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Underwater adventure - Marine Conservation in Thailand

Alexandra diving on her marine conservation placement with PoD on her gap year in Thailand

Alexandra volunteered with PoD in Thailand during her University summer break.

"My time spent at the Marine Conservation Project on Koh Tao was one of the most amazing and influential experiences of my life. After completing 2 years of university I was still very unsure as to what I really wanted to do. I was leaning towards biology due to my love of animals and the oceans, and then I found the marine project and wanting to get out of the country for a few months, decided it would be a great experience, that may also help me decide what to do with my education. I have also always wanted to learn to scuba dive, so it worked out perfectly!

PoD was great at getting everything organized, even getting you in contact with other volunteers starting at the same time. Not only is Koh Tao just an utterly beautiful island, but the dive school that the project is run through is one of the most wonderful schools on the island. Though it may be small you are almost immediately welcomed into the family. You get to know everyone, even if your stay is a short one.

My original plan was to do the project for two weeks, but I had never dived before, so a week of A volunteer collecting data on a marine conservation project in Thailandthat involved obtaining my open water and advanced courses, which left me with only one week of conservation. That was not enough for me, I left the island after 2 and a half weeks, but I didn't last long elsewhere. Shortly after I returned to Koh Tao, and spent another 6 weeks on the project. One of the best decisions I could have made. I really saw improvement and development with the work we did, not only is it wonderful diving and just being in the ocean, but to be collecting data, or helping the corals, you really felt as though you were making a difference. All in all, the marine conservation project was one of the most influential, life changing and amazing experiences I have ever had. I would recommend it to anyone with a love of the ocean, diving or marine life. You won't regret it!

A typical day on the project involved heading to the dive shop in the morning and ordering breakfast from the cafe across the street, which would then be delivered to you at the shop. Most mornings involved a lecture revolving around the work we would be doing that day/week. Then we would pack our gear and equipment for whatever task we would do that day and head to the taxi to drive us up the hill, to catch our longtail to take us to the boat. Depending on the site we would be diving at, the boat trips could be as short as 15 minutes to an hour. After a quick briefing on the boat, we hit the water and start our task: some dives could last up to 80 minutes, while others could be a bit more tiring and have you up after an hour. After that we headed back to the dive shop. If any data needed to be put into the computer, we would complete that abut otherwise you are generally free to go as you please!


What did you find most rewarding?

Koh Tao situated in the Gulf Of Thailand is a great location for divingI found the days that we set out a specific plan to fix or maintain parts of the coral nurseries to be very rewarding. You knew exactly what you were doing and to see the end product looking so well done was a great feeling. But overall, most of what we did was pretty rewarding. With each dive you learned more and were able to collect more information that is very useful to the overall project.


What did you find most challenging?

Being a new diver there is a lot to think about at first. You have to be very aware of your surroundings, especially at the coral nurseries. The last thing you want to do is bump into things and cause any damage. Although it may be challenging, it is also one of the best ways to improve your diving. I can't believe how much my diving and buoyancy improved thanks to all the work done at the project. I no longer feel like a beginner diver, but very confident in my diving skills.


What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?

If you have a love for the ocean or diving, then definitely look into this project. Even if you've never dived before, are a novice diver, or even an advanced diver, it is an amazing diving experience. There is always something new to see in the ocean, something new to learn and you see and learn so much on this project. Your knowledge and diving will improve no matter how short your stay.


Why do you think others should volunteer abroad?

Volunteering is a wonderful thing to begin with. But if you've ever had a desire to travel or do something different, then volunteering abroad is definitely something you should look into. Travel is always an amazing experience, but for some, setting out on their own without a set itinerary is not for them. So to have a volunteer experience set up in a foreign country is quite the bonus. It really allows you to get a feel for the place and to feel more like a local, while doing something positive for that area.


Why did you choose PoD?

I was trying to find any sort of marine conservation volunteer project, and when I stumbled upon this one on the PoD website I was very content with the fact that everything was set up for you. You didn't have to worry about accommodation or contacting various people, it was just done for you, which was very convenient."

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