The best review of TRACC

dive master trainees (480x640) Our best review is on Trip advisor – “I just coral diversitygot back from my second tour at TRACC and I am already booked for my third starting at the end of the year.

So what makes TRACC so special? It’s a unique combination of several factors that I’ve never found anywhere else in a lifetime of travelling across 5 continents:  read more here

We have had great reviews but this is beyond 5 stars   Dr Yen obviously likes TRACC and Pom Pom.

Batu Rua Reef

batu rua has some fantastic corals

batu rua has some fantastic corals

Batu rua is a great dive site and hopefully will be the centre of our coral planting activites for many years to come. We have an application pending with the Sabah government for a coral farm on our own officially recognised area.  The reef is very close to Kalapuan island where we are building a new camp.

Batu Rua has sheltered and exposed sites and has some great coral areas.  There are several excellent dive sites (Macromania, the ridge, coral channel and green coral forest) and we will undoubtedly find more.   The snorkelling at several sites is superb.  There are few turtles (occasional hawksbill) but there are many very shy rays.  There is a perfect area for teaching diving and we may move most of our open water teaching to the beautiful flat white sand areas.  We are currently exploring and hope to find more exciting dive sites soon.

Batu Rua photo gallery   -  TRACC islands








Three new members on the TRACC team

Recently we have welcomed three new members to the TRACC team on Pom Pom island.  Their names are Monsoon, Dansel and Joey, and they came to us after a lot of ordeals with previous owners and a long journey from the animal shelter.

They are three very friendly dogs and make perfect TRACC pets.  They are having an awesome time on the island digging holes in the sand, chasing crabs on the beach, catching chickens in the camp (we’re working on that one!), happily floating on tubes in the water (Dansel), experimenting with getting their feet wet (Monsoon) or trying to avoid water altogether at all costs (Joey).

We are not too sure yet what they think when they see us in full dive gear walk past them and disappear into the water for a shore dive….

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They all love going on long walks around the island and generally seem to be having a good time hanging oIMG_1850ut with us.  We’re all looking forward to the time when they will be better trained and will be able to spend more time off the leash.  Welcome to Pom Pom, Monsoon, Joey and Dansel!


SAD update (March 2014) – unfortunately Dansel had a heart worm and despite several trips to the Vet and lots of medication she passed away.


Update on our Hawksbill Baby Turtle

About a month ago we found a hawksbill baby turtle in a long-hatched turtle nest in our hatchery.  She climbed out of the sand as we were digging up the nest and was severely dehydrated and weak, see our previous blog post on finding her here.  We named her Tofu and made her a home at TRACC in a big tank until she recovers and grows strong enough to be released.  We filled the tank with seawater and collected a patch of sargassum seaweed for her to float on, which is what she would naturally do in the wild for at least the first year of her life, drifting on sargassum rafts in the open ocean.  Sargassum rafts also support a diverse community of marine life, by providing food and shelter from prey so there is plenty of food on them for baby turtles.  Our little patch of sargassum included several juvenile sargassum frogfish, a filefish, several little crabs, shrimp and sea slugs.

Our little hawksbill turtle seemed very tired and weak during her first week, floating around almost lifeless at the surface and refusing to eat any food we offered her.  In her second week however she started swimming around and showing interest in her surroundings.  We have been feeding her twice a day with squid, tuna and shrimp. monitoring her progress regularly by measuring the length and with of her carapace and measuring her weight using an improvised scale as she was too small to weigh on a regular kitchen scale.

Since her first day, she has now quadrupled in weight and her carapace grew 1.5cm in length and 1.6cm in width:

date length width weight
29/11/2013 33.5mm 24mm 10.9g
2/12/2013 36mm 27mm 11.5g
6/12/2013 37mm 29mm 12.4g
21/12/2013 42mm 35mm 30g
28/12/2013 49mm 40mm 40g


Her buoyancy has also changed substantially, and now she’s able to get down deeper underwater and stay down for longer periods of time.

Here are two pictures of her taken three weeks apart: Dec 3rd on the left and 22nd on the right.  You can also watch a video of her swimming around here.




Christmas on Pom Pom island 2013

Christmas on Pom Pom island this year was celebrated in style, with our traditional turkey barbecue on the 25th of December.  We used a perfectly engineered fire pit for this purpose, built to very high New Zealand standards.


The fire pit was so efficient that our turkey was cooked spot on time for Christmas dinner.


Santa also made an appearance, delivering lots of presents for everyone


As the night unfolded everybody got their christmas paraphernalia out for the obligatory silly pictures providing endless late-night entertainment.


The night was filled with so much excitement Rudolph was very tired by the end…


Rescuing Tofu the baby Turtle


Last week while doing a nest inventory in the turtle hatchery we found little Tofu, a critically endangered Hawksbill turtle that had been underground in her nest far too long. Her brothers and sisters emerged about 50 days before we found her so she had been in her nest, a hole in the ground for all that time with no food or water. She was severely dehydrated and starving, weighing only about 10.9g with a carapace length of 3.35cm.

Seven days later and she’s doing well! She’s eating and swimming around from time to time but she still has a long way to go. She’s now weighing in at 11.5g and grown 3mm in all directions.

Keep tuned for more update on her success, and photos!



Boat schedule 2014

Measuring mangrove trees.

Measuring mangrove trees.

Our boat leaves Semporna in the afternoon on Monday and Thursday, so please try to land in Tawau in the morning. We will collect you from the airport and transfer you to the boat. If you are flying long-haul, consider overnighting at the airport in KL (TUNE hotel) or KK (Casurina hotel) to counteract some of the jet lag. Read How to Get here for suggestions.

All Turtlers and unqualified divers arrive on the morning of the first or third monday in May, June, July, August and September.  We have our introduction lectures once every 2 weeks and the OW training course starts the first and third Tuesday in the month.

our most uptodate travel instructions are here

plus more info ( volunteers arrival information  2014 – pdf)


tracc small diving boat

Flying fish, one of our small dive boats


Green turtle hatching sucess at the Tip of Borneo

A fellow Malaysian Non Profit society (The Kudat Turtle Conservation Society KTCS) has just managed to release the first green turtle hatchlings from their hatchery at the tip of Borneo.  There were 119 eggs with 94 hatchlings.

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Fran Winfield, a mover and shaker with KTCS. ( Chairlady)

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Releasing the hatchlings



There was a great turnout of over 50 tourists and locals.  Great work guys, keep up the good work..








The turtle team

The turtle team

Getting a job in marine conservation

Turtle volunteer with baby turtleProfessional conservation is not an office job, it does not run from 9-5, Monday-Friday. It is not easy, it is not clean, dry and comfortable and there is frequently no right answer.

On the other hand, it is unique, fun, interesting, challenging and rewarding. You will meet a lot of great people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including many professional scientists and conservationists. You will have experiences that most people only dream about and you will have your horizons expanded in ways you cannot even imagine.  You will also have to continue to learn about your subject, fish biodiversity, boats, people, diving and a host of other things.

If you are prepared to accept this challenge with an open mind and good humour, to take whatever is thrown at you and to stand up ready for whatever gets thrown at you next, then start by becoming a volunteer, working hard and becoming an intern and with the experience you will be more likely to get to the interview of your dream job.

TRACC is very grateful for qulified divers to help with marine conservation

Qualified divers can help with marine conservation


Why we don’t do many marine surveys!

We are always being asked for survey data from our dives often by students and while we try to oblige, much of our data is not published or is part of a ongoing study.

coral planting, reef regeration, coral nursery

Coral planting trays

We’ve been diving around Borneo for over 15 years now and have done many surveys in the past.  Our reef survey in the late 1999 had over 6000h of survey and our 2010 and 2011 shark survey was over 10,000h – (you can see some of the data here)   However for coral reefs we are rather busy actually restoring coral reef rather than conducting surveys to prove scientifically (p>0.05) that what we’re doing is effective. That might be scientifically interesting, but its a waste of our time and resources. If you’d like to come to one of our islands and carry out some surveys on areas with and without conservation management and prove that what we do is effective we can certainly help you.

However, in a nutshell;
  • Healthy coral reef does not need any conservation
  • Degraded reef may recover naturally over time
  • Destructive activity on a degraded reef will destroy it
  • Destroyed reef will become overgrown with seaweed and the coral will not recoveror
  • EVERY reef in Sarawak and Sabah within access of a fishing community is degraded UNLESS it is in a Marine Protected Area (whether a national park, a government protected area or a region under private management such as dive resorts or oil refineries).
  • Without management to reduce the overfishing and prevent destructive fishing degraded sites will not recover.
  • Destroyed reef will not recover without artificial intervention (This is what we do)
Creating a crate reef. look at the baren substrate of coral rubble.

Creating a crate reef. look at the baren substrate of coral rubble.

If you really need data to prove that reefs recover better if they are managed, why not contact ReefCheck Malaysia and ask for their data? By comparing sites with and without conservation you’ll be able to see how effective they are.

IMHO a Better option is to stop googling and come do something.  We promise that you won’t regret it!
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