Perhentian Islands Marine Project

Dive in and get involved with vital marine conservation efforts in the Perhentian Archipelago.

Here, among the rainbow-like reefs and colourful corals, the Perhentian Islands Marine Project operates with the purpose of preserving the marine life in the area. If you are keen on marine biology and conservation, then this is certainly the project for you! You will participate in the vital scientific research conducted here in the midst of the Perhentian waters, in order to understand how to conserve the habitats and wildlife that exist both beneath the waves and on the surrounding beaches.

There is very little knowledge regarding marine ecology in the area, with particular reference to shark and turtle species, yet the ecosystem here faces huge pressures from increasing tourism, climate change and so much more. As a result, the project is in dire need of adequate research to understand the current state of the marine life which resides on their doorstep, and that’s where you come in! 

This project is a pioneer in conservation efforts in the area, as the research conducted here on a daily basis has not been done before. This research helps the project manage conservation strategies in conjunction with the government and local dive shops. Your role within this program will involve collecting data on marine life such as blacktip reef sharks and hawksbill turtles using photo identification, maintaining and deploying coral nurseries being used to increase coral beds in the area, as well as taking part in reef and beach cleans to combat the sheer amount of litter choking the coastlines. You will also take part in the various community initiatives the project has in place, all of which are massive contributors in creating an eco-friendly island. 

Whether you are a qualified diver or not, this is the project for you if you have an interest in marine biology and want to play a part in shaping the future of conservation on the idyllic Perhentian Islands.

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Lauren Mackinnon


Volunteers Scuba Diving in Malaysia
Scuba Diving Course If you are an unqualified diver, you will complete your PADI Open Water course in your first week. If you already have this qualification, you do not need to complete any additional courses, however, you can choose to complete your PADI Advanced Open Water or Rescue Diver course if you wish. Please be aware, the Rescue Diver course can only be completed if you have an Emergency First Response (EFR) qualification. If necessary, you can obtain your EFR qualification for a cost of $157.
Blacktip Reef Shark
Shark ID Currently, there is a lack of ecological knowledge available regarding the area’s blacktip reef shark populations, though the information that is available illustrates that their numbers are falling. Volunteers will help to collect data on sharks by photographing and identifying them, creating a better overall understanding of their movements and composition within the Perhentian ecosystem. In turn, this information will allow the project team to better understand how to preserve them.
Turtle ID
Turtle ID As with sharks, there is minimal ecological data available for the populations of green and hawksbill turtles in the area. Therefore, you will assist in photographing and identifying turtles encountered during dives to better understand their movements and behaviours. With such vital information being collected, the project team will then be able to work with the local marine parks to make appropriate conservation management decisions.
A Coral Nursery at the Perhentian Islands Marine Project
Coral Nursery Maintenance A previous focus of this project was to map and assess the health of coral reefs in the marine park. The results of this have led the team to adjust their focus slightly, and volunteers are now tasked with deploying coral nurseries (devices which help to grow corals). You will also help to maintain the existing nurseries by cleaning them and removing any algae/predators that could hinder their growth.
Beach Clean at the Perhentian Islands Marine Project
Reef And Beach Cleans You will help to clean the reefs and beaches in the area, leading campaigns against marine debris to tourists and locals. Throughout the monsoon season in particular, huge amounts of waste (such as rope, plastic bottles and rubber) can gather in certain areas, and you will help to remove this. The team aim to participate in beach cleans once a week, though this can be more or less frequent.
Personal Projects
Personal Projects Longer-term volunteers may be encouraged to work on a personal project of their own choice, ultimately contributing to further marine conservation efforts. Should you stay at the project for 4 or more weeks, you may wish to aid the education of local school children, teaching them about marine conservation or creating posters and informative brochures. This is a great opportunity to get creative with your thoughts and to apply your skills, so feel free to put ideas forward!


Please note, itineraries are subject to change, and what follows is simply a guideline.

If you do not have any diving qualifications or plan to complete any additional courses, you must join for a minimum of two weeks. If, however, you are already Open Water qualified or above and do not want to complete any courses, you are able to take part for a minimum of one week.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins: You will arrive at the Kuala Besut jetty by 8am on your project start date, and from here, will transfer by boat to your accommodation on the Perhentian Islands. After settling in, you will enjoy lunch before taking a tour of the village and joining a water confidence session. You will then have the evening at leisure after enjoying dinner with the rest of your group.
Day 2 - Buoyancy Dive: After breakfast, you will prepare to take part in your first buoyancy dive! Here, you will put your diving skills to the test to ensure that you are ready to take part in the research dives. You will also be taught how to use underwater camera equipment during this time. After lunch, you will have your first lecture at the dive base, with a focus on fish and photo identification. Your evening will be spent at leisure.
Day 3 - Photo ID Dive: Enjoy breakfast before undertaking two photo ID dives, where you will implement the skills learnt the day before. Later, you will engage in a lecture which focuses on corals and coral nurseries with the aim of teaching you the skills you will need whilst on the project.
Day 4 - Coral Nursery Dive: Today’s research dive will centre around coral nurseries. You may be involved in assessing the health or maintaining the nurseries, or you may even be asked to help deploy more of them! After lunch, you will spend some time working on a personal project, so take this opportunity to get creative!
Day 5 - Reef And Beach Clean: Today’s dive will focus on either the coral nurseries or on photo identification, depending on the needs of the project. Take part in a reef or beach clean in the afternoon, before heading into the local village for a traditional evening meal and cooking class alongside the locals.
Day 6 - Personal Project Day: Saturdays are more relaxed compared to the rest of the week, and today you will focus solely on your personal project. Whether figuring out a new way to aid the education of the local school children or helping with a new recycling initiative, this is your chance to exercise your creative side. What’s more, your personal project is a great opportunity to leave a permanent, positive mark on the local community.
Day 7 - Final Day Or Day Off: Depending on the length of your stay, today will either be your departure day or your day off. If departing, you will check out of your accommodation and bid a fond farewell to your team before boarding a boat back to Kuala Besut. If you’re staying for another week, this is a great opportunity to discover a range of beautiful beach areas or simply relax after a busy week!

Start Dates & Prices

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due 60 days before your start date.

Flexible Payment Options: If you select a start date more than 3 months in advance, we offer convenient payment plans, allowing you to pay off your balance in instalments.

Note: If you are not at least PADI Open Water qualified, you must include a PADI dive course in your booking.

Duration Price
Select PADI dive course to view available durations & prices.

Payment breakdown



Volunteers will stay in dorm-style accommodation at the volunteer house, with up to four volunteers sharing each dorm on a mixed-gender basis. The volunteer house also features a shared bathroom, complete with cold showers and traditional squat toilets.

For those seeking an added sense of privacy, you may be able to upgrade to a private room at an added cost. This would be in a converted chalet, located 5 minutes’ walk away in the local fishing village. Here, you will have the choice of either a double or twin-share room, with either option featuring air conditioning and an en-suite bathroom. Please enquire for more information.

Meals & Beverages

You will be provided with three meals per day during your time on the project, except for Sundays, when you will prepare your own meals. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for but do please let us know of any dietary requirements in advance. Drinking water is also provided, but snacks and soft or alcoholic beverages must be purchased at your own expense from one of the village shops.

Project Details

When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?

Due to the monsoon season falling between October and February, this project only runs between the months of April and September. These are the driest months of the year in this part of Malaysia, with underwater visibility ranging from 5-20 metres. This is also the best time to see turtles and blacktip reef sharks.

Getting There

You will need to meet at the Kuala Besut jetty by 8am on your project start date, as this is where you will board a boat to the Perhentian Islands. There are multiple ways to get to Kuala Besut, including a flight or bus from Kuala Lumpur but we do recommend arriving the day before your project start to ensure you reach the jetty in time.

Visa Requirements

Most nationalities do not need to obtain a visa in advance of travelling to Malaysia, as a 90-day tourist visa is issued on arrival. We do, however, recommend checking with your local embassy regarding visa requirements prior to travelling.

Fitness & Skills

Due to the nature of this project, you must be a strong and confident swimmer. Additionally, to take part in the activities you must be at least PADI Open Water qualified, therefore, if you are joining without a dive qualification, you will complete this course within your first week. No additional skills or experience are required, only a positive attitude and the ability and willingness to work well in a team.


There are no specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project and as such, the vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We, therefore, recommend that you consult your GP/Doctor regarding your own vaccination needs.


Discover The Perhentian Islands Marine Project!
Discover The Perhentian Islands Marine Project!

If you are keen on marine biology and conservation then click to see how you can join in vital scientific research to aid marine conservation in Malaysia!


Stephen Smith, 2019

The organisation have a great reputation among the local population. They're very well integrated into the community. It's a great project.

Mark Easterbrook, 2018

It was fascinating watching the monsoon rains start with a beautiful thunderstorm passing between the two islands. An excellent overall experience!

Scott Wade, 2017

I learnt so much about coral, habitat and marine conservation. The guys on the dive project were so knowledgeable and passionate. I like the way all the projects on the Perhentian Islands work together, the dive team, the turtle conservation team and the community project. I hope one day they will achieve their goals by educating the tourists and locals alike to conserve what is a beautiful marine park. With the great work of the leaders, interns and the volunteers they do, I am sure they will.

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What's Included

  • Return boat transfers from Kuala Besut
  • Accommodation and meals
  • All dive equipment and diving whilst on the project
  • Full orientation and support from the project managers
  • A minimum of 6 dives per week
  • A monetary contribution to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance (which is a requirement and must cover scuba diving)
  • Visas (if required)