Perhentian Islands Marine Project

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia, South-Eastern Asia, Asia

From $1,085 for 13 nights
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The detail

"Gain the world-wide recognised PADI diving certificate and get first-hand experience in saving the turtles!"

Turtles, blacktip reef sharks and all sorts of marine wildlife and ecosystems can be found in the depths of the ocean surrounding the island paradise of Pulau Kecil in the Perhentians, just off the north-eastern coast of West Malaysia. This conservation project focuses on protecting these ecosystems and supporting the marine life in this area through research collection. But this is not ordinary research, this is underwater research. Volunteers, who over the course of the project become qualified PADI open-water divers, explore, survey and assess various seagrass, coral and artificial reef habitats, whilst also collecting information that will be used to protect the area and reduce any negative impact on the ecosystems.

Once you’ve completed your PADI open water qualification you’ll be ready to embark on underwater dives to begin research. Typically, you’ll carry out two underwater research dives in the morning and then spend the afternoon either analysing the data you’ve found or embarking on further dives for more information. When you’re not getting wet you can spend your time chillaxing in hammocks, exploring the island and its surroundings or getting to know the local village families, giving you a real taste of authentic Malay living.

This project combines the thrill of diving and the beauty of coral reefs with a sustainable trip that has a positive environmental impact. The three main research areas of the project are seagrass mapping, coral reef mapping and artificial reef assessments. Seagrass beds offer key feeding grounds for the marine life present and mapping them provides a greater understanding of which turtles and other wildlife are present along this coastal area. There are also two different types of reef in the area: coral reefs and artificial reefs. Mapping coral reefs provides insight into the impact that the monsoon season has on these existing natural reefs, whilst assessing and monitoring the artificial reefs ensures that there are ample sustainable fishing opportunities for the locals - this in turn reduces pressure on natural reefs and lets them flourish.

The information that you will collect, analyse and research through this conservation effort will not only offer a deeper understanding into the complex underwater environment around the Perhentian Islands, but also contribute to protecting the area's wildlife. These animals and plants depend on the reefs and seagrass beds. Yet protecting and maintaining the reefs and beds themselves is just as important as protecting the marine life who feed from them, as they play an integral role within the existing ecosystem.

Day 1
day 1

Finding your feet: Upon your arrival at the Kuala Besut Jetty in the morning, you’ll meet a member of the team and travel to a local fishing village in Pulau Perhentian Kecil. After a bite to eat it’s time for a PADI scuba diving briefing and orientation, followed by a water confidence session. Before dinner you’ll have free time to make yourself at home and then there will be a brief presentation to fill you in on the conservation project.

Day 2-7
day 2-7

PADI dive qualification: This week offers inexperienced divers the chance to achieve a PADI Open Water Diving Qualification, making you a fully-fledged scuba diver so you can immerse yourself in the marine paradise of the Perhentian Islands. The morning sessions concentrate on the theory involved, whereas in the afternoon it’s time to get wet, taking part in practical sessions, such as buoyancy training and mock survey dives. All your new skills come together in a practical exam at the end of this week. If you already have these qualifications before the project, then there is no need to take part in this, and your project will start on Day 8.

Day 8-14
day 8-14

Research Training: Now it’s time to focus on the most important part of this project: the research! During this week you will spend time learning both theory and practice about underwater data collection. Your focus will be on one particular type of research, which could be coral reef mapping, seagrass surveying or assessing artificial reefs. Alongside lectures and information, the training consists of 8 dives with 4 primarily focusing on buoyancy and 4 focusing on how to actually carry out the research during your dive. This week of training leaves you ready to contribute as much as possible during your research week!

Day 15-20
day 15-20

Research Week: Congratulations – you’re ready to get researching! It’s time to put all you’ve learnt into practice, giving you the chance to contribute important information to the conservation project whilst also exploring and enjoying the crystal blue waters of the island and its wildlife. With 1 or 2 dives in the mornings, your time will be spent underwater, mapping and assessing seagrass, coral reefs or artificial reefs in the area (although the exact research you’ll do depends on the research schedule). In the afternoon, there is the chance to either conduct further dives or to analyse the data you’ve collected.

Day 21
day 21

Fond farewells: Having learnt to scuba dive, explored coral reefs and contributed massively to this conservation project, it’s sadly time to say your 'goodbyes'. You’ll take a boat back to Kuala Besut where you can reminisce about your fondest memories before either heading home or continuing your travels elsewhere.

Rate Conditions

  • The rate shown is a 'from' price per person
  • Click 'Ask a Question' up above to enquire about full project dates, availability and costs
  • To secure a place on this project a 20% deposit is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.


  • A monetary contribution to the project itself
  • Boat transfers to and from the island
  • All dive equipment and all diving in Malaysia whilst on the project
  • Full orientation and support from the project managers
  • Accommodation and meals
  • A Dive Course and a minimum of 6 dives per week


  • All flights and transfers to and from the airport
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas if required
  • PADI Medical Questionnaire. Please ensure you take a completed PADI Medical Form with you, signed by your GP
  • Trips undertaken other than in the planned itinerary (eg. On Sundays to other parts of the islands)
  • Anything else not mentioned in inclusions - if in doubt, click 'Ask a Question' up above to chat to the operator directly!

Area & Location

Perhentian Islands
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Get in touch!
enquiry form
We will keep all your information confidential and only contact you in relation to your enquiry. We respond to all enquiries within 24 hours.