Prior to departure to the Philippines
If you want to join this project you need to be at least 18 years old and have solid communication skills in English. As your volunteer activities involve lots of hands-on work and diving – in a tropical climate – it is very important that you are physically fit and a good swimmer. As part of the application process, we will therefore ask you to hand in a doctor’s certificate confirming that you are physically fit enough to successfully take part in the project. Furthermore, each project participant must get adequate travel health as well as dive insurance before departing to the Philippines. Please make sure that your dive insurance covers all medical costs associated with scuba diving, including: decompression chambers and unlimited diving to a depth of 30 metres, dive training (if applicable), helicopter rescue, light manual labour, medical emergency repatriation.
A diving qualification (at least PADI Advanced Open Water) is a plus, otherwise you will need to join the project a week earlier to obtain your PADI AOW qualification. Last but not least, it is essential to be enthusiastic about marine conservation and being part of a dedicated conservation programme, to be open-minded and flexible and to be willing to gain lots of new know-how.
Upon arrival in the Philippines, you will be given a 30-day visa. This can be extended for up to 59 days. Another visa extension (for up to six months or even a year) is possible as well. Before departing to the Philippines, you should contact your country’s Foreign Office for current visa regulations or reach out to the team at Natucate.
Prior to your departure, the team at Natucate will secure a place in the project for you, assist you in finding adequate travel health insurance and help you book your flights. Moreover, we will provide you with a comprehensive information pack which includes more details on the project and the country you are travelling to. After your arrival at Tacloban Airport, you will be picked up and taken to the project site. During your time as a volunteer, your accommodation, your daily meals, marine park fees, dive training (if necessary), regular diving activities, hire of tanks, weights and BCD, training and supervision in the programme and the Reef Check Eco-Diver training and certification (min. 4-week stay) are included in the programme free.
Flights, any travel and dive insurances, visa, additional drinks and snacks, any transfers/accommodation outside programme hours, PADI manuals and certification (if not obtained on site), personal diving equipment, airport drop-off and personal expenses (trips, souvenirs etc.) are not included in the programme fee.
Depending on which country you are coming from, it won’t be necessary to get any special vaccinations before departing to the Philippines. In general, you may want to get or refresh standard vaccinations like measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, chickenpox and polio as well as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and rabies. As the Philippines is a tropical destination, some regions of the country are subject to tropical diseases like malaria or dengue fever.
About 6-8 weeks before departing to the Philippines, you should visit your doctor and get advice on potential dangers, protective measures and recommended vaccinations. In addition to that, institutions like the CDC and the Foreign Office of your country can provide you with information about recommended vaccinations, travel alerts and safety information.
As dental issues may prevent you from diving, you should also visit a dentist before you arrive on site. Don’t forget to pack a small personal first aid kit which includes items like plasters, painkillers, antihistamines, electrolytes and medicine against diarrhoea and travel sickness. Furthermore, you should consider packing enough personal medication that you require. Last but not least, it is obligatory for you to get adequate travel health insurance before departing to the Philippines.
Due to the Philippines' visa rules, we list three- to eight-week stays on our website. However, longer stays are possible as well. Please note that a special visa extension is necessary in this case.
For your time in the project you should pack shorts, light long- and short-sleeved shirts, swimwear, lightweight waterproof as well as sturdy shoes and sandals, your PADI manuals and a Positive Identification Card (PIC). Don’t forget sunscreen, a sun hat, mosquito repellent, a daypack, a refillable water bottle, a personal first-aid kit, a head torch plus batteries, an adapter, your smartphone and a camera. Snorkel, mask, fins, a wetsuit/rash vest, wetsuit booties, dive compass, dive logbook, dive cutting tool, dive computer or digital depth gauge, dive slate, pens/pencils should not be missing in your luggage, either. A general note: We ask you to bring as many ecofriendly products as possible (toiletries, sunscreen, washing powder etc.).
You will receive a detailed packing list before departing to the Philippines.
Arrival in the Philippines
On the day your volunteer adventure starts, you need to arrive at Tacloban Airport. Please make sure to choose a flight that allows you to be in time at the meeting point at 01:30 PM. You will be met outside the terminal by a representative of our partner who will get on a taxi with you to drive to your volunteer base on Panaon Island. This journey takes about 4 hours.
On arrival at the base, you can settle into your room and get to know your team and the new surroundings. As part of an orientation and safety briefing, you will get an overview of the programme and your tasks as a volunteer. Training starts on the following day.
During the project in the Philippines
Dive training (if required)
The project requires you to be at least a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (or equivalent) before starting further training and becoming involved in conservation tasks. If you are not at this level yet, you will start a week earlier than dive qualified participants and undertake the PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water training with the programme’s diving instructor.
Skills Development Programme (SDP)
The dive training is followed by a “Skills Development Programme”. Participants who are already AOW divers will now arrive to directly start the SDP. The two-week SDP involves all the training you need to become an active member of the survey teams. The programme will give you the chance to immerse yourself into the fascinating subjects of coral reef ecology and marine conservation while learning all about the species found throughout Southern Leyte, how to identify them and how to collect data.
During the SDP you will also be certified in the Expedition Care Programme Remote First Aid course. This one-day course has been specially adapted to expedition situations and will fulfill the First Aid requirements for any further PADI courses you would like to undertake with our partner.
After successfully completing the SDP, you will finally join one of the programme’s survey teams and start playing an active role in the marine conservation.
Your week – your day
Depending on your stage of schedule, Mondays and Tuesdays are generally for dive training, SDP or surveys. On Wednesdays (this may vary!), you can enjoy a recreational dive or join an advanced PADI training course. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday you will once again be involved in SDP, dive training or surveys. The programme’s social evening takes place Saturday night. Sunday is usually your day off.
To give you an overview, a typical workday in the project may look like this:
- 07:00 AM: Breakfast, discussing final planning details for the day’s activities
- 07:45 AM: Communal duties (washing up, sweeping, mopping, getting equipment ready etc.)
- 09:00 AM: Training/surveying – either an SDP lecture or dive theory followed by a training dive or a survey dive, data entry
- 12:00 PM: Lunch
- 02:00 PM: Training/surveying is picked up, before equipment is rinsed and put away
- 06:00 PM: Dinner, reviewing the day’s activities
- 07:00 PM: Further in-depth data and training may be provided to those who wish it
Please keep in mind, that your schedule is always dependent on the weather. We therefore ask you to be flexible, patient and open-minded. Furthermore, you should be aware that there is no guaranteed number of dives per day.
There will be around 3-15 volunteers in a group.
Life on site in the Philippines
Together with your team members, you will live in a single level building which has nine shared, single-sex dormitories with en-suite wet rooms and fans. The wet rooms are equipped with a bucket-flushing toilet and a bucket shower. You can also find a communal screened shower outside. In the dormitories you will sleep in bunk beds and are provided with a mattress, a pillow, two sets of bed linen and a mosquito net.
The house furthermore has a large communal area, a kitchen, a science room and a medical room. Even though 24-hour electricity is provided, occasional blackouts may occur. There are basic facilities for hand washing clothes on-site, alternatively a local villager can wash items for a small fee.
During your volunteer stay in the Philippines, you will be provided with three meals per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. A simple breakfast is usually prepared by one of the volunteer team. Lunch will either be cooked by a staff member or taken as a packed lunch, in case you and your team will be away from site. Dinner is prepared by the programme’s fantastic chef who will introduce you to the local cuisine. Cold beverages and snacks are available on site at an additional cost.
Yes, vegetarians and also vegans can be catered for. However, we ask you to inform us as early as possible about these and any other dietary requests well in advance to give our partner enough time for arrangements. Please note that fresh fruit and vegetables are seasonal and availability may vary.
You will be involved in project activities Monday through Saturday from around 07:00 AM to 06:00 PM, with various breaks including a lunch break in-between. Saturday night is reserved for a social evening; Sunday can usually be used for your own activities.
The Philippines will offer you lots of leisure time opportunities and places to discover. On Sunday, your day off, you can explore some of the island nation’s magnificent beaches, lagoons and villages. Furthermore, you undertake advanced PADI training courses with our partner.
Yes, there will always be supervisors on site who you can approach in case of problems or questions. Moreover, the Natucate team will provide you with a 24/7 emergency number so you can reach us anytime.
The currency in the Philippines is the Philippine peso (₱ or PHP). You can either exchange your currency to Philippine pesos in advance of travel or at the counters at the airport in Manila. In general, small denomination notes recommended. Opportunities to exchange money during the project are limited. Withdrawing cash from credit cards may cause problems in the Philippines – you should rather consider using a pre-paid travel card.
On site, you should calculate costs for leisure time activities (including transfers and accommodation outside programme hours), laundry, souvenirs and additional snacks and beverages like soft drinks or alcohol. We recommend taking along around 170 US$ for any in-country transfer as well as additional 100 US$ per month for other personal expenses. Keep in mind that you will need more money if you want to extend your visa.
There is mobile reception throughout most of the Philippines. As international roaming can be quite expensive, we recommend buying a local SIM card (GLOBE SIM) at the airport with enough data/airtime so you can contact friends and family at home. At Manila Airport, just past luggage collections, you have the chance to get a free “traveller’s GLOBE SIM”, otherwise they are available in most towns for only a little cost.
Climate in the Philippines is tropical maritime which means it is usually hot and humid. There are three seasons: a hot and dry season (March to May), a rainy season (June to November) and a cool and dry season (December to February). Temperatures range from 21°C to 32°C. The coolest month is January while the hottest month is May. Throughout the year, the average day temperature is 26-27°C.
Alcohol consumption during working hours is not allowed and will result in immediate termination of the programme with no refund. Alcohol consumption restrictions are in place during your leisure time, however on the social evening, one day a week, restrictions are removed.
Our partner’s staff members are all trained as first aiders. Furthermore, casualty evacuation procedures have been devised specifically for the Philippines site in the event of a serious injury or medical problem. Our partner has also set up on site-guidelines to keep participants safe – in return, a safety briefing will teach you how to behave sensibly and to make sure that you do not put yourself in harm’s way. In case of minor issues, basic medical care is available at the project site. In case of more serious problems, you will be taken to one of the nearest hospitals which are a 15- to 60-minute drive away. Please consider that you are personally liable for any expenditure related to medical treatment that cannot be offered at the expedition base – this is why adequate travel health insurance is a MUST.