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Diving to Save the Ocean, its Marine Life and Seagrass
  • Open March – September
  • Coral Reefs | Seagrass | Beach Cleans
  • Unqualified & Qualified Diving Programs
  • Prices Start from £598

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!


“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


“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

Diving to Save the Ocean

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 side of Perhentian Kecil. The PMRS team conduct research to protect the island’s vulnerable coral reefs and seagrass beds and thus help save the ocean. We work closely with the Marine Parks Department and Reef Check Malaysia. Our team collect vital data through the mapping and health assessments of seagrass beds and coral reefs. This valuable research helps the decision making process in protecting these important habitats.

Underwater Clean Up

2019 Project Evolution

We are constantly looking to adapt our work to what research and assistance is currently needed on the island. Therefore in 2019 we are restructuring the project into two different main focuses at different times of the year. Our first focus revolves around seasonal seagrass research, a field often overlooked. We shall do this course once at the start of the year and once at the end for bi-annual surveys. This course will be for 3 or 4 weeks depending on whether you are PADI qualified. The rest of the season will feature a more general marine conservation programme 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.

Relax at the House

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, you can try traditional Malay food, talk to 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 marine conservation, this is the perfect opportunity for you!


Pricing for International Volunteers 2019

Conservation in Action – Qualified Divers**

1 week RM3,180 (£598/$779) – 8 dives
2 weeks RM4,929 (£927/$1208) – 16 dives
3 weeks RM6,678 (£1,256/$1,636) – 24 dives
4 weeks RM8,427  (£1,584/$2,064) – 32 dives

Conservation in Action – Unqualified Divers**

2 weeks RM6,095 (£1,146/$1,493) – 15 dives
3 weeks RM7,844 (£1,475/$1,921) – 23 dives
4 weeks RM9,593 (£1,803/$2,350) – 31 dives

Seagrass Research – Qualified Divers

3 weeks RM8,427 (£1,584/$2,064) – 24 dives

Seagrass Research – Unqualified Divers

4 weeks RM10,176 (£1,913/$2,493) – 29 dives

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

Pricing for Malaysian Volunteers 2019

Conservation in Action – Qualified Divers**

1 week RM2,544 – 8 dives
2 week RM3,944 – 16 dives
3 weeks RM5,343 – 24 dives
4 weeks RM6,742 – 32 dives

Conservation in Action – Unqualified Divers**

2 weeks RM4,876 – 15 dives
3 weeks RM6,276 – 23 dives
4 weeks RM7,675 – 31 dives

Seagrass Research – Qualified Divers

3 weeks RM6,742 – 24 dives

Seagrass Research – Unqualified Divers

4 weeks RM8,141 – 29 dives

Includes: Food, dorm accommodation with shared bathroom, cooking facilities, all dives, equipment, marine park fee, return ferry from Kuala Besut to Perhentian island, weekly Malay dinner.

Excludes: Travel to and from Kuala Besut, insurance, visa costs, flight fares, food/activities not included in the project

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.

* 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.

** Number of dives may change due to unforeseen circumstances

Start Dates for 2019

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

Those who aren’t qualified divers will start a week earlier than those who already have open water or above qualifications, so all volunteers will start research training on the same day (see start dates)! You’ll be able to select the exact date at the time of booking on our booking form.

Conservation in Action

For unqualified divers, start dates will commence every two weeks from April 8th until August 12th, with a final course starting on September 16th.

For those who do not require a dive course, start dates will commence every two weeks from April 15th until August 5th with a final course starting on September 23rd

Seagrass Research

March 18th – April 14th : Dive course (4 weeks)

March 25th – April 14th : No dive course (3 weeks)

August 19th – September 15th : Dive course (4 weeks)

August 26th – September 15th : No dive course (3 weeks)

*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.

Conservation in Action

Week 0 – Dive Course

Unqualified divers arrive Monday and complete dive course including 1 extra buoyancy dive and 1 fun dive.

Weeks 1 onwards – Research Training and Survey Weeks

Qualified divers arrive on Monday, and conduct:

  • 1 survey skills & buoyancy dive
  • 2 coral nursery dives
  • 2 shark photo ID dives
  • 2 Reef Check Malaysia survey dives (fish/invertebrates & substrate/coral health)
  • 1 Seagrass Watch survey dive

Diving for Coral and Seagrass Surveys

Seagrass Research

Week 0 – Dive Course

Unqualified divers arrive Monday and complete dive course including 1 extra buoyancy dive and 1 fun dive.

Week 1 – Research Training 

Qualified divers arrive on Monday. 
Volunteers will learn the theory of Seagrass Watch; a globally accepted method of surveying seagrass beds
8 training dives

Weeks 2-4 – Research Training 

Volunteers will conduct actual official Seagrass Watch surveys on 4 of the largest seagrass beds in the Perhentian islands. 
Surveys are repeated twice a year to assess the health of the beds, as well as the impacts of the monsoon.


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 globally recognised methodologies such as Seagrass Watch and Reef Check Diving. 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.

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.

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.

Seagrass Monitoring

You will use the Seagrass Watch method for surveying seagrass to collect vital data which will be analysed and compared with other seagrass beds around the world. You will assess the seagrass using quadrants, or you will map the boundaries of the beds; teaching you vital research skills.

Collecting data and monitoring


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!



Nemos in Perhentian Islands

17km off the east coast of Malaysia lie the Perhentian Islands; made up of Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar both boast beautiful white beaches and crystal clear waters. Once used as a stopping point for traders travelling between Malaysia and Bangkok (Perhentian means ‘stopping point’ in Malay) it now hosts tourists who come to relax, snorkel, and dive off the coral reefs surrounding the islands.

Volunteers live in our very own volunteer house in 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.


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, banana cake, and coffee, or tea. For those feeling like they want to experience 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 had at the house. Feel free to use our weekly shopping supplies to create a tasty meal for yourself. Or if we are not home, a yummy packed lunch is prepared by a local restaurant. Generally rice or noodles served with chicken, beef, fish, squid, or a vegetarian option.

Malay Dinner with Volunteers

Volunteers take turns to prepare dinner once a week and all pitch in to clear up afterwards. Our volunteers come from around the world, so this is a great opportunities to sample cuisine from different countries and eat all 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.

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!


Since the Perhentian Marine Research Station has been running we have…

Briefed 4,276 people on eco-snorkelling practices

Surveyed 5,000km of coral reef

Cleaned 57kg of rubbish during reef cleans

Beach Clean Up

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 Perhentian projects, Ecoteer have…

Hosted over 1,200 volunteers

Generated RM 1,500,000 for villagers and local businesses

Raised RM 189k for local transportation

Looking to the Future

PMRS is constantly looking for ways to move forward; we and the Perhentian Turtle Project helped publish our first paper in 2017* and we’re looking to publish many more in the future.

Coral Reefs are struggling world-wide; rising ocean acidification and temperatures are causing corals to bleach, and overfishing of keystone species can completely tip the balance of these fragile ecosystems. In 2018 we are aiming to start our own coral nursery; once built our team of volunteers can clean and maintain the corals, allowing them to grow and then hopefully re-establish depleted coral reefs!

In addition to the coral reef and seagrass research, 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 of University Malaysia Terengganu and Dr Alex Lechner of the Malaysian campus of Nottingham University and hope to host lectures about their work when they visit later this year!

*the paper is freely available to view at Herpetological Conservation and Biology Research Journal (we’re very proud so please check it out!)


4 Easy Steps to Book Your Diving Adventure:

1) Contact us here with your initial inquiry – tell us about yourself and the project you would like to join.

2) You will receive an e-mail with more information and the application form to complete and send back.

3) On receipt of your application we will confirm your reservation and inform you how to make your deposit payment. Your reservation will be held for 2 weeks, after which it will be cancelled automatically if no deposit is received.

4) Full payment is required no later than 1 month before departure. You may pay online by credit card or a direct transfer to our account.

Please allow a minimum of 3 weeks for us to process your application and payment.

It’s that Simple!! Once your deposit has been paid you will receive our ‘Know before you go’ guide, which is packed full of useful information about your project and general tips to prepare you for volunteering.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. How do I get to Perhentian Island from Kuala Lumpur?
Take a plane to Kota Bharu airport, then a 1 hour taxi ride to Kuala Besut Jetty, OR take a bus from Hentian Putra, Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut Bus station. From the jetty, take a 30 minute boat ride to the island. Boats leave from the Jetty at 8am, 12am, and 4pm.

4. I have young children, is this program suitable for families?
Unfortunately this project can only accommodate individuals of 18 or over for safety purposes.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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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