Sighting, stories, reviews, and experiences from the diving and snorkeling volunteers with TRACC.


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Week of extreme training

Finding a way to carry a person out of the water

This week the TRACC camp has been dominated by advanced training with 3 courses taking place throughout the week. These were the EFR (Emergency First Response) the rescue and the dive master courses. The TRACC Tech diver Iena has been kept extremely busy but so have most of the other members of the TRACC team who have been acting as either people needing rescue or people being hysterical because they know someone needs rescue. Of course it was all acting and nobody actually was in distress but the acting was very authentic and anyone walking past would have been forgiven for being a little confused about the all the action. 

Working as a team

It was very interesting to see what some of these courses entailed and I have nothing but respect for the people who managed to complete them. 

The final scenario 
During the week people have been working through a number of rescue and EFR scenarios. As the week progressed the scenarios got increasingly more manic, as the scenarios got more creative and the actors improved their improvisation until the scenarios became all but real. The final scenario can only be described as pandemonium. I had to marvel at how dive master Alessio held it together while trying to resuscitate a dummy while surrounded by people yelling at him that he was doing it wrong, pushing him and generally trying to distract him. I’m sure it must represent what first response people must sometimes have to go through being first on the scene with distraught friends and family surrounding a victim.

Helen and Alessio realising they are now dive masters

Last night was a bit of a celebration for the outstanding performance of those people completing courses throughout the week and in particular a celebration of Helen and Alessio who became dive masters. Alessio will stay on at TRACC for a few months now as one of the resident dive masters and will help support Katie the TRACC diving instructor. 


Week 1 in paradise for a new media intern.

Well it’s been approximately one week since I arrived at the beautiful tropical Pom Pom island to help out as part of the Tracc program. So today I must ignore the lure of the water, the call of the marine world just a short walk across the sand.  Tracc is a very special destination for many reasons, the camaraderie, scenery, diving, snorkelling and the great food. However one thing above all sets TRACC (Tropical Research And Conservation Centre) above any other holiday destination I could think of. At best when we go to a reef resort all we can hope for is to have zero negative impact on the marine environment. This includes not touching the bottom, wearing marine friendly sun screen, and removing all rubbish. TRACC takes zero impact one step further by it’s visitors having a positive impact on the marine environment. It’s always great to see a turtle relaxing on the sea floor but it’s that extra bit special when you see the turtle sitting amongst a part of the reef which the team has restored.

I can’t talk first hand on what it’s like to take part in one of the work teams placing blocks on the sea floor as I don’t have my open water certification. I can see that working as a team of divers placing blocks would be pretty good fun and make the dive that extra bit interesting. Not to mention the satisfaction you would get in seeing the marine life revelling in a playground you helped create. 

 Left: Coming to collect some blocks to take out to the reef.

Right: Crew  collecting samples to be planted back on the sea floor. 

Above: Kit demonstrating how the blocks will sit on the sea floor

What I can talk about is what it’s like to learn to dive at TRACC as I’m currently working through my PADI open water course. Most of the current team here at TRACC are certified to dive at various levels. This might be a little awkward for pretty much the only none diver here but it’s quite the opposite. There is no aloofness from team only legitimate interest in how my course is progressing which under the experienced eye of my instructor Katie all the way out from California is progressing well. Katie doesn’t mention it but I know I’ve thrown the occasional curve ball in there when we are underwater but she is always right there in the blink of eye if something doesn’t go as planned. 

Dive Instructor Katie

In the meantime while I work through my open water there is always snorkelling. I love snorkelling over the sections of reef which the TRACC team have created as there is always so much more marine life there. There is a slight current running right to left as I look out to sea so I walk along the beach to the right and let the current drift me back to camp. It’s so bewitching drifting along the reef as the aquatic life pass by that quite often there is no other option than to walk back up the beach and do it again. In fact as there is so much diving going on at TRACC, the shallower reefs are a snorkelers dream as I quite often have the entire shallow reef to myself. 

A Snorkelers view of divers below. 


An incredible intern experience

On Monday I finally had to bid TRACC farewell. It was about the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to do. My days at TRACC have been some of my happiest and I am so incredibly greatful for the opportunity to be the social media intern at TRACC this summer.

The diving was unreal, and I feel so privileged to have been able to develop my relationship with our underwater world. I went from 8 dives to 85, and became certified as an advanced diver. My diving skills improved so much over this time. Under the awesome instruction of Gov, I learnt a huge amount about my buoyancy, navigation, and recovery of objects in the ocean. I was then able to use those skills in my conservation work- collecting and planting corals and sea fans, dropping artificial reefs, and conducting surveys and mapping underwater, and then passing on my newfound knowledge onto others.

I learnt about the marine ecosystems around Pom Pom, and was able to identify species and learn about the part they play in the ocean. If I ever had a question about science, I was able to immediately pick the minds of our talented science officers or interns and learn. I also learnt about the social aspects of marine conservation, and the issues facing local people- particularly the Bajau people from Kulapuan.

The greatest part about my time at TRACC has been the people. TRACC is a melting pot of cultures, all so different, but with similar ideas about the important responsibility we have to preserve our beautiful environment. I have made lifelong friends with people from all over the world, who beautifully all ended up stranded together on the desert island of Pom Pom.

I will not forget: Tent life, sandfly bites, rashy tan lines, naked final dive, grilled cheese late at night, sweaty Semporna shopping trips, late night girl talks, Jo's dance moves, ABC party, Allia's hugs, early morning dives, Aisyah's talks, Nathan's sass, Christmas diarrhoea, playing hearts while diving, Bohey Dulang views, Lilly's Cackle,  dance partys on the Jetty, noodles and rice, Gino <3, finding pant legs with Cam, Hallelujah camp fires, Diniy and the trigger fish, Bujaaaaannngggg, the tooth brushing station, Australia Day, and so much more.

Thank you to each and every staff member, intern and volunteer at TRACC for your passion, willingness to share and learn, dedication to tracc and all it stands for, and most of all for your friendship. I hope our paths will cross in the very near future. Most of all thank you to Steve Oakley for creating something magical. I only managed to meet you for three short days, but be assured your legacy is shining bright on Pom Pom.


Local staff at TRACC

Day to day life at TRACC is only made possible by the dedication and help of our incredible local staff. They are behind the scenes cooking, cleaning, filling our tanks, building, and maintaining our camp. We are so greatful for all that they do for us, and are proud to employ local to ensure money is going into the local economy to support local families. I had a chat to a few of our staff about their jobs and why they like working at TRACC.

Pak cik has been was TRACC since March 2016 as our boatman. He always has a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. This is his first job as a boatman for an organisation, but he has been driving boats for years. He knows the oceans in the area very well and keeps us safe on the water.

Miti has been with TRACC since 2011 as a boatman. He likes TRACC because it is close to his home island. TRACC also allows him to spend time with his family on his day off, which is not possible working at a resort.

Welman has been with us since 2013. He is our general all round camp go-to guy. He is a landscaper, boatman, and fix it man. He likes TRACC for its good environment, good wage, and friendly volunteers.

Jomoh has been filling and working on our tanks for the past 8 months. He used to work in a resort but prefers TRACC for its more positive work environment.

Dino has been at TRACC from the beginning. He met Steve a long time ago when an aquarium was being built in KK, and has been an invaluable part of TRACC since then, overseeing local staff and getting things done. He likes TRACC because he believes in the conservation, the people and the island life environment.

Kyryl had been at TRACC for four years. He was our compressor guy for three years, and now is a general maintenance guy. He likes TRACC because he can learn English, and because he feels happy and laughs here everyday. Oh and for the ladies (😂)

Neng has been a cook here for seven months. Cooking has always been a hobby of hers, so she is happy doing it here. She likes TRACC for the happy people she would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet. Her favourite food is kek batik.

Rasma has cooked at TRACC for 4 years, and was based in Semporna before this. She likes to cook for volunteers and loves everything she cooks.

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