Here are some reviews from our volunteers and interns, Please share your experiences with us.:
Hello! My name is Kian, and I'm from the US. I am currently taking a gap year before heading to university to study global health. I was looking online for conservation organizations in Southeast Asia, and when I stumbled upon the MCC website, I knew I wanted to participate in some way. So far, I have learned to dive and spot seahorses as well as helping out with other projects on the island. It has been amazing to learn about the fight for conservation, and how MCC is fighting a fight where most of the odds are against them. Although I am only here for a month, it has been a great experience to learn about all that MCC does, and do my part to learn and participate where I can. The island is absolutely beautiful, and the community here is very strong.
Date of Posting: 17 January 2017
Posted By: Kian
Hi, my name is Monika and I’m from Australia. I was a zoo keeper back home but quit my job and sold all my stuff to travel around Asia and volunteer with different animal organizations that focus heavily on conservation. I chose to volunteer with MCC because the organization is doing active work improving the marine ecosystem, something that I wanted to explore and learn more about.
It has been exciting and thrilling challenges learning to scuba dive here, and eye opening every time I go into the water. Swimming with bioluminescence during the night dive was a definite highlight! Island life has been fantastic, even though I’ve kept busy, the vibe is relaxed, an ocean view is everywhere you turn, and with all the friendly smiling faces you can’t help but be happy. I’m definitely not ready to leave the island and my plan is to come right back.
Date of Posting: 10 January 2017
Posted By: Monika Lapka
Our names are Anya and Raphael and we are from Ukraine and Germany. While travelling through Asia for 5 months, we decided to join MCC for 2 weeks of volunteering.
We have been interested in Marine Biology and Marine Conservation ever since we started diving more than 2 years ago. We wanted to know more about this fantastic hidden world and how to protect it. This is why we decided to look for a marine conservation project during our Asia trip. MCC is exactly what we were looking for and the work that is done is just fantastic. It shows how much can be achieved in short time if people work together in a team and have full dedication.
We hope that we can continue contributing something similar once we are back in Europe and can use the experiences gained during our time at MCC. And of course we hope that we can come back to Koh Seh someday for a longer period.
It’s great what you guys at MCC are doing, keep doing it!
Date of Posting: 12 December 2016
Posted By: Anya
Honeymoon, Ukraine & Germany
Hi, I’m Kate. I’m 22, from England and I just graduated from a Zoology BSc at University of Manchester. I want to study for a Masters in International Nature Conservation so I decided that coming to MCC would be great experience for me. So far I’ve been having an amazing time becoming an advanced diver here but I’ve also been helping out with beach clean ups and path creating. It’s hard work but we have lots of fun because we work as a team. I’m over halfway through my time here but I know I won’t want to leave! I love the way of life here and I feel as though there’s still so much more to learn and more I could contribute. One month is definitely not enough time here, everyone should stay longer.
Date of Posting: 12 December 2016
Posted By: Kate
Zoology BSc, England
Puzzling as it may seem at first, as in where should one go when it comes to looking after our sea, our home, Marine Conservation Cambodia is an ideal place.
Its an island, less then a km long consisting of open minds, inspiration, adrenaline, tonnes of knowledge, craziness, big appetites, creativity and much more. In other words, a place where one can get rich as a soul. People from different backgrounds, any background, come together for one cause. And knowledge is shared for which some of us are so thirsty. The criteria required is willingness to do. I'm not sure if its for the fainthearted, as the opponent they face isn't exactly small. One may get an idea of their constant pursuit of conservation over the website through reports, articles, blogs, testimonials, videos etc, but once your there, you will be able to clearly see and feel for your self the cause and effect of this group of people. And the fact it can be done and you can be a part of it. It is for real. I'm glad to have met you all though this little coincidence we call life. Ill be back. :)
Date of Posting: 18 October 2016
Posted By: Gautam Pahwa (gotham)
Dive Instructor, India
Marine Conservation Cambodia was one of the best experiences of my life. I have always lived nearby a big city with lots of family and friends and haven’t tried to expand my comfort zone a lot. I decided to do my three month university internship with MCC after reading many helpful reviews from past volunteers and contacting their very responsive staff (Delphine is incredibly good with emails considering you have to stand on the pier to get the best internet service!)
There is no denying that living on the island takes a lot of adjustment. The bungalows have two barrels of water (fresh and salt) for bucket showers and squatty potties. You have to save up your laundry all week and then take it with you to mainland to get it washed because there is often not enough freshwater to waste on laundry. It is vital to cooperate with constantly changing volunteers and make sure the living and working environment is beneficial and harmonious for everyone
One thing I think MCC should have volunteers be more aware of is the children and dogs. I, personally, love kids and puppies, but for some it was more difficult. Paul has four dogs and one had just had eight puppies before I arrived, which was a lot to handle at first. The four kids have to be watched often and are still learning manners and when to give personal space. I brought books and another volunteer brought watercolors and pens which can keep the kids entertained and occupied. I think it’s good to be prepared to work with the two older kids an hour a week so they learn from a variety of different people continuously.
Besides all of this, MCC is generally amazing. The staff is always open to new ideas and so many new protocols and volunteer’s suggestions were implemented just in the short time I was there. A new bungalow was built, two gardens were started, a children’s play was created, and the volunteers began cooking and doing dishes—all while continuing with daily life on the island.
I learned how to dive in a very comprehensive way (I received both my Open Water and Advanced while there). Amick, one of the MCC coordinators, took time out of conducting seahorse research to teach me the basics when we didn’t have a dive instructor. I continued to do practice dives with Brayden, the team scientist. Once MCC’s dive instructor arrived, I was thoroughly prepared and passed easily because of their constant help.
Just while I was here, MCC created an MFMA proposal for the Cambodian government, an EU proposal about oyster reefs, tagged seahorses as part of a PhD project, multiple seahorse surveys, in addition to coral reef assessments and reports for both Koh Seh and nearby islands. The Koh Seh reef has some of the best water quality in the area and by far the largest biodiversity, which really pushes the continuation of conservation by the volunteers and staff. I really enjoyed not being forced into daily tedious chores by renowned scientists and instead working closely with trained researchers with many years of experience to actually fully learn skills.
Living on the island was definitely a growing experience but I think MCC helped me in every way. Everyone pitched in to teach me how to make spaghetti sauce for Friday dinner. Everyone gathered together to play Fun Fact Friday every week in order to bond and relax after the workweek. Everyone surprised me on my birthday with cake and a party, and did so for the other five people who also had birthdays while I was there. I met people from all over the world (Australia, Holland, Canada, Belgium, UK, Austria, Italy etc.) and of all ages: other people on university internships but there were also older volunteers—one mother even brought her six year old! MCC is a community and a family and one of the best places to stay for marine conservation and learning.
Date of Posting: 08 August 2016
Posted By: Alex Merkle-Raymond
19 years old, Environmental Science Student, USA
Vive la commune !
Vivre en commun comporte son lot de défi. Vivre en commun, sur une ile, coupée d’internet, de téléphone intelligent et de ce qui constitue dorénavant notre quotidien est un défi supplémentaire. Toutefois, quand un objectif et une motivation sont partagés par les individus impliqués, on arrive parfois à de belles surprises. C’est ce dont j’ai été témoin au cours des derniers jours lors de ma visite dans la deuxième famille de mon ami Amick, c’est a dire MCC.
Je ne m’éterniserai pas sur les différents projets de nature scientifiques ou écologiques qui motivent les gens que j’ai rencontré au cours des derniers jours. Je vais plutôt m’en tenir à vous entretenir de la vie communautaire que ceux-ci partagent. En effet, des gens de tous les milieux, pays et âges se retrouvent ici car partageant le désir de protéger les fonds marins. Cette motivation fait en sorte qu’ils sont donc confinés sur une ile à vivre loin du réseau d’aqueduc et électrique dans des conditions qui nécessitent parfois beaucoup d’adaptation. Ce mode de vie alternatif et communautaire, est pour moi la plus belle réussite dont j’ai pu être témoin.
La vie sur l’ile, avec ces repas en commun, ces taches partagées et la coopération de tous, permet de faire émerger un sentiment de communauté et de vivre ensemble au quotidien. C’est vraiment quelque chose d’unique dans cette ère d’individualité et de chacun pour soi. En effet, l’époque des communes étant bien révolue, quand pouvons nous maintenant être témoin (ou surtout participant !) d’une vie communautaire regroupant plusieurs dizaines de personnes coupés du monde ou presque? La réponse est que sur cette petite ile du Cambodge, c’est précisément ce qui est en train de se passer. Ce seul fait, en soi, est une très belle réussite et mérite d’être souligné : vive la commune !
Date of Posting: 02 August 2016
Posted By: Remi
What beautiful place to be! I have been working with MCC as a volunteer in the beginning of 2015 and it was the best time. The first person I met was Sao. Since it was already late when I got to Kep, she helped me find a place to sleep so I could take the boat to the island the next morning. Life on the island is very basic, but it shows you how much you really need in live. Paul and his kids Jasmine and Fern were living on the island with me. They are so adorable.
Work basically consisted of reef surveys back then, so I got my dinving license with Gabor, the diving teacher on the island back then. He was the best teacher you could imagine, and in the evenings, he told us stories about his diving experiences from all over the world. As soon as I got my license and learned what all the fish and inverts are called with Delph, we surveyed around the islands close to our island. After about 2 dive trips a day, we wrote down our results in the evening, working on a scientific report.
At the end of my stay we even went to other islands and interviewed local fishermen to analyse the situation of illegal trawling, which destroys the ocean and all its creatures.
Living in a bungalow with two pretty ladies called finella and carrie from australia and the US, we share lots of funny memories. I cant wait to visit Finella and Max, another volunteer, in Australia this year.
All in all, this space is to small to write down all the memories and experiences. All I can say is that, in spite of some doubts about living in Cambodia at the beginning, it was an awesome experience, which I would do again over and over again :).
Date of Posting: 26 July 2016
Posted By: Kati Nispel
Tonight is my last night here on the island, so it’s a good time to look back over my 30 days on Koh Seh. Like most of my volunteer projects, they start out slow and end up speeding past. This one was no exception. I had come to the island hoping to do only minor scuba/snorkeling survey work and spend most of my time reviewing socio-demographic data on fishing villages—which is my specialty. That’s what actually happened in a big way since I broke both eardrums on my first dive on my first day. So it turned out painful—I healed—and then I spent my time helping MCC with their ecological documents and socio-demo data. Heaven for me! The island experience was rustic but doable. I just have to say I am so greatful for the kindness of Paul, the director, and his wife, Sao. Sao cooked special “veggie” dishes for me and when I had the flu for several days, Paul and Sao delivered special healing soups to my bedside. I was better in no time and I’ll be forever greatful for their kindness. I’d recommend Koh Seh and MCC to those who can improvise when things don’t go perfectly, for those who are biologists/ ecologists or who want to learn about the field. This was my fourth volunteer opportunity in two years and I can truly say I felt like I made a difference. Now back to the mainland in the morning and my next adventure!!!!
Date of Posting: 10 June 2016
Posted By: Mary Knapp
Retired US Fisheries and Wildlife Officer, US
“Day in the life of a seahorse conservation volunteer”
56 minutes into a seahorse survey, and no seahorses. How unfair that such beautifully impressive creatures are also so agonisingly elusive (illusive?)! I take a glance to my left to see my buddy painstakingly scanning the seagrass bed beneath us… with just four short minutes left to survey, I can tell he’s as anxious as I am to catch a glimpse of this almost mystically dragon-like fish. We’re told in our survey training that seahorses are the masters of camouflage; effortlessly vanishing into their surroundings, but all of a sudden it seems backward, and almost every strand of seagrass deceptively appears as a seahorse. Damn. I stop for a moment and hover underwater, concentrating hard on my surroundings to properly observe the life around me. A couple of wasp-fish lie motionless and hidden in the dense seagrass, a small chocolate-drop sea star lurks next to them in wait of food, to my right three shimmering fusilier fish dart after one another, and there… finally! A seahorse. Strikingly yellow, this is undoubtedly the most impressive I’ve sighted during my six weeks on the island so far, and I can’t help but smile as I signal to my buddy to come over for a look. I can tell that the two of us could be captivated by the golden female for hours. The skilful way the body sways back-and-forth in the swell while its curled tail holds fast to the seagrass is almost hypnotically mesmerising. After allowing the seahorse to accept our presence as unthreatening, I carefully take a few measurements and photos, identifying its species as H. kuda, before the two of us surface for a ceremonial fist bump – survey success!
Hi, I’m Chloe Hatton and staying on the beautifully remote island of Koh Seh and working with MCC for a total of three months. After being accepted to study BSc Marine Biology in the UK next year, I decided to look for some hands-on, practical experience in the field of marine conservation. MCC’s studies into seahorses really intrigued me – particularly the aspects relating to the human and environmental interface in Cambodia and using them as an indicator species for the health of local ecosystems – and here I am! The waters surrounding Kep Archipelago have been decimated by damaging methods of overfishing in the last decades, and the seahorse is a key species that can be monitored to follow recovery in the area with environmental protection brought through MCC’s work. Now half way through my time here, I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision to fly half way around the world to join the (albeit mildly dysfunctional) family of volunteers and staff! Each day I learn something new, laugh at something new and go to bed exhausted!
The Hippocampus. kuda like my buddy and I found is a smooth bodied seahorse, and one of eight species that the volunteers at MCC learn to identify. The studying begins with presentations from the project’s very own seahorse expert, volunteer coordinator and ‘surfer dude’, Amick. From there, each volunteer receives an iSeahorse Toolkit document to revise from before a small test, ensuring all have a good knowledge of seahorses and substrates before beginning surveys. In addition to this, longer-term volunteers can choose to study fish, substrate or invertebrate ID in depth to assist with reef surveys – something which I’m currently attempting! Information collected on seahorse surveys is added to a database daily, where it can be scrutinised by any volunteers senseless enough to enjoy statistical analysis, and conclusions can be drawn about changes in the population in the waters around Koh Seh.
Aside from collecting data in surveys, MCC also offers the opportunity to be involved with all kinds of projects; Mangrove cultivating, patrolling for illegal trawlers, coral planting, seagrass mapping, aquaculture schemes and even involvement in writing proposals for marine protected areas. In fact, one of the most ground-breaking investigations into underwater seahorse tagging is centred at MCC. Monthly dives take place in which seahorses are safely injected with a polymer dye to form four small coloured marks to identify the individual. When the tagged seahorses are sighted in future, it is then possible to ascertain data regarding the pattern of its movement, growth rate, and any other changes to the individual. Watching the tagging process has been one of my personal highlights whilst on the island and something I will never forget as the most interesting investigation technique I’ve witnessed.
Although the island is a hub of activity each day and everyone is dedicated to the work going on, there’s no shortage of time for play! From volleyball matches to late nights relaxing in hammocks and morning meditation to stargazing, Koh Seh has something for everyone and is impossible not to fall in love with.
MCC is a small organisation operating on so many fronts to fight for conservation, so working here as a volunteer can really give you the feeling of making a difference.
The best part? It all starts with a seahorse.
Date of Posting: 02 June 2016
Posted By: Chloe Hatton
BSc Marine Biology, UK