Here are some reviews from our volunteers and interns, Please share your experiences with us.:
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
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
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
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
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
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
I spent almost 3 months in Phnom Penh as a volunteer teacher, which was an amazing experience, but as my own treat and "vacation" for the last two weeks I decided to join the Island Divers at Koh Ses in their diving project to learn how to dive as well as helping out saving the ocean, which was a dream come true! My diving instructor was a fantastic woman who made the learning fun and easy, and on our very first "real" dive we saw a little baby seahorse. Despite of my short time there it felt like you belonged, that all the volunteers were a big friendly family from all nationalities, sharing the same love for the ocean. Meeting other volunteers is a great opportunity to make friends worldwide you can travel and visit later on! I learnt so much about vertebrates, fish, seagrass and seahorses on my stay here, and would love to have stayed longer to develop my diving skills even further. A very rewarding experience where you find yourself, get to dive every day, learn more about the ocean and help save it!
Date of Posting: 29 January 2015
Posted By: Linda Agren
I'm a Swedish girl of 25 who works as a teacher but in in my spare time I love being creative, travelling, reading, cats, mermaids..., Sweden
I had the most amazing time working with MCC. Waking up everyday to such a beautiful view was a real pleasure, but getting to dive every day was even better. I had the opportunity to gain my PADI Advanced Open Water certificate which allowed me to more confidently take part in the surveys. We would survey reef fish, invertebrates, sea grass and, best of all, seahorses. Once you had done a few seahorse ID dives, you started to be able to spot the seahorses yourself which, since they are masters of disguises, felt like a great achievement. I loved to dive amongst the beautiful coral reefs with the schools of different fish, it was a magical experience. We were also able to do night dives where you could see the bioluminescent plankton as well as other nocturnal creatures. When we weren't diving, we'd take part in land activities such as beach clean ups. My favourite land activity was helping to build concrete trees which we'd later plant in parts of the reef affected by trawler damage. We'd imbed these trees with corals so they would grow into a new, man made coral reef. It is an amazing feeling knowing that you've helped to build a habitat for thousands of organisms. If you're looking for an adventure, I thoroughly recommend a trip to Cambodia working with MCC.
Date of Posting: 08 December 2014
Posted By: Natasha Kensington
Working with MCC was such a great experience, and I am glad I could be a part of it. Especially because I was involved from the beginning of the project at Koh Seh which made everything even more interesting because I slowly saw the project shifting into place. The people that are involved with the project really have a heart for it and they pass this feeling on to the rest of the volunteers. You feel at home when you are on the island, because it is very beautiful and the accommodation is really good as well. And you will grow as a person and learn a lot. It is really amazing how much I have gained in knowledge about marine conservation, biology and diving of course. Besides that I think it is really important that the work MCC is doing continues since the situation at this point in the sea around Cambodia is really bad. When diving you can see that there is so much damage done and it is good that there is an organization like MCC trying to change this and help the marine environment improve. All in all I can recommend working with MCC for everyone, even if your not into marine biology or anything like. It has absolutely been an unforgetable experience!
Date of Posting: 20 November 2014
Posted By: Pim Van Eersel
This summer I participated in the volunteer activity of MCC for four weeks.When I arrived at the Koh Seh, I felt anxiety because there were no restaurant, no wi-fi, no shops. I had never been in such an environment. But instead, there I saw a very beautiful island with amazing view. Watching sunrise and sunset made me feel really relaxed.
Also, I was so happy that I was able to spend a good time with MCC staff and other volunteer worker.
Actually, my activity were mainly 3things. Hearing the presentation, sea glass survey and picking up garbage near the beach. I learned the method of the investigation by the presentation. Then, I dived approximately 2-3 times a day to research the sea glass. At first, I was not a good diver, but, I everyday practice made me a better diver.
I want to tell you about my three experiences that I was really impressed.
First, is the view of the sky filled with stars. Not only was the sky so beautiful, but because i was looking at the sky while night dive, water surface's reflection made it even more beautiful.
Second, finding the seahorse and observation of the seahorse was really fun. Most of them were really tiny and cute.
Finally, I went for a small trip with other volunteer worker. That was a very enjoyable time.
In the end, every moment at the island became unforgettable memory for me.
Date of Posting: 15 September 2014
Posted By: Gaku Kiyota