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I learned more than I hoped for! By marine volunteer Laura from Australia


Laura volunteered at the Marine Research Center in Phuket for a month. She came to Thailand to gain experience of marine conservation work before returning to study, and found she learned more than she had hoped for!

So much happened in my four weeks in Phuket, that I honestly don't know where to begin!

I spent most of my time working for SAMPAN (Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network Program). They had an important presentation in Bangkok coming up regarding action plans and what had been achieved to date with conserving the Andaman Sea. I helped them create a PowerPoint presentation and also helped with grammar checking.

Laura volunteered at the Marine Research Center in Phuket for a month. She came to Thailand to gain experience of marine conservation work before returning to study, and found she learned more than she had hoped for!

So much happened in my four weeks in Phuket, that I honestly don't know where to begin!

I spent most of my time working for SAMPAN (Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network Program). They had an important presentation in Bangkok coming up regarding action plans and what had been achieved to date with conserving the Andaman Sea. I helped them create a PowerPoint presentation and also helped with grammar checking.

The girls at SAMPAN were really beautiful and so hospitable. There was a great working environment in the office. They would order me food and help me with whatever I needed. They took me to an important meeting with a range of hotel managers, planners and environment leaders discussing 'How has tourism impacted the marine environment' (thankfully in English). I found it extremely interesting to gain so many perspectives and it was exactly what I wanted to learn. They also introduced me to researchers at the Phuket Aquarium and even took me to dinners and a local fair.

I also went to Koh Thalu for four days with workers from the Marine Innovation Centre and Marine National Parks Thailand. There I helped conduct a reef check, counting the number and types of fish I saw along a 100m line along the reef. I had just come back from another trip to Koh Thalu (3 days) which, to my surprise, was full of activity. It was World Environment Day so along with other school children (and whoever was on the island) I planted trees, set baby turtles free into the sea and then scuba dived to place a structure that supports the growth of baby coral on the seabed. It was absolutely amazing.

I have learnt there is usually no plan here or if there is a schedule it is not usually followed. I found it difficult because on both trips to Koh Thalu I was the only foreigner (the second time the only one out of 200 people) and only one or two people knew basic English. The entire time I just followed and taught myself to fight my frustrations, because I had so many questions about conservation work but many of them could not be answered. It was lonely at times but of course the beautiful environment overpowered that perception. It was an amazing experience that I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to b a part of.

I lived in a house surrounded by forest located about 1km from SAMPAN and 50m from the beach. It was really beautiful and peaceful! However, the living standards were also a test of my persistence. The first few nights I was given a dooner cover to sleep on, on top of tiles, but I eventually grabbed a mattress from the next room. There were termites, mosquitos, giant beetles and the bathroom had no shower, just a bucket and a tap to splash myself with. I came with an open mind and honestly it was a personal test, but of course I adapted. It's the only way. Do it Thai style.

Marine life has always been a passion of mine since I was a girl and before going back to study I wanted hands on experience as well as a culturally challenging one. I feel like I have gained so much knowledge during my time in Phuket. Not only from the conservation work but also the planning processes behind the actions. This has also been a learning curve for myself, in particular just stepping back 'and going with the flow'. I left Thailand feeling I had made a positive contribution to the preservation of marine life in the Andaman Sea.

I would like to say thank you for offering this opportunity to me. It really was a unique, life changing experience, an inspiration and one that will be with me for life.

Blog posted from Phuket Island, Thailand View larger map

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