FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Last update: October 2020. The situation in the Philippines is very uneven. Being an island nation each island basically closed down and prevented travel between them in early March. Our island of Negros Oriental (with some 1.5m people) has only had less than three hundred cases, so we have escaped very fortuitously, but other islands and the big cities of Cebu and Manila are hit hard.
Starting from late October domestic tourism is possible within the Philippines and the borders are now open for outbound international tourism. There is still no inbound international tourism allowed. Most sources expect international tourism to resume in early or possibly mid 2021.
The Philippine Department of Health recommend everyone apply sensible precautions same as everywhere else. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Use disinfectant and alcohol with a percenage over 60% to clean hands. When in communal areas try and use elbows or knuckles, instead of hands and fingers for pushing buttons and closing doors etc.
We ask of all of our interns and volunteers to have travel insurance which would cover them in case of involuntary cancellation pre-departure, hospitalization or recall for family emergencies at home. These are not new requirements born out the corona virus, but has always been our policy, as discussed in our volunteer manuals and on this website. With COVID19 this insurance coverage however is more important than ever. Note that you are highly unlikely to be covered under any sort of national health service from your home country while abroad, and MCP has no insurance policy that covers you either. It is crucially important that you have travel insurance, and that you understand that if you have to cancel your stay with us before your arrival, we will refund you in line with our existing refund policy, and that there may be no refund at all if you are close to your expected arrival. Financial compensation at this point is between you and your insurance company. We do however offer the possibility of rebooking. Kindly read the FAQ section on rebooking for details.
Update March 19th: At the moment we discourage booking before June, and will not accept deposits on stays before that. Same as for most countries, we see the situation is deteriorating rapidly mow, but hope the Singaporean, South Korean and Chinese efficiency in combatting the virus through quarantine can be replicated, allowing us to open our doors this year again.
While traveling exercise caution please. We suggest you use the lavatories as little as possible, try and get a window seat, try and get a seat as far from the lavatories as possible. Use hand-sanitizer and wear a face mask. Bring alcohol and disinfect your in-flight entertainment system and tray. Consider skipping in-flight meals if you can.
CANCELLATION: In light of the COVID crisis you can of course cancel your stay. If you do so, this follows our usual cancellation terms and procedures, and how much you get back depends on how close to the expected arrival day you are at the point in time you cancel. If you have booked your stay with us through a travel agency, they are technically the arranger of the trip, and you have to go through them for cancellation. In any case, you are suggested to get in touch with your airline operators and insurance companies to make any claims you can.
REBOOKING: In these extraordinary and sad circumstances, we are offering everyone affected by involuntary cancellation to rebook their stay free of charge. As long as international travel restrictions and public health and safety require it, this possibility is extended for as long as the COVID crisis persist. There are a number of restrictions on your rebooking.
1 The rebooking is personal, and you cannot give your spot to anyone else.
2 The rebooking cannot be used to circumvent normal cancellation terms. If a second future cancellation happens, all money is forfeit. The only exception to this is if corona still, by then, force us to move your stay yet again. If so, this second rebooking will also be free of charge.
3 Your rebooking is subject to availability on the desired new arrival date. If we don’t have space, we cannot give you a spot and you’ll have to chose a different date.
4 Your arrival date has to be within 1 year of your original arrival date.
5 You request for a new arrival date has to be given to us within three month from your first scheduled arrival date, or you permanently void the opportunity to rebook.
6 Any payments for the original booking is retained. If you have only paid your deposit, but not paid your balance payment, you will need to pay the balance at the latest one month before your new arrival date. (unless by then COVID is still causing issues. In that case, we wait and evaluate if a second rebooking becomes necessary.)
People who volunteer with us have very diverse backgrounds. Some come with no prior dive training and others are divemasters. Some have a degree in marine biology or a related field, and others are just passionate individuals who want to help make a positive change and are eager to experience life as a volunteer on a project like this. We welcome all, as long as they are ok with our expectations of volunteers. Most volunteers are in their twenties or thirties with the average somewhere in the mid twenties. The composition of the volunteer group changes over time, but generally speaking most participants are from North Europe and North America. Most times there’s about an even mix of ladies and gentlemen.
No. We have everything you’ll need, and complete scuba gear rental is included in the volunteer fee. It may be a good idea to buy your own mask though, just because of the comfort of having a mask that fits really well – but it’s completely up to you. As a volunteer you are provided with free rental of brand new and well serviced scuba equipment during your stay. A few volunteers, especially those doing a PADI divemaster internship will wish to purchase their own scuba gear. Should you wish to purchase scuba gear we’ll be glad to guide you with regards to selection, and you’ll be able to purchase the gear severely discounted through us.
We work hard to keep a high standard of hygiene in our kitchen and we have our own solar-powered deep wells on the property providing us with the freshest clean drinking water. You can drink our tap water! We are happy to cook vegetarian and vegan options and we try our best to provide for other special dietary needs. Please be aware that certain things, such as halal-meat for example may be impossible to obtain in our part of the Philippines, and that you may need to show some flexibility if you have very rigorous eating habits. We’d appreciate it if you let us know in advance of any allergies. Read more about our food. You can even download our cookbook and help support the local community.
We’ve got solar powered WiFi. It’s pretty fast, but the speed depends on how many volunteers are trying to access it at once. You can’t count on being able to download large amounts data or use Skype – but it’s enough to check your email and see what’s going on on Facebook. Voltage is 220 V, 60hz (as in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). Sockets at MCP camp are dual-function and work with both type A (the two round pegs, European style) and C (two flat rods – Asian style) pictured below.
Marine Conservation Philippines only accept volunteers aged 18+. We make exceptions for families wishing to be involved with marine conservation (children must be aged 16 and be able to participate more or less as a grown-up), as well as high-school students accompanied by their teachers. In either case, the responsibility for the children lies with the accompanying adults. Various paperwork including liability releases and assumption of risk must be signed by a parent or a legal guardian. We have found, in the case of elderly volunteers, that many struggle to participate adequately. Potential long swims and carrying of heavy gear takes a toll, and we cannot recommend the project to anyone aged past sixty.
No. We cannot help you organize your itinerary or book flight tickets. For domestic flights from Manila or Cebu airport we recommend using Cebu Pacific, as they usually have cheap flights. You’ll want to fly to Dumaguete (DGT) and from there we’ll come pick you up. If you arrive to Dumaguete by ferry from elsewhere in the Philippines, we’ll need you to go the airport and get picked up from there. The ferry terminal is only ten minutes from the airport.
Getting a visa and extending your stay is easy in the Philippines. Most of our volunteers are foreigners needing a visa during their stay. You can stay and volunteer with Marine Conservation Philippines on a normal tourist visa, which is both easy get and extend. Almost all nationalities get a one month free tourist visa when arriving in the airport in the Philippines. (See if you’re eligible) If you volunteer for more than a month, you can extend your visa in the immigration office in Dumaguete yourself and try to make a day of your trip to town. After 59 days in the Philippines, you will need an ACR-card (Alien currently residing) in the Philippines – it’s a small ID-card, which you’re legally required to obtain. It’s fast to get made in the Immigration Office in Dumaguete; It costs around 100 USD.
Please be aware that in order to be allowed to enter the Philippines, you must have a ticket out of the Philippines also (it can be a third country, it does not have to be where you originally came from). You can either plan your journey well ahead, but if that is not an option, you can do as many backpackers do – buy a cheap ticket to a travel hub in Asia such as Hong Kong or Bangkok, and then either cancel and get the ticket refunded when in the Philippines or rebook it to a departure time that better suits you.
Please note that it does not matter if your ticket out of the Philippines is later than the expiration of your one month free tourist visa. Authorities know and understand you may wish to extend while in the Philippines. As long as you have a ticket out, all is well.
Here are some useful suggestions. The Philippines is hot and often humid too. We suggest you choose light clothes. Most volunteers who bring more than a pair or two of long pants and/or anything with long sleeves never use it. If you are a woman and want to be able to do work in the local community (like teaching in schools), please bring some items of clothing that covers your shoulders (a normal t-shirt is fine) and some shorts that aren’t too short. Guys need to cover shoulders too on formal occasions.
If you use tampons, please be aware that they are difficult to find in the Philippines. We recommend bringing your own supply.
If you are prone to getting bitten by mosquitoes, consider bringing some repellant. You do not need malaria-meds, as there is no malaria here. November til June are almost completely dry months, and there are very few mosquitoes anyway. Outside of those months it is also a good idea to bring a rain coat, just in case. No matter which time of year you volunteer, you definitely want to bring a high SPF sunscreen! We recommend something like this one, as it’s safe for corals, and many sunscreens aren’t. Best to bring is both a long-sleeved rash guard and sunscreen!
It’s recommended to bring a little cheap flashlight. You do not need to bring any bedlinen, sleeping bags or similar – we got you covered. (Oh! And if you by any chance are arriving from Denmark or the UK, you will be our best new friend if you could maybe bring some small comfort foods or package from family or friends of our permanent staff. This is how you earn big, big brownie points!)
We make sure that the main part of our research can be carried out by any volunteer, no matter the background. We will train you to become a confident diver with good buoyancy, and teach you to identify different species or help you master whatever work you will be involved with. After your first week or after your initial dive course you will be trained each day until you are ready to take part in the scientific diving. This training typically takes two weeks, although people learn at different speeds. We take you out on identification dives in which we show you the different species and on land we will teach you the species with a lot of pictures and explanation of what to look for. Depending on how fast a learner you are, you can be part of the research team after two weeks of practice.
Please download and read our volunteer handbook. It will give you a lot more information on what you can do before you arrive, what life is like on base and what you can expect as a volunteer.
Kindly make sure you have adequate travel insurance.
If you have time, please consider doing some studying ahead of volunteering. In the volunteer manual there is a link to the various survey manuals and software we use for training purposes. If you download that and train, you can be half an expert before you even start diving with us. You may also wish to take a look at our free educational films about the oceans and marine issues.
We can provided adequate meals for volunteers who for whatever reasons prefer to eat gluten free or who have celiac disease as it usually manifests. Kindly note however that our kitchen is not a sterile lab, and that your foods are stored next to “unsafe” foods. There is no separate set of utensils, or kitchenware being used for your cooking, and as such – if you suffer from very strong reactions to trace amounts of unsafe foods or the slightest cross contamination, we cannot recommend you join our program, unless you are prepared to accept full responsibility for your own cooking.
Yes, within reason you can take days off to do local sightseeing or go island hopping. We do not have a set rule about how much is too much, but please be aware that we value your contribution to our project, and that we can’t accomplish anything without the work of volunteers. We’d like for you to participate as much as possible. Please also keep in mind, that when you take days off, we can’t let someone else have your room, bed and lockers. What this means for you, is that when you enroll as a volunteer with our program your fee covers a certain period (six weeks, three months or however long) in which you’ve got three daily meals, diving, dive gear, accommodation etc. available. If you choose not to take advantage of this for a number of days, that’s alright – but the days are not added at the other end of your stay, nor does Marine Conservation Philippines reimburse volunteer for “unspent” days. As such we kindly suggest that it makes more sense to our project, and financially to you, to do your independent traveling either before or after staying with us. One option to consider perhaps, is that you can find fellow volunteers, who wish to travel on and explore the Philippines after staying with us?
MCP operates with continuous enrollment and accepts new volunteers every second Monday. We offer free pick-up service in Dumaguete airport (DGT). Six to ten weeks is the normal length of volunteer stays, although many stay longer – especially if doing an internship or doing divemaster training. We kindly ask all volunteers to stay at least six weeks on the project.
One of the main reasons why the Philippines is so popular with pensioners and holiday makers alike is the pleasing climate. Water temperature range from 26°C in December-February to a balmy 30°C in June-August. Air temperatures follow the same pattern and range from around 25°C to 35°C. December through March are more windy. In our area, the long dry season start in February and ends around the end of June, with the onset of the rainy season. During the first weeks of the rainy season, there’s hardly a day without at least some rain, but after that showers becomes less and less frequent, and our work continues no matter the weather. A few months later the weather is quite akin to a European summer, with comfortable temperatures and occasional showers. Of course at that time the botanical garden we live in is very lush and green. Get specific info on the weather and typhoons here
MCP is a non-profit organisation. We have no investors or shareholders to generate revenue for, but we must ensure our continued operation. Although we occasionally recieve small donations and are supported by purpose-specific grants, by and large we’re funded through volunteer payments. Noone pays the water or electrical bill for us and there’s a very real cost to employing people, keeping the kitchen running, repaying loans, replacing broken gear, fueling cars, paying rent and utilities, PADI fees and insurance all besides running a safe dive operation. Excess money go to pro-bono work in the community, reinvestment in material and equipment for Marine Conservation Philippines as well as our contingency saving fund. If you are interested, you are welcome to examine how we spend the money
We generally dive twice a day, five days a week. Sunday is off for everyone, and Saturday is usually half a day, meaning we do one dive. From time to time we may do a recreational night dive, (usually in conjunction with someone doing the Advanced Open Water course. If there are additional dive torches, extra spots may be used by other volunteers.) Every second month or so we try to head to Apo Island for a day of diving, usually doing three dives there. In average, you can expect to dive around 10 times a week, as this takes into account that there may be days where you participate in mangrove replanting efforts, educational activities etc.
Our booking policy is as follows: A volunteer placement is considered secured, when a 10% non-refundable deposit has been paid. Until then a volunteer placement is not secured. The outstanding balance of 90% is kindly to be paid at least a month prior to your arrival. In case of bookings within a month of arrival, full amount is to be paid as soon as possible. Volunteers who because of banking fees in their end wish to pay everything in one go, rather than split the fee in booking and remaining balance may do so.
Cancellation, for any reason at all, 60 or more days before your arrival will result in a complete refund, less the 10% non-refundable booking fee. Cancellation 59-42 days prior to arrival will result in a partial 75% refund. Cancellation 41-22 days prior to arrival will result in a partial 50% refund. Any cancellation within the last 21 days before your arrival, will not result in a refund. Any refunds cannot exceed the sum actually received by MCP, so any receiving banking fee charges will be deducted from any refunds.
No refunds are issued to volunteers who decide to cut their stay short while with MCP. We require all volunteers to have insurance, and we need volunteers to ensure their insurance would cover involuntary termination of stay, due to medical reasons, family emergencies at home etc. Read our recommendations for insurance.
Most volunteers at Marine Conservation Philippines are already divers when they come, but some learn through the Open Water Course of our program. Normally we only accept volunteers who are divers or intend to be so, but there are a few exceptions. If you already know you would like to work on something else, and you both capable and self-motivated there are opportunities. We try to continually have a media intern (video, photo, web, journalism, social media) and we also welcome people with relevant backgrounds to participate in our education efforts. Get in touch and tell us how you’d like to help, we’ll see what we can arrange.