Each year we welcome over 2,500 students and staff from schools worldwide.
28 January – 1 February, 2019
Naomi, Te, and I were waiting at 8am on Monday in the red and white halls of the prestigious Bromsgrove international school, peering at the accolades of previous alumni that adorn the walls, through sleepy eyes. All three of us were certainly feeling the 5am wake up that was necessary to avoid Bangkok traffic and get there on time. Finally our group of thirty three year 8 students and their teachers were ready to set off on their adventure. Chanthaburi awaits!
Setting the fast passed and outdoor based tone of this trip our initial destination was not to drop off our bags at the accommodation but rather to immediately take a boat to the beautiful Koh Manai Island and visit the turtle sanctuary there. As usual the students took to this task with ease, dawning their lifejackets and settling in for the ride. Upon arrival we were chaperoned by the warden of the sanctuary here. A genuine expert on the subject with an endless fount of knowledge and seemingly as many turtle themed shirts as he has years of conservation experience under his belt (trust me that’s A LOT). With this man extensive knowledge the students learned much of what can be learned of giant sea turtles in Thailand’s seas, all while seeing live turtles in various stages of development, many of which will be released when large enough and some who despite being injured will still aid the conservation initiative via captive breeding programs.
An hour later the students and teachers where snorkelling over the nearby coral beds to get a better idea of all the beauty the sea has to offer, while Naomi and I put our hard earned life guarding qualifications to the test.
The next day after a filling and soon to be much needed breakfast we set out for our mangrove walk on the labyrinth of boardwalks that pass over the brackish muddy water. During this walk students got a chance to encounter many of the animal and plant species that live in this environment and with the help of information cards educate each other about how well adapted they are to it. This is all on the way to a personal highlight of the trip, mangrove kayaking. After a demonstration of how to conduct oneself properly in a kayak what follows is a master class in teamwork, communication and cooperation…ideally. It took a little while for everyone to get into the rhythm of it but after they did a combination of the physical exercise and amazing scenery while passing alongside, and sometimes under, the twisted roots of the mangroves, left everyone with a smile on their face.
Next was a visit to a sea farming demonstration unit. This fantastic location allowed the students to not only observe the farming of a number of commercial fish species that many will have only ever seen on the plate, but also get to observe some of the larger non-commercial species that have been rescued and are currently being rehabilitated such as bull sharks, leopard sharks and sea turtles. As well as this in-depth look into food production and responsible marine practices, the students got to interact with the men and women who work in this environment and hear their perspective.
On this vain the next activity, after a short ride to a local fishing community, is to investigate these perspectives. This challenges our students too, from the perspective of either; economy, society, nature, or wellbeing, to come up with and ask questions to locals who have agreed and are happy to be questioned. The result is a greater understanding of how the rapidly changing world can affect the people of this community and how this community in turn relates to the wider world and the students life in Bangkok. After reflecting on these heavy academic concepts the surprise arrival of an ice-cream man was much welcomed by students and teachers alike.
By 9am the next day we arrived at our community service location of a nearby agriculture unit. Over the course of the next three hour the students got their hands dirty planting kale, felt the wondrous spongy qualities of moss, helped plant new mulberry trees as well as make and sample some mulberry juice, and finally create nearly one hundred nutrient bags to be used in mushroom growing. Phew! A busy couple of hours deserved the large lunch that followed.
After lunch, a number short games explore our ecological impact on the environment and the dynamics of a fishing economy, perfectly preparing the students for the subsequent litter pick. It is quite amazing to see children, many of whom have never cleaned more than their room before, take pleasure in cleaning something that does not belong to them but rather to us all. Some clean with a fervent energy, desperate to get the largest piece of plastic while others are meticulous in there combing of the beach for the smallest scrap of wrapping. Swimming in the sea, dinner and some more beach games follow before a well-earned nights rest.
Our final day took place entirely in the nearby national parks with their nearly untouched jungles. By the time lunch rolled around we had already been on our first hike, experiencing both the tranquillity that can be found in the forest while contradicting listening to the deafening sound of life that surrounds us. After lunch was the trips second ice-cream treat, this time served by yours truly! I shall forever have patience when it comes to getting my ice-cream scooped, it’s very difficult after the 50th scoop or so, so much so that Te thought he could do a better job…he couldn’t.
After a second hike in which the students summited an eight tier waterfall, at the top of which many photographs were taken, it was time for our greatest challenge yet…cooking our own dinner. This involved the preparation, cooking (over coals) and serving of all of our food that night on banana leaves and coconut bowls. The kids preformed fantastically! From lighting the coal stoves to cutting meet to garnishing with fresh herbs the students where great and I wager we way have some budding chiefs on our hands. To round off the night we toasted marshmallows over the fire thoroughly exhausted and full to bursting, but unquestionably content.
Our final day consisted of a quick morning breakfast, packing and heading back early for a 3pm arrival at the school. After the students had been dropped off that led to Naomi, Te and I sitting once again in Bromsgrove international, staring at the accolades of the students who have passed through those red and white halls, this time with a greater appreciation of how amazing the students are.