What can be said about Koh Rong Samloem? Well, it’s a very small island just off the West Coast of Cambodia located in the Gulf of Thailand and it is full of utterly wonderful people who’re delighted to invite you into their, very recent community. The village of M’Pai Bei has only been on the island since the year 2000. But these are only the facts, what have I actually been doing whilst on placement?
I have been working with SCML (Save Cambodian Marine Life) who’s work has helped innovate and protect this precious jewel of an island. Such achievements include successfully campaigning to create a conservation zone in the ocean close to the island to stop illegal fishing, building a school for the community, bringing running water and sanitation to the island as well as creating a coral nursery which preserves and re-grows broken pieces of coral to release back into the reef.
But what have I been doing? What can the volunteering programme really bring to this island that hasn’t already been accomplished? Well, firstly, I have learnt to dive which has been a personal ambition of mine for quite some time which I’ve been able to put it into good use immediately by diving most days to the coral nursery with SCML.
Whilst there we clean the coral beds as the ecosystem hasn’t had time to develop into a self-regulating one yet, so we have to help preserve the corals by cleaning them. Other tasks at the nursery include repositioning rocks to protect the beds from the current and storms which blight the island at this time of year; reattaching corals to the beds when they come lose with cable ties and attaching newly found broken corals to natural substrates which have been put in place ready for when they’re required. It really is a very important piece of conservation for the island and is a big focus for SCML.
I have also been involved in other pieces of work including beach cleanups, both on land and in the water; raising awareness to the local community regarding plastic and litter and as a result of SCML’s efforts, black bin-liners filled with household waste are now collected from the pier every other week; creating signs to reinforce litter awareness and helping the school by collecting litter from the playground, which SCML built, as well tending to the vegetation there.
It really has been a very enjoyable placement and I have entered into the spirit of this small community by trying to integrate myself as much as possible. The work SCML is conducting is extremely rewarding as you can see the benefits to the community and to the ocean. Plus I’ve been able to spend my 4 weeks placement here at Koh Rong Samloem, a truly beautiful island with wonderful people from all corners of the world.