Benjamin Jack BSc
Field Base Manager
Ben has been working on research, conservation and community engagement projects for over 8 years and is really excited to be part of the Coral Cay team! Ben’s been passionate about the marine environment since he learnt to dive as a 17-year-old and has been fortunate enough to work on lots of projects in this field, including exploring coral resilience in the Seychelles, mangrove ecosystem services in Kenya and shark habitat requirements in Belize. His professional background is based in Oxford in the UK, developing and delivering international programmes for a non-profit organisation which supports scientific field research. This role includes responsibilities for field safety and incident management, and Ben holds a number of relevant qualifications including Explorer and Exploration Medicine, Offsite Safety Management and Scuba Technician. Ben’s academic background mixes social sciences and environmental conservation, and he is really interested in how strong science and people come together to deliver meaningful conservation action. Ben can’t wait to meet you in the Philippines!
Nelson Espinas (‘Tata’)
Tata began his work with Coral Cay by providing lunch to volunteers visiting his hometown restaurant in Malitbog. Coral Cay loved his cooking so much that he was offered a position full time and has now been with us for over a decade, cooking up a splendour twice a day! He will introduce you to all the Filipino classics like pork adobo, chicken halang halang, tuna kinalaw (caught by local fishermen), fresh squid from the local market, fried aubergine, and many more! He has no problem cooking a grand feast. Look out for his mango floats the richest most indulgent treat you will ever encounter! You can catch him singing Bon Jovi 'Always' and Bryan Adams classics in the kitchen. Tata also loves a good gossip, and will tell you all sorts of fascinating stories about the past adventures of previous volunteers. He is also a great person to talk to about local fiestas, as he loves to join the volunteers when we are invited out to discos. He can whip up spring rolls for 30 people in ten minutes and his pancakes are simply to die for!
Richard Bongot ('Bok Bok')
Boat Captain, Carpenter & Handyman
Bok Bok has been with us since 2003; his nickname means 'termite pulp'. Bok Bok mans our boat Banakun and keeps her shipshape; he is also a carpenter extraordinaire. He worked as a painter in Manila for some years before moving back to Thomas Oppus, Southern Leyte with his wife and children, and began working with Coral Cay. With an absolutely winning smile, and a hilarious personality he keeps the local staff chuckling all the time. If you get involved in the basketball games on site, you'll want him on your team, he is dynamite!
Jesse Lou Tinapay
Community Liaison Officer and Scuba Instructor
Jesse is our Community Liaison Office which means he is our gateway into the local communities around Sogod Bay as well as the schools where he runs our Sea Star programme, educating the kids on Coral Reefs, their resident lifeforms and the importance of protecting them. He is also a qualified Dive Instructor completing over 2800 dives with the vast majority on the Napantao House Reef right on the site’s door step. This means he provides an invaluable wealth of knowledge to everyone who dives with us here. If you want to see the elusive Mandarin fish then Jesse is your man as he always manages to spot them! Furthermore, if you like nudibranchs then Jesse will find you a 2mm Hypselodoris and will have the full species name written on his slate in Latin before you have even realised it’s not a piece of algae!
Ricky joined us in May 2010 and has quickly made himself invaluable. He is our official deck hand on the boat, but you’ll often find him helping in the kitchen too, as well as being able to replace doors, windows, and sort out electrical problems. He is a PADI Rescue diver and uses his skills regularly to dive off the boat, with flip flops and no mask, to rescue items that people have dropped over the side! He can also fix most things just by looking at them!
Jose Ydel (Dudong)
Compressor Operator and groundsman
Jose "Dudong" Ydel is our compressor operator and general groundsman. He has been a local snorkel guide in the area of Napantao for many years now, and has a keen interest in conservation of the local marine environment. He is currently a PADI Divemaster. In his spare time he enjoys artisan coconut wood carving, and is responsible for many of the necklasses and wooden hangings seen on base.
Felipé was born in Venezuela, where he spent most of his childhood enjoying the waters of the Caribbean and its marine life. Later, he moved to Spain and started studying a degree on Environmental Science, his passion for marine life made him move to Scotland and start an MSc in Marine Systems and Policies. During Felipe’s career he had the opportunity to work in stunning places like Barcelona, Menorca or Maldives, and his academic research was focused on the impact of eco-tourism on whale sharks. After completing his MSc thesis he was able to go back to the Maldives again and spend some time helping with a whale shark research program, where he was able to learn about different underwater surveying techniques.
A geographer by training, Sarah has a broad range of environmental interests which extend far beyond flags and capital cities. Her love of people and of knowledge saw her become a secondary school geography teacher for five whole years, of which she loved almost every minute - she could probably have done without the marking! However, her thirst for new challenges lead her to undertake an MSc last year in environmental philosophy and politics, writing a thesis concerning the perception of wild animals in urban space.
She has a practical side to her as well though, and upon first hearing about Coral Cay Conservation on a Radio 4 call-in, she immediately signed up to volunteer with them in Cambodia back in summer 2014. She was (metaphorically) hooked. Being given the opportunity to combine her long-standing passions for coral reefs, environmental action, and education in her role as Science Officer in the Philippines is a dream come true for Sarah. Having previously volunteered for CCC, Sarah has a great deal of respect for this organisation and its mission, and she hopes that her enthusiasm and experience will help make the project as effective and as enjoyable as it can be.
Pippa first left the UK more permanently to travel South America, and took her first ever SCUBA dive in Colombia. Within less than a year she had completed her Instructor training in Mexico. With a BA in Anthropology, she has always been interested in working and living within communities during her travels, and SCUBA diving was originally a platform to do this, but grew in to a passion and fascination for the world below the surface. Her most recent position was working as an instructor in Maldives, but she now wishes to expand her knowledge and experience in to the field of research, conservation and education. Pippa believes that joining Coral Cay as an instructor will allow her to use and pass on her current knowledge, expertise and skills, and also gain valuable experience before starting her Masters in Tropical Marine Biology later this year.
Shrimp (aka King Prawn)
Shrimp arrived here in the middle of 2015, and serves as the base guard dog. He takes his job very seriously and has been known to bark at leaves and coconuts that venture too close to the building. What he lacks intelligence, he makes up for in charisma and is well loved by the staff and volunteers on site.
Coral (aka Corallimorph, Coral the Destroyer, Coral the Vacuum)
Coral arrived on base at the end of last year. She was originally from Tacloban, where she heard about a position for an assistant guard dog. She applied for it by urinating on the Field Base Manager as he was interviewing other potential puppies for the position. The FBM admired her confidence and offered her the job. Her duties include either destroying or eating anything found within her boundary of the base (depending on the nutritional value of the item in question).