Marine Conservation Cambodia was one of the best experiences of my life. 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 volunteers 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. His 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 they didn’t have a dive instructor. I continued to do practice dives with Brayden, the team scientist, and Ju, a Tech diving volunteer. Once MCC hired a dive instructor, I was already 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, multiple seahorse surveys, tagged seahorses as part of a PhD project, 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 drives volunteers to continue with conservation. I really enjoyed not being forced into daily tedious chores by renowned scientists and instead working closely with trained researchers who had many years of experience to actually fully learn their 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.