Volunteer Testimonials
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Here are some reviews from our volunteers and interns, Please share your experiences with us.:

M.C.C.The one and very likely only TRUE marine conservation crew in Cambodia. Its not and has never been about money.
EDUCATION and CONSERVATION are the key..Keep up the good work...Not from a Volunteer ,but from a very 'Old"Diving Instructor who has come across a lot of 'conservation programs" M.C.C are for real.
 
Date of Posting: 29 August 2015
Posted By: Vincent Chevallier
Diving Instructor, Cambodia
Today is my last day at MCC and I was asked to write a testimonial about my past four weeks. I figured this would be no big deal but then I read my diary entries of my stay here and realized: it is. How am I supposed to put four weeks of such a big adventure into words? The sound, smell, feel, look, and sometimes even taste of this place? The importance of the work that is being done here? Especially because I could only see such a small fraction of this cosmos in the four weeks I stayed.

Let's start with sound. Every morning I woke up here and heard the birds singing. But they sing differently than at home. Add the sound of playing kids, dogs, waves, the soft sounds of people speaking in Khmer, the summing of insects, and sometimes boats into the mix and you have pretty good idea on how Koh Seh sounds during the day. Under water that is a different story as every diver knows: hearing your own breathing loudly and clearly. In the evening it is sometimes the sound of people drinking some bears and listening to Khmer or American music, sometimes one hears the generator who guarantees the electricity, the sounds of a volleyball game and quite often the sound of a movie or documentary shown in the main bungalow. And in rainy season you will have the pleasure of hearing thunder from close and afar as well as the soothing sound of rain falling on the roof of your bungalow. Beautiful.
So what about the smell? Most of my time on Koh Seh it smelled like ocean, this salty breeze that always makes me happy. After a rain it smells fresh and clean. In the jungle it smells leafy, woody. Sometimes before dinner long term stayers can tell which food is getting on the table... Curry for example is very easy to identify. It smells like baby powder when the kids on the island had their evening shower and like mosquito repellent when I was around... mosquitoes absolutely adore me after all. In the mornings before the sun rises it smells like Germany in spring. Hard to describe but nice when I wanted to get a little reminder of home.

To describe the taste of this place is an easier endeavour than the other two sensory experiences I have left. When diving or swimming it obviously will taste salty. What else ;-)? The food is absolutely amazing, always fresh, healthy and tasty. One thing I will most likely miss a lot is the sweet hot chili sauce in which most of the volunteers basically drown their food. It is very lovingly nicknamed the cock sauce due to the huge chicken and cock on the bottle. Also important to mention: black tea or coffee with condensed milk. Always a real treat for me ;-).

Now I have two ways left to describe my experience here: look and feel. Look is not too hard. Koh Seh is as colourful as it will get. Green jungle, an ocean that changes its colour between brown, beige, green, and turquoise, underwater life in all kinds of colours and shades (even pink, violet, red and yellow), blue, grey, and white skies and I also should not forget the multiple colours of the food I got to eat. But those looks are not the most important. The most important thing I got to see here are genuine smiles and genuine excitement. For conservation, for small and big positive changes, and for living in a small community in which people with huge hearts live.
Feel.

Now how does an island feel like? For one thing it definitely feels secluded. After the boat ride from Kep I landed on this place and was hooked. No strong internet connection, no light pollution, no running water (real eco: only using rain water plus drinking water brought over from mainland). It feels like leaving all the stress and struggles of the big city behind. And even if it wanted to follow you it cannot. It is a feeling of freedom rarely encountered while pursuing an office job. Also, it made me feel closer to nature again. Not only being sweaty or salty all the time, being eaten by mosquitoes and black flights, feeling the forces of nature like rain, storm, and tide (not only on the island but also on the boat). But also seeing stars clearer than I might have ever seen them before, counting shooting stars at night on the pier, waking up for watching the sunrise, climbing trees and rocks in the jungle, swimming in the bioluminescent waters around the island, trying to learn some basic Khmer and feeling like a dork while doing it, walking barefoot on a rocky beach, swimming 2.2 km around the island while watching the sunset and feeling the waves around me, the feeling when seeing a proper beach after cleaning it, seeing dolphins out on sea, getting extremely excited about the sighting of a seaturtle, the feeling of being befriended by the kids on the island, discovering the beauty of seagrass meadows, and being reminded of the beauty of reefs. The feeling that the persons you need to get things done or not be alone are just a shout away, while you learn to improvise because the next store to buy stuff is a boat ride away. The feeling of doing work that matters, being it community work where I got to meet local fishermen and learn about their life, being it seahorse surveys, where I learned about the beauty and resilience of these little creatures, being it small tasks around the island like building Anti-Trawling devices to protect the treasured and quickly recovering beauty on and around Koh Seh.
What I expected when I came here was that I would become a better diver, learn more about underwater nature, maybe meet some locals, and have a good time. What I did not expect but what happened is that I became part of the community living, learning, partying, struggling, fighting, winning, loosing, sharing this island. The stay here did not only bring me closer to nature and to myself, it not only enabled me to master skills and do stuff I would have never imagined I would be able to do or even have dreamt off doing. My stay here leaves me with the warm feeling of having become a very, very small part of something bigger, more important.
 
Date of Posting: 29 July 2015
Posted By: Franziska Roth
I am 29 years old, Hold a PhD in Communication Studies at the University of Mannheim (Germany). I am skilled in quantitative research methods and statistics and have published several scientific articles in books and peer-reviewed journals both in English and in German, Germany
Working with MCC has by far been my best and most valuable experience in South East Asia. Paul and his team really get you involved in the organization from day one. I found the team's approach to conservation incredibly effective as they are dedicated to educating the surrounding communities about the importance of ocean conservation and preservation. In addition MCC encourages and supports each volunteer's individual talents; utilizing their skills in an effective manner and applying them to the organization. As a volunteer I felt accepted immediately into the group, and from the moment I reached the island of Koh Seh I knew I had found a second home. I found this sense of family and passion for the ocean the utmost important aspect of the MCC group; a quality much noted in Paul's leadership and the Khmer people. This work hard play hard attitude, the many hours spent learning the Khmer language, and the continuous support from fellow volunteers/staff is what I enjoyed most about my time with MCC. Volunteering with MCC is a must-do for anyone who wishes to actually help out in some real world problems and make a difference!
 
Date of Posting: 27 July 2015
Posted By: Kail Pawson
Canada
After having planned to spend three months in Malaysian Borneo to conduct a Master's thesis, I found myself without a research permit and in a tough situation. Thankfully, after finding out about MCC and their work I was in contact with Paul (MCC CEO) about potentially conducting some research in Cambodia. MCC were extremely helpful and understanding of my situation and after a few swift email replies it was decided that my Master's thesis was no longer to be on rainforest ecology, but on seahorse abundance in Cambodian coastal waters! As this was not the original plan (and a far cry from the subject which I had proposed to my university), my knowledge on the subject left a lot to be desired. Luckily, I have found MCC to be extremely accommodating and helpful in my research design and my understanding of the subjects of my research - seahorses; about which they have a wealth of information and expertise. Since arriving at Koh Seh, four weeks ago, I have been impressed with the work that is conducted and pleased to be a part of it, alongside my research. The staff are understanding of my situation and allow me to take part in day-to-day activities when I am not researching or working on my university projects. Whilst I enjoy aiding in the important hands-on conservation work occurring here in Cambodia, the staff have kindly prioritised my data collection and have been an integral part of what I hope to be good quality research. My hopes of producing a good quality research paper have been boosted even further thanks to the relationship that MCC has with other institutions and organisations. I have benefited greatly from workshops and individual consulting from experts in the field of marine biology and seahorse research from the world renowned Project Seahorse. After what was a worrying few weeks in Malaysia, and a fear of no research, I did not expect to have been able to conduct such work on such short notice; I can only imagine what would have been possible should I have planned to come here originally!
• Alexander Wyatt BSc (Zoology) & MSc (Animal Behaviour/Conservation) student at Anglia Ruskin University (UK)
 
Date of Posting: 19 July 2015
Posted By: Alexander Wyatt
BSc (Zoology) & MSc (Animal Behaviour/Conservation) student at Anglia Ruskin University (UK), UK
After three months in Cambodia at the beginning of the year, I felt that my time with MCC was not supposed to end yet. It did not take long until I found myself planning for another, longer stay at Koh Seh. Living on that remote island that first time made me experience, how hard it is, to do sientific work with that limited access to libraries, databases or simply the internet. With about 6 weeks left at home before I would return to what at least became my second home, I dedicated myself to a project, I felt would be necessary to prepare at home with all the helpful "communication devices" before finally implementing it. The idea came up in a conversation on the island and was stuck in my head since then: a detailed map of the reef around Koh Seh with information about substrate distribution and special sightings such as seahorses for every square of 1*1m. Obviously, such a map contained a huge amount of data and there was no way you could handle this data without a really well organized database. Without any knowledge about computer science I asked help by a friend of mine, who is studying this subject. He listened to how I imagined a computer program which connected a database to a map which could be set to show different information like main substrate of each square, seahorse sightings, impact assessment information (damage or diseases)or whatever might be useful to know about the reef. His answer was, if I spent a lot of time learning Java programming and got a little help from him, I could code the program before I would leave Germany. At the end, it took many sleepless nights learning and trying for me and a lot of his help, because problems kept occurring all the time, which does not seem unusual about programming. Anyway, thanks to my friend and a never known dedication about finishing a project in such short time, I ended up having a running version of the program on my computer, when I took the flight back to Cambodia. It was the exact copy of what I had in mind, when I left 2 months before. At that point, I was certain, the challenging and stressful part was over and all which was left, was spending hours and hours, floating on top of beautiful reefs in 31°C water to estimate the distribution of substrate, record the health and development of the corals, look for seahorses and much more – not just fun work, but also a great opportunity to get to know the reef and learn about marine ecosystems. Actually I ended up fighting against permanent overheating, ants in the keyboard and all kinds of problems caused by the naive thought, my old computer, which I kept alive way too long, liked to be moved from Germanys temperate climate to a tropical island in the middle of rainy season. Still, repairs and hardware is surprisingly cheap in Cambodia, the program itself is saved on several devices, data collection has already begun and I still have lots of time left to set this map up. And having a stunning, diverse ecosystem, recovering from destructive human impact under the protection of of a conservation organisation literally in front of your doorstep is a unique opportunity for a project like this.
 
Date of Posting: 19 July 2015
Posted By: Mattheo Oder So
Germany
Being a newcomer to a community can always be a little nerve-racking. This particular small community on the island of Koh Seh is a very welcoming, friendly, and independent group of well traveled people and kind, understanding locals which integrate seamlessly with the volunteers. Arriving in Cambodia presented a few challenges, but finally making it to the island was a huge relief. The camp lies right on the edge of the island, alongside a gorgeous beach with a terrific ocean view, and I was quite taken back at how beautifully efficient the camp was, being able to be settled in no less than an hour, and with renewable energy sources, a true environmentally friendly area. The remote nature of the island just adds to the experience, as you are able to step out of the noise that is daily modern life. Seeing the conservation work that people are being able to achieve here is inspiring, and I am intrigued by all the individual projects that people carrying out and I am eager to learn more. The seahorse research is fascinating as well, leading to a style of diving that I am not familiar with, but equally excited about. I continue to look forward to contributing to this small society, and as I have been told to do, mould the shape of this sandbox of an island, and continue to get to know the interesting and down to earth people of whom I have the pleasure of sharing this experience with.
 
Date of Posting: 19 July 2015
Posted By: Marc Shellard
UK
Traveling alone for the first time to a foreign country can be daunting for some. That was certainly the case with me until I arrived at the Oceanarium at Kep Pier which is too run by Marine Conservation Cambodia. I was met by Paul Ferber and ,the founder of MCC, and his amazing family and I was instantly made feel welcome and at ease. He filled me in about the on-going projects and about my soon to be home for the next three months. With that concluded we made the hour long boat journey to the secluded island of Koh Seh. Upon arrival I was made feel welcome by all- volunteers and staff alike- given a tour of our island, inhabited only by the MCC team and a fisheries police station, and then showed to my bungalow which was shared with another volunteer. Basic? Very, but I soon adjusted to the limited electricity and the bucket showers and it very quickly became my home, one I would hate to leave when the time came.

My first few weeks were split between completing my dive qualifications, snorkeling and Reef Check Survey training which allowed me to to partake in surveys and the monitoring of the well-being of the reefs around Keps' archipelago. I was taught how to correctly identify fish, invertebrates and substrate which allowed me plenty of time in the water to put my ID skills to practice. Once my training was completed along with my dive certifications I participated in Reef Check surveys on numerous reefs and with in a short period of time I could already see a visible improvement upon the reefs due to the decreased amount of illegal fishing in the area which the MCC patrol team works very hard to achieve. After a while the volunteers were also trained to partake in seahorse surveys which involved learning to ID seahorse species in the area, how to take measurements and record the data found on the seahorse to allow the monitoring of populations sizes and distributions. Besides diving and surveys, there were many land-based activities on the to do when the weather wasn't suitable for being in the water such as beach clean-ups, building anti-trawling devices, report writing and data entries.

Even with loads of work to do during the day there was still plenty of time to spend as you pleased during the evening. Playing volleyball, watching films, playing cards and night swims amongst the breathtakingly beautiful bioluminescence were just a few of the many ways to spend your evenings. Every second week or so we got the day off for the 'Island Swim', a swim to a neighboring island for a picnic lunch which was followed by a fun dive. Fridays were commenced with an early boat ride back to the main land to participate in interviews with local fishermen from small scale fishing villages to uncover the impact that illegal fishing was having on their livelihoods. This was always a humbling experience and it made us aware at how truly devastating illegal fishing can be and how imperative it was to try prevent it.

Working with MCC was an experience that I will forever be grateful to have had. For my whole three months I felt that my contribution was truly appreciated, that my efforts were helping to make a difference and contributing to the conservation of the oceans. I met so many amazing people who made feel like part of a team-of a family- and that was inarguable what made my experience so memorable. This is truly one organisation doing what they do for the right reasons and do it with so much passion. If you are looking to have one great time while contributing to a great cause I would recommend MCC without a doubt.
 
Date of Posting: 09 July 2015
Posted By: Jessica Arro
South Africa
After landing in Phnom Penh in the early hours of a Monday morning, I made the three-hour journey South to Kep, a coastal town popular with holidaying locals. Upon reaching the Oceanarium at Kep Pier, an education and research facility also established by Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC), I was soon greeted by Paul Ferber, the organizations founding father, and his large, excitable but extremely welcoming family - dogs and all! Together we made the one hour boat ride further South to the remote and picturesque Island of Koh Seh. I was immediately made to feel welcome by all of the team members and the other volunteers and I was soon shown to my rustic bungalow, which I would be sharing with two other volunteers. Accommodation was certainly basic, but I very quickly got used to the bucket showers and intermittent electricity. The following day I received a tour of the island, and I was amazed to realize how small it actually was. Asides from the MCC camp, there is a fisheries police station and no other residents or developments, making it the perfect desert island getaway.

As I was planning on volunteering with MCC for two months, there was sufficient time for me to be trained in the practice of Reef Check Surveys, which aid in monitoring the state of the reefs in a proposed MPA around Koh Seh and neighboring islands. This meant that I spent my first couple of weeks learning how to correctly identify fish and invertebrate species, and the reef substrate, in addition to spending plenty of time in the water, snorkeling and diving while practicing my ID skills. In the weeks that followed I helped to perform Reef Check Surveys on a number of different reefs, and given that MCC had only last year relocated to Koh Seh and begun work in the area, it was fascinating to watch as the reefs improved in condition and the marine life flourished, even in just the 8 weeks I was there. I was also trained to ID seahorse species commonly found in the area. This meant that when I wasn't doing Reef Checks, I was carrying out seahorse surveys aimed at monitoring population sizes and distributions of this vulnerable animal in the area. However when weather conditions made diving difficult, there was still plenty to do on the island to keep busy such as beach clean-ups, tending to MCC's garden and building anti-trawling devices. A fortnightly highlight was the 'island swim'; a 1.2km (noncompulsory!) swim from Koh Seh to the neighboring island Koh Angkrong, where we would have a picnic on the beach followed by a leisurely fun dive along the reef. Evenings were spent playing volleyball, socializing in the main bungalow with an Angkor or two, round a campfire, watching a film/documentary or swimming off the end of the pier in the spectacular bioluminescence. Additionally, every Friday morning we would head back to the mainland to interview small-scale fishermen from local fishing communities to determine the impact of illegal Vietnamese fishing activity on their livelihoods. Subsequently volunteers had the choice of either returning to the island for a relaxing couple of days, or staying on the mainland for some Internet and creature comforts.

MCC is not affiliated with any commercial voluntourism organization; therefore it is clear that its main purpose is to make a tangible positive difference to Cambodia's marine environments, something that wouldn't be possible without volunteers contributing their time and expertise. MCC is working at the frontline of conservation, with Paul and a group of passionate individuals regularly patrolling the area for illegal trawlers in an attempt to conserve the marine environments integrity. For the entirety of the time I was volunteering with MCC, I felt like my contribution was appreciated and integral to their work conserving Cambodia's ocean and its inhabitants. However, ultimately it was the people at MCC that made my experience so unforgettable. I met such a fantastic team with individuals of all ages and from all walks of life who shared the same drive to help the environment. I wish MCC the very best with all their future work and would recommend this volunteering opportunity to anyone who is looking to contribute to a worthwhile cause while having a hell of a lot of fun!
 
Date of Posting: 30 June 2015
Posted By: Gabriella Church
UK
It was a great 2 weeks in Cambodia. I have received a lot of positive emotions from diving and communicating with our instructor, the other volunteers and the entire team. The stunning island that gives you the opportunity to be alone with nature and get the thrill of diving. Volunteers from all over the world share experiences and impressions. We will never get bored and always have been occupied by different interesting projects. Thanks to the organizers for this opportunity and success to them in all their endeavors and extensions.
 
Date of Posting: 20 March 2015
Posted By: Ana
Russia
My only regret I have about my time at MCC is that I didn't stay longer.. After arriving at MCC (at a time that was a bit of a low for the team) in early December, eager to start my internship and begin diving, I was greeted by a few people that I did not expect. The ever lovely Fern and Jasmine, eager to show me around the fabulous Koh Seh, taking the weight of their fathers shoulders, Paul Ferber. The next morning I would start my internship and change my life forever. The experience of my 8 weeks was far greater than anything that can be taught at a university. Paul and the team were exceptionally quick in accommodating me and getting me up to scratch with the ins and outs of island life. I was thrown right into the deep end, quickly acquiring my Advance Diver licence from Gabor, and at the same time being taught fish, invertebrates, seahorse and seagrass identities. By the time I left MCC, I had become a trainer / teacher and survey leader, was diving 3 times a day and staying up late spinning yarns with the whole team and trying (and failing) to learn Khmer.

This organisation is a bright speck in an otherwise gritty ocean, with many illegal fishing vessels in the Kep region, MCC aims to eliminate and educate local fishermen, in a way where sustainability may be achieved. Because, in the end, that is the goal, for future generations to be able to enjoy the beauty that we have been able to enjoy. The feeling you get when leaving is a mixed one, you are sad to be leaving such a great place, but ecstatic because you have helped to make a difference!

And, if conservation isn't necessarily your thing, the island is a pretty swell place to escape ;) Sleeping 20 meters from a stunning coral reef, being able to snorkel everyday among some of the worlds most beautiful fish, there isn't much more you could ask for!

I can't recommend this enough for anyone who ever dreamer of being a marine biologist or who is remotely interested in conservation!
And I can not wait to get back to the island!
 
Date of Posting: 20 February 2015
Posted By: Max Bayly
3rd Year Marine Biologist at University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

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