In the middle of July 2018, I took a leap into the unknown getting on a flight to Thailand with two weeks of volunteering in a county I had never been too, which a group of people who I had never met before. Upon landing, all my worries were gone, met just after immigration but Nummthan, wearing a project’s abroad shirt. Although I had multiple phone calls to arrange the transfer every possibility plays on your mind when its left alone on a 12 hour flight.
I arrived into the Glur Hostel in Ao Nang late at night and little did I know what was in store for me. Within 2 minutes of walking into the hostel, I had met most of the amazing people within my group and already jumped into the pool. No better way to get over jetlag than washing it off. I knew instantly I had one of the best two weeks of my life ahead, thousands of miles away from my parents with a bunch of people who all had the same interests as me and so many stories to be told, and memories to be made
On our first day, Roger our trip leader made sure we all bought sim cards, and showed us around the town. There were many reasons why I loved Ao Nang, from the cheap food to the friendly locals, but during that first walk I felt like I had jumped into another world. 48 hours before I had been roaming the streets of suburban London, but now I was in rustic Thailand and I loved it.
Having completed my padi openwater qualification before coming to Thailand, I spent the first afternoon doing the theory for my nitrox qualification, which allows you in short to stay at deeper depths for longer periods of time. Then on the Tuesday morning, it was time for my first dive in the country, still a little jetlagged and baggy eyed we got onto a boat in the harbour and set out on the two-hour boat ride to Phi Phih. The scenery was spectacular, both above and below the water. The fish was incredible and the coral was superb.
We were not diving with projects abroad kit at the time instead with a local dive shop called ‘The Dive’, who were just brilliant. If your ever in Ao Nang I cannot do justice to how safe I felt with these guys- ask for Wilko the instructor and you’ll be sure to see everything down there. Day two arrives and we head back out to Phi Phih, with a conservation mindset, conducting coral watch surveys which we later put online to become part of the University of Queensland’s data set. These surveys involved looking at the lightest and darkest colours on the coral, thus looking into the effect that pollution from the boats passing by has. The other 8 dives we did on this trip, were all just as memorising and memorable conducting the same surveys. I will never forget swimming through a school of thousands of fish, surrounded on all sides on the last dive of the trip with an amazing group of people.
The trip however, wasn’t just focused marine conservation which I thought was for the better. We visited an elephant sanctuary, where we saw the devasting impact that tourism can have on the local culture. After de-weeding a field filled with plants for the elephant food, taking an hour or so under the hot sun we hand fed one of these enormous mammals. This is although at the time, was difficult and sweaty it was such rewarding experience on the whole, and after we fed two elephants one of which refused banana and only took watermelon. Our second trip away from the water, was to the turtle centre in Phuket, where we were told all about turtles and the threats that they face while being in the natural world. Then we spent an hour or so cleaning out one of their enclosures taking all the algae out.
During our farewell dinner, I realised how much I loved my two weeks out my comfort zone. Everyone on the trip was brilliant, the memories I made will be treasured forever and I could whole heartily recommend to anyone who remotely thinks the might enjoy it, to take the leap and go on the trip, you wont regret it!
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. To find out more about what you can expect from this project we encourage you to speak to one of our friendly staff.