Trail leader blog: Cambodia Marine project

As the Eco Trail Leader my days in Thailand and Vietnam are jam-packed with planning itineraries, booking bus tickets, arranging accommodation, hunting out tasty places for dinner, organising excursions and guiding the group through jam-packed pavements, weird and wonderful smells and chaotic noisy scenes that are the epitome of Asia’s charm.

Koh Rong Samloem

But on the paradise island of Koh Rong Samloem, I sometimes have to pinch myself, realise and then feel lucky… that this is work! As a scuba diver and a surfer I am in my element by the sea, but there is something truly special about living on a beach camp for a month. My typical day is a million miles from that London commuter life I used to have…

I generally wake up around 7.30am, but it’s no struggle to get up here! The first person up boils the kettle and I eat a breakfast of noodles and tea in a hammock with my book and a view of the sea.

Today my first work session will be testing one of the new volunteers on their fish identifications. In order to log data about the reef, volunteers must be able to easily identify 63 different fish, so I will don my snorkel and mask, my work clothes (a bikini!) and swim through the reef pointing out the weird, wonderful and beautiful creatures that make our house reef so rich and colourful.

After the morning session we break for lunch during the hottest part of the day. We gather in the shade of the porch with a noodle or rice dish and watch the island boat come in and out at the pier. After lunch, I will be joining up with one of the other volunteers to collect data on a full survey. Working on a selected portion of the reef, we will record the fish, the coral and the little critters that live there.

After showering (with a bucket of water from the local well) I like to dry off on the back decking where the sun sets over the trees and palms. We cook lunch and dinner on a rota system and some nights I will be cooking a vegetable curry or lentil burgers for everyone. Other nights I will be washing up, or like last night I will have time to get creative – fixing my trousers or making a cutlery drainer from a plastic bottle!

I love the simple life, and the evening is blissfully relaxing here. Sometimes we are all engrossed in our books, sometimes we play cards, have games nights, cuddle puppies, have long thought provoking conversations or go for a beer from a cool box at our local rustic bar.

We are starting to know the locals, get to grips with Khmer language and tally up rare sightings like rays, cuttlefish and black blotched porcupine fish. My family ask when I’m getting a proper job, but this is far more appealing!...

By Rachel Bradley, Trail Leader

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.


Assistant Trail Leader Blog: Welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia!

After another long bus ride through some incredible scenery and an incredulous border crossing involving a great deal of different paperwork and official stamps we are finally in Cambodia.

First impression are great, Siem Reap is a hive of activity with lots or great restaurants, street vendors and night markets. We all ate out last night in the night market and caught up on the stories of the volunteers' first days of teaching. Everyone seems to be relishing the new challenges that they are facing including teaching their own classes early on which may have seem daunting at first but they are taking it in their stride. Tara explained how she had been given her own class today for 45 minutes and despite being unsure at first she quickly found her inner teacher and taught them about proper nouns with satisfying results. Heidi, Lelia and Ebony had the chance to go to a more rural school yesterday which they loved as it gave them a chance to see another side of the teaching experience. Here they noted the children were still just as eager and willing to learn but they had far less resources, which means they will have to be even more imaginative and resourceful with their approaches but I'm sure they will be excellent at it and look forward to hearing their stories over dinner tonight in the shared volunteer house.

Finally, just a quick mention that we are four members lighter than the last time we wrote. Amanda, Hilary, Leah and Mike left on Monday as they were only travelling with us for the Thailand section of the trail. We filled our last few days together on Koh Phangan with last minute shopping, eating even more Thai food and had the all important sandcastle competition! They were excellent, enthusiastic, funny members of our group and will definitely be missed as we carry on through Cambodia and into Vietnam. From all of us on the Frontier South East Asia Trail we hope your new adventures in Bali and New Zealand are going well, that you have started planning your next trip Mike and Hilary, see you in Vietnam we hope!!

By Kelly Lovick, Assistant Trail Leader

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.


Volunteer Blog: Beach Conservation in Cambodia!

It's a hard life for the beach conservation project participants, who have been snorkelling on the house reef today!

The trail participants on the beach conservation project have spent their first night on Koh Rong Samleom, Cambodia. Today they started their fish lectures, did some snorkelling and are now relaxing before dinner. Here are their first impressions of life on the island:

It's a chilled out little paradise! - Ben, in a hammock.

We've had great fun snorkelling, seen some amazing fish and eaten some surprisingly good food! - Hamish, also in a hammock!

What can make an island paradise better? Puppies. Oh wait... we have four!!! - Caitlin, writing her diary on the porch.

I love the amazing chilled attitude on the island. - Rebecca, carrying a barrel of water to shower with!

I'm looking forward to spending four weeks snorkelling on a beautiful island! - Lauren, reading at the table.

Wish you were here?!

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Volunteer Blog: Tara Westlund

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur, but undoubtedly incredible!

One morning in Pai a few girls and I went to do yoga with "Mama Yoga." Mama is a 67-year-old crazy yogi that lost too many brain cells doing headstands over the years. To be fair, at 67 she could comfortably do the splits, do a headstand and eat her lunch simultaneously. The entire morning she kept telling us to focus and "Look at the woo. Look at the woo." At the end we realized she was saying view!! The view was nice - we were in a bamboo loft in a valley overlooking the river, farms and mountains.

Koh Tao

After our time in Pai, we journeyed to Kanchanaburi. We visited a historic bridge and museum, rode bikes around town and - major highlight of the trip - spent a day at The Erawan Waterfalls. I can't begin to describe how amazing it was. I don't think I have ever been anywhere so beautiful. Dozens of waterfalls are scattered up the mountain and there are tons of pools of bright blue water to swim in. 100% want to go back there some day!

Koh Phangan

From Kanchanaburi we travelled to the island of Koh Tao. I spent most of my days there hanging out on the beach, swimming and kayaking. I also took a day trip to a nearby island with a resort, private beach and snorkeling. On my last night in Koh Tao I went to a great seafood restaurant called Barracuda's. They had cheese!!! After 4 days of beach bumming in Koh Tao we hopped on a ferry to Koh Phangan… Apparently this island is notorious for crazy full moon parties, but we're staying at Haad Yao on the north side which is much quieter. It's been a lot of beach time, yoga, hiking and swimming. Today I went to a few view points, a Chinese temple, a secret beach and rooftop bar to watch the sunset. I love it here!

By Tara Westlund, volunteer

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.


Trail Leader Blog: Thailand Top Three 

Every day is different in this job and that’s why I love it! As we prepare to enter our volunteering phase in Cambodia I think back to my top 3 moments of Thailand so far…

Tubing in Pai

After the hustle, bustle and humidity of Bangkok, with a vigorous schedule of airport pick-ups, initial briefings and temple visits it’s always lovely for the trail to get up north to Chiang Mai, and then on to the mountain village of Pai. It’s a tranquil, hippy sort of a place with delicious street food, organic cafes, plants, books, swings and riverside decks. Our first activity there was to kick off our shoes and relax as we drifted down the river in a tube. Bliss…

Monk Pilgrimage

Every now and again something takes your breath away. I was travelling to the bus station to buy tickets for the group when I passed a humbling sight. People had lined the streets with a red carpet and flower petals and bowed to wai (adopt the prayer-like position) as 1129 monks passed on their month-long pilgrimage covering 459km. It was incredibly moving to see religion thriving in such a positive way and really gave me goosebumps.

Beach Party, Koh Tao

I’m no big fan of a club but you can’t beat a night dancing on the beach with the sand between your toes, stars above your head and the sound of the sea lapping against the palm trees! The music was great, the fire shows lit up the sea and everyone had a great night out together.

By Rachel Bradley, Ecotrail leader

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.