More Marine Conservation, Cambodia
Leaving Cambodia's capital we make our way to the southern coast. We are headed to the tiny port town of Kep and then onward, by boat, to the island of Koh Seh. As in Borneo, we will spend the week volunteering at a marine conservation project.
On the map, Koh Seh is a speck in the gulf of Thailand - a stone's throw from Vietnam. By boat, it is a one hour journey from Kep. We join the twice-weekly supply run and make our way to the island through choppy waters.
Arriving at the dock we are greeted by several large pit bulls - solid, muscular, intimidating. We are pretty remote here. Apart from a handful of abandoned Khmer Rouge bunkers and the marine conservation camp, there is little else on the island so it seems sensible to have some "guards" on duty. But as we step off the boat we are nearly licked to death by our new friends. Making our way along the long, rickety pier to the shoreline, we soon meet the entire family – seven puppies and four adult pit bulls.
The camp is pretty basic – a kitchen/dining area/classroom, a dive shop, and a handful of bamboo sleeping quarters. Power is provided – 8-10 hours per day – by a gas generator. There is no running water – only rainwater bucket showers. All supplies – food, drinking water, gas, tools – are ferried over from the mainland. Trash is burned – with the exception of aluminum cans which are transported back for recycling.
Some of the volunteers, like us, have just arrived – fresh off the boat. Others have been here for a month or more. A handful, including the founder and his family, have lived on the island for several years. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into getting the camp to its current state, but a couple of days in and I’m already counting down the days until a hot shower.
Over the course of the week, we learn a lot about marine conservation, destructive and illegal fishing methods, and seahorse identification – an important barometer of marine habitat health. We lend a hand making costumes and props for an upcoming play – part of a community outreach/education program. We participate in beach cleanups, mix concrete for artificial reef construction, and experiment with growing algae. As with our other volunteering experiences, we meet lots of great people – young, old, and somewhere in-between.
Although we arrived with an open mind and an open-ended schedule – prepared to stay whatever length of time and perhaps complete our diving certifications to get involved in research activities – we quickly find ourselves weighing the pros and cons of staying. In the end, we decide to move on.
Next stop, Bangkok.