Timothy Watts - Conservation & Environment, Diving & Marine Conservation in Cambodia
I left for Cambodia on Monday 4th of August 2009. As my first of three flights lifted off and I started out on what would end up being a four day journey I had little idea or comprehension of what my three and a half months in Cambodia would be like. When I finally arrived on the island of Koh Rong Samleom I was tired, wet and sun burned!
Needless to say I did not feel up to anything at the time apart from sleeping. However, all the staff and volunteers made me feel completely welcome and filled me in on the details of island life (in particular the use of buckets of water as toilet paper!) and what happened on the island on a day to day basis.
Accommodation in the compound was as basic as and even more so than I was expecting! But in the end the bungalow was only ever a place to sleep. My first full day on the island consisted of sleeping late due to that fact that I didn’t get to sleep until four in the morning! After breakfast Danny one the resident instructors and one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, took me into the water to review and refresh my SCUBA skills.
I soon got back into diving and started to join in the conservation work dives. At first these mainly consisted of reef cleaning dives on house reef. House reef as the name suggests is right in front of our compound and all you need to do is walk into the sea and go diving! Whilst doing these dives and other useful activities such as beach cleaning, moving wood from the jungle and mangrove planting, and in between trips to the mainland, I proceeded with my diving education.
Unlike a normal commercial diving outfit you can take as long as you like to complete any course which you happen to be doing. The courses range from PADI Open Water diver (the starting point for all divers) to Dive Master (the first step on the professional ladder of diving!) I chose to progress on to the Rescue Diver course which cost extra but was well worth it.
The course was easily one of the most demanding and most rewarding things that I have ever done. If you have the time I would highly recommend that you take the course, although it is hard work it is also a lot of fun.
One of the most rewarding types of dives you can do out here are the seahorse surveys. Monitoring and therefore helping to preserve the local population is one of the primary objectives of the project, so there will usually be several surveys a week were you will measure, establish gender and establish the type of seahorse. Whilst here I have somehow managed to gain a reputation as a prime seahorse spotter, although I feel this is slightly unjustified as spotting them mainly requires being in the right place at the right time, in other words just plain luck!
Looking back over my time here there is nothing which I would change, both good and bad, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done - have honestly been some of the best times of my life. The best advice I can give is that you’ll get as much out as you put into the experience, the more you do the more you’ll have at the end.