Maarten Servaas - Diving & Marine Conservation in Cambodia
My trip to Cambodia was one of my best abroad experiences that I will never forget! I stayed 3 months on the wonderful island Koh Rong Samloem.
I left Amsterdam (The Netherlands) on October 6, 2009 and via Bangkok I arrived in Phnom Penh on October 7. I stayed 2 days in the Project Abroad apartments in Phnom Penh and explored the busy city a little bit. It was my first time in Southeast Asia and from the first day I noticed the kindnesses of the Cambodian people.
The Cambodian people are very friendly and hospitable. After a few days I arrived in the beach town of Sihanoukville. There are many bars and cheap guesthouses in this city and the food is excellent! Almost each week there is a possibility to visit Sihanoukville from the island for shopping, surfing on the internet, bars, eating, trips, etc. But most of my time I spent of course on the island!
I stayed in the volunteer bungalows close to a small fishing village. The villagers are lovely hospitable people and the children are keen to learn some English words. It’s really a total different world than the "Western" world. There is a relaxed atmosphere and everyone is optimistic. The bungalow where you sleep is very basic with 4 beds and a bucket shower. But after some time you get used to it, so don’t expect luxury in materialistic things. The sea view is amazing with views on the island Koh Koun and Koh Rong. Next to the bungalows there is a very long white empty beach and behind the bungalows starts the dense jungle.
I was already an Advanced Open Water diver before I arrived and now I could improve my dive skills by doing a lot of dives and completing the PADI rescue course. I focused on underwater photography and took a lot of photos of seahorses. Our goal was to protect the underwater life, especially the endangered seahorses and supporting the local communities.
Every day we had different tasks like clean-ups and research activities. I did beach clean-ups and reef clean-ups. There is a lot of rubbish underwater and on the beaches so clean-ups are really necessary. Research is also very important; I did jungle surveys and seahorse surveys. It’s very interesting learning more about the underwater life and survey techniques. During our free time on the island, we could do some jungle treks, fun diving or just relaxing in our favourite hammocks.
After 3 months it was eventually my time to go. I met a lot of fantastic people like the other volunteers, interesting guests and of course the staff. It was sad that I had to leave the island, but I will never forget this incredible once in a lifetime experience!