Marine science class of 2016

The Marine science class of 2016 has started and the students are studying hard for the Cambridge CIE 9693 marine science A level.  The exams are at the end of April so lots of time to enjoy studying on a beautiful beach.

The TRACC classroom has an awesome view and a gently lapping sound as the waves roll up the shore.  For lessons we normally close the shutters so that the distraction of beach and ocean is reduced!

Marine Science A level class of 2016
Marine Science A level class of 2016

The students are from all over the world, Canadian, Swiss, German, British, Portuguese, Norwegian and Malaysian.  Thats almost a United Nations quorum!

snail zonation 012 (450x800) mar sci jetty snail practical (18) (800x601)Our first lessons have been introducing the topics of oceanography as well as lessons on taxonomy and practicals on zonation and communities.  We believe that getting immersed in the subject is important so we have got in the water by diving, snorkelling and paddling.


Our practicals are all in the environment and we watch ocean documentaries to relax in the evenings.

The students are building bottle and igloo reefs in their spare time and we did stop everything the other day to go and watch a pilot whale as it cruised past.

igloo assembly on beach (1) (800x514)

More blogs about the A level class on Volunteers Blog or Tumblir  or social media posts on google+    Facebook or Instagram

more info about tracc conservation or to book a trip.

Please follow us on social media.

Blog,    Reviews,    youtube,     google+    Facebook

Reviewed on

Recycled Bottle reef restoration of coral reefs

TRACC volunteers have been busy on our bottle reef restoration efforts by making bottle reefs to extend the ribbon reefs on Pom Pom Island. The North Tip ribbon reef is 150m long and the challenge for 2016 is to make it a double row of bottle reefs so that it grows more corals and supports more biodiversity.  The coral growth on the reefs will also help to slow the wave erosion of the beach and improve turtle conservation by ensuring that there is enough sand to lay their eggs.

Donated bottles for recycling into reefs
Donated bottles for recycling into reefs

We were lucky enough in late 2015 to get donations of money to buy cement and a big pile of bottles delivered to the island so we have lots to recycle.  Thank you Coralcare and BGS divers.

The bottle and ribbon reefs built in 2015 are doing very well but we continue to work hard on maintenance of reefs on steep slopes.

recycled bottle reef restorationThe bottle reef restoration start to take shape when the volunteers and gapyear travellers mix wet cement and then position the bottles.  The cement is strong 48h later and the reefs can be moved out into the ocean for a period of soaking to remove toxins.  Eventually we plant corals on the bottle reefs either from fragments grown in the coral nursery or from large branches collected from blast fishing or anchor damage sites.

bottle reef restoration in wet cement
Making bottle reefs from wet cement

Back to Reef restoration for more techniques

Back to Marine conservation

Back to Booking a trip to visit TRACC

Reef conservation on steep sloping rubble.

Pom Pom Island has a steep slope from the reef crest to the deep water dropoff at a depth of around 50m.  All this slope has been seriously blasted in the past by bomb fishermen.  All that is left of the original reef are the rubble fragments on a seriously sloping reef.  The reef conservation efforts of TRACC volunteers has increased the biodiversity but the structures are difficult to stabilise.

coral reef conservation
Step reef with spikes to hold it into place. It is easy to see how steep the rubble slope is

The TRACC reef conservation for 2015 was generally excellent with amazing successes.  Our coral growth techniques which work well on flat areas of seabed (Bottle & Ribbon reefs) were modified to create step reefs aimed to create small reefs on the steep slopes.  These look great initially but too many of them are unstable and deteriorate rapidly.  While the corals grow and the fish live on the step reefs we create, unfortunately the slope continues to win and changes all the reefs we create.    A beautiful series of steps fixed solidly to the seabed, becomes a tumbled mess after turtles scratch and fish dig.

Coral reef restoration
Corals growing well on step reefs which are stable.
biscuis growing on step reefs 15-6-15 (1) (800x600)
Stable step reefs are ideal for coral growth.

We have tried spikes into the seabed to hold the structure in place but the rubble flows down from above and covers the steps.  We have tried interlocking the steps and the whole structure moves down the slope as a unit.  We have tried creating curved amphitheatres but after 12 months the structure looks like an ancient roman ruin.

coral reef restoration
A step reef tumbled by turtles. All of the bottles were embedded in the rubble slope but the scratching of many large turtles has dislodged and strewn many of the bottle reefs.

After much trial and error,  we are gradually refining a coral rubble reef conservation system which seems to be stable.  We are stabilising the rubble with soft coral nets which slows the rubble movement and the turtles do not destroy.  We are then creating Basket reefs which are more stable than the step reefs and have not yet been tumbled by the turtles.  The Basket reefs attract a lot of small fish and are stable enough to remain in place for the long time that it takes to grow hard corals.

Lots of our reef conservation for 2015 techniques work well, hopefully by the end of 2016, we will have also found the best system to stabilise steep rubble slopes.  Wish us luck 🙂

old step reef & netting (3) (800x600)
The 2015 version of a reef restoration system for steep rubble slopes. Netting planted with soft corals and sponges to hold the rubble above the interlocking step reefs.

Coral Biscuits

Coral nursery.  –  Hanging nursery  –  Platform Nursery

Step reefs   –  Step reef version 2  – building step reefs

Bottle reefs  –  Ribbon reefs

Crate reefs

Igloo reefs

Tyre reefs

Back to Reef restoration

Back to Marine conservation

Back to Booking a trip to visit TRACC

Student projects 2016

Students regularly visit TRACC to collect data for a graduate or masters degree project.  Art or science – if you are passionate about ocean issues then we have intern positions for a wide range of backgrounds. Marine conservation is often about communication and artists, photographers and media students can all become extraordinary advocates for ocean issues.  Each year, we support a few students to become useful interns to do some great science or art.

Photographing rare biodiversity such as this nudibranch (sea slug) requires a commitment to night diving.
Photographing rare biodiversity such as this nudibranch (sea slug) requires a commitment to night diving.

Have you got what it takes?  🙂

We have a range of projects in 2016,  from fish surveys to reef restorationcoral planting techniques, Stabilising rubble, optimising growth of coral species, impact of El Nino, climate change impacts on reefs, Turtles,  Sharks, rays, Humphead wrasse, anemone fish reproduction, biodiversity.  Other projects are possible such as the art installation #biggestsharkinborneo.  What are your interests?

#biggestsharkinborneo hammerhead shark on beach
Biggest shark in Borneo is a hammerhead shark artwork to raise awareness.

Art, media or communication interns please contact us with a formal presentation of ideas.

reef crest survey
reef crest survey

Generally our science intern requirements are practical in nature:

  • Can it be done in 12 -16 weeks.
  • Does it have a hypothesis?
  • Does it follow scientific method?
  • What is the control variable?
  • How discrete is the experimental variable?
  • Random or structured experimental design?
  • Is the project safe?
  • Etc.  Etc. Etc.
  • Has the student really thought about this?

Most student projects start with a 4 week volunteering experience to gain experience and dive qualifications.  When you have a month of doing underwater work under supervision from our staff then you will move to doing your own things safely with minimal supervision.  We like people doing independent projects to be Rescue diver qualified.  (read why here).

We expect a scientifically viable proposal, background research, strong commitment to the project,  regular written reports, Photos and video, several presentations to others at the camp and a copy of the final report as submitted to your university.  We don’t consider a research project a holiday, it may be fun but there is significant work involved if it is going to be worthwhile.  A scientific internship requires investment by TRACC in your future,  There is a lot of competition.  Are you worth our effort?

Mangrove studies
Mangrove studies

To stand out from the crowd:  Don’t simply send us a CV.   Send us a one page (max) project draft based on what you care about, what you can see is happening in the world of marine science or conservation, in our blog or on our facebook & twitter pages.

To learn about the experience – please look at the blog posts from ex students.  See what they did, they may even write about what went wrong.  Contact them on social media and ask for advice.  Be polite and they will help.

Marine science course cambridge a level
Rocky shore exploration

Ten facts to know about becoming a marine biologist

How to get a job in Marine Conservation.

Return of fish to Pom Pom Island

TRACC has been working on Pom Pom Island for 5 years and the change in fish life has been amazing. More Species
More Individuals
Bigger fish – often reproductive sizes

Our big fish surveys document what all our returning divers can see with their own eyes.

Large fish survey on Pom Pom Island 2011-2015
Large fish survey on Pom Pom Island 2011-2015

Who can ask for more?  The numbers of fish of all large species is definitely increasing.

We have resident schools of Barracuda, Big eye trevally, and fusiliers as well as a myriad smaller fish species.  The eagle rays are really special and coral cat sharks can be seen on night dives and our 2016 save sharks project should increase the numbers and species of sharks seen.

Definitely enough fish all around the island to sustain a small shark population so we can protect them before they are all killed.

Baby sharks for sale in the Kudat fish market 2014
Baby sharks for sale in the Kudat fish market 2014


Save sharks project

Shark rescue

Help TRACC reduce the death of baby sharks through our shark rescue project.  We want to stop baby sharks being killed and eaten by moving them to a protected reef.


Unfortunately as a result of overfishing and the demand for shark fin, there are very few sharks on any reefs in Sabah. Our diving surveys of 365 reefs in 2011 showed very low numbers in any area with no protection. We surveyed every fish market in 2014 and few areas (a long way from our island) still have sharks which are caught by commercial fishermen.

In 2013, we bought 25 coral catsharks from the live fish trade and saved them from being eaten. We have also bought Humphead wrasse and Humpback groupers and sucessfully released them. We released the coral catsharks on Pom Pom Island and now they can be seen on most night dives. With several years of reef recovery, the fish population of the Pom Pom Island protected area is now large enough to support more sharks.

save a shark with tracc, #shark, #savesharks
shark rescue project

In 2016, we want to rescue and release a small breeding population of each reef or shallow water species, (coral cat shark, white tip reef shark, brown banded bamboo, white spot bamboo, epaulete shark, blacktip reef shark, grey reef shark, leopard shark and guitar shark). We know where in Sabah the fishers catch a few babies of each of these each year, (none of these sharks are protected even though numbers have fallen dramatically). If we buy them they won’t be eaten and they will have the opportunity to grow and reproduce in a protected area.

We are not promoting the trade and fishing of sharks, sharks are caught and sold everyday in much larger numbers than we can manage to buy and transport. Most sharks are immediately finned and then the body is sold in the nearby markets.

Tiny baby sharks caught in large numbers.
Tiny baby sharks caught in large numbers.

We will work with the live fish trade and instead of the shark going to a seafood restaurant, it will come to us for transport and release in a protected area. Eventually, we hope that the sharks we rescue will breed and start to repopulate many reefs in Sabah. For rare sharks, we hope to bring individual sharks together which were caught in different towns perhaps separated by 100’s of kilometers. By release in one area, the sharks have much better chance of finding a mate and successful reproduction.

1 Crowdrise save shark campaign .

2  How you can save sharks

3  Cost of various shark species

Rewards for donations to buy sharks

5 Donate here to help us buy sharks.

Join us – promote our shark rescue campaign – become a social supporter and help us raise awareness and money to save sharks.

Click on the social media links below to spread the message and help save sharks.

shark rescue to reduce sharks mortality and increase breeding populations.
Piles of dead sharks are in every fish market, the babies don’t get to deep reefs where they could grow. Dead within a few months of birth. Lets do something about this.


Marine conservation articles

These are a few of the professional Marine conservation articles, awards and videos that we have seen about TRACC recently:-

Energy globe award and Marine conservation articlesTOP 3 FINALIST (water category) for The Energy Globe Award 2016 – OUR project “ Restoring coral reefs to survive climate change ” as one of the 16 most outstanding projects worldwide.  (Video

UK channel 4 News item Unreported world – The fish bombers (TRACC are the solution not the bombers!!)

Seven seas magazine – TRACC reef conservation  by Dave McGuire of Shark Stewards  

TRACC video By Nelli Hule 2016

TRACC video by Rachel Clark 2014

Issues and solutions for reef conservation at TRACC – Thanks Kit & Jason

Operation Sauvetage Du Recif Corallien (in French) Adventure Magazine Feb 2016

Borneo from Below video  Coral in Crisis from Scubazoo October 2015

National Geographic Ocean views by Dave McGuire of Shark Stewards  August 11, 2015

Clean Malaysia  Saving the ocean – one reef at a time  25-Sept-15

Brandon Taylor:  Coral reefs are being bombed – learn how one NGO rebuilds them.

plus lots of other blogs


More about our amazing biodiversity

Tripadvisor reviews

Other  Reviews,

Google+    Facebook


Costs for Marine Science A level

Accommodation, food, unlimited diving, 2 dive courses for a 14-16 week stay = £3200 ( Course is 14 weeks but most people stay for 1-2 extra weeks to celebrate and chill with their friends)

A level course & exam fee = £1500
This includes books, materials, lessons, field trips, etc.  The exam will be held in Kota Kinabalu during the last weeks of the course ( the exam dates are set by Cambridge).
Course starts 18th Jan 2016 but students are welcome to arrive Thursday 14th to allow time to settle in.
Exams for 2016 are 27-30th April
Nurul Yazid biodiversity of pom pom island Sabah
not a stone or a sponge but a frogfish. Learn about camoflage, foodwebs, water chemistry and much more!!

Qualified diver trip costs 2016

Qualified Divers with Openwater / Advanced diver or equivalent.

Open water trainees / beginning divers –>click here<–

Trips start any Monday at Pom Pom island.  Divers qualified to Advanced or above can start on Thursdays if space permits.

One dive course is included for each 2 weeks of stay. (discount applies if you do not need dive courses)
For dive courses please arrive on 1st or 3rd Monday in Month.
Underwater Science training is included in all trips. :-)

Qualified to Open water or equivalent

Have Open water or equivalent.  Trips start any Monday at Pom Pom Island.
If you want to do Advanced diver course please arrive on 1st, 2nd or 3rd Monday in Month

cuttlefish spawning tip of borneo by tracc volunteers
Odang with cuttlefish, note the scared red colur. Photo by Vicky

 Most popular

2 weeks at PP with advanced diver course & science training = £1175

4 weeks at PP with advanced diver & science training = £1515

6 weeks at PP, Advanced diver, EFR, Rescue & science training = £2050

8 weeks at PP, Advanced, EFR, Rescue & science training = £2500

All prices include Courses, food, accommodation, boat travel, equipment & unlimited diving

Most 8,10,12 week trips are science project trips or preparation towards Dive master – email to discuss the best trip for you.

please use Enquiry form or   or Pay here

Divers qualified to Advanced or higher.

Most Popular for advanced divers –
1 week at PP with Scientific dive training = £650
2 week at PP with Scientific dive training = £1015
4 week at PP with Scientific dive training = £1355
4 week at PP with EFR & Rescue & Scientific dive training = £1675
6 weeks at PP with EFR & Rescue & Scientific dive training = £1840
8 weeks at PP with EFR & Rescue & Scientific dive training = £2340

Robinsone Crusoe looing for Man Friday

Most 8,10,12 week trips are science project trips or preparation towards Dive master – to discuss the best trip for you.

From any package subtract £160 if you do not need EFR and £320 if you don’t need EFR & Rescue.  Please see why we do recommend EFR & Rescue.

All prices include Courses, food, accommodation, boat travel, equipment & unlimited diving

please use Enquiry form or   or Pay here

Odd weeks or other combinations are available for qualified diver.

Send us an (or use the enquiry form) with the dates you would like – (PLEASE BEFORE you book flights – Flight recommendations)

Bookings which start within 2 weeks – please email with URGENT and arrival date in subject line  and also sms to +60 198505412  – we are 8h ahead of London

(Please do not use facebook or social media or this website to communicate.) We don’t have instant internet and we are busy underwater & saving the ocean  – we deal with emails for immediate arrivals within a day or 2 but bookings 3 or more months away may take us till our weekly non diving day – if  you do not get a reply within 3-4 days please resend to remind us)

10b  Trainee divers

10c  Snorkelling costs

Send enquiry NOW      Email ;-

Home page  —————-  Booking menu