Volunteer Diving & Marine Conservation in Cambodia
- Placement location: Koh Sdach
- Role: To conduct marine wildlife surveys, collect data, and participate in community activities, such as workshops and waste management plans.
- Requirements: None
- Local Environment: Marine
- Accommodation: Shared volunteer bungalows
- Length of placement: From 1 week
- Start dates: Flexible
As a volunteer on Projects Abroad’s Diving & Marine Conservation Project in Cambodia, you will contribute to the protection of marine wildlife and assist with important community work. The main threat to the marine environment in Cambodia is the lack of regulation and awareness in the fishing industry, which leads to overfishing and destructive fishing practices. So, one of our main goals at the project is to give local people the tools for change.
Located on the tropical gulf of Thailand, this project is ideal for anyone with an interest in marine conservation, diving, and working in an incredible environment. You can join us on a gap year, a summer vacation, a career break, for university research, or as part of a professional getaway.
The project is based on the island of Koh Sdach, where you can get involved in various activities, including research dives, data collection, conducting workshops and classes for local fisherman and schools, and beach clean-ups. This will all take place under the guidance and supervision of our experienced local staff. You do not need previous experience to take part, although anyone with a marine biology background is encouraged to join. You don’t need to have previous diving experience either and training courses are included in the program.
Your Role on the Conservation & Environment Project in Cambodia
On this project, you can get involved in activities such as:
- Marine diving surveys, including fish size and abundance (to measure the impact of overfishing), composition and health of the coral reef, invertebrate abundance (indicator species) seahorse identification and behavior, and habitat and mapping surveys.
- Salvage diving in order to collect debris from the ocean.
- Waste management plan: this includes beach clean-ups, dives against debris, and teaching locals about recycling and disposing of waste responsibly.
- Teaching classes about the environment at a local school two afternoons a week. Some of our volunteers also take the time to teach English.
- Monitoring catches of local fishermen and helping to run training programs on sustainable fishing and the importance of preserving the coral reef.
A work schedule is established each week so you know what is happening and when. The schedule varies, depending on the time of year, the weather, and the number of volunteers on the project. Normally, you work five days a week and some diving usually takes place each work day. You will have two days off to relax, travel back to the mainland, or get involved in some of the many other activities the area offers. There is also usually the option of fun diving on one of your days off.
The most rain usually falls in July and August, and during these months and any other rainy or windy periods, the diving work can be disrupted.
Dive Courses in Cambodia with Projects Abroad
One of the first things that you will be doing is learning how to scuba dive. We will train you up to PADI Open Water standards, helping you to learn the fundamental theoretical and practical aspects of diving. As a PADI certified diver you can participate fully in the underwater conservation work.
Volunteers with an existing dive certification equivalent to the PADI Open Water qualification receive the PADI Advanced course. All volunteers joining us for at least 4 weeks will also receive the Projects Abroad Survey Diver certification card. This is a PADI authorized specialty course which includes full training in underwater survey and research techniques.
If you are unable to scuba dive or are not interested in the dive-related work, you can still get involved. You can take part in snorkeling or focus on the land based conservation work. There is plenty to be done and all efforts go towards the protection of this beautiful country.
The Goals of the Conservation & Environment Project in Cambodia
The main reason why this project began in the first place was to help with the protection of seahorses in Cambodia. While this is no longer our main project focus, we will still be monitoring seahorse sightings and reporting them to major international bodies. We hope to see a rise in the seahorse population in the future as their protected areas expand and scientists continue research into their habitats and behavior.
The data we collect is given to local authorities with the hope that they will declare it a protected area. In addition, the data is also shared with the fishermen, so that we can advise them on how they can improve their fishing methods.
Education is also one of the key aspects of the project. Twice a week, you will help teach classes at the local school, teaching students about important environmental issues. In the past, volunteers have done puppet shows about sharks, recycling initiatives, and more. We also hold workshops for the island’s fisherman and inform them about sustainable fishing and the coral reef.
You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project and our reef check methodology in our Cambodia Conservation Management Plan.
Accommodation on the Conservation & Environment Project
You will stay in accommodation built on stilts over the water in the fishing village of Koh Sdach and sleep in same-sex dorm rooms. The accommodation constant has electricity. Each bathroom has a western style toilet with a bucket and a scoop to flush it and a shower. Apart from the fishing village, the island has a few guest houses and lots of forest.
All volunteers eat together in the large multi-functional communal area or on the deck overlooking the water. You will have plenty of opportunities to mingle with the local villagers and learn about Khmer culture.
You can join the Conservation & Environment Project in Cambodia from one week if you don't have time to join us for four weeks or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for short term volunteering for both the host community and the volunteer. However, although you will gain a valuable cultural insight and work on a variety of conservation activities please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone volunteering for a longer period. The amount of diving may also be limited by the weather, especially during the rainy season between June and September.
Please note that if you are only able to join for one week and you do not already have an Open Water certification, you will not have enough time to get certified at the project. You will do discovery dives instead, where you will be taught how to use scuba equipment and breathe underwater in shallow waters. If you have an Open Water certification, you will be able to take part in the normal diving activities.
During a two week placement, volunteers receive just one dive course, either the Open Water or Advanced course.
My advice for future volunteers is to immerse yourself in the program and the community as much as possible. In the short three weeks I was there I had the opportunity to do so much: I presented at the workshop, got my advanced scuba diving license, participate in several beach clean-ups and dives against debris activities, drew up a draft cartoon to educate children about Projects Abroad, and learnt a lot about marine life... and even picked up a bit of the language! Read more...
Volunteers seeking a different cultural experience have the option of participating on a more unique project for one week at the end of their project. For more information, please visit the Khmer Project in Cambodia page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.