Location: Koh Rong, Cambodia
Duration: Minimum 4 weeks participation.
Costs: from $1750 USD, see Costs tab for further details
- Gain personal hands-on experience in groundbreaking marine conservation initiatives.
- Work alongside experienced and passionate conservation professionals and scientists.
- Live and work in a traditional Cambodian fishing village community.
- Ideal for those studying marine biology and environmental conservation, or those with a keen interest in marine ecology and ecological conservation.
- Keywords: marine conservation, marine biology, field research, sustainable development, environmental, serious internship.
The Ocean Stewardship Program is the largest island-based marine conservation initiative in Cambodia. The program is located in southwest Cambodia and centres its efforts on assisting coastal communities in the Koh Rong archipelago. Resting in a well-managed conservation area, with enormous conservation potential, this is the ideal place to learn to dive and engage in pioneering marine conservation.
Our early efforts included establishing the first recognised marine reserve in Cambodia, setting up an artificial reef programme, delivering a youth environment education initiative and creating the first solid waste management system in the Archipelago.
By taking part in a Ocean Stewardship Program you have the unique opportunity to work with seasoned professionals, contributing to a lasting legacy for marine and community conservation in Cambodia. Data collected on the project will serve to assist in the management of Cambodia’s first Marine Fisheries Management Area (an internationally recognised marine reserve) and you will be among the only people collecting on-going marine survey data for this protected area. Your involvement in the project will promote the conservation and preservation of one of the most pristine marine environments in the lower Mekong region.
The first week of the programme is dedicated to the completion of the PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications, as qualified instructors take you through all the necessary steps to becoming a scuba diver. For those who are already certified, week one can be spent collaborating on community projects, including education workshops in the local community, healthcare outreach or beach clean-ups. These projects are also a great way to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings!
Once in possession of your shiny new certificate, the following two weeks will be given over to an engaging Coral Reef Ecology course, during which you will attend lectures, workshops and take part in practical in-water training sessions. In addition to the scuba training and reef ecology course, the expedition fee also includes a unique ‘Career Catalyst’ course, which will engage you with fundamental career development tools, to help propel you into a professional conservation career.
As week 4 rolls around you will be ready to start collecting marine survey data, which is the climax of the expedition. On average, you will complete two dives per day, however this is dependent on weather conditions and base logistics, thus there may be days when this is not possible. During these days, there are ample opportunities to get involved with other aspects and initiatives of the Foundation, such as engaging in community projects (e.g. running an art class with local children, or leading a group of local students to a rainforest waterfall).
A typical survey dive will take one hour, during which time you will collect population and species richness data for corals, fish and invertebrates, assess substrate type and gather ancillary data. At the end of each dive day, all data will be entered into a collective database for analysis.
During the evenings there will be opportunities to relax in a beach bar, try your hand at pool or darts, and read in our comfortable cabana – to name just a few ideas!
Travel & Accom.
During the expedition you will be living in our dedicated sustainability centre, located in a small village on the north side of Koh Rong Island. It is a traditional Cambodian-style building nestled within the local community. Each secure room is shared between a maximum of two volunteers, and is furnished with a fan, shelves, pillows, mattresses and mosquito nets. You will need to provide your own bed linen and towels. Electricity is available between 19:00 and 23:00 each day.
Training will be delivered at an air-conditioned building in a nearby facility which has 24-hour electricity, fast WiFi and hot water shower facilities, as well as a gym available for use during your time off.
You will be served three meals per day, cooked by trained Khmer chefs with a balanced and diverse array of choices. Unlimited drinking water will be provided during your stay. There is free WiFi available. We have a fully trained doctor on hand 24/7, in case of any illness. You may wish to purchase additional snacks, drinks and personal items during your stay, for which a weekly budget of $50 USD is recommended. Please note there are no ATMs on the island, thus you should budget accordingly.
Upon arrival in Cambodia you will need to make your own accommodation and internal travel arrangements prior to the expedition start. On the first day of your expedition you will be met by project representatives in Sihanoukville town (approximately 4 -5 hours by bus from Phnom Penh) and guided to the field site on our speedboat. Recommendations for internal travel arrangements and suggested accommodation for your pre-arrival time in Cambodia can be provided upon request.
- Minimum age – 18 years
- Minimum 4-week commitment.
- Interest in marine conservation and sustainable development
- Healthy level of general fitness and stamina
- Ability to swim 200 m unaided
- PADI Advanced Open Water certified (we can teach you this course on-site!)
- Travel & medical insurance (to include unlimited diving up to 30 m depth)
- Necessary vaccinations as advised by your local travel nurse or GP
- Valid passport (minimum 6 months until expiry from date of entry in Cambodia)
- N.B. Visas for Cambodia are very easy to get, and are obtained at the airport on arrival
- N.B. You will need to provide your own scuba mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit (3-5 mm recommended) and booties. All other dive equipment will be provided for you on-site.
- First 4 weeks = US$1750 (flat rate)
- Additional 1-week blocks (after the initial 4 weeks) = US$250 per week
- PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses (as required) = US$500 per course (includes completion certificate, all manuals, learning materials and activities – no hidden costs!)
* Places are confirmed with a US$300 deposit.
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee.
Your Project Fee includes;
- Accommodation & food (3 hot meals per day)
- In-country support from experienced program staff
- Access to a gym
- Hot water showers
- Return speedboat from the mainland to island-site
- Program activities
- An engaging career development workshop
- PADI scuba diving course fees and learning manuals (if applicable).
What’s Not Included:
Flights, visas, vaccinations, insurance, local land transfers, scuba mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit and booties are not included. Advice provided upon request. Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.
Placement Support Package
We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators. We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.
- What impact(s) or benefits (upon the local community or environment) does this project have (tailor this to all the different projects you have)?
Based in Southwest Cambodia in the Koh Rong Archipelago, local communities are heavily dependent on the sea for their livelihood and health. Knowing that marine ecosystems are vitally important to human well-being and development, our Ocean Stewardship Program has a number of initiatives that have assisted in conservation and sustainable development of both ecosystems and communities.
Through effective collaborative efforts between the villagers and officials, in 2006, Cambodia’s first marine reserve was implemented, protecting coral reefs and fishing grounds. The success of this marine reserve was demonstrated through the rebounding of local fish stocks and corals populations and has since set a precedent that has allowed for an expansion of this conservation area, protecting more islands within the archipelago and the newly proclaimed Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA) in June 2016.
As a participant on our Ocean Stewardship Program your primary objective, once scientific training has been completed, will be to assist in data collection comprising of species richness and biomass data for corals, fish and invertebrates. You will also be assessing substrate type and gathering ancillary data (i.e. water temperature, underwater visibility etc.). All this data is then entered into a collective database and analysed by our team and the Cambodian Fisheries Administration. This continual monitoring will assist in the effective future management of the MFMA.
We focus not only on the surrounding environment and the resources that they provide, but also on the people that depend on them. Our dedicated sustainability center is a focal point where knowledge and experience related to sustainable practices and conservation strategies are shared. It plays host to visitors, researchers and educators alike and provides a center point where workshops and educational activities are conducted. Initiatives such as interactive organic farming in areas where soil is nutrient deficient have proven to be very successful and provides an area for younger members of the community to engage in projects ranging from compost creation and garden maintenance. The construction of water catchment systems was another successful initiative that ensures the local community has reserves during the dry season when rainfall is scarce. A committee comprising of local members were then appointed to successfully manage these resources, giving ownership and responsibility.
Another key component that ties conservation and community is our Boat of Hope (BoH) initiative, this offers a practical approach in regards to outreach projects that focus on education, research and providing medical assistance. The BoH allows for the Song Saa Foundation to further educate and teach across the Archipelago and to provide support material. Programmes such as climate change education are the first of its kind in this area. Collaboration between the local communities is essential as we work together, gathering information on the impacts affecting both environment and the people. With this knowledge the Foundation assists in finding sustainable pathways for the future of these communities.
- Is the area I am staying and working safe?
Yes, perfectly safe! During the day you will be based either in the field or on our onsite facility. Your personal belongings can be either left in your accommodation which will have a lock for your room and another that permits access to the rest of the accommodation.
Alternatively, personal items such as electronics and valuable items can be left in the program office which is locked in the evenings and during outdoor excursions.
- Will I have access to internet?
Yes, the facilities that you will have access to at our field station provides fast onsite WiFi. Should you also invest in a local SIM card for your portable devices, this is very cheap in Cambodia and will also provide access to fast 4G internet.
- Should I bring my phone/laptop?
Yes, if possible you should bring both items. If your phone in unlocked, then a local SIM card using Cambodia’s cellular communication networks is recommended. Calling/SMS/Data rates are relatively inexpensive and allows you to remain contactable, even when offsite. Laptops are useful for classroom presentations, teaching aids and for potential projects and planning.
- What will my accommodation be like?
Accommodation is situated within the beautiful village of Preak Svay. The rooms provided are basic yet are spacious and comfortable. You will be based in our sustainability centre. During maximum occupancy, there may be up to two volunteers sharing a room containing two beds. There is a fan in each room and a small shelving unit for your personal items. A pillow, mattress and mosquito nets are provided, however participants will need to supply a pillowcase, sheet and sleeping bag liner. You will be provided with a personal lock for your room as well as another that provides access to the accommodation facility.
In the local community, electricity is only available between 7 pm and 11 pm each day as power is not provided during daylight hours. As such, electronics can be charged at the field station during the day, alternatively, participants must ensure that all electronics are charged the night before they are required.
At the accommodation, newly built toilet and shower facilities are provided. This is dependent on rainwater supply and availability, otherwise, the same facilities are provided onsite at the field station.
- How do I get from my accommodation to the project each day?
The trip from you accommodation to our onsite location, is merely a 10 minute walk between locations. Your travel each day will be through the beautiful village of Preak Svay, where you will often be happily greeted by children going to school.
- Will I have access to clean drinking water?
Yes, there are a number of options available. We will provide clean, filtered drinking water both at your accommodation and in the main office. There is also a filtered water system dispensing chilled/boiling water for your convenience in the canteen area. You can purchase bottled water from the onsite shop facility or alternatively purchase bottled water from the local village shops also.
- Are the vegetarian meal options available?
Yes, the culinary team onsite are very flexible and are able to cater to almost any dietary requirements. This is not just limited to vegetarian options, but also vegan and kosher. (Please advise in advance so that necessary preparations can be arranged.)
- Can I bring my pet?
In short, no. However, accommodations can be made depending on circumstances, such as individuals that have disabilities that require assistance from trained domesticated animals.
- What essential items would you recommend I bring (might be different for your different projects)?
- Valid passport.
- At least two passport photos.
- Travel and medical insurance (sufficient for unlimited scuba diving to 30 m depth).
- Enough US Dollars in cash for the duration of your stay (international bank charges are expensive and there are no ATMs in the Koh Rong archipelago – you can however, withdraw cash in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville if required).
- Airline tickets.
- A written note of the our emergency contact numbers (and a copy for your next of kin at home – just in case).
- Scuba kit: Mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit and booties. All other scuba equipment is provided on site.
- Any existing dive certificates/cards (e.g. PADI certification cards) and dive log book.
- Lined notebook, pen and pencils for lecture notes and revision.
- Water bottle.
- Short wetsuit (the water temperature in Cambodia is approximately 28 deg C, whilst this may appear warm, prolonged exposure over multiple dives can become quite chilly).
- Toiletries (most can be bought in country, including feminine hygiene products).
- Insect repellent.
- Sun cream (at least SPF 30!).
- Swimwear (multiple items) and rash vest.
- Enough clothes for the duration of your expedition (long sleeves are useful in the evenings to prevent insect bites, and ladies don’t forget to bring tops that cover your shoulders and cleavage).
- Single bed sheet, pillowcase and sleeping bag liner (very important – we cannot supply these on site!).
- Footwear: flip-flops and sturdy shoes for hiking.
- Laptop (highly recommended, if you have access to bring one).
- A mobile phone (unlocked for Asia). Sim cards can be bought in-country for around US$2. Calls to an international landline are approximately US$1 for 15 minutes – very cheap! Highly recommended.
- Rehydration salts (these can be bought in-country).
- Vitamin supplements.
- Camera and charger.
- Torch and spare batteries.
- Watch with alarm.
- First Aid kit (no antibiotics please – unless prescribed by a physician).
- Hat and sunglasses.
- Travel adaptor (Asia).
- Amazon Kindle, or equivalent.
- Music player and earphones.
- Umbrella (during the wet season, June – October). This may be bought in Prek Svay.
- Will I likely be participating with other interns/volunteers?
Yes, in this program, you are likely to be participating with other individuals. It is tailored so that each individual has a holistic and engaging experience, thus, our programme limits the number of active participants to no more than 6 individuals per expedition.
- When is the best time of year to come (in terms of weather, available activities etc.)?
All year! Each season has its benefits and excitements, so it is always a perfect time to join.
- Are there any health concerns I should be aware of (dengue, malaria etc.)?
Mosquitos are seasonal, and the chance of contracting diseases such as dengue and malaria are very slim. However, we do recommend bringing insect repellent particularly through June – October. In tropical localities, due to weather conditions such as humidity and warm temperatures, infections from cuts and scrapes are most common. Sensible footwear, appropriate clothing and a well stocked first aid kit with antiseptic and bandages are all highly recommended. Speak with your local travel nurse or GP for more information.
- How far is the nearest hospital/clinic?
We are fortunate to have a well-equipped clinical facility onsite. There are a number of doctors on a rotational basis that are available during your stay for immediate assistance. Transport to the nearest hospital facility (CT Polyclinic located in Sihanoukville) for more severe ailments, is approximately 1 hour by speedboat.
- What extra costs should I factor in (nearby sightseeing trips, going out on weekends etc.)?
Whilst here, as part of your expedition fee all meals are inclusive, however should wish to purchase additional snacks or beverages, our onsite shop is well equipped and also has basic items such as toiletries and phone top-ups. During your free time, there will be opportunities to have meals offsite at the local restaurant, Palm Beach Bungalow Resort. Other prospects include visiting the local and other villages in the surrounding area, with the opportunity to purchase food (local and imported), potential souvenirs (local handicrafts) and other basic items.
Note: Map coordinates are approximate