While you stay with Marine Conservation Philippines, there’s a great number of projects you can participate in. In fact there’s so much to do, that you can’t do it all. Some of our projects are continually ongoing – for example hands-on beach clean ups and the surveying of coral reefs. While surveying we document the spread of habitats, species abundance as well as damage to coral reefs. We also work in collaboration with marine biologists on various projects, for example studies of particular fishes, reef restoration or rehabilitation of species that’s been harvested to topical extinction. If you are a non-diver you’ll spend quite a while becoming a safe proficient scuba diver through the PADI program of education. Depending on the length of your stay you can choose to do multiple diving courses (if you’re here for two months or more we try and aim for the PADI rescue diver course) if you’re are really ambitious you can even become a PADI Divemaster.
Besides volunteer activities in the water, a great deal goes on on land as well. Part of what we do is visit local schools and tell about our work and what goes on in the sea. By affecting future generations we believe we may help change the future. We try to create artificial divesites (such as deliberately scuttled wrecks or underwater sculpture parks) to create breeding grounds for fish in marine protected areas, as well as promote local and regional dive tourism. Local revenue and job generation from dive tourism can easily outweigh that brought about by destructive fishing practices. At MCP we also do various community outreach programs – we teach first aid and try to lend a hand with various community work when invited or needed.
The daily rhythm
Life starts around 7:00 with breakfast. After breakfast the plan for the day is reviewed. Some volunteers will be doing scuba courses, others will be out doing marine research, underwater cleanups or community work. What you’ll be doing will largely be based on where you are in the volunteer program and also on personal preferences. We’ll usually have lunch around one or two o clock – if you’re doing work far from our base, you’ll eat your lunch at a local market there. After lunch we often continue with our various activities till sometime in the afternoon. Typically this consists of entering survey-data on computers or various base work.
The evenings are different – At times you will be at work analyzing data collected on the dives or studying for your next scuba course, but often you’ll just want to relax and unwind with fellow volunteers. What you do after dinner in the evenings is very much up to yourself. You may want to organize a game or movie night, share a drink and a laugh, get people around a camp fire or something completely different. Other options would be to go on a night dive, go for a run, catch up with friends and family at home using our free wifi, work out in our gym or just quietly read a book. It really is up to you.
When you wish to have days off, you can let us know. This may be to experience other islands elsewhere in the Philippines, to go for a visa-and-shopping run to Dumaguete, to explore the area on a motorbike or just to have a day to yourself and laze in a hammock with a book. While we feel the work we do is important, we don’t expect you to take part in everything all the time -especially if you stay for months. (But if you want to, you’re most welcome!) We understand most volunteers are not intererested in working all the time, which conveniently leads us to sundays.
Sunday is always a day off. No volunteers are allowed to do any diving, except during unusual circumstances. The reason for this is twofold – firstly it’s important to off-gas from time to time so you don’t get the “friday bends” (a slang term in the dive industry, where divemasters and instructors can load their bodies with gas day after day, until they eventually experience symptoms of decompression illness) Secondly we wish to give our staff a day off as well. Obviously food needs to be cooked, but other than that nothing happens on sundays, unless you organize it yourself. (When’s the last time you went swimming in a mountain lake, visited a faith-healer or sung karaoke anyway?)