Chris Wood - Diving & Marine Conservation in Thailand
Well..... It all started in London 2005, when I went to a Projects Abroad Open Day, already with thoughts of Thailand in my head due to my fascination with this amazing and enchanting country, culture and the way of life. Before coming to Thailand I had only really travelled around England and local European countries which gave me a slight idea what it would be like, but I was in for a big surprise. First of all was the 12 hour flight across many weird and wonderful countries, but this was at night so I wasn't able to see the view out of my plane window. Upon on arriving in Bangkok I was feeling a contrast of feelings anxiety, jetlag, nausea and most of all what I have let myself in for?
Once I arrived in Krabi, I was welcomed by Medhi, the Projects Abroad Desk Officer, who instantly put my mind at rest, offering me complete reassurance and for this I thank him. He gives all the volunteers the same tour around Krabi and Ao Nang, which always includes a visit to Swensons (ice cream parlour) and is the best ice-cream in the whole of southwest Thailand. Later I got settled into my new home for the next few months, it was the first time I had to share a room and sleep in bunk beds since I was 10 years old, oh the nostalgia...
Once settled into the group and the activities I found myself getting more and more into it, meeting Justine, one of the Projects Abroad staff was great, going on our random adventures was a lot of fun I will never forget that. The major problem I faced after settling down was the diving, it was my first time going underwater for more then a few minutes and I was petrified to be brutally honest. The first time I went in the ocean I experienced both claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time, plus all your natural instincts change drastically. But I was pleased to know that Suwat, the conservation director was more that happy to take me into the water at my own pace and for that I really thank him, because now I can appreciate the wonders of the sea.
So after my first month of being in Thailand I had conquered a lot of things I was once scared of which gave me a massive confidence boost both socially and mentally. Previous to coming to Thailand I was given a non immigrant visa, which I should have applied for in the UK, but with me not being that organised ended up having to do a visa run across to Malaysia, which was truly a blessing in disguise.
This was my second voyage to ventures new, crossing the boarder into a whole new way of life and thinking, this gave me time reflect on what I had been doing the last month and made me appreciate how much I had grown up, enjoying the travelling lifestyle and gaining complete independence. I loved the bus journeys to and from Malaysia, it gives you a chance to see the contrast in the countryside and people, I loved it although I was travelling for 12 hours at a time, but its all part of the experience.
I think just being in Thailand made me smile, but working among some great volunteers and some amazing staff members like Goa with his crazy stories, great jokes and him just being him, we got on so well and he really helped me through some bad times. Morn was also there with his awesome karaoke style singing all the time, always a smile on his face and some great conversations. I think this project taught me a lot about myself and how I want to live my life, also I know some pretty awesome facts and gained a great understanding about marine animals and how to distinguish fish families (sweetlips and snappers) - private joke...
But the main thing it gave me was an insight into different ways of life. It didn't matter where I was I never felt threatened, scared or any negative emotion, just sheer joy and contentment with all the genuine smiles I saw everyday I lived and worked in Ao Nang. Also it gave an insight into collecting rubbish that I would normally just throw away without thinking about, like crisp packets and cigarette butts, just putting them in my rucksack until I found a bin, that's all it takes. Recently on my travels around the north of Thailand I've been doing the same, when visiting some ancient ruins in Sukhothai I noticed people had just left stuff behind, and was making an eye saw of the sheer beauty I was surrounded by, I got some odd looks picking up the rubbish, but I didn't care, I knew I was doing the right thing.
Well in conclusion, this project has given me the confidence and the knowledge of Thai culture and language that I can continue my stay in the kingdom with ease. Pam, another staff member and I call it the country of smiles and enchanting beauty. I will miss Ao Nang and it holds great memories in my heart, its scenery, people and the islands which are my idea of paradise. Also, it's that good I want to go back next year, but I'll need to save some pennies before doing so. Until next time...
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Programme Advisors.