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Tropical Research And Conservation Centre

Features Animals
Semporna, Malaysia
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About Tropical Research And Conservation Centre
TRACC is a conservation organisation on Pom Pom Island near Semporna, about 50km north of Sipadan, Mabul and Kapali. With volunteer divers who stay for 1-12 weeks, we are protecting the reef by replanting the coral reef, protecting the sharks and turtles, conducting surveys and actively demonstrating the value of marine protected areas. Accommodation at the moment is in tents set back from the beach, with good food provided 3 times each day. Staying with TRACC is about diving with a purpose - conservation diving with scientists and marine biologists, every visitor contributes to the reef rebuilding, the turtle and shark monitoring surveys and the building of the fish aggregation devices. If you want part of your trip to be about contributing to the environment as well as diving on great coral reefs visit TRACC in Malaysian Borneo.
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Deborah E wrote a review Feb 2021
London, United Kingdom4 contributions
For all you retired divers out there, this is the place to go. Tropical paradise (yes really) but diving with a purpose as well as for fun. We were 65 going on 66 when we arrived for a 3 month stay. Yes very basic accommodation, yes basic (cold) showers but amazing dives, food, education, training and conservation work both under water and on land. Turtle identification dives, nightly turtle walks to mark and save turtle nests from predation, joyous occasions witnessing turtle releases. We built artificial reefs, collected “corals of opportunity” to replant on the artificial reefs, and fragmented corals grown on the nursery site to plant elsewhere. We conducted surveys to record the growing biodiversity on the artificial reefs, and assisted the Science Officers and Interns in their work. We learned a huge amount and for every conservation work dive there was a fun dive afterwards. We have dived in a lot of wonderful places in the world but our last fun dive off North Tip on Pom Pom was truly one of the greats. During our stay, most of the volunteers were in their early 20s, and what an amazing group of young people they were, but TRACC welcomes everyone who has something to contribute no matter what age, ability or experience. There is no pressure to dive or take part in any other activities, life at TRACC has to be the most relaxed and inspiring time we have ever spent. So go to TRACC and become part of the TRACC family, you’ll have no regrets.
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Date of experience: March 2020
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Ihsan wrote a review Sep 2020
Kuching, Malaysia7 contributions1 helpful vote
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Hello, My name is Ihsan and student from University Malaysia Terengganu study on Marine Science Program. I came to TRACC as fully sponsored Malaysian internship for 12 weeks starting 1 July until 21 September 2020 for my Industrial training in order to graduate. TRACC is the NGO that has involved doing marine conservation for a long time ago starting on 2014. I am just Open Water Diver and I take Advance Open Water course in here its really give a lot of benefit and fun because I can discover on deep dive which can see beautiful wall that full of healthy diversity likes corals, soft coral, gorgonians, live rocks also a lot of fish with different types of species likes humphead wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, eagle rays, school of jackfish, fusilier, mandarin fish, and others. Night dive is really something new to observed because a lot of ecosystem has change from day to night. Some fish on night they were sleeping such as parrotfish will produce mucus that cover on their entire body while sleeping and nocturnal fish were start to active like’s moray eel, sharks and a lot of shrimp, crab, and others. Also coral start to remove and moving their tentacle to feed on plankton. The Instructor were really nice and friendly because he was really good on find something that were really cool marine organism likes rare nudibranch, crinoid shrimp, robust ghost pipe fish, cuttlefish, pygmy squid, blue ring octopus and other just in House Reef area. My targeted dive in TRACC are about 100 dives because every day we will go 3-4 dives but for Monday is dry day which we are not allowed to dive and more focus on dry work likes analyse data and writing report such on. All dives has improve my buoyancy which I can hover very close to corals to find some macro organism likes shrimp, also my air consumption were really good that I can stay until 60 min in 1 deep dive, and my weight has drop from 3 kg to 1 kg because of every dive we just train and practice more to be really good on this. When come on Sunday funday, we will go fun dive on other island such as Pandanan, Timba-timba, Mataking, Bohey dulang and many more and this really fun because its different environment and different dive site when its come to another island beside Pom Pom island. The camp is also really nice which has facility likes classroom, volleyball court which my favourite sport and especially my cube tent that has a lot of equipment likes table, fan, bed, socket extension and some space for me to pray as a Muslim. Food in here were really delicious, even I m not vegetarian but this is my first time I eat a lot of tasty vegetarian food in here which vege food are not too bad compare to chicken because of Kak Neng cooks were really delicious and I really likes Kak Neng donut that so fluffy and full of sweetness. Oh god, I miss the Donut. I really understand why we must conserve by not eating seafood because of the situation happen on island around Semporna which a lot of bomb fishing has damaged and destroyed the ecosystem likes fish, corals, turtles, invertebrate and we as conservationist must conserve and protect this ecosystem for the future generation. Turtle in here was very friendly and there is many turtle can be found around here also I gain a lot of experience on turtle project. For me, I really likes turtle facial ID because its an adventure and fun to find turtle sometimes we go chasing the swimming turtle to get their facial picture. Turtle walk also was something really nice for me but I just got a bit boring and sleepy while waiting for the mama turtle laying eggs. Also Learn about the tracks pattern that are from green turtle or hawksbill turtle, nesting or not based on going back track pattern. Theres a lot of conservation dives that I learned in here likes coral planting, biscuit drop and makes, soft coral and transplant, biscuit marriage, arc reef and steep reef maintenance. But the most I like is coral biscuit make and drop like it hot. Because of as we know House Reef is the most affected areas due to the bomb fishing on 20 years age and the environment on that area was likes all white because it full of rubble. For me, making biscuit is really interesting to planting new corals on that area because of coral that we takes at North Tip got high resilience which they mostly can adapt on new environment and we just plant on steep reef, and covid reef at House Reef. The restoration that has been done by TRACC likes bottle reef, steep reef, table reef, soft coral nets and other artificial reef has provide a lot of diversity from fish that has about 600 species has been observed just in House Reef which this area are start to recover from rubble area 20 years ago to create a new healthy ecosystem that full of healthy diversity. Also Fish ID, Invert ID and Coral ID improve me a lot on identifying skill while on diving. As a science intern in here, I was given project from TRACC science officer (Farhana and Jeeth) is about Reef Fish Assemblages on Benthic and Pelagic BRUVS Configuration at Different depths of 5m, 10m, 20m, and 30m. I was really happy to conduct this project because this project give me a new thing to learn about to determine fish diversity and abundance by using Baited Remote Underwater Video Station (BRUVS). Not just that, we four intern also has a strong teamwork in here because sampling our project in here were get really tired because its has a lot of hard work to do. When come to sampling date start 25 July until 31 August, in one day sampling we got 3 project to survey which is deployed and retrieved benthic and pelagic BRUVS, Biodiversity survey and last one seagrass survey from 7.00 am start and end until 12.00 pm. Or science officer Farhana and Jeeth also were really supportive and helpful because they always teach me and help me for my fish identification on my BRUVS video that will take me a lot of time to ID the fish in the beginning. Time over time has practice on Fish ID until species level and I just realize I can finish my fish Identification on BRUVS video in just 3 hours. Now I think I am good on Fish Identification which when I go diving I just know type of fish. For me, my research are really contribute to TRACC because of we can understand and learn distribution of fishes diversity and abundance across depth gradients are important insights on the health of the ecosystem. Following historical damage of bomb fishing on here 20 years ago and now recovering reef of Pom Pom Island, this study offers baseline data of species assemblage, diversity and abundance for better conservation and management strategies as well as providing retrospective information for long-term environmental monitoring. I think, I really was lucky person and super excited because I can come doing my internship in here were fully sponsored by TRACC. Diving in here is not same as you go diving in other place in Malaysia because in Semporna is top 1 best dive site in Malaysia due to this location is part of Coral Triangle which you can see a lot of beautiful marine life when you diving in here that many biodiversity which determine in here has a great and really good and healthy ecosystem likes a lot of fish diversity, variety type of shrimp, crab and cute nudibranch, healthy corals, colourful gorgonians, tunicate, coralline algae, live rocks, sponges and many cool thing around here likes eagle ray, friendly turtles, frog fish and others that can be found on Pom Pom Island. For me, TRACC were really place good to doing internship and being volunteer in here because of the they really want to change the ocean by doing conservation dive and spread awareness to the world about important of the ecosystem in the ocean. I will recommend TRACC to my entire friend by tell them story about TRACC, experience that I got in here during my internship. Finally, I really enjoy every single day in here likes having sunset every day, karaoke every night with local staff Khairul, Jaspin and Welman, drink coconut with Jomoh and compressed dive tank, and stargazing every night sometime I just fall sleep on jetty just want to stargazing because its really beautiful makes me calm and peace. All staff member were really friendly and they always makes me laughing also I learn a lot of thing and experience from them also likes current and tides because they really expert on this area especially Palten, he know the current were strong or not and sometimes his prediction on depth for my BRUVS deployment is really good. I learned from Molly about Invert ID likes shrimp, nudibranch, and crabs by taking picture of them. They really inspired me a lot of thing in here. Thank You TRACC for this awesome moment. Thank you guys for this memories, I will never forget you guys in here. After this if got chance, I really want to comeback in here because I really loves this place.
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Date of experience: July 2020
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AZRIN ASYIKIN wrote a review Sep 2020
Bandar Puncak Alam, Malaysia10 contributions
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TRACC was such a great experience and I came here as science internship which is fully sponsored Malaysia internship placement for my UMT industrial training for 12 weeks. I am very grateful for being given the opportunity and selected me as an internship student at TRACC. I came here with open water course, and I earned my Advance Open Water course which is a part of my sponsored internship. My instructor is really good; he also teaches me how to control buoyancy as part of the course. Before I came to TRACC, my dive log about 35 dive log for 2 years, but then when I am lived here, every day we went diving. I think overall my dive is over than 100 now which is include conservation dive and fun dive. Since, every day we went diving, I believed that I have improve much better in buoyancy skill. Before I came here, I am not really good in buoyancy, especially went we did work while diving. Not even that, I also improve of my air consumption. I can still remember, my dive master did weight check before we went dive, and she said actually I am overweight (weight and weight belt). At first I don’t believe, drop 1kg off weight from the weight belt, but then slowly drop my weight up to 1.6kg weight. Actually, it feels very comfortable went we wear light weight compare to heavy weight went we diving. To be honest, I do really enjoy diving with TRACC whereas we did conservation dive, work dive. I really enjoy all the conservation dive such as soft coral collect-planting, hard coral collects and planting, making coral biscuit (artificial reef), scrub mooring line, arc reef maintenance, underwater beach clean and else. In addition, we also have buoyancy workshop and lift bag workshop in order to get good buoyancy before did conservation dive. Generally, camp it is so nice and amazing. Actually, I do expect the worst but then I am wrong. They give me accommodation in cubical tent equipped with a fan, bed and sheet bed, pillow towel, socket and table. There are some challenges even living in a tent i.e. the tent is easily filled with sand (because the feet are always sandy) and sometimes in the middle of the night there is a strong storm, rainwater comes on top of my tent. The food is really good. Neng’s cook is really delicious and tasty. What I can said, Neng always make different menu every day. I also notice that, Neng don’t repeat the same menu over 2 weeks, which is mean that Neng was always make a different menu every day other than that, what I like the most are we can cook by ourselves if we want to cook. At first, I had a hard time adapting to eating a vegetarian menu, but it was still have other variety food that I can eat. Turtle. Pom Pom Island is the best place for turtle. I really love learn about them, especially turtle facial identification and did a turtle walk around the island. Since I have been here for 3 months, I had a opportunities to see mama turtle comes from the beach to nest, see how the mama turtle dig a hole for nesting, how the know either this turtle lay eggs or not based on their track. Not even that, I also have opportunities to see green turtle and hawksbill turtle nesting and turtle release. As marine intern, my industrial supervisor (Farhana Azmi) was assigned me a mini project which biodiversity assemblage at intertidal and shallow reef flat (1-2 meter). I really enjoy did my survey, at the same time I also learn a new thing which learn how to id the invert and the fish. Actually, in university I used to id them but not very practical compare in here. I believed that, my research will contribute of knowledge towards TRACC about POm Pom Island diversity. Last but not least, I would recommend to all people to come at TRACC no matter what background you are. Come here and gain the knowledge and let safe the coral reef as well as the world. Pom Pom Island, is the best placed to go because here have a very beautiful sunset, moonlight turtle walks. THANK YOU TRACC !!
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Date of experience: July 2020
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Idzhar Rosli wrote a review Sep 2020
7 contributions
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Hello guys!!, I am idzhar from University Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) doing an internship at TRACC (tropical research and conservation center) in Sabah. I came to TRACC on a fully sponsored Malaysian internship placement for my UMT industrial training. In order to graduate I need to do a 12 weeks internship field training. TRACC has given me a very huge opportunity to do an internship with them. This is a very great opportunity for me because I know that TRACC has involved in conservation for a long time. I come with an advance diver license with very limited experience in diving. When I come to TRACC, I only got around 30 dives overall. As time goes by, I have been diving since I came to TRACC and it was over 100++ dives. Can you believe it?, yeah I know cause I can’t believe it either. I already improved my dive skill mostly on buoyancy (all new diver struggle) as an example my weight, it is from 6kg and now I have been using 2.2kg only! Since the first day I come, the staff has already treated us kindly with love. The first that I met is Hazel, she is very graceful and gentle as a TRACC director. Then when we enter the island we met Molly as camp manager. She gave us a beautiful introduction to TRACC. I got a cubical tent that is far from my expectation. The tent is so big that 3 people can sleep in. I expect we will get a small tent that is enough for I person only and that makes me so happy. Not even that, there is also a bed and shelf for our things. The best out of the cubical tent is the fan. It is really out of my expectation. Because we live on the island, we can’t complain much about the sand. Sometimes there will also have some mosquitoes in the tent cause I forget to close the tent door but it did not disturb my sleep cause I getting used to jungle life. Other than the tent, we will go to the food. The chef we called kak Neng is a very good chef. She can cook basically anything or everything. Most of the time we will get good food from her but the TRACC menu is mostly vegan/vegetarian food so it does have a very big difference in our Malaysian culture. I do understand why we don’t eat the things that we conserve or protect. Next is the turtle project. Who doesn’t love turtle right? Everyone loves them. When I involve in the turtle project, I do get excited. The best part of the turtle project for me is when we watch a mother turtle nesting. We can always found a nest but not while a mother turtle is nesting, it always depends on your luck. I have watched a lot of turtle nesting while I was here and it was fascinating especially when the turtle is Hawksbill a critically endangered species. Other than that we involving in turtle facial ID. We take turtle photo while diving. It is really a new experience for me. Last from the project is that we watched hatchling release. It was so cute that no one can deny their cuteness. There is a lot of diving projects that TRACC is working on. The best project I’ve done is a coral fragment collection. We will collect coral fragments that have a low chance of survival or did not attach to a firm substrate. Basically we will save these fragments by planting them in a biscuit that made from cement. Most of these fragments are so beautiful. I'm happy that we can save them. Other than that, we also do a lot of other things like ARC reefs scrubbing, coral planting using epoxy and soft coral planting. TRACC also teaches us about fish ID, invert ID, and coral ID. This identification is so useful when we go diving. It is so interesting every time we go underwater cause we can see the difference that TRACC making from the conservation activity. When we were doing the internship at TRACC, we were given our own mini-project. My project is on Turtle nesting. These studies are about turtle emergence versus nestings. It is important to identify nesting areas in relationship to their threats. Understanding threats such as light pollution, beach erosion, marine debris, physical obstruction (natural/manmade), and poaching will allow the magnitude evaluation of these stressors in relation to nesting trends for early warning. My supervisor is Jeeth is so helpful with my project. He always teaches me new things and gives a reason why we doing such a project. I am enjoying myself while I’m doing the project cause it was all new to me and I am planning to become a wildlife warden one day. My project does contribute to the overall knowledge TRACC has on the ecosystem on Pom Pom by identifying the turtle main nesting site and does the threat on the island affect the turtle nesting. The one thing I would change is getting sets of gills instead of lungs so that I can stay underwater as long as I want to. Basically there is nothing I want to change at TRACC. Its already got the best. I just want TRACC to stay strong in doing the conservation work even though the world is falling down. All of this conservation work is all necessary for the better sake of the future generation. I was at TRACC for almost 3 months. I know a lot of types of people from different kinds of ages and backgrounds. TRACC can be for all peoples from all kinds of ages and backgrounds. The ones that have a driving license are the best peoples that can come. You will get a different experience from work dive for conservation. You also will get a lot of knowledge about why we need to do conservation. Another reason that makes you want to come is Pom Pom owns biodiversity. There is different biodiversity that will make you as a diver fascinating. You will not just enjoy the island life but also the wildlife that Pom Pom brings you. You will never forget all of this experience and exciting features that will make you want to come back for more. I loved living on Pom Pom Island. You can’t just get this kind of experience anywhere else. Sometimes an island life is a struggle but it will give you an experience that you will never imagine you can get it. The best kind of view that I missed the most is doing a turtle walk with a lot of star view just on top of your head and sometimes a beautiful Milky Way. I also feel grateful that we can contribute to TRACC knowledge from our project. Moreover, all the staff and local boys that been helping me during my internship and also give their support in the completion of the internship. The internship at TRACC has given me a tremendous amount of experience that I can use in my life other than becoming more confident with myself. Last but not least, I want to thank TRACC for this amazing lifetime opportunity that I will never get anywhere else.
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Date of experience: July 2020
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eyjaaryanie wrote a review Sep 2020
7 contributions
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I came to TRACC as a fully sponsored Malaysian internship placement for my UMT industrial training for 12 weeks. I am a open water diver and I earned my Advanced Open Water course as part of my sponsored internship. I am very grateful for the opportunity that TRACC have given me. The instructor that teach me the Advanced Open water course is very fun to learn with and make my course even easier especially during the night dive. The night dive is not as scary as I though, thanks to my dive instructor for being patient with me and taking the best method to show me that night dives is awesome. I have lost count on how many dives that I have done at TRACC but I think I have like 90+ dives over 12 weeks. Every Sunday, there will be fun dives at different dives sites near Pom Pom such as Mataking, Timba-Timba, Pandanan and many more which is so fun. All of this dives really help me in improving my buoyancy and my breathing skills while diving. I still remember the first time I dive here, my buoyancy is so bad and my air consumption is really huge but now with the help of the dive master that patiently teaching me how to control the buoyancy, my buoyancy is getting much much better and I can dive for longer time now because my air consumption is getting better. I can even hover near a corals or anything underwater and I also got better in finding micro thingy such as shrimp, nudibranch and crabs. I did a lot of diving projects too such as coral fragment collecting, biscuit planting, scrubbing the algae on the arc reef, step reef and bottle reef. I really enjoy it because I am not only able to work but I also get to see beautiful fishes passing through and just beautiful underwater scenery. I’m also happy to see the changes after the work dive that I did such as before the artificial reef is scrub and after it is scrub and the marine organisms (fish, crab, shrimp, etc.) recruitment at the artificial reef. The work dive is varied every day in a week, so you will never get bored and will always enjoy the work. At first I’m very scared to do the work dive because of my bad buoyancy and I’m scared that I will break more corals than that I save but then I’m not worried any more because TRACC will give enough training before you can do the work dive. Some of the training that will be done is buoyancy workshop and intro dive which is very fun and helping for me to improve my buoyancy. The camp is also amazing and beyond my expectation. I really love my tent. The tent is equipped with bed, fan, socket and also place to put your cloth and stuff which is really comfortable. There is some challenges though living in a tent at an island. Your tent will be sandy and there is rainwater coming in a little bit if there is strong storm but that not really a problem for me, I can still sleep like a log. The food at TRACC is fine and more than enough. You can even go for the 2nd round. You can also cook your own meals if you want. I’m not really into vegetables but the vegetables cook by Neng is very tasty and delicious. Neng also cook unbelievable tasty pastry too sometime (donuts, cakes and bread). There are days where the food is too vegetarian and I am not used to it but I understand why TRACC makes veggie as part of the normal diet. As the time goes, I kinda get used with food because Neng cook the best food and vegetables!!!. Here at TRACC, the turtle is kinda a big thing and I am very happy to be part of the turtle projects because I gain a lots of knowledge from the projects. The best thing about turtles is the baby turtles release because the turtles look very cute and adorable when they are running to the sea. Moreover, there are so many turtles that I saw while diving which is amazing. In one dive, it is very possible to see at least 1 to 3 turtles. I’m quite proud to be part of the turtle projects. Watching the mother nesting and bring the turtles eggs to the In-situ hatchery. Learning about different kind of turtles and their track pattern when they come up for nesting. The turtle facial ID is also fun thing to do and a new knowledge for me. As a science intern, I was given a mini project to work on. I am very happy to have project on my own and the project that I work on is to the seagrass assessment around Pom Pom island. It was quite tough to do the assessment around the whole island in a short period of time but I got very supportive and helpful science team which make my project even more easier, faster and fun to do. I have learn a lot from the mini project which is I learn about the importance of seagrass, their species and while doing the project I learn more about leadership, teamwork and communication skills. This project that I work on is really important as the seagrass is known as a foraging ground for turtles so by knowing the distribution of the seagrass around Pom Pom, the conservation and the protection of the seagrass habitat can be done. I would really recommend to all people to come at TRACC not matter what their background, age and culture. TRACC is a good place to learn about marine conservation and a great place for diving. You can also meet people from different country, age and background which is amazing because I gain a lot of new knowledge and hear a lots of amazing stories from all this people. There are so many things that can be learn at TRACC which is the coral restoration and identification, fish and invertebrate identification, making and maintain the artificial reef and turtle facial ID. I would really recommend everybody to come and do the conservation work at TRACC because it is really enjoyable and fun. The sunset at TRACC is very beautiful and something that I will enjoy every day and never get bored. Last but not least, I want to give my biggest thanks to TRACC for giving me the opportunity for me to do my internship at TRACC and I am very grateful to be one of the Malaysian sponsored intern at TRACC. The internship at TRACC has sharpen and increase a lots of my skills and has make me grow as a more confident person. I hope that after I finish my internship at TRACC, I would still have the chance to work in the conservation area and be able to protect the ocean more. Thank you again TRACC for the chance and opportunity.
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Date of experience: July 2020
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