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Cambodia Conservation Project Update

by Suzi Lamb, International Development Manager

Beach clean-up

In February 2010, almost one year on from my first visit to Koh Rong Samleom I returned to the island. Last year I visited to make final checks before our first volunteer arrived in March, this year I was greeted by 16 volunteers and I was arriving with three more!

The change and development made on the Conservation Project in less than a year is staggering. We have had over 50 volunteers join the project in the last 12 months, and Projects Abroad now employ three full time staff who work alongside the Marine Conservation Cambodia team.

The conservation base has changed with 5 more volunteer bungalows springing up and extra wings added to the communal area. Just down the beach from the volunteer area there is now a restaurant and extra bungalows for tourists, income from this also goes to support the project.

The village has changed a bit too, there are three small bars, and the shops have started selling snacks like Pringles to the volunteers.

Not a bad place to study

The volunteers are working hard on a wide variety of projects including seahorse and reef surveys, beach clean-ups, reef salvage dives, orchid surveys in the jungle interior of the island, making anti-trawling devices and a wide variety of community projects with the local village, from building an incinerator to landscaping the area around the village school.

There is now the opportunity for volunteers to get involved in the village school by combining a teaching and conservation project, or even just helping out with a few extra evening lessons.

In the evenings you can relax in a hammock, have a beer in one of the village bars, watch a DVD in the communal area, or play games and cards. One night we had a bonfire on the beach to say goodbye to a volunteer leaving the next day. The night sky is incredibly clear, as there is no light pollution, so simply star gazing is another popular pastime!

Staff and volunteers after a dive

Island life perhaps isn’t for everyone, the accommodation is basic, cold water bucket showers and the generator runs for just a few hours in the evening, so there are no fans. However, most of the volunteers have adapted quickly and I slept much better on the island than in a hotel room with air-con in Phnom Penh!

I’d like to say a big thank you to all the hard working Conservation staff, dive staff, cooks, cleaners, builders, the chain saw man, the Projects Abroad staff in Phnom Penh, the welcoming villagers of Koh Rong Samleom and to Paul Ferber, Director of Marine Conservation Cambodia, without whom none of this would have been possible.

I hope I get the chance to write an update similar to this about our five year anniversary! Though I very much hope I get to visit again before then.

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