Whale Shark Researcher

founded in 2012
LAMAVE Research Institute
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Coordinator | Jesse
Coordinator | Jesse
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.


Swim with whale sharks!
Observe whale shark behavior in the water!
Work with a diverse group of researchers from all over the world!
Gain hands-on experience in whale shark research!
Live on a beautiful, exotic island!
LAMAVE's whale shark research and conservation projects will allow volunteers to study whale sharks in the water through photo identification and other research work. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 21+

LAMAVE has been studying whale sharks in the Philippines since 2012. We started working with this species to understand the human-shark interactions, and how these can be beneficial to local communities as well as for the species. However, human-shark interactions can have ecosystem-level implications which need addressing in order to ensure their long-term sustainability. We are now working across the different tourism sites in the country, namely Donsol, Oslob, Southern Leyte and Palawan.

Volunteers will help in studying whale sharks in the water. LAMAVE's main research technique to understand their ecology is photographic identification (photo-ID). This techniques harnesses the uniqueness of the whale shark's spot pattern and through the aid of star-mapping software, we can 'match' whale sharks between areas. Volunteers will get a chance to swim in the water with these animals and study them closely. Other methodologies are also used by the organization's researchers, depending on the site.

Volunteers help not only in gathering data, but also in collating and evaluating some of the data. Volunteers are also involved in community engagement work that is geared towards imparting conservation knowledge and inspiring conservationist attitudes and behaviors in the local community.

Typical day

Volunteers will have in-water days and on-land days. For days in water, they will conduct in-water surveys, swim and study whale sharks. This will happen in shifts and will take a few hours.

For days on land, volunteers will process all the data collected and do all other administrative and daily (cleaning, cooking, etc.) work required for life with the project. There are also learning activities scheduled and conducted by project leaders, such as Journal Club, Cultural Nights, etc.

Volunteers get one day off every week to relax and explore life in the Philippines.

Sample Schedule:

Activities on in-water day:

04:30: Breakfast
06:00: Start of in-water surveys
12:00: End of in-water surveys
13:00: Lunch
14:00: Data-processing
15:00: Data-processing
16:00: Free
21:00: Curfew

Activities on land day:

06:00: Breakfast
08:00: Data-encoding
09:00 -13:00: Data-encoding
13:00: Lunch
14:00: Data-encoding
15:00: Free
21:00: Curfew

Free-time activities

During a volunteer's day off (and other free time), he/she can enjoy different activities that are available in the project sites. These usually include swimming, snorkeling, and diving. There are also lots of beautiful, exotic places to visit near the project sites.



In order to join the program you need to be at least 21 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
CV and cover letter
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Must be strong, confident swimmers.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 07:00 - 18:00

What's Included

Services by LAMAVE Research Institute

The fees are a required donation to support the long-term running of the project site and your place within the team during your stay.


Volunteers stay in a project house. They share beds in rooms. The project house is comfortable and has the character of a scientific research site. It is simple but homey.

Dorm Room Guesthouse
Food & Beverages

The project provides for money for groceries. Shopping and cooking is done by the team. Drinking water is also provided.

Internet Access
Good 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 Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) in Cebu City. 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.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

Volunteers can join these projects throughout the year. Volunteers are asked to start either on the first of the month or the fifteenth of the month.

This program is paused due to COVID-19 and reopens May 2023. Apply Now!

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
12 - 24 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
12 weeks (min. stay)
16 weeks
20 weeks
24 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$173 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated. LAMAVE Research Institute will let you know about the final price during your application process.
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 LAMAVE Research Institute during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if LAMAVE Research Institute cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by LAMAVE Research Institute.

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Whale Shark Researcher

LAMAVE's whale shark research and conservation projects will allow volunteers to study whale sharks in the water through photo identification and other research work.


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