Expedition Options

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Expedition 1 – Jungle training, biodiversity surveys, dive training and marine research

Start date: 27th June
Expedition length: 6 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial, 4 weeks marine)

There is limited space available on this project

You will spend your first two weeks completing jungle training and assisting with research teams (IN001 & IN002). You then choose to spend the next 4 weeks on Hoga island. Here you can learn to dive, complete the reef survey techniques course (IN005/07/08) and, time allowing, assist with data collection in the research assistant pool IN011.

Expeditions 2 & 3 – Jungle training, biodiversity surveys and diving

Start date expedition 2: 27th June
Start date expedition 3: 11th July
Expedition length: 4 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial, 2 weeks marine)

There is limited space available on expeditions 2 and 3

You will spend your first two weeks completing jungle training and assisting with research teams (IN001 & IN002). You then spend your next 2 weeks on Hoga island. Here you can learn to dive, complete the reef survey techniques course (IN005/07/08) and, time allowing, assist with data collection in the research assistant pool IN011.

Expedition 4 – Jungle training and biodiversity surveys

Start date expedition 4: 18th July 
Expedition length: 2 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial)

This expedition is designed to give you a brief overview of what a field research site is like. You will complete IN001 and IN002.

Expedition 5 – Jungle training and avifauna biodiversity assessments on mainland Sulawesi and surrounding offshore islands

Start date expedition 5: 20th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (4 weeks terrestrial)

There is limited space available on this project

After completing IN001 you will visit the mainland of Sulawesi, Muna Island and Wowoni Island IN003. There is no expedition similar to this project available at any other Opwall site. You will be involved with transect surveys for birds, estimating food resources for birds on different islands, mist netting and recording songscapes.

Expedition 6 – Jungle training and rapid biodiversity assessment of northwest Buton

Start date expedition 6: 27th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (4 weeks terrestrial) 

After completing jungle training IN001, you will then move to the remote forests of north Buton Island and be working with the rapid biodiversity assessment team IN004. This expedition is for those who want a remote forest experience and offers the chance of being on a team that discovers new species to science or new records.

Expeditions 7, 9, 12, 13, 14 & 15 – Diving, species identification training and marine research

Start date expedition 7 (Hoga) & 12 (Bau Bau): 20th June (4 weeks)

Start date expedition 9 (Hoga) & 13 (Bau Bau): 11th July (4 weeks)  

There is limited space available on expedition 12

Expedition 13 has a waiting list

Start date expedition 14 (Hoga): 13th June (8 weeks)

Start date expedition 15 (Hoga): 27th June (6 weeks)

Expedition length: 4, 6 or 8 weeks marine                                                                      

These expeditions are the ideal way to achieve a high level of research experience at a marine base, giving you 4, 6 or 8 weeks working alongside leading scientists. You will have the opportunity to learn to dive and complete the reef survey techniques course (IN005/06/07/08/09/10). Following this you can then assist the various research teams IN012 (4 weeks) or IN011 (4, 6 & 8 weeks).

Expeditions 8 & 10 – Diving, species identification training

Start date expedition 8: 20th June
Start date expedition 10: 11th July
Expedition length: 2 weeks marine                                                                                        

On this expedition you can learn to dive and complete the reef survey techniques course (IN005/07/08). If you are already a qualified diver or opt to snorkel rather than dive you will be able to assist researchers IN011.

Expedition 11 – Divemaster training

Start date expedition 11: 20th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks marine

This expedition runs at the Hoga Island Marine Research Centre and enables students already at Rescue Diver level with 60 logged dives to complete their Divemaster qualification IN013.



Constituent Parts

IN001 Jungle training and Wallacea wildlife course

Series of lectures and practicals designed to teach you how to identify many of the unique species likely to be encountered in the forest and the survey techniques used to assess different taxa and ensure you are able to work safely in the field.

Canopy Access Experience (available during the jungle training week)  Canopy Access Limited, the team that helped David Attenborough ascend into the canopy for Life of Mammals, Life in the Undergrowth and Planet Earth series, will be on site to provide an experience for students during the jungle training week. They will be in Labundo, running a half-day course on safe ascent into the canopy. The course can be done as part of the jungle training and will show you how to ascend 40m+ into the canopy along with a qualified instructor. This optional experience costs US$170 or £110 – just pre-book with Canopy Access Limited via their website:

IN002 Biodiversity Surveys

At each of the four camps there are teams of field biologists completing standardised surveys of a series of key taxa. As a research assistant you will be able to rotate between the different teams at the start of your stay, and if you have a particular interest to then specialise working with that team. The data gathered from these standardised surveys across Buton island will help to track changes in the biodiversity of various taxa, or population levels of key species. One survey team will be quantifying forest structure and calculating carbon biomass in the forests, which is a key skill if you are interested in learning how carbon trading schemes can help with wildlife conservation. Another team will be completing pollard counts and baited traps to quantify butterfly communities. Herpetofauna can be studied from pitfall traps installed at each camp which are checked daily, as well as standardised search times and night time spotlighting for amphibians. Another team will be completing bird point count surveys, and working with this team will enable you to learn some of the calls of the highly endemic bird fauna of this island. Large mammal surveys for macaques, anoa, deer, wild pig and also large game bird surveys are completed using distance sampling for sightings, patch occupancy analysis for signs of large mammals and camera trapping. In addition, harp traps and mist nets will be run in the evenings to quantify bat communities.

IN003 Island mobile team

This team will be specialising in examining various evolutionary questions using changes in the bird fauna between the mainland of Sulawesi and a series of different offshore islands. The teams will be involved in transect surveys to quantify the bird communities on different islands as well as estimating the available food (i.e. flowers, fruit, arthropod abundance) for birds between those islands. In addition, a separate team will be running mist net surveys to capture as wide a range of species as possible on each island and recording morphometric measurements of captured birds to study changes between islands. Recordings of the bird calls on the different islands will be taken to determine whether there are distinct dialects. This is an excellent project for those interested in understanding evolutionary mechanisms and also potentially discovering new island bird endemic species or sub species (See expedition 5).

IN004 Rapid biodiversity assessment team

The forests and mountains of northwest Buton are the last unexplored area of the island. Access to these forests is very difficult – hence why this area has been unsurveyed to date and also why they may yield some exciting results. In 2016 a small team of guides, field biologists and volunteers trekked into part of this remote area and made some exciting discoveries. However, there is another major part of these forests, including some that are still to be explored. In 2017 a small team will access these areas using temporary camps, surveying for reptiles and conducting spotlight surveys at night for amphibians. There will be megafauna (large mammals and game birds) and bird surveys and also treks to as many of the habitat types as possible within the survey area of each camp. There are limited places on this option since the survey teams have to be kept small and mobile. On this project the volunteers will need to help with setting up and running temporary camps as well as cutting transects (See expedition 6).

IN005/06 PADI Open Water course – Hoga/Bau Bau

This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and open water dives to gain an official scuba diving qualification.

IN007/09 Reef survey techniques on Hoga Island / Bau Bau – diving

IN008/10 Reef survey techniques on Hoga Island / Bau Bau – snorkelling

The course consists of lectures and in-water practicals and teaches identification of common genera and species of coral and other macroinvertebrates, identification of the major reef-associated fish families and common species. Designed to introduce a variety of methods and practices used for scientific research in the marine environment.

IN011 Marine research assistant pool on Hoga Island

This option can be done for multiple weeks. Hoga Island is the most published site in the Coral Triangle and each season there are a number of different marine research projects operating. Some of these projects include routine monitoring of the reef fish communities using stereo-video, video analysis of coral intercept transects, belt transects for marine macroinvertebrates and analysis of fish landings from a series of artisanal fishing techniques being used. In addition though, there are a series of specialist research projects running each year including studies on physiological adaptations of different marine species (e.g. banded sea kraits, mudskippers), behaviour of anemone and cleaner fish, ecological studies on coral and fish associations and many other topics. A list of projects will be written up each day on the whiteboard in the research centre and you will be able to choose from the projects available and try all of them or specialise in one or more of the projects.

IN012 Reef monitoring, shark and ray abundance and diversity

This option can be done for multiple weeks and is based at the Bau Bau Marine Training and Research centre. The reef monitoring project is aimed at gathering data using stereo-video and coral intercept transect surveys on the reefs in the bay and surrounding islands, with a view to create an MPA to provide some protection for these spectacular reefs. The shark and ray project is in collaboration with the Global FinPrint Project which aims to document elasmobranch populations on tropical coral reefs through the use of baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS). The main aim of this global survey is to collect baseline data on diversity, abundance, and distribution of shark and ray populations, but it will also be documenting sea snake, sea turtle, mammal, and moray eel presences. The project will involve spending time as part of a small science team working on boats, baiting and setting the BRUVS at different locations around the islands surrounding the Bau Bau Centre. Late afternoons and evenings will be spent back in the lab, watching the video footage collected and analysing the data. Research Assistants will be provided with the necessary training and will play an integral role in collecting and analysing the data for this important project.

IN013 Divemaster training at the Hoga Island Marine Research Centre

If you are already qualified as a PADI Rescue Diver and have at least 60 logged dives you can complete the PADI Divemaster training. Divemaster training has to be done as a full time commitment so you won’t have the chance to join the research projects on this option, although you will be learning to supervise students completing diving for research. An advantage of completing the course with Opwall is the opportunity it gives you of joining the programme as a Divemaster staff member at any of the Opwall sites worldwide in future years.

Additional dive training

Additional dive training beyond Open Water level is available and can be fitted around your work on other projects; you do not need to specify the additional courses on your options list. Courses include Advanced Open Water Diver ($220), Emergency First Response ($150) or Rescue Diver ($400 – includes Emergency First Response). These extra courses may not be available at all times and enrolment may depend on the number of people wanting the training. All prices listed are in US dollars.

Indonesia 2

Site Facilities


Jungle training and canopy access 

This week will be spent partly in the picturesque village of Labundo with accommodation in the local houses. Rooms will be shared and have a mandi (bathroom) shared with the host family. Meals are taken at the village hall. If you are doing the canopy access course this will be run for the part of the week you are in Labundo village. For the other part of this week the teams are based in temporary forest camps with hammocks, that are set up as part of the jungle training course. Washing will be in the river and there will be forest toilets in these camps. Meals are prepared by the jungle survival team in camp.

Field camps 

These surveys will run from one of the four established forest camps, each of which has four transects radiating out from the camp. Surveys will be completed on these transects or on adjacent quadrat plots. Accommodation in most of the camps is in hammocks, although in the Ereke camp there are camp beds in shared tents. There are jungle shower facilities set up at the camps and forest toilets. Large covered areas are used for the meals and all food is prepared by the camp staff. Each camp has radio and satellite phone communication. Teams working on transects are in walkie talkie contact with the camp. There is generator power in the evenings to recharge items and provide some light.

Island mobile team 

This team will be led by local Indonesian staff and translators supporting the academics and students and will be based for a few days at a time in different villages on the various islands. Accommodation will be in local houses with use of the local mandis. Vehicles and boats will be used to move between the sites on the islands and travel to new islands. There will be a satellite phone with this group, for much of the time there will be cellular/mobile phone signal, although rarely strong enough to allow email.



Hoga Island 

The small island of Hoga, with beautiful white sand beaches, is where Opwall teams have established a leading marine training and research centre. There is a fully equipped dive centre on the island, a large airy, dining area with bar and a lecture theatre. In addition, there is a well-equipped wet lab where much of the physiological research is completed and a dry lab where the marine ecology teams are based. Paved paths have been laid through the forest of this island where students stay in shared traditionally-built wooden houses each with their own mandi (bathroom) which has a squat toilet and bucket shower. There is electricity in most of the cabins and generator power in the evenings, although there is no internet or computers available on site, 2G signal can be gained on an unlocked smart phone with a local SIM card to access emails etc however this is slow and often unreliable.

Pantai Nirwana, Bau Bau 

This centre is on the beautiful Nirwana beach in a bay south of Bau Bau. Accommodation is in shared rooms with their own bathroom facilities including western style toilets and showers. There is a large eating and meeting area, lab facilities for analysis of the video data, lecture area and a fully equipped dive centre. Internet signal can be gained using an unlocked smart phone and a local SIM card, although this is slow and often unreliable.