People and the Sea are committed to helping the local fisherman use their marine resources more sustainably

To join us on an expedition is a big decision. We understand that you want to be part of an something that leaves you energised, educated and inspired. For our part, we want to ensure that what you give to the island during your stay is positive, productive, and that it can truly make a difference to the lives of the community you become part of during your time on Malapascua.

At People and the Sea, we have taken time to develop a program that places emphasis on the needs of both you, the volunteer, and your hosts. Every effort is taken to minimise our impact on the environment while maximising our investment in the local community.

Here we provide you with some of the practical details of your expedition. You may also be interested in looking at the ‘Why Volunteer With Us’ page for a more detail on what sets our voluteer experince apart from others.

Key points of our marine conservation expeditions

How Long?

For our diving based expeditions, we require a minimum stay of at least four weeks. It allows time to develop proficient skills, to absorb all the necessary information regarding the science training, and most importantly, to really get to know the island, the people and to see for yourself the difference your contribution makes.

If you are unable to commit to this length of time, there are rare circumstances when we can consider less. This will depend on your level of diving qualification and previous experience. In this case, please get in touch with us so we can discuss the options available.

The other possibility available to you is to join us for a purely ‘land-based’ expedition where you contribute only to our community engagement projects. More information on what you may be involved with can be found here. In this case our minimum required stay is only two weeks.

Needless to say, if you want to stay longer you, you can. Indeed four weeks is only our minimum. We actively encourage longer stays for those who are able to accommodate this. Listening to the feedback we receive from past volunteers, it is clear that those who were able to commit the longest, felt they were able to make the most rewarding and fulfilling contribution.

What will I do exactly?

To answer this question, it is easiest to take a ‘broad’ week-by-week overview at an expedition, followed by a more detailed idea of the typical ‘daily rhythm’.

Take a look through the tabbed content below for more info.

PLEASE NOTE:  The following description is based on a four-week diving expedition.

You expedition typically starts on the first Saturday of the month. You will arrive soon after lunch, having travelled from Cebu City that morning. Your first day is spent sorting out a number of things: meeting our on-site team, some paperwork issues, an introduction to your homestay family, and an orientation to the island. The following day, Sunday, will be a day-off, allowing you to relax and acclimatise.


The next day, Monday, marks the start of your first full week on site. This will be a ‘dry day’ – no diving. This allows us time for a few other matters:

  • People and the Sea Presentation & Expedition Briefing

    • Here we take the opportunity to explain the history, objective, programmes and impact of People and the Sea. A very important session for us, we want to be sure you understand the difference you can make during your expedition with us.
    • We will also present what you can expect from the month ahead in terms of planning, and projects that are currently running at that time.
  • Site orientation
  • Site Safety Briefings and demonstrations
  • Sorting dive equipment
  • Chores briefing (yes, everyone gets involved!)

You will also commence your dive training. And that will be the priority for the remainder of the first week. Led by our onsite instructor, you will receive patent, but thorough tuition as you complete two internationally recognised SCUBA diving qualifications.

There are a number of diver training agencies available to choose from but given their position as the most recognised and popular diver training agency worldwide, we have chosen to offer you PADI courses (Professional Association of Diving Instructors).

We will work hard with you to ensure you have the level of diving competency that the remainder of your expedition requires. More comprehensive details on the diving are available on the ‘Scuba Diving Information’ page of this website.

Locals enjoy the beauty of Malapascuas White Beach


In the second week we may need to take two days to complete your dive training.

However, once this is complete, we will move on to the other fundamental part of your expedition – the Marine Survey Training Programme (MSTP)– your introduction to marine ecology and underwater survey techniques. The rationale, aims and objectives of the MSTP will be presented to you by the Lead Science Officer.

The material delivered in this second week has been carefully compiled and referenced, and there is a lot of information to take on. We do suggest that you give some time to self-study prior to the start of your expedition. We will provide you with some materials to facilitate this. The topics covered will include:

Basic Reef Introduction
Coral Reef Ecology
Coral & Benthos ID
Invertebrate Identifcation
Reef Fish Identifcation
Survey Methodologies


The focus here will continue to be the MSTP. While the training element itself may be nearing completion (the length of time does vary according to a number of factors), that means that the testing component will be conducted.

To ensure that the data we collect is accurate enough to allow meaningful analysis, all volunteers will be required to complete assessments that test their ability to correctly identify species and assess populations. These are conducted both in water, and on-land. This is an essential process in securing robust and reliable data sets.

The methodologies and teaching methods/materials employed and taught by People and the Sea in the MSTP have been critically reviewed by academics in the field of marine ecology and conservation (in both the UK and France) to ensure their scientific rigour. We are proud of this recognition, and feel it provides a sound indication of the quality of training you will receive.


The final week of each month is where you get chance to really put all of the training you receive into action. We typically have two full surveys that must be conducted each month, and it is important that we maintain the scheduling of these. Having completed the MSTP, you will now take part in the conduct of ‘live’ marine habitat surveys.

This collection, processing, and subsequent sharing of data relating to the marine environment around Malapascua is the core focus of our work. It should be remembered that this a long-term project. While you will receive a presentation prior to your departure form our Lead Science Officer that summarises the results of the surveys you contributed to, a more holistic understanding is provided in our Coral Reef Monitoring Report.

For those not staying longer, sadly the end of this week will see things draw to a close for you. There will be some ‘housekeeping’ tasks to be done, as well as some debrief and feedback sessions with our Site Manager.

Read our Coral Reef Monitoring Report here


Our days typically start early! Breakfast is taken together at 7am. This applies to all volunteers, divers and non-divers alike.

At 7.30 it is time to prepare for diving. Kit is set up and checked on site, before being loaded onto the boat for a 7.45am departure.

For at least the first two weeks of the month, while dive training and the initial phases of the MSTP are being carried out, all the dive sites are local – never more than a 15 minute ride on the boat. We use a large, local style, boat – or ‘Bangka’ for our dives. This means there is plenty of space on board, and space to relax – even when we have a full compliment of divers.

The Nipa Hut is where we all take meals together every day - not a bad view!

The ‘Nipa Hut’ – our dining room for all out meals together. Not a bad view!

Setting up all dive equipment before heading out for diving around the island

Preparing the dive kit in the morning before leaving

Kit ready while we brief the plan for the ocean survey dive

The local Bangkas have planty of space for divers

Dive times are typically 60 minutes (maximum 75 minutes) followed by a one hour surface interval. We do not return to shore between dives – drinks and snacks will be available, and all briefs/de-briefs will take place on the boat between dives. Following a second one hour dive, we return to site for un-loading and the washing of dive kit, just in time to take lunch with land-based volunteers and PepSea staff at 12.30pm. This provides the perfect opportunity to share your underwater experiences from the morning!

Exactly what you will be doing on these dives does vary, and is related to what stage of your expedition you are at. Here, the ‘Weekly Overview’ provides more insight. It may be SCUBA training, MSTP dives, or the conduct of the actual surveys themselves.

In the second half on the expedition, the dive sites may be further afield. This is dependent on what sites are scheduled for survey in that month. Some of our survey sites are as close as a five minute journey, while others are almost two hours away. In the event that we are diving at more distant sites, lunch may be taken on the boat, and the afternoon activities will be shortened.

Our biophysical marine habitat survey sites around the Island of Malapascua, Municipality of Daanbantayan, Cebu

Our survey sites around Malapascua, that we visit most often.

Our biophysical marine habitat survey sites in Municipality of Daanbantayan mainland

Mainland survey sites are 1-2hrs journey time

Our biophysical marine habitat survey sites around the Island of Carnaza, Municipality of Daanbantayan, Cebu

Carnaza Island is two hours north of Malapascua


How the afternoons of your expedition are used is worth taking a little more time to explain, as this is something that will change as the month progresses. What should be said is that, at all stages of the expedition, it is our intention that volunteers remain engaged – the afternoons are considered ‘working hours’.

As with the diving element of your day, the content of the afternoon relates largely to what stage of the expedition you find yourself.

At the beginning of the month, those volunteers who require  dive training, will need to spend afternoons with their instructor to complete all required ‘classroom’ elements of their SCUBA qualifications. This applies to all levels of diving courses (although there is more work to be done at Open Water level).

After this, the next phase of the expedition is the Marine Survey Training Programme (MSTP).  A lot of the focus here is therefore on the morning dives, but this is complimented by the afternoon sessions, which involve a combination of lectures, guided study session, self study sessions and ‘workshops’ – all to get you ready to be part of the data collection team.

And finally as you near the completion of the MSTP, and you pass the associated exams, the time available in the afternoons will be assigned to a number of different tasks:

• Most importantly, DATA ENTRY. In week four, we will typically be conducting surveys. After any survey activity, all data collected must be entered into the database. This must take place on the same day of the data collection.
• Involvement in any of the ongoing land-based programmes. The demands of these are more ‘dynamic’ in nature. A brief outline of our principle projects can be found here. All of these activities run throughout the year, often driven by land-based volunteers working along side our on-site team. Amongst these programmes, there is never a shortage of opportunities for engagement.


Our days begin to ‘wind-down’ at 5pm – and we have the most stunning sunsets that can be enjoyed from the office!

However, that is not to say the day is completely over. There still be some activities run during this time – we often like to organise ‘Sunset Beach-Cleans’ for example! Aside from that there may be meetings, presentations,  all diving equipment must be stored away or we’ll have a game of football on the beach!

At 5.50pm, there will be a presentation of the planning board for the next day (everyone needs to be present for this), followed by dinner all together at 6pm. Having eaten, we just need to make sure the chores are all complete and we can call the day finished. After this there are options – while the PepSea site is now closed, there are of course a number of locations around the island to visit to see out the evening amongst friends. Otherwise, your homestay family will be happy to welcome you home!


• 7am Breakfast
• 7.30 am – Preparation for diving
• 7.45am – 12pm – Diving
• 12.30pm-2pm – Lunch time
• 2pm-5pm – Afternoon activities (see below)
• 5pm-5.50pm – ‘Wind-Down’ time
• 5.50pm – Briefing for following day
• 6.00pm – Dinner and Chores.
• 7.00pm (approximately) End of day – office closing.

As mentioned previously, the description you find above is for a ‘typical’ four week diving expedition.

For those that are interested in longer stays, or non-diving expeditions, we will discuss with you your expected expedition itinerary in advance.

Want to join us for an expedition?

Early start for our survey dives sees the Barrio Bay at its quietest

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