As part of my marine ecology & conservation degree I was required to do 300 work based learning. A lecturer recommended Frontier to me and came across this project by chance and knew it was the... Maria Gray
Health and Safety
An Incredible And Amazing Experience
Submitted by Maria Gray - Wolverhampton Bournemouth University in association with Kingston Maurward College | January 17, 2014
As part of my marine ecology & conservation degree I was required to do 300 work based learning. A lecturer recommended Frontier to me and came across this project by chance and knew it was the ideal work placement.
I spent five weeks during the summer on this project and it has had a lasting impact. Far from covering the 300 hours, this was my first time flying alone to another country; roughly 6,600 miles flying via Singapore Airlines.
In addition to my first time travelling alone, it was also my first time truly being in the field and presented me with a completely different way of life which I actually prefer now.
Koh Smach island, the location of the project, is truly a sight to beheld. It's a lost paradise which I reminds me of Tracy Island from the tv series Thunderbirds with it's white sand beaches, palm trees and extraordinary coral reefs which are abundant with various species and were a real treat to snorkel on and research. I count myself lucky to have done so.
Life on the project is simple and good fun.
It's a basic way of life; there's no running water, no electricity, no central heating or any of the luxuries you get with a UK home and you have a simple diet of vegetables, rice and fish and packet noodles which makes it all the more fun and worthwhile. There's also a selection of books to read during days off and games are regularly played during the evenings.
You are living at one with the island and in the same type of accommodation the locals live in. Cambodia is a poor country and the health system is a lower standard than in the UK so in addition to the medical supplies on Frontier's kit list, take additional as a precaution. I ended up applying iodine a fair number of times as a precaution on small scrapes and scratches.
On that note, the Frontier field staff were brilliant. You can approach them regarding any matter. On the project you become part of a family which watches out for each other and has a great time. I have no complaints over the staff. They were wonderful and fun individuals.
My duties on the project included helping maintain tidiness in the camp, cooking, teaching the island children English, gathering data on the reefs and on beach litter which I also used for a specialist research project in my degree's second year and shooing off invading cattle on occasion (in a for penny, in for a pound)! I also interacted with the island inhabitants a great deal which was enjoyable and highly rewarding.
I learned about the species that Frontier is researching, the effects of pollution on coral reefs and identifying coral species and camp activities such as making a cooking fire and preparing a meal for a group of people. I also learnt Khmer and about Cambodian cooking, traditions, parties and about the history of Cambodia and assisted on the supply run to the trade island.
I was also involved in making a video for the project and did a camp quiz on one of the nights.
Overall it was a life changing experience which taught me not just new skills and knowledge and reinforced that which I knew but also about a new culture and country, the values of humility, the true impacts we are having on our oceans, what I wanted to do after my degree and to how to have a real good party! I made some great friends on the island some of whom I've kept in touch with and I have some fantastic and special memories as souvenirs.
My highlights were teaching the children English, experiencing a different way of life and culture, collecting field data, seeing my first wild shark and stingray on the reefs and celebrating my 22nd birthday. Because I'm a sci-fi geek there was a tropical sci-fi theme and we all dressed up in self-made costumes and yes a couple of us were dressed up as Thunderbirds characters which was hilarious.
I loved my time on the project, it's the best thing I've done and I highly recommend the project. If I got the option to return there tomorrow I'd take it in a heartbeat.
Cambodia is so far fetched from the UK, it might as well be on another planet as opposed to the opposite side of the globe! The culture and the people are amazing and as a travelling destination it's a must visit and the Frontier project is a must do. You are quite literally immersed in the experience rather than sat on the outside walking in now and then and I fully appreciated and loved every minute deep down. Just a head's up, make sure you know the Gangnam Style dance and take P20 as a screen block of choice. It's expensive but worth it. And if possible take a solar charger for your phone and any other digital gadgets. You'll have a full battery for good duration of your time on the project!