Madison Fogarty - Diving & Marine Conservation in Cambodia
My time overseas with Projects Abroad has proven to be one of the best experiences of my life so far. I spent a month in Cambodia participating in the Marine Conservation and Diving Project on the island of Koh Rong Samleon.
I was only seventeen when I went overseas, and so I needed support and comfort in knowing that what I was doing was safe and secure. Projects Abroad provided me with this in so many different ways; whether it be getting off at the wrong bus stop in the middle of Sihanoukville, or mistakenly drinking Cambodian tap water on my first day and getting ill, the local staff helped me when I needed it. Before going to Koh Rong Samloen, I had no experience in Marine Conservation nor did I scuba dive, yet I found this project so fulfilling and definitely want to make it known that you don’t need a background in Marine Conservation before you go!
My Cambodian Home
When I arrived in Phnom Pehn, I was lucky enough to spend a few days exploring the city with some of the local volunteers. The support and kindness I received in the first 48 hours of being in Cambodia was overwhelming. Finally I left for Koh Rong Samloen. After a 7 hour transit, both bus and boat, I remember reaching my new home and meeting my family for the next month. To say the island is beautiful is an understatement; it is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.
I stayed in the volunteer bungalows which are located close to a small fishing village. The villagers are really lovely and are always happy to have a chat and learn new words and phrases. Teaching at the local school was always an available option as well. The bungalows are extremely basic; they have 4 beds and a separate room attached to the back with a bucket toilet and shower. It is comfortable enough and the ocean views from your bungalow make it well worth the lack of material things.
Learning to Scuba Dive
As I mentioned, I could not scuba dive before I went to the island in fact I hadn’t stepped foot in the ocean for years, so I did spend a lot of my time diving to earn my qualification as a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. I often had one-on-one training sessions with my diver instructor and if I struggled with any of the techniques I had the time to perfect them without unnecessary pressure. I wouldn’t have had the same treatment in Australia.
Once qualified, it is much easier to participate in the conservation side of the project, such as protecting the endangered seahorses and also preserving the local community’s main food source. There is a lot of illegal fishing that takes place in the Gulf of Thailand and it is the volunteer’s job to help put an end to this.
Beach and reef clean-ups are also necessary on the island as a lot of rubbish ends up in the reefs and at the shore. It is unbelievable how much rubbish we collected in just a month! I also took part in jungle treks and was a part of finding an endangered Orchid flower that could help towards protecting the island from future development.
I was so sad to leave the island. I was lucky to volunteer with an amazing group of people and will have bonds with them for a long time. I contribute a lot of my success and determination to my placement with Projects Abroad, and not a day goes by that I don’t look back and refer to my amazing month in Cambodia. If you have the slightest inkling to do something like this, then just jump in and enjoy!