Coral Cay Conservation Expeditions Marine Tropical Jungle Montserrat Philippines
Coral Cay Conservation Expeditions Marine Tropical Jungle Montserrat Philippines


18th March 2019

Looking back at the Millennium!

We are pleased to be able to share a message sent by one of our CCC alumni, Jo, calling on volunteers and staff who might be interested in a 20-year CCC reunion. She even managed to dig up one of our newsletters from April 2000, what a blast from the past! Take it away Jo!


"Calling on volunteers and staff who might be interested in a 20-year reunion for Coral Cay marine and land expedition members in the Philippines, Cagdanao and Negros, and Honduras from the years 1999 to 2000.


I volunteered on Cagdanao Island, off Palawan, Philippines, from October 1999 to January 2000, and am thinking of organising a reunion, depending on how many people show interest.


The venue will probably be London and will be determined by numbers. A potential date is Saturday 12th October 2019."


If you are interested in attending, please email directly and don't forget to share this message across social media to spread the word far and wide!

15th March 2019

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are looking at octopuses (Octopoda) and their awesome ability to squeeze through the tiniest of gaps and also taste what they touch!


Octopuses come in all shapes and sizes but share a common theme of bearing eight limbs. Often they are described as having two 'legs' and six 'arms' because their rear limbs are generally used for walking on the sea floor, with their frontal limbs used for foraging.


The majority of an octopus's body is made of soft tissue which allows even the largest of species (the Giant Pacific Octopus can reach spans of over a metre!) to squeeze through gaps of as little as 1 inch! Their limbs, which are incredibly flexible, consist of longitudinal, transverse and circular muscles around a central axial nerve. Each limb is covered with adhesive suction 'cups' which contain an outer muscle, called an infundibulum, and a central muscle called an acetabulum. When a sucker attaches to a surface the space between the two muscles is sealed and the muscles can then be contracted and relaxed to allow for attachment and detachment. Each suction cup contains chemoreceptors so the octopus can taste what it touches! You can find out more here.


There are lots of videos online showing octopuses' Houdini skills, why not check them out?

9th March 2019

Angus kicks off Saturday science lectures!

Photo courtesy of Project Scientist, Charlie Heney

Here at Coral Cay, we have started the tradition of Saturday evening lectures. A chance for volunteers or staff to make and show a fun presentation on any science they know about or are interested in sharing. Our first Saturday lecture was presented by long term volunteer Angus McReynolds. His lecture topic was about Ocean Chemistry.


Before Angus join us here at Coral Cay he completed his bachelor’s in chemistry at Union college. This was the perfect chance for him to combine his love for chemistry and the coral reefs here into a nice informative talk. The talk focused on what water actually is, its bonding properties, the pH of water and ocean acidification. Angus did an excellent job of breaking down these complicated systems and explaining them in an entertaining way. One fun fact he gave was that pH is done on a logarithmic scale, so the recent decrease in ocean water from a pH of 8.2 to 8.1 is actually a 30% rise in acidity.  It was a laid back, fun and inclusive talk with everyone asking questions and trying to remember their high school chemistry class.


It was so well received that lectures will now become a weekly tradition to finish off the week. Our Field Base Manager has his work cut out for him next Saturday when he will give a talk on microplastics. 

8th March 2019

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are focusing on lobsters (Nephropidae Family) and their seriously strong underbelly!


Looking at the underside of a lobster one would think that the coloured sections of its exoskeleton are the strongest encasing a vulnerable centre panel, but in fact, it has been found that this flexible membrane is incredibly tough.


The membrane is slightly stretchy in order to allow the lobster to maneuver its tail and is a natural hydrogel, composed mostly of water and fibrous Chitin. The team of researchers found that the lobster membrane is the strongest of all natural hydrogels, including collagen, animal skins, and natural rubber, this makes it about as strong as industrial grade rubber used to make car tyres!

This discovery is of great interest to mechanical engineers as it could form a new design guide for flexible body armour on areas such as the elbow or knees.


Check out more details on the paper published in Journal Acta Materialia here. It's so cool to see how much nature has to teach us!

6th March 2019

First footage captured of an Anglerfish breeding pair!

Happy hump day everyone! Today we are sharing some really cool footage of Anglerfish. These marine creatures are a common feature in deep-sea documentaries due to their fantastic use of a mobile bioluminescent esca/illicium to attract prey. In a previous post, we discovered how the much smaller Anglerfish male will literally attach itself to the female in a symbiotic breeding system.


Here you can see the first footage captured of a mated pair, she dwarfs him!

24th February 2019

An Adventure to Taglinao falls

Photo courtesy of CCC volunteer, Roslyn King

This Sunday we decided to go for a little adventure to Taglinao falls.

The day didn’t start quite as we planned, we ended up going to a site that would require 6 hours of hiking to waterfalls. Seen as most of us were only wearing flip flops we decided against it and went to Taglinao instead for a more leisurely 1 hour hike, it was a Sunday after all.

To get there our guide led us through coconut groves, across streams and up a steep muddy hill before descending into a private paradise. With only a few little slips here and there along the way we finally arrived at the beautiful waterfall.

Photo courtesy of CCC FBM, Peter Jones

Everyone jumped in straight away to cool off after our hike. We were soon joined by some locals who showed off their climbing skills and nerves of steel by jumping off the top of the waterfall. After splashing about, climbing under the falls and jumping into the pool, we all enjoyed some snacks in a little lagoon.

On the walk back we were treated to some fresh coconuts that our guide harvested from a tree nearby. Leaving base to try something new is always exciting, but enjoying it with your friends and laughing all the way makes it all the better.

1st March 2019

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Today we are looking at the rather odd looking Red-Lipped/Galapagos Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini). This bottom-dwelling fish has no need for primping as its lips are always a bright, almost fluorescent, red. It's not really known why, but it may play a role in attracting a mate.


That's not the only strange thing about this member of the anglerfish order, as although they can swim they are actually much better at using their pectoral fins as pseudo-legs, and as can be seen in the image below will use them to walk around the sea floor. Just like other anglerfish the batfish uses a lure in the form of an extended section of the dorsal fin, called an illicium, which they can use to attract their next meal, yum! You can read more about the Red-Lipped Batfish here.


Perhaps the most well-known illicium is the one deployed by the deepsea anglerfish (they're awesome but also the stuff of nightmares!) we've covered them in this series before here.

27th February 2019

The sweetest lawnmowers ever!

Photo courtesy of Tristan Brown

During our Head of Operations, Tristan's, recent Philippines visit it was noted that the grass around the base was started to get rather long. Our usual go to are water buffalo but with none available, Tristan, Pete (Field Base Manager), and Dandan (our go to habal habel driver, and CCC friend) headed off to Napantao village to see what other grazers were available. One of our community members was happy to lend us his nanny goat complete with her kid for the task.


The volunteers had already had a pretty good day after experiencing their first Whaleshark sighting, but some of them were almost as excited by the very sweet kid who spent the rest of the day frolicking about the site. That beats a boring strimmer any day!

23rd February 2019

A Community Day at Manglit!

CCC Volunteer, Sally Richards plays games with the children. Photo courtesy of CCC SI, Matthew Bigland.

It was Community Day this past Saturday and it was all hands on deck! This time our team went to Manglit to share the results of our most recent MPA assessment. We received a warm welcome and while Manon (Project Scientist -PS) and Charlie (incoming PS) set up the powerpoint presentation there was a bit of time to play volleyball and basketball with the local kids.


The kids were all ears during Manon’s presentation about the MPA survey. They were especially lively during the quiz which focused on marine plastic, but that could also be because the winner got candy! The presentation moved from talking about further recommendations for the MPA to solutions and then to one of the greatest problems that plague the Philippines, plastic. The Philippines is currently the 3rd largest ocean plastic polluters, and the reefs are paying the price. Manon talked about the benefits of EcoBricking.

Stuart (SO) helping make EcoBricks with the children. Photo courtesy of CCC SO, Jordan Williams.

EcoBricking is the opportunity to repurpose used plastic and turn them into building materials. CCC, with the help of local communities, has been collecting plastic bottles and then packing them full of used plastic to make them into solid building bricks.


The kids showed off their EcoBricking skills after the talk. It quickly turned into an intense competition to see which group could stuff a coke bottle the fastest. They swarmed the bottles and filled three to the brim in 30 minutes when it usually takes on average about one day to fill a bottle.

When it was time to go we were waved off by all the kids! 

22nd February 2019

Happy Freaky Fact Friday!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday everyone! Today we are looking at the Gulper Eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides), or Pelican Eel as it is sometimes called, due to its' loosely hinged jaws that are able to open wide enough to engulf prey much larger than itself.


The eel's stomach can also stretch to fit large meals, but in fact, their diet is usually small crustaceans and their small teeth are better adapted to this sort of prey. Food can be scarce in their deep-sea habitat however so having the ability to eat large prey increases their prey options and they can also use their large mouth like a net when swimming through groups of crustacea.


Check out this video by the Exploration Vessel Nautilus Live in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which captures the moment the eel deflates.

12th February 2019

whaleshark spotted in Manglit!

Whilst surveying in Manglit’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) our team had a special visitor on site. A 5m long whaleshark appeared and was happily feeding and circling the area. CCC team were not aware of the shark until they were about to leave and pass a group of boats whose occupants were all clearly very excited. Upon closer inspection, our local dive master Dodong, quickly confirmed everyone’s suspicion… WHALESHARK!


Our project scientist Manon Broadribb gave a quick briefing on safety in the water around the animal and then one by one everyone climbed down the ladder into the water.


This was the first time all of our present volunteers had ever seen a whaleshark, they couldn’t believe the size of the animal as we watched it come up to the surface countless times to feed. After 15 amazing minutes in the water, we climbed back on the boat while the whaleshark slowly disappeared into the depths.


The MPA in Manglit had already proven to be a very enjoyable site to dive and survey, but this was by far the highlight and will prove to be a favourite memory for our volunteers. What a lucky group we are!

15th February 2019

Happy freaky fact Friday – Sea cucumbers!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday everyone! Today we are looking at the Sea Cucumber, an echinoderm previously thought to be largely sedentary (apart from the Headless Chicken Monster as previously featured, which you can see here. However, new research has found that these creatures can actually travel miles by absorbing large quantities of water, becoming buoyant and letting themselves be carried at the will of the currents. This is an incredibly useful skill as it means that individuals can move away from negative impacts, such as a drop in salinity levels or an increase in sedimentation.


This discovery is very important for conservation efforts as it means that these species will not necessarily remain within Marine Protected Area boundaries as previously thought. Sea cucumbers play a vitally important role in coral reef ecosystems as the natural digestive processes in their "gut increase the pH levels of the water on the reef where they defecate, countering the negative effects of ocean acidification." You can read more about this here.

8th February 2019

happy freaky fact Friday - electric eels!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday everyone! We have a shocking topic for you today, the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus). What's amazing about this species of knifefish is that they can produce an electric shock of around 600 Volts for 2 milliseconds, that's over 2 times the normal house voltage in the UK!


Electric eels produce their voltage via the main, Hunter's, and Sach's organs. These organs are composed of electrocytes, makeup 4/5 of their body mass, and act in a manner like a battery. When an eel discovers its prey a signal is sent through the nervous system to the electrocytes, this opens ion channels through which sodium flows momentarily reversing the polarity, creating a change in electric potential and thereby creating a current.


What's really cool is that they can vary the electrical discharge, using high levels to stun prey, or protect themselves, or alternatively lower levels of around 0.15V which they use for hunting through electrolocation.


Although the charge produced is potentially lethal they are unlikely to prove deadly to human adults as the shock is for such a short duration, too short to produce atrial fibrillation - although we wouldn't recommend testing it out!


Read more here.

4th February 2019

20 years of outstanding service!

We are delighted to have been recognised by PADI for 20 Years of Outstanding Service!


We may do the admin here but it's our on-site staff who work so hard to provide our volunteers with such wonderful memories, so thank you!

Working in partnership with PADI our staff members have taken 1000s of people through dive training, and we can't wait to welcome even more students and introduce them to the wonders of the underwater world! Thank you PADI!

26th January 2019

Nueva Estrella Norte Community Day

On Saturday 26th of January, CCC returned to Nueva Estrella Norte (NEN) to conduct a community day, a follow-up to the recent survey efforts on the barangay’s reef as an impact site from this year’s BACI protocol. The community day was nearly canceled when the group arrived because strong winds had caused a power cut in the community, raising concerns on whether or not we would be able to set-up our projector. Fortunately, it did not need the power to operate and we were able to proceed with our presentation!


NEN’s MPA was established 3 years ago and has now been revisited in order to assess how/if the reef has improved due to the establishment of an MPA. About eight members of the community, all of which were members of the barangay council, were present for the presentation and a group of about ten students showed up just in time for the quiz. Since CCC has visited NEN before the discussion lead by Project Scientist, Manon Broadribb, focused not only on what an MPA is and how it draws on the community for success but also on the effects of plastic waste in the environment and how this can be managed. The community were very engaged and asked a lot of questions about the success of their MPA, and how to improve this. 

At this point our projector died (since replaced), so Manon passed on her presentation to volunteers Sian Humphryes and Angus McReynolds to lead everyone in a plastic-themed quiz! The two did their best to get kids from the community engaged and to remember the questions from their quiz. Special thanks to our Scholar, Karla Ceguerra, for translating both the presentation and the quiz for everyone!


After finishing the quiz and appropriately gifting candy to those who participated, everyone joined in on an EcoBrick workshop! One local solution comes in the form of an EcoBrick. By collecting and shredding select plastic waste items one can tightly pack and fill plastic bottles. By collecting enough plastic-filled bottles it is possible to use them as blocks to construct various designs, including: chairs and tables, staircases, and other structures that can be found online. All the kids got involved and, in spite of the power cut, it turned out to be a very successful, enjoyable morning! 

January 2018

Welcoming three New dive Extraordinaires into the Fold!

Meet three of our latest volunteers, Ed, Sian and Steph. They all arrived on base after a long journey from home, two from the UK and one from Australia. But after a few early nights, the girls were ready to begin their Open Water dive training.

Ed is from Manchester and will be joining us for 3 months, as well as the Skills Development Programme he is going to undertake Divemaster training. He was already a qualified OW diver so during his first couple of days on site he got to have a sneaky peak of our house reef and go on some fun dives, he also collected data for Coral Watch surveys. When he went on his first fun dive he reported back on some of the creatures he saw. Unfortunately, no one could decipher his descriptions which included a “wiggly thing” (Giant clam), a “wavy thing” (Cuttlefish) and a “twitchy thing” (Mantis shrimp). Don’t worry, Ed can now identify over 30 different types of substrates, 33 different types of invertebrate species and families and over 40 different types of fish species and families! 

From L - R - Sian, Steph and Ed, take a break on the sea wall

Sian and Step were both naturals under the water and gave their absolute all to each lesson. Sian is a bubbly character from Essex and couldn’t wait to tell us all about the fish she saw on her first confined dive. Steph, the most relaxed Aussie you will ever meet, was also blown away by the variety of fish living on our doorstep. Both girls only got a little distracted by fish, which is to be expected when crescent wrasse show off their acrobatic skills right in front of you.

Day one of Open Water training consisted of the girls testing out breathing through regulators and slowly learning all the basic skills. Day two was more practice in confined conditions and then nailing their written exam. Day three was an exciting moment for the girls, they would now be moving out into open water conditions to carry on practicing their skills and building their confidence underwater. Finally, day four, repeating all the skills they had learned so far but in open water. Steph and Sian did an amazing job and everyone on base was very pleased to welcome two new divers into the family.


So now it was time to become Advanced Open Water divers. This consisted of more specialised skills which would greatly benefit them during their skills development training. This included deep diving (past 18 meters), navigation skills, wildlife identification skills and perfecting their buoyancy.


Learning to dive is always a memorable experience, but here are some standout moments from the group:

 - Sian was joined by a Cuttlefish on her navigation dive, her first ever sighting of the curious cephalopod! Unfortunately, he didn’t point Sian in the right direction but no matter, she passed all on her own.

 - For Steph during her second Open Water dive she came face to face with a beautiful little hawksbill turtle. Luckily the turtles here are quite used to us diving on the reef so frequently and are more than happy to carry on foraging while we swim past them.

 - And finally Ed, during the Advanced Open Water deep dive his instructor Manon took an egg and cracked it at depth to demonstrate the change in pressure. He was fascinated to see that the yolk remained intact and bobbed around the water instead of dispersing into fish food.


Well done guys, we’re all immensely proud of you here at Coral Cay Conservation!

30th January 2019

farewell gareth!

We are taking the opportunity to say farewell to our Field Base Manager, Gareth Turner, who will be leaving the Philippines site very shortly. Gareth first joined us as an Expedition Management Intern in 2016, and since then has led teams of staff, volunteers and scholars to great success in Montserrat and the Philippines.


Gareth, you will be greatly missed and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Your new staff team, wherever that may be will be lucky to have you!

25th January 2019

happy freaky fact Friday - Hermit crabs!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday everyone! Many of us remember learning about hermit crabs (superfamily: Paguroidea) as children, these crustaceans are the quintessential scavenger hunting out shells which are large enough to allow them to retract their whole bodies inside and protect their curved, soft abdomens. Mollusc shells are a popular choice but in fact, some species will also use hollowed out stone or wood (or plastic).


Today's focus is a newly discovered species Diogenes heteropsammicola, so called because it has gone one step further and has established a reciprocal relationship with Heteropsammia corals. Heteropsammia are known as 'walking' corals as they are not fixed to the substrate. This particular species of hermit crab use these corals as a house, and in return for the protection offered the crab provides transportation and prevents the coral from being smothered with sediment. What's really cool about this relationship is that the coral grows alongside the crab meaning that it avoids the constant struggle to find larger and larger shells, awesome! Learn more here.


Incidentally, naked hermit crabs are fascinating to view (if you're that way inclined, we don't judge. Scientists have provided study subjects with glass shells through which we can view their anatomy, check this out here.

23rd January 2019

Importance of gender when undertaking marine conservation actions

Women and men throughout the world tend to use coastal resources very differently, in the past fisheries have been viewed as a male domain, however, women actually comprise half of the total fisheries workforce worldwide. By not taking into account the impact they have, management decisions are being made with only half the information, something which is likely to influence the success of these decisions and underestimate the impact on the local community.


This is a fascinating article exploring the importance of considering gender when undertaking marine conservation actions.

18th January 2019

happy freaky fact Friday - starfish!

Happy Freaky Fact Friday all! Today we are looking at the unique traits that make Sea Stars such interesting echinoderms. Sea stars can be characterized by their radial symmetry, but they also have a unique water-based circulatory system which allows them to transport food, water, nutrients and gases along the outside of their bodies. This ability is also how they move as they fill and empty their podia (hydraulic tube 'feet') to push themselves along. What's really cool and unique is that these species have evolved so that their circulatory system is open to the outside via the madreporite (sieve plate), the darker area on the upper surface of most sea stars.


This process of locomotion was thought to be random but research has recently shown that if startled they can actually fill their podia in sync, with one third 'stepping forward' whilst the rest 'push off' in order to allow them to bounce along, much faster than their normal crawl. Sea stars may not be the fastest of marine creatures but this is basically them breaking out into a sprint (relatively speaking)!


Why not watch a video here, and you can read more about their vascular system here.

16th January 2019

The Parley snotbot!

Drones have proven to be a real gift for videographers allowing them to collect the most amazing footage of nature in its element. Here we see a seriously inventive and non-invasive way to use this modern technology to gain data!


Iain Kerr, whale researcher and CEO of the Ocean Alliance worked with students at the Olin College of Engineering to create the 'Parley SnotBot', "a drone that could be launched from a research vessel, hover over a whale, and collect its blow" thereby allowing the researchers to collect data on the whale's DNA and hormones, in addition to collecting high res photos of the whale. This is of huge benefit to this area of research where the only alternative is a rather hit and miss procedure of tracking the whale and attempting to take biopsies using darts for the seconds when they are at the surface before they dive, sometimes not to be seen again for 90 minutes! Read more about their work here and there's some brilliant footage of the drone here .


It's so cool to see modern technology being used to further our understanding of the natural world!

11th January 2019

Happy Freaky Fact Friday - Narwhals!

Today we are looking at the unicorns of the sea, Narwhals (Monodon monoceros).


The male (and 15% of females) of these toothed-whales is easily distinguished by the elongated upper left canine which protrudes from the front of their domed head. Weirdly, it is built in the complete opposite structure to teeth in other animals, in that it is soft on the outside and gets progressively harder as you get closer to the middle.


This tusk has proven to be a source of great controversy in the science world as no one as yet has proven what it is for. Theories abound but just a few are -


  • That the whale can use it like an inexpertly wielded chopstick, stabbing at its prey
  • That it is used as a weapon against fellow narwhals in disputes
  • That it acts as a sign of fecundity just like the antlers of a stag

In recent studies, it has been found that the tusk can sense changes in salinity suggesting it plays a role in environmental detection. Whatever it is for I think we can all agree that it looks awesome, and no matter how many times we see them on tv they still don't look quite real! Why not read more about the theory here.

9th January 2019

ICRI's overview of the harmful effects of sunscreen

You may remember back in August 2018 we posted a blog about choosing sunscreen responsibly, you can find the post here.


For your next step why not check out the review here which was produced by the International Coral Reef Initiative for International Year Of the Reef 2018, it's a fantastic overview of the harm that chemicals in sunscreen pose to coral reefs, suggests aspects of study that would benefit from further research and offers suggestions for the next steps in how we can tackle this crisis. A fascinating read!

4th January 2019

Happy freaky fact friday - Headless chicken monster!

Today we are looking at the rather interestingly nicknamed 'Headless Chicken Monster' (Enypniastes eximia), check out the video below captured by the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP) led by the Australian Antarctic Division and we think you'll see why!


This species was originally only seen in the Gulf of Mexico but last year was filmed in the Southern Ocean of East Antarctica. AAP used a new and very robust camera system, which attaches to commercial longline fishing gear, to gather information for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).


It may look like a jellyfish but it is actually a genus of a deep-sea cucumber, and unlike other largely sedentary sea cucumbers, only descends to the seafloor to feed. This ability to swim, as far as 1000m into the water column, allows them to avoid predators and move to new feeding grounds. They feed extremely quickly generally staying a maximum of 64 seconds on the seafloor, now that's one terrible dinner guest!

28th December 2018

Happy Freaky fact friday - candy cane shrimp!

A Christmas inspired Freaky Fact Friday for you this month! Alpheus randalli is a species of snapping shrimp (so-called because the larger of their asymmetrical claws can produce a snapping sound on closing) known for its vivid red stripes, which has earned it the moniker of Candy Cane Shrimp!


Forget your vaguely one-sided Rudolph relationship, these shrimp share a truly symbiotic relationship with goby fish. The fish shares the home burrow dug by the shrimp and in return, offers protection to the mostly blind shrimp, alerting it to any predators that come by. If both leave the burrow the shrimp will maintain contact via its antennae, ready to retreat back into the burrow if the fish signals that danger has been detected.

You can read more here, and watch a video here.

14th December 2018

CCC Project Scientist Speaks at the 2nd Annual MPA Congress!

Manon receives her certificate of participation

Last week our Project Scientist, Manon Broadwick, was invited to speak at the Second Annual Marine Protected Area (MPA) Congress of the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte (PGSL), by Hon. Eva Abad, Head of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Management Office (PENRMO). Manon was to give a presentation on the work that Coral Cay are doing in Southern Leyte and the importance of biophysical assessments in the implementation of MPAs, along with some tips on how best to effectively manage small scale, community managed MPAs. Angus, Minerva Fellowship candidate and volunteer with CCC, was lucky enough to be able to come along to watch.


The day began with Hon. Eva Abad giving an introductory talk, which focused on three main points: the importance of Barangays in nation building, how best to influence communities to volunteer their time in order to improve their MPAs, and the fact that MPA management and improvement in conservation cannot happen overnight. She spoke of the need for support, unity, and transparency of governments at all levels being vital for success, and the need for cooperation in order to build a better future and common welfare. She then went on to talk about climate change and its potential impacts in the Philippines.


Sir Armando Gaviola of PENRMO was up next. He spoke on the aims of the Congress: to know the status and ratings of all MPAs in Southern Leyte, to give technical assistance to govern these MPAs, and to improve overall management in order to conserve marine and coastal resources. A speaker from the department of environment and natural resources (DENR) then fielded questions, ranging from the dumping of waste materials into MPAs, to requests for mooring lines and marker buoys. 

After a quick break for lunch and a chat, it was Manon’s turn to speak! After giving a brief introduction on the work of CCC in the Philippines all the way from 1995 to the present, Manon went on to speak about the importance of coral reefs and their conservation value in the Philippines due to it being part of the coral triangle. What MPAs are and why they are important was the next topic, which led onto CCC’s current work helping to assess and advise on the placement of MPAs. Manon used Napantao, the MPA in front of our field base, as a case study on how small-scale, community managed MPAs work. She ended with some information on how best to manage MPAs, mainly focusing on the importance of the involvement of the local community.


The day ended with a talk about the MPA at Macrahon, Maasin, one of the best rated in the whole of the Philippines, followed by a Q&A session, with barangay officials asking how best to implement effective law enforcement, how to collect fines, who these should go to and how to request biophysical assessments from CCC. Finally, there was a ceremony giving certificates of participation (one of which was given to Manon), and awards for the best rated MPAs in Southern Leyte. Overall, it was a really interesting day for Manon. She said she learned a lot and was especially impressed with the passion and enthusiasm shown by every level of government, from provincial down to barangay, who aim to work together to conserve the natural beauty and resources of the marine life here in Southern Leyte.   

14th December 2018

Happy Freaky Fact Friday - seashorses!

With Christmas coming soon conversations have turned to the questions, what makes a quintessential Christmas dinner, and how much is too much? Of course, the answer to the latter is any sprouts at all!


Seahorses (Hippocampus) however are one species which will never have to consider this because they must eat almost constantly to stay alive. The reason for this is that they have no stomach so the food they eat passes incredibly quickly through their simple digestive system, leaving little time for them to absorb the required nutrients. Seahorses also have no teeth so they swallow their food whole, using their snout like a vacuum cleaner. Don't be tempted to do that at your work Christmas do! You can read more interesting facts about seahorses here.

13th December 2018

Enjoying a Plastic-Free Christmas!

Some great ideas here to get you started on enjoying a plastic-free Christmas this year. The idea of using natural alternatives, such as holly and pine branches sounds great in theory, but for those of us who are creatively challenged the result may not live up to expectations. Still, drink enough mulled wine and eggnog and no one will be in a position to notice!

12th December 2018

CCC Head of Science Attends the 33rd Annual International Coral Reef Initiative

Credit: M. Dagnino – Musée océanographique de Monaco


Our Head of Science, Tom Dallison, recently attended the 33rd Annual International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) General meeting in Monaco. The ICRI is an informal partnership between Nations and organisations which strives to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems around the world. These meetings offer a fantastic opportunity for all those attending to learn from each other and play a part in the preservation of our natural world.

Tom with Claire Rumsey, International Year of the Reef 2018 Coordinator at ICRI. Credit: Cedric Fruneau

During the meeting subjects discussed were:

1. Promoting effective and adaptable solutions to improve the protection of coral reefs.
2. Understanding the trends of coral reefs focusing on global and regional trends as well as ensuring capacity is being built to enable further monitoring.
3. The Live Reef Fish Food Trade - championed by Indonesia
4. Helping to reduce anthropogenic threats to coral reefs.


We'll be sure to share the outcomes from the meeting when they become available.

Credit: Cedric Fruneau

11th December 2018

Whale Sharks Spotted in Sogod Bay!

Ricky on the lookout for Whale Shark – Photo by Gareth Turner

As we had managed to complete our final survey site (Nueva Estrella Norte) with a day to spare before our boat was due to come out of the water for its annual repairs, it was suggested by one of our Boat Captains, Ricky, that we should use the boat one last time in 2018 to go out and look for Whale Sharks in an area called Tabagon, just north of Liloan in Sogod Bay.


After a temporary change of plan on the day due to heavy rain in the morning, we all set out with a pump boat in tow to see if Ricky’s vibes were right.  Ricky kept a vigilant look out from the front of the boat and after one initial brief but non-fruitful shout en route, we arrived at Tabugon with perfect spotting conditions so all set their eyes onto the water movements around us.  

One of the 4 confirmed individual Whale Sharks swimming below the team – Photo by Gareth Turner

After only about 10 minutes wait, the call was sounded and the boat captains instructed everyone to enter the water with their snorkel gear and head for a spot in the water where they had seen some interesting movement.  The problem with trying to track creatures as big as whale sharks is that they can move pretty quick with just a lazy swish of their tail, so it took a bit more searching with faces in and out of the water until the snorkelers were joined by not 1, or 2 but 3 individual fish circling about 4 metres below them.  The visibility in the water wasn’t great due to it being full of whale shark food (naturally occurring) and the snorkelers received a few stings from a few mini jellyfish etc. while they floated around but they all said it was totally worth it to spend time with these beautiful creatures.  The sharks varied in size from approx. 3.5 to 5 metres and it looked like most of them were female (due to the absence of claspers below the base of their tail fin). 

Whale Shark surface swim by - Photo by CCC volunteer, Jemima Olorenshaw

The snorkelers then split into groups, some got back onto the main boat to watch from above, some took a ride with Ricky on the pump boat and the rest stayed in the water so everyone enjoyed a different angle of this experience, which for most of the snorkelers was the first time seeing or being in the water with these creatures.  They were extremely amped by the whole thing, and to see that many in one area made it a bonus for all. 


We estimated that there actually may have been 5 individual sharks with us that day due to the surface sightings but we certainly caught 4 on camera.


Once back on site everyone said that it was a truly memorable way to spend their last day on site and out on the boat. 

8th December 2018

An Early Christmas Celebration!

Christmas has arrived early at Coral Cay. All the staff and local families were in high spirits Saturday night after our field base manager Gareth kindly arranged a Christmas staff party.

Buddy checks on the boat before jumping in – Photo by Jordan Williams





We kicked the day off with all hands on deck to clean and prepare the house, before jumping in the water for a dive on the house reef. 

Big smiles from Dan Dan, Ricky and the boys – Photo Gareth Turner



Once all of the guests arrived it was time for karaoke. Everyone took in turns to sing some festive songs, even if some needed a little more encouragement then others. We had a combination of western classics such as ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Deck the halls’ and also Filipino favorites like ‘Ang Pasko ay Sumapit’ and ‘Pasko Na Sinta Ko’. 

Jemima (volunteer), Manon (Project Scientist) and Coral – Photo by Jordan Williams

Gareth had been busy shopping in the morning for party snacks, and on top of that our wonderful cook Pedang had also prepared a buffet including a chocolate cake. We’re still trying to finish the cake.


Even Coral and Shrimp joined in and were seen sporting some antlers.


A huge thank you and Merry Christmas to everyone who attended that party, and an even bigger thank you to Gareth for organising a fun-filled night!

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