Only three hours by boat from Sihanoukville and it's another world out here. The Cambodian islands are one of the least developed places on earth and still a safe, friendly environment. About 200 fishermen live here on the fringes of steep, densely forested islands. They subsist on a diet of fish, supplemented by a few pigs and chicken kept under their houses.
TheDiving 4 Conservation centre has a generator for lighting in the evening, but is otherwise completely environmentally friendly. All the volunteers live in palm thatched huts a few feet from the beach, among the mangrove trees. Our hut has a bed platform with mosquito netting and a wooden cubicle with a dip shower. You soap yourself, dip a scoop into a bin of rainwater and rinse yourself down. The toilet flushes in the same way. This is the land without toilet paper!
There are about 12 volunteers here at the moment, diving on the reefs. The waters around these islands are one of the most prolific breeding grounds for sea horses. They have the largest number of species in SE Asia - all of them endangered by the practice of bottom trawling - which also threatens the livelihood of the local fishermen. Fuel prices have hit the community hard too - at the moment it costs as much in diesel to take their catch to market on the mainland as they get from the sale.
When they're not counting sea-horses or removing marine trash from the reefs (another problem), the volunteers work to improve the lives of the local community. There are no medical facilities out here and, while tourists can pay for medi-vac, the local people can't. So one of the volunteers runs a daily first aid session for minor injuries. The Conservation organisation have just built a clinic in the village and raised the money to bring an experienced ER nurse/midwife out to live here. She arrives next week.
Other volunteers run classes for the children. There is a school - built by a big company as a gesture, but as there was no money provided for teachers or books, it remains empty. The volunteers are currently trying to raise money for a teacher - the school still can't be used because it's the property of the company who built it.
There are some fantastic people here - of all age groups and from all corners of the world. We are absolutely loving it! More tomorrow.