when I grow up I want to be a Marine Biologist – me age 10 –
I have always been fascinated by the sea, but I have never learned to dive, I can only give the same standard excuses as I do for everything else I haven’t done since I grew up. .. I’ve got no one to go with, I don’t have any equipment, it’s expensive, I don’t need to Scuba dive to appreciate what’s under the sea….
In the spirit of my year of change diving was top of my list of things to… It was how I ended up on the remote island of Koh Sdach in Cambodia on a Marine Conservation project.
The research carried out at the project aims to help preserve the beautiful area around Koh Sdach. A large company has recently bought up a lot of the coastline and development has begun on what is rumoured to be a super resort, this is likely to have a massive impact on the local environment and people who live there. Over fishing and pollution are a huge problem in the area. The work the project carries out will help provide evidence to assist the Cambodian Government work towards controlling the way the environment is developed to ensure that this special part of the world is not destroyed forever.
After qualifying as a ‘open water diver’ I could then start helping to gather data for the project. The waters surrounding Koh Sdach are relatively un-explored and little is known about the area in relation to its biodiversity. One of the main goals of the project is conducting species surveys, recording what creatures live on the reef and using this to assess the health of the marine environment and try and protect it.
The seahorse project involved studying the population of seahorses in the Koh Sdach archepelago. Why seahorses? They are very sensitive to changes in their natural environment their presence can indicate the health of the ecosystem , they area threatened species, also they are very cool. Seahorse Fact:. The male seahorse ‘gives birth’ to the young!
We took part ‘Dive against Debris’ clearing the reef of trash in particular discarded fishing equipment known as Ghost nets, caught on the reefs. All the debris was collected and recorded in order to build a picture of how fishing practices were affecting the ecosystem. The data is shared with ‘Project Aware’ a global network for scuba divers wanting to help preserve the oceans.
The highlight of my trip came on my first reef survey, I was hanging head down in a beautiful blue sea, surrounded by colourful fish with a clip borad in my hand counting numbers of spiky sea urchins on the reef… I was being who I wanted to be when I grew up…
How I did it…
My volunteering experience was arranged with Projects Abroad, I arranged my travel independently, which gave me time at the end of the project to explore the wonderful country of Cambodia and pop back to Thailand for a few weeks
Projects Abroad are an International company organising Internships and Volunteer projects in developing countries around the world in various fields from conservation to Public Heath and Human Rights.
Mainly aimed at ‘Gap Year’ market, they accept people of all ages on most projects. My six weeks in Cambodia was arranged through them. I was initially a little concerned about the size of Projects Abroad as an organisation and the fact that they are a company rather than a not-for-profit organisation, however they are clear about where their money goes and the sharing of funds allows projects like mine to function.
Whilst on the project I realised that it would not be possible for the project to work without being run by a company with access to funds other than volunteer fees for that specific project. Having access to a budget meant that vital equipment and resources could be obtained which were used either in research or for land based projects such as community engagement and improving the disposal of waste.
The staff are well chosen and extremely passionate about their chosen project, with a lot of effort put into making the project as low impact as possible and engaging with local people.
It being my first time volunteering I wanted a bit of security Projects Abroad took a lot of the anxiety away from me, having all in country arrangements sorted out for me, which considering the infrastructure of Cambodia would have been difficult to arrange myself.
More from my time in Koh Sdach: