Marine Conservation Volunteer Abroad in Bali, My One-month Scuba Dive Voluntary Work Support for Coral Reef Restoration Program
“Take time to learn about the marine life that you will see. Pay attention to everything you see underwater, I have personally never seen anything more diverse” Emily, Marine Biology, University of Queensland, Australia
My introduction week in the volunteering program
My first day at the project was a whirlwind of meeting new people, checking out my new environment and getting acquainted with the work that I will be doing for the 4 weeks with my new team at The NGO. Although I did not meet my supervisor until my second day at the project at a ceremony he was hosting, I derived plenty of information and a fantastic impression of him from the team and also from the local community as he is quite well known in the area of Pemuteran village. I immediately felt welcomed at the project, especially because one of the staff members was also quite new, and from that we grew our relationship through bonding through common interest in our work and Balinese food.
I think by the first week, I felt comfortable and as if I had been there forever. Everyone, not only at the project but the locals who worked in the dive centres and resorts that shared Pemuteran beach with us welcome me into their jokes, meals and activities. By my second week there, I had already been to two different ceremonies, eaten breakfast the Balinese way with my team and had inside jokes with the dive guides who worked next door to us. Although I was flying solo as the only foreign volunteer for my month there, I did not ever feel lonely or uncomfortable in this welcoming community. From the very beginning, I was treated with respect and with expectations of my skills as a scuba diver, even though it did take me a couple of dives before I felt as comfortable as my team working and performing tasks underwater.
My daily tasks as a scuba dive volunteer
Our day to day tasks would be split between morning and afternoon sessions. In the morning, we will all arrive at 08 AM, in the morning, clean the office up, eat breakfast, and then prepare to dive. Everyday, we will determine our task underwater on our weekly schedule, whether that be planting baby corals on the structures, collecting samples on coral and replanting it in concrete to encourage further growth, collecting drupella snails or crown of thorns that are harmful to the coral, cleaning the underwater structures or installing the names of our sponsors that we have made on land from wire. In the afternoon, we will entertain and educate guests that are staying in the resorts surrounding us or who are taking lessons and trips from the dive school next door about our project, check the electric boxes that power all the buildings along the beach, do ocean cleanups and any other tasks that require our attention for the maintenance of the project and the coral reef growing and thriving around the dive site.
Take your time to learn!
Pay attention to how the team identify and collect drupella snails/crown of thorns. It took me a long time to be able to spot drupellas in a group of coral but once you have the hang of it, it is actually a very straightforward and rewarding process. If you are studying anything related to marine biology/science, ask to see and operate the water salinitation equipment. This was probably one of the biggest and most interesting learning curves for me as a marine biology student. Take time to learn about the marine life that you will see. Pay attention to everything you see underwater, I have personally never seen anything more diverse. Really take the time to speak to guests who come to the project. These are the tourists with money and who actually want to make a difference, even if it is just a small donation to support the project.
In terms of equipment, bring a GoPro, a computer/phone/screen to record your sightings and record your dives. When you are there, learn about what the NGO really do, its project and use this information to help better the project by speaking to guests who come along to chat.
Best moments in Bali
The best trip I had in Bali was snorkeling with the manta rays in Nusa Penida. It was probably one of the most unreal experiences to be in the water with these amazing and huge creatures and seeing them gliding through the water so gracefully and at such an immense speed was absolutely breathtaking.
I came to Bali to start my volunteering in December, and during the New Years Eve and New Years. This was when I really felt that I had fully integrated into the culture and was accepted as part of the family and culture here in Bali. It made me feel as if I gained a family that I would forever have. I will definitely come back to Bali, whether it be to work more with the NGO on different projects, or to achieve my advanced and dive masters and rescue diver, I will most definitely be back!