Marine Debris Project information

girls clean upCocos Keeling Islands (CKI) Marine Debris Project is targeting off-island visitors to volunteer for seven days to contribute to the inaugural 2017 beach clean-up event. We are aiming to attract approximately 20 volunteers to the islands to pick up, count and record the debris, the majority washing in from offshore sources. 

Ocean plastic-whats the problem?

Ocean plastic pollution is a growing issue in many parts of the world, with the potential to severely impact on wildlife, human health and tourism economy. Investing in the research and awareness if these issues now, will ensure that we all have beautiful places to visit into the future.

Click to download: Proposed schedule.

About Cocos Keeling Islands

Cocos Keeling Islands are the perfect eco tourism holiday location. You’ll get to visit uninhabited islands by canoe, watch spectacular birdlife, snorkel or dive amidst coral reefs and diverse reef fish, catch the ferry to Home Island and discover the culture and traditions of the Cocos Malay people and visit the recently voted number 1 beach in Australia at Direction Island. If you like to surf, paddle board or kite surf you can do it all on Cocos Keeling Islands. As soon as you see this tropical paradise, you’ll fall in love and your contribution to this project will leave you feeling like you’ve not only helped the environment but also the welcoming locals that are lucky enough to call these islands home.

Situated 2750 kms northwest of Perth, Western Australia, the Cocos Keeling Islands are a group of coral islands that form two atolls. Only two of the 27 islands are inhabited - the rest are waiting for you to explore them.

The remote location of Cocos Keeling Islands, combined with the predominant ocean currents and winds that surround them, results in the islands being inundated by rubbish from all countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Plastic is the main marine debris material found on the beaches, some of which has been there for decades, continually breaking up into smaller pieces and threatening the local marine and bird life. Find out more at or download an island map here.

 This project brings together the expertise of:

  • Tangaroa Blue Foundation who have been successful in coordinating extremely remote clean-ups throughout Cape York and the Northern Territory for many years. They have worked with numerous partners to ensure that this project not only results in an immediately healthier environment, but provides skills, training and logistical support to the local community, who up until now, have not had the capacity or know-how to address this growing plastic pollution issue.
  •  Keep Australia Beautiful WA and the Department of Environment Regulation Western Australia who have an ongoing relationship with the Indian Ocean Territories guiding and educating their communities on source reduction and an ongoing plan to manage waste. 
  • Dr Jennifer Lavers will be leading a research team that will help finalise a microplastics recording methodology which will be the first in Australia. Volunteers will assist her with data that will be used to study the effects of microplastics in our oceans, on our wildlife and the impacts on the food chain, including human health. 
  • Two Hands Project engages people worldwide in a collaborative and grassroots approach to deal with plastic pollution: take  30 Minutes and Two Hands to clean up your world anytime, anywhere.
  • Sea Shepherd Australia’s Marine Debris Campaign aims to protect and conserve the marine environment, preventing and removing the unprecedented amount of marine debris entering our oceans and waterways.
  • Cocos Keeling Island Tourism Association will contribute ferry transport between islands, promotion of event and other tourism experiences.
  • Cocos Keeling Islands Shire Council will provide waste removal and disposal and local promotion and community engagement.

Getting there and away

Virgin is the sole airline to fly to the Indian Ocean Territories.  The flights to CKI and CI are scheduled as below:
Tuesdays you can fly to CKI but only via Christmas Island, so you may wish to stop at CI and spend Tuesday to Saturday there then on the Cocos Islands. On Saturday you can fly directly to CKI. The dates of the Clean-up are Saturday 18th to the Saturday 25th March 2017.  If you wish to stick to the schedule, you will need to book your flights from Perth on Saturday 18th March to Cocos Keeling, Saturday 25th March to Perth via Christmas Island. 


Want to take a side trip to Christmas Island on your way to or from Cocos Keeling Islands?

Take advantage of the flight path and spend a few days at this other tropical paradise. Unlike the mostly flat terrains of CKI, Christmas Island is the summit of a submarine mountain, rising steeply to a central plateau dominated by stands of rainforest. You can see the wonders of the Christmas Island red crabs, experience the rainforests, remote beaches, amazing bird life and wonderful snorkelling and diving. Note this island is not easy to navigate without a car to get you around so car hire should be factored in with accommodation costs. See more at

Accommodation on Cocos

There is a variety of accommodation on the Islands ranging from camping to houses.  Camping is free but if you decide to camp you will need to take your own camping gear.  The campground is Scout Park and there are BBQ’s and toilets provided (no shower but the ocean is clear and warm).  There is one camper bus available for hire, which can also be parked at Scout Park.  It can be hired for $100/night and sleeps up to 4 comfortably.  If you would prefer to rent a house you can visit the Cocos Islands tourism page to book a whole house or if you don’t mind sharing accommodation we can place a group of volunteers together in one of the many options available. Please advise if you are a sole traveller and would like to share accommodation.  Download this list for more information. 

General Information

The average temperature this time of year is around 30 C with humidity up to 80 percent.  You will need to be of medium fitness level.  You will be expected to contribute six hours per day on workdays.  The day will be divided into 3 hours of beach cleaning and 3 hours of data collection.  8am to 11am work.  11am – 12pm lunch and rest.  12pm to 3pm work. 

Lunches will be provided on workdays.  Wraps will be provided with a selection of ingredients that will cover most dietary needs.  If you have special requirements you may need to bring them with you from the mainland as the supermarkets, although well stocked, are small and may not provide everything you require.  You will need to cater for your own breakfasts and evening meals.    The supermarket is more expensive that the mainland due to the costs associated with getting the food there.  You can buy alcoholic beverages from the Cocos Club. 

Make sure you pack a wide brim hat, a light long sleeve shirt, bathers, sturdy footwear, sunscreen, insect repellent and a reusable water bottle.  Bring any medications you require and food to cater for specific dietary requirements. The ocean side of the atoll can be quite rocky in places and solid shoes or reef boots will be helpful.  You will only need light clothing.  Casual dresses, t-shirts and shorts will be sufficient to wear.  Please be aware the Cocos Malay community is Muslim and to be respectful by covering your shoulders when visiting Home Island.


This is a self funded volunteer experience. Average airfares from Perth are $1200-$1500 . See the costs of accomodation here. Spending money will be required for breakfast and dinners and additional tours. Lunches are provided. 

Register your interest here