Serena Gill - Diving & Marine Conservation in Thailand
Hey everyone, my name is Serena and I am in my graduating year of university, studying Communication Studies with a Social Entrepreneurship option in Canada. As part of my option, which is connected to the Global Studies Department at my university, I had to volunteer abroad for at least four weeks in any discipline and country of my choice. Hence, I began researching opportunities to volunteer in Thailand with animals and in the field of environmental conservation, and I came across the Diving & Marine Conservation programme in Thailand through Projects Abroad. Thailand has been at the top of my travel list for quite some time now, so I thought that combining my adventurous nature with this volunteer experience would be a great opportunity!
I volunteered in Thailand throughout the month of June 2016; however, I originally signed up for the placement in October of 2015, and it was great to receive so much support from the Projects Abroad team throughout the months leading up to my departure. When I first arrived at Krabi Airport in Thailand, I was greeted and picked up by a Projects Abroad staff member and I was transported to the volunteer site where the accommodation and other volunteers were. I was then introduced to other staff members, given a tour of the site, and shown to my room, which I shared with two other volunteers during my stay.
My Conservation placement
From day one of arriving in Thailand to the day I left the volunteer placement, I felt that I was able to have an impact on Thailand’s environment in a positive manner. We had the opportunity to scuba dive three days a week where we conducted coral reef surveys, identified and recorded marine life, and collected any garbage and debris we saw floating in the water or attached to the coral. However, prior to conducting the surveys, we received PADI scuba diving training where I received both my open water and advanced open water diving certifications. After successfully completing my diving training, we did fish identification training where we learned about the different marine life we could see while on our dives, as well as the hand symbols to properly identify each fish.
We conducted two dives per dive day and each dive was a great experience, due to diving at different sites and learning to dive in different conditions. Moreover, on the two other work days each week, we did more community-related activities such as collecting cigarette butts and doing shoreline clean-ups, putting up informative posters in the Ao Nang area, teaching marine conservation initiatives to students in a local school, planting trees, and transplanting mangrove trees. Every day was new, fun, and exciting and it was especially awesome to get to know the staff members from Projects Abroad and the other volunteers who came from different areas of the world.
My volunteer accommodation
The name of our accommodations was Utopia and it consisted of bungalow rooms that we shared with two to three other volunteers. We each received our own bed, a place to store our belongings including a lock box, and there was a sink, toilet, and shower in each bungalow. We had mosquito nets that covered our beds at night, which helped to keep us from getting very many bug bites. In addition, there were fans in each room to keep us cool despite the hot temperatures.
There was a communal area that we called “the restaurant” where we had each of our meals. We also used this area as our hangout space during the evenings after a day of work. Furthermore, we had a library space that had a fridge to store cold drinks and snacks, as well as a TV to watch movies. The accommodation was more than I could have asked for as I knew I would be volunteering and didn’t need or expect to have lots of amenities. We also had internet and Wi-Fi throughout Utopia, which was great for connecting with family and friends at home so they could stay in the loop and know how my experience was going.
Projects Abroad staff support
Overall, the staff were a great support system. They conducted check-ins with us to receive our feedback in order to better the programme and ensured that we had everything that we required. The family that cooked our meals provided a variety of dishes and met everyone’s dietary restrictions. During the weekends when some of the other volunteers and I wanted to explore other parts of the area, we were able to hire one of the Projects Abroad drivers to take us around, which made us feel comfortable in a country that we were still getting used to. The staff were able to answer any of my questions and addressed the concerns of other volunteers and I felt extremely welcomed and comfortable with the staff during my placement.
I was fortunate enough to have my birthday fall during my placement, which made for a special occasion. For instance, the day of my birthday was also one of our dive days; hence, during one of our dives, a staff member and another volunteer sang Happy Birthday to me underwater, which was a really cool experience. Moreover, on a few of the dive days, a staff member brought their dogs onto the boat for the day, which made for extra fun between dives.
My overall experience
I highly enjoyed my experience with Projects Abroad and was lucky to meet and become friends with amazing individuals and the staff members who I still keep in contact with. The experience was definitely eye-opening and such an incredible opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in environmental and marine conservation.