 5 weeks on site the expedition fee goes up in increments, after 5 weeks duration it's a set fee of approx. 214 US$ per week.

The fees above include your:

  • Field accommodation 
  • Meals
  • PADI Open Water and PADI Advanced Open Water Training
  • BCD, regulator, tanks (and air), weights and weight belt hire
  • Skills Development Programme Training
  • Expedition Care Programme (ECP) First Aid Training
  • Surveying  (minimum stays apply)
  • Recreational diving 
  • Field staff supervision 
  • Contribution toward Coral Cay's local scholarship scheme
The fees above do not include your:
  • International and domestic flights
  • In-transit accommodation 
  • Transfers between airports and project sites 
  • Visas
  • PADI manuals & Dive Certification (Positive Identification Cards (PIC's)
  • Reef Check Certification card
  • Travel insurance
  • Airport departure taxes
  • Personal diving equipment 
  • Personal spending money
  • Personal items
  • Further dive training

Anyone joining us for at least 4 weeks is welcome to undertake their PADI Rescue course (fee - £200 not including PIC and manual)

Anyone joining us for at least 12 weeks is welcome to undertake their PADI Dive Master course (fee - £350, does not include Crew Pack or registration).


Volunteers will be based in Napantao Dive Resort, Napantao, San Francisco, Sogod Bay. 

Up to 35 volunteers and staff can be accommodated and there is a good supply of potable water and fresh water for showering, 24hr electricity supply (240v) is available, although please be aware that brown outs are not uncommon. Being located within Sogod Bay, the expedition base is ideally situated for coral reef training and research activities. The reefs directly in front of the base contain some of the most beautiful and biologically diverse hard coral colonies in the world. 

Sleeping accommodation is in shared, single sex dormitories. Each volunteer is provided with a bunk, mattress and bed linen, and all beds are protected with mosquito netting. Each bedroom has it's own toilet room, with toilets 'flushed' using buckets of sea water. 

Dorm Room
Food & Beverages

Breakfast and lunch are prepared by volunteers and staff on a rota and everyone will be expected to take their turn in producing communal meals. Evening meals are prepared by local catering staff. 

Meals are based upon local cuisine and seasonal availability of locally produced food. Meals are served in the communal dining area and mealtimes are fixed in order that the day's survey activities can be effectively managed. 

Vegetarians are catered for on all expeditions. Volunteers staying for longer periods are advised to bring a supply of vitamin supplements as fresh fruit and vegetables, while mostly available, are seasonal and availability will vary.

A small amount of snacks and cold beverages are available but this is at an extra cost.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. An airport pickup isn't included within the program fees either.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is D. Z. Romualdez Airport (TAC) in Tacloban. We assist you to find cheap flights to Philippines.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Philippines provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Philippines you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Philippines.
Costs: Prices in USD
2 weeks (min. stay)
$ 1,187
3 weeks
$ 1,681
4 weeks
$ 2,175
5 weeks
$ 2,528
7 weeks
$ 2,952
9 weeks
$ 3,375
20 weeks (max. stay)
$ 5,704
Average fees
$ 439 /week

You can volunteer at the project site in Southern Leyte/Philippines between 2 weeks and 20 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Coral Cay Conservation will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Philippines.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Coral Cay Conservation during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
  Asia South-Eastern Asia The Philippines  Southern Leyte, Philippines

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The project site is open in: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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