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Diving to Save the Ocean, its Marine Life and Seagrass
  • Open April – September
  • Coral Reefs | Seagrass | Beach Cleans
  • Unqualified & Qualified Diving Programs
  • Prices Start from £738

If you want a previous volunteer’s perspective on this project – feel free to contact Tony, Pim or Hugo, who will answer any questions you might have!


“I would absolutely recommend this experience! I was impressed by the authenticity of the project, and how expertly the projects are managed, making the best use of minimal resources. My most memorable conversation was with a young boat-taxi-man from the village who appreciated what Ecoteer are doing and who introduced me to his entire family. I think if I’d volunteered in a Western/touristy location I would have missed out on these touching connections.”

Lucy Oldfield, UK


“Volunteering on this project has been a really enjoyable and unforgettable experience. I’ve learnt so much about marine life, in particular coral, and the real emphasis on conservation and preserving the marine ecosystem has made me even more determined to spread awareness of the importance of our oceans. The project also gave me the opportunity to prepare and deliver classes to the local children about sharks, their importance and the need to protect them and our oceans, which was so much fun!”

Tom Busher, UK


“One of my favourite dives was with Maddie, where she truly showcased her diving experience, and it’s also evident that she is a great teacher! Gradually, I felt greater confidence in my diving ability, as I was also supporting the teaching process and pairing up with divers who required additional instructions. Apart from diving, I had a great time living with the PMRS team. Overall, I loved the experience and extended because of it.”

Alex Evans, UK


“The amount of independence that is given to the volunteers created a tremendous learning environment and gave a valuable sense of responsibility and worth. Being here I’ve been able to learn practical skills, such as data collection and entry in correspondence to coral mapping, as well as have been able to expand my knowledge of the importance of conservation as a whole.”

Jessica Cheadle, USA


I was very satisfied with the overall experience with the project. I really liked the project activities and it is very meaningful! I’ve learnt a lot about marine science and met many people who came from around the world! The program did sharpen my diving skill too. ”

Si Ching, Malaysia

Dive to Save the Ocean and its Coral Reefs

Having taken over from Blue Temple Conservation, the Perhentian Marine Research Station (PMRS) has been going strong on the island for years. The project is based in the local village, Kampung Pasir Hantu on the southeast of Perhentian Kecil. The PMRS team conduct underwater research to protect the island’s vulnerable coral reefs and seagrass beds, and we also work closely with the Department of Marine Park Malaysia and Reef Check Malaysia. Our team collect vital data through mapping and assessing the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs around the islands. This valuable research helps with the decision-making process in protecting these important yet fragile habitats.

Project Evolution in 2019

We are constantly looking for ways to adapt our work, i.e, what research and assistance are currently needed on the island. Therefore, in 2019, we will focus our efforts on ‘Conservation in Action’, which will include reef cleans ‘diving against debris’, photo identification of sharks and turtles, and maintaining a coral nursery. For this course, you can volunteer for a minimum of 1 or 2 weeks (if you don’t have a PADI). See our ‘Conservation in Action‘ start dates for more information.

Immersed in Local Malay Culture

All volunteers and staff live in the village, becoming immersed in Malay culture. It’s a great way to live, different from the classic tourist experience. Here, you can try traditional Malay food, chat with locals, and the kids are always willing to play with our volunteers! We strive to work with, not against, the community and local businesses, so you may find yourself helping the local school with a beach clean, or promoting composting and recycling to the local dive shops. If you are interested in diving to save the ocean and raising marine conservation awareness, this is the perfect opportunity for you!

All Arrivals are on a Monday, departures are on a Sunday

Start dates will commence from 6 April until 31 August 2020.

Conservation in Action

2020 Pricing for Volunteers – Unqualified Divers

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For unqualified divers, your 1st week will be your diving course and you will start your research diving with other qualified divers on your 2nd week onwards.

We recommend inexperienced/unqualified divers to stay for at least 3 weeks to develop your research diving skills and make the most out of your time volunteering with us.

2020 Pricing for Volunteers – Qualified Divers

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*All prices are based on Malaysian Ringgit (RM). All international prices are subject to change depending on the current exchange rate.

The prices shown are inclusive of GBP100 worth of carbon offsetting for 13 hours of return flights and other on project carbon production.

This project is actually now CARBON POSITIVE. This means that by participating in this project, less carbon dioxide will be in the atmosphere!


  • Accommodation
  • Food & Cooking Facilities
  • Weekly Malay Dinner
  • Project-related dives
  • Diving equipment
  • Marine park permit fee
  • Return ferry from Kuala Besut to Perhentian island


  • Flight fares
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa costs
  • Food/activities not included in the project
  • Travel to and from Kuala Besut

Note: For an extra RM130 per night, volunteers can opt for an ensuite private room with air-con. The room sleeps up to 2 people with 1 double bed. This room is not always available so kindly confirm availability with Ecoteer in advance by contacting us directly.

** Number of dives may change due to unforeseen circumstances

Conservation in Action

Unqualified divers

Week 1 – Unqualified divers complete their dive course along with a buoyancy dive and a recreation dive.

Weeks 2 onwards – Volunteers will conduct at least 8 dives which will depend on the project needs at the time. These can include survey skills & buoyancy dive, coral nursery maintenance, shark ID, Reef Check survey and Seagrass Watch survey. Volunteers will also help us with weekly beach clean-ups, and be involved with our waste management project activities.

Qualified divers

To follow activities as above. (see Week 2 onwards)

Please send us an inquiry if you would like to find out more about our project activities.


Sundays on the island are days off! Chilling, diving, trekking, totally up to you. If it’s your last week then Sunday is your departure day, so you’ll have to say a sad farewell to your fellow volunteers. Boats back to the mainland are at 8am, 12pm, or 4pm.

Skill Development

Here at PMRS, we will help you to perfect your underwater research skills. Key skills such as perfect buoyancy and being an eco-conscious diver will quickly be gained whilst conducting research with us. In addition, you will have an opportunity to learn and apply Reef Check Diving, a globally recognised methodology to assess the reef health . In no time, you will learn how to reel out and tuck transect tapes whilst minimising damage to the reef, film the transects, and analyse the data.

Coral Rehabilitation Method

You will learn our method of developing artificial reefs and coral nurseries which involves transplanting coral fragments on to specifically designed bottle reefs. Another method we use is the creation of coral pyramids out of coral rubble to improve the overall health of a degraded reef ecosystem.

Reef Diversity Monitoring

You will use the Reef Check surveying methodology to help us with our ongoing monitoring of the coral reef health. The data we collect will build upon our previous years of research in understanding species richness and abundance on our reefs, and it also helps us to introduce, implement or influence effective conservation strategies.

Elasmobranch Monitoring

You will assist with the establishment of our new elasmobranch monitoring scheme. This will involve the use of camera traps and diving to investigate shark and ray species found around the Perhentian islands and collect data on their spatial distribution and population density.


If you aren’t dive qualified you soon will be! We utilise the dive schools on the island to train our divers. By using the established dive centres to run our courses, we build stronger bonds with the wider island community and help share the wealth! Through one of these excellent dive schools, volunteers can become an open-water and/or advanced open-water diver in a week.

Those who can already dive will know that diving is all about buoyancy; all divers strive for perfect trim in the water, and even expert divers are constantly looking for ways to perfect their buoyancy. Conducting research dives is a great way to raise your buoyancy game!


Food is an important part of Malaysian culture, as you will soon find out!

Breakfast tends to be simple; for instance bread with peanut butter or jam, and coffee or tea. For volunteers interested in experiencing a more traditional Malay breakfast, you are more than welcome to venture into the village and see what takes your fancy. Paratha bread with curry and coconut rice is highly recommended!

Lunch is usually cooked at the house. Feel free to use our weekly shopping supplies to create a tasty meal for yourself. Or if we go for project activities, a yummy packed lunch is prepared by a local restaurant.

Volunteers take turns to prepare dinner once a week and all pitch in to clear up afterwards. Staying in the volunteer house means everyone has to join in with the cleaning and cooking schedule to keep the accommodation nice and tidy… and filled with yummy food! Our volunteers come from around the world, so this is a great opportunity to sample cuisine from different countries and eat together. In addition to the self-prepared dinners, once a week, volunteers dine with local families in their home, experiencing true, authentic Malay dishes and customs.


Volunteers live and work in our volunteer and project houses in the local village Kampung Pasir Hantu on the southeast side of Perhentian Kecil. We work with local people and businesses as much as we can and living in the village is a fantastic way for volunteers to experience local traditions, cuisine, and culture.

Since the Perhentian Marine Research Station was established, we have successfully…

  • Briefed 4,276 people on eco-snorkelling practice
  • Surveyed 5,000km of coral reef
  • Cleaned 57kg of rubbish during reef cleans
  • Cleared 371 bags of rubbish from our beaches (over 1500kg!)
  • Started our first coral nursery
  • Reported 10 illegal activities to make the sea a safer place for the marine life
  • Trained 80 village snorkel boatsmen in the Green Fins Eco Snorkel Course

Together with our other projects at Perhentian Islands, Ecoteer has…

Hosted over 1,200 volunteers
Generated RM 150k for villagers and local businesses
RM 189k for local transportation

Looking to the Future

The Perhentian Marine Research Station is constantly looking for ways to move forward; Together with the Perhentian Turtle Project, we published our first research paper in 2017 and are looking to publish many more in the future.

In 2019, we started our own artificial reef, and we are aiming to start our own coral nursery. Once completed volunteers can clean and maintain the corals, allowing them to grow and then hopefully re-establish depleted coral reefs! In addition, we are also setting up an exciting new shark project, aiming to assess the islands’ shark population and movements.

We are currently collaborating with Dr James Tan from University Malaysia Terengganu and Dr Alex Lechner from the Malaysian campus of Nottingham University and hope to host lectures about their work when they visit later this year!

Our paper is freely available to view at (we’re very proud so please check it out!)

What are the requirements to join this program?

Volunteers must be over 18. You will need to have a positive attitude, participate in all volunteer activities and respect the local village culture and traditions. It is also required to help out with any house chores.

Do I need any diving experience or qualifications?

Nope! If you have never dived before or don’t have an open-water qualification, you simply arrive a week before the qualified divers and complete your open-water and/or advanced open-water qualification in an established dive centre on the island (included in project price). A week later you shall start activities and research with the qualified divers so that everyone is in the same stage.

How do I get to Perhentian Island from Kuala Lumpur?

You can take a plane to Kota Bharu airport (KBR), and then take a taxi to Kuala Besut Jetty. The taxi ride is approximately an hour. Taxis are available from the airport but please let us know if you need us to arrange one for you by emailing us your flight number and arrival time. OR if you want to take a bus, you can purchase bus tickets from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut Bus Station. Alternatively, you can book online using Easybook. Buses normally travel overnight and it takes about 8 to 10 hours depending on the road conditions. Walk 5 to 10 minute from the Kuala Besut bus station to Save Park Holidays. Please provide us with your arrival time prior as one of the Save Park Holidays staff will be waiting for your arrival at the office. From the jetty, you will take a 30-minute boat ride to the island. Boats leave from the Jetty at 8 am, 12 am, and 4 pm.

I have young children, is this program suitable for families?

Unfortunately this project can only accommodate individuals of 18 or over for safety purposes. However, our Perhentian Eco-Education project is a great family friendly alternative!

Is there internet access?

There is WiFi available at the house, however it is usually quite weak. It is recommended for volunteers to purchase an affordable local sim if needed.

How long is the typical volunteer working day?

The volunteering activities run from morning until evening with a lunch break in between. For volunteers staying longer than one week, Sundays are usually free days.

Is it possible to have our own room?

Volunteers can opt for a double room with air-con for an extra charge of RM150 per night. This room is not always available so kindly confirm availability with Ecoteer in advance by contacting us directly.

I want to do more to help the islands! What else can I get involved in?

There is plenty you can do! We have mini-projects that we can allocate you to complete in your free time, and ‘Conservation in Action’ volunteers will be completing a mini project as part of their course. Previously volunteers have made recycling bins for our bin adoption programme, organised educational programmes for the school, developed material for a plastic-free island etc.

What if I want to volunteer at more than one project?

Good news, you now can! We offer two amazing combination volunteer trips, which involve spending 2 or 3 weeks in total, volunteering both in the amazing Teman Negara rainforest of Merapoh and on the paradise Perhentian Islands. A perfect compromise if you want a broader taste of what Malaysia has to offer.

Unfortunately, at the moment, we don’t offer a combo trip including the Perhentian Marine Research Station Project, however, feel free to separately book multiple projects.

I have some specific questions about the project.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have by email. Alternatively, you can contact our past volunteers Tony, Pim or Hugo who will happily tell you more about their experiences volunteering.

For Qs related to insurance, visas, vaccinations or payment check out the General FAQs page and for more specific payment Qs have a look at the Terms & Conditions page.

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