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Diving & Marine Conservation Volunteering in Thailand - Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update November 2011

Frank and Ant visiting a school

November has been an incredible month for us here in Thailand, we have done so much that it's hard to know where to begin! We have really felt a sense of being part of the community as the volunteers got involved with the local people and their traditions this month. We worked together on conservation activities, organised events with local schools and celebrated together during the ancient Festival of Light.

In the mangroves

This project is more than a practical experience, it also touches all of our hearts.

So let me provide you with a summary of the month...

Diving Based Projects

Reef Check Survey

We were able to carry out 14 surveys this month, including two at a new site, Losama Bay. We were saddened to see the total amount of hard coral cover was recorded at 0 - 25% at the sites we surveyed this month. Also, some of the local sites were quite barren, with very few fish species being counted. It is always hard to report back these facts, but we understand that our data, even when it shows the degradation of the reef, provides vital information for the international experts to develop plans and strategies to combat the situation.

On the up side, we did see a lot of anemones at some of our local sites and a leopard shark was spotted by the volunteers.

Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris Survey

Making Krathongs

November is the beginning of high season here in Southern Thailand. As we see the number of tourists increase, we decided to concentrate our efforts around the local islands, where there is an influx of day trippers, island hoppers and snorkelers, leaving behind a disgraceful amount of trash on these stunning atolls and beaches.

We carried out 10 surveys and found an incredible amount of fishing line, nets and traps. Also there were a lot of styrofoam and building materials again this month.

We were able to free a box fish that had been caught inside one trap and we had to leave another trap underwater as a cuttle fish had attached its egg sacks to it. We cut out the netting and will head back to resurface it in about a month when the eggs should have hatched.

Making rain catcher

The hawksbill turtles seem to appreciate our efforts as on three different survey dives one came to check out what we were doing. This is always such a beautiful distraction from the important salvage work we are doing.

We are noticing more surface trash which seems to come for the tourist boats. We collected many plastic bottles, bags and food wrappers floating at the surface.

Land Based Projects

Mangrove Regeneration

November saw the end of our regular involvement with mangrove planting. Over the last years, we have done an amazing job reforesting several mangrove areas around Krabi and now its time for the forests to grow. We will still be working with the Marine and Coastal Development Department when they need some help in the future.

We planted a total of 446 trees during the month and we are delighted to report that all the saplings from previous plantings have successfully rooted and are growing well.

Tonsaii beach clean-up

Our reforestation project will continue by working on regenerating the forests around a stunning area known as Khlong Thom, which has some of the last remaining lowland tropical forests in the whole of Thailand. Working together with the Association for Protection of the Environment and the Chiang Mai University, we will be growing and planting native tropical trees, creating nature trails, learning how to build sustainably and reintroducing native species of flora and fauna into the area.

Beach Clean Ups

This month we cleaned four different beaches, collecting 703.2 kg of trash from our local beaches. Of this amount, we were able to recycle 113.2 kg and there was 126.6 kg that was dangerous or sharp.

We found more glass bottles and cigarette butts than usual this month, perhaps due to the Loy Krathong Festival.

Our most unusual find was a pair of underpants!

We were delighted to see more community and tourist involvement this month as we went about our weekly beach cleans. We always welcome help and it is was a heart warming moment when some local fisherman came up to our volunteers and thanked them. Our message is starting to get through.

School and Community Project

Visiting Phuket aquarium

Our aim here is to involve the community as much as possible so that they see their own responsibility to the environmental problems on their doorstep. We educate school kids and local people to be part of the solution.

On 10 November was Loy Krathong, the Festival of Light, which involves vessels (krathongs) decorated with flowers, candles and incense being floated out into the ocean, taking away the bad spirits with them.

Normally the locals make these krathongs out of Styrofoam, so to stop this our volunteers set up a free bio-degradable krathong making workshop on Ao Nang beach. It was a huge success as local people and tourists all sat down together creating these environmentally friendly offerings. It was a wonderful atmosphere as the locals shared their stories and helped us with our creations. We made over 200 krathongs in total!

The day after this festival, we enlisted the help the local school children to clean Ao Nang beach of all the vessels that had washed back up on the beach. We were really grateful for the help, as we collected 40.2kg of rubbish from this beach, including over 600 needles that had been used to attach the flowers to the krathongs. These needles on the beach are a terrible and dangerous hazard so we felt a real sense of pride after working so hard.

On 20th November we got together with Loving Andaman Sea, a locally run beach clean up initiative. We took a boat load of volunteers over to Ton Sai beach and within 3 hours we had collected over half a tonne of trash - an incredible achievement!

Going Greener

The volunteers and staff constructed a water catchment system to collect rain water for our cleaning station. Made out of hollowed out bamboo the water is collected in a bin, which we then use to rinse off our tools, boots and salvage equipment after a day out in the field.

Now we are reducing our water footprint as well as our carbon footprint.

Other Stuff...

Once again, on the weekends, the volunteers got out and about, experiencing all that Thailand has to offer. Vishal organised some brilliant, adrenalin racing activities over the month, including bungee jumping, wake boarding, rock climbing, trekking and kayaking!

In mid November, when we heard that Job 2 Do, Thailand's most famous reggae band, were playing on Tonsai beach, staff and volunteers organised a couple of longtail boats to collect us from outside our resort and 15 minutes later we were dancing the evening away at this ultra cool concert.

During the last week of November we received a visit from Frank Seidel, Project Abroad's Head of Continental Europe. It was great to show Frank our new premises and all the things we have done to make the resort as environmentally friendly as possible. Frank got to dive with the volunteers, plant some mangrove saplings and attend a school presentation and beach clean up - we kept him very busy with all the amazing projects we are involved with! Frank loved our location, and who wouldn't, we are based right on the beach in one of the most beautiful places in the world!

As always here in Krabi, life is good and we are all feeling very excited for next month's awesome activities and Christmas time fun!

Enjoy every moment and let's keep working together for a greener future!

Ingrid Sprake
Conservation Director, Thailand

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