Volunteer Blog - Matthew Walker

Arriving on Pulau Tengah Island I instantly knew I’d made the right choice with how to spend my last summer as a student. Aside from the stunning white sand beaches, crystal blue water and beautiful jungle backdrop of the small island I saw upon arrival – I was shortly greeted by some truly kind staff and volunteers thereafter, who welcomed me hospitably. Although I’d had conservation experience in the past, I had been looking forward to developing and broadening my knowledge and skills in the field of marine and terrestrial biology before I left university. As it turns out, I had come to the right place to achieve these goals. After settling into the ‘Ranch’, which is the conservation team’s accommodation, my usual day to day life for the next 10 weeks started.


Every morning, regardless of my morning tasks, I would meet up with the team for a meeting to schedule the day’s events. Usually this would include splitting up the volunteers into groups that would be prescribed certain responsibilities on or around the island for that day, including anything from cleaning rubbish off of the beaches to surveying any of the islands many coral reefs. Throughout the course of the average day, we would work on different projects and ventures of the conservation work, as well as get plenty of time to relax and have time to ourselves. Meals at the canteen would split up our day nicely and were a good way to replenish our energy and meet some of the other staff from the resort. Very often, I would end the day gathered around with the team at the beach or back at the Ranch with a beer in hand watching the sunset.

Over the course of my time on the island with Tengah Island Conservation, there were many projects that I was specifically passionate about. Although I preferred the marine side of things, I enjoyed learning about terrestrial aspects of conservation, which is definitely something I want to continue to develop. Overall, taking part in the construction, transport and implementation of a new coral nursery frame whilst I was there was extremely memorable.

This involved piecing together PVC pipe to form a framework to attach broken or damaged coral onto using cable ties. This particular dive lasted well over an hour and during that time I was privileged enough to work alongside an amazing team of divers and personally aid in the formation of the new nursery. It was great to see 6 or 7 divers all working cohesively around this new nursery in such a confined space without, for the most part, getting in each other’s ways. This alongside many of the other diving projects such as reef mapping, underwater clean ups and fish transects were some of the highlights of my trip. I must also include that my guilty pleasure was beach cleans, always secretly trying to fill more bags than everyone else.

For anyone looking to get involved in a wide range of marine and terrestrial conservation work with a tremendous group of staff in a breathtaking location, Tengah Island Conservation is the place for you. Not only do you get to take part in everything I’ve already mentioned, the work you do is extremely important and every day I would feel exhausted, yet fulfilled. I was able to get involved with so many different aspects of conservation biology and learnt a lot of new and interesting things like the difference between a parrotfish and a wrasse, how to cultivate mangrove propagules, how big Giant Trevally really are, and which food at the canteen was way too spicy! The experience has definitely provided me with a strong ability and desire to work in these environments in the future, and will definitely go a long way on my CV to hopefully land me that dream job. Alongside the involvement with the conservation aspect of Tengah, I’ve taken away a lot of good memories and made some solid friends as well. It was definitely too good not to come back and check in one day but until then, thank you for the experience TIC…