2. The project
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
PART 1 - SOUTH EAST ASIA ETHICAL TRAIL (CCX)
Your adventure will begin as you fly into Bangkok and are escorted to a guest house in central Bangkok where you will have the opportunity to acclimatise. You will receive important briefing and orientation, giving you essential information about the adventure ahead of you.
Day 1: Bangkok
Acclimatise and settle in to your guest house just off Khao San Road where you meet the rest of the group before heading off to explore the local area. Groups can range in size from 2 - 12 participants or more.
Day 2-3: Bangkok
You will receive a trail briefing and health and safety awareness information from your trail leader and then the real adventure begins. Visit the phenomenal Grand Palace and temple of the Emerald Buddha which have fascinated locals and foreigners for centuries. These intricately and exquisitely carved monuments, erected in honour of Thailand's ancient kings, are a perfect example of the staggering architecture found in this part of the world, and are a perfect start to your Thai adventure. Then you will visit the glorious reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, a sacred emblem of Thailand's Buddhist heritage. Other sightseeing highlights at this stage in Bangkok include Wat Arun and the optional extra activity of a river canal tour ($10).
Day 4-5: Chiang Mai
Visit this beautiful city in northern Thailand and explore the local temple of Wat Chedi Luang and take part in Monk Chat where you will get the opportunity to talk to the local monks and learn more about Buddhism and life at a Thai monastery.
The jungle trek will take place either in Chiang Mai or Pai.
Experience trekking, riding and bathing elephants, while water rafting and bamboo rafting on a jungle trek in a remote hill village. Try out your batering skills in the atmospheric and authentic night bazaar of Chiang Mai and pick up some bargain souvenirs. Optional extras available at this stage of the trip include zip wiring , Thai massage at the local women’s prison or watching Muay Thai Boxing.
Day 6-10: Pai
Continue travelling North and visit Pai in northern Thailand where the pace of life slows to a crawl and accommodation is bamboo huts strung out along the river or wooded hillsides. Take the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of river tubing and elephant riding. Trek through the beautiful rolling hillsides or appreciate the slower pace of life by travelling through the area by bicycle journeying further afield to explore the surrounding area from hotsprings and waterfalls to the Pai Canyon. Additional options include traditional Thai cooking classes or a circus school visit.
Day 11-12: Chiang Mai to Bangkok;
Travel back down through Chiang Mai and stop off to take in the exquisite sunrise or sunset over Chiang Mai from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Enjoy one last night out in Chiang Mai at the famous Rooftop Bar before travelling back to Bangkok for the next leg of the journey.
Day 13-15: Kanchanaburi
This Thai province is a true Aladdin's cave of natural and historical treasures, magnificent landscapes, including some of Asia's most dramatic waterfalls, expansive pagodas and informative museums where you can find out more about the regions complex history. Explore this unique part of Thailand and visit Erawan National Park where the trees are filled with jumping monkeys, Wat Tham Seua and Wat Tham Khao Noi by bicycle, the perfect way to appreciate the grandiose splendour of these miraculous temples. Learn about the important and culturally rich history of Thailand at the JEATH museum and War Cemetery and explore the area surrounding the bridge over the River Kwai. Optional extras include a visit to a floating market with shopping opportunities in the surrounding area.
Day 16-25: Island hopping!
Visit two of the exotic islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi or Koh Chang and spend some time relaxing on the tropical beaches and actively exploring with Kayaking and snorkelling through the pristine blue waters. Some of you may wish to take a dive course (about $250 depending on course and kit hire), others may prefer the option of visiting Maya Bay ($20) and some will want simply to chill.
Day 26: Travel to Cambodia
Day 27-28: Siem Reap
This province is a wonderful introduction to Cambodia with expansive lake scenery, an abundance of lavishly decorated elephants, floating villages and of course the spectacular temple complex of Angkor Wat, a visual feast of temples formed of golden filigrees and blood red stone. Visit the Terrace of Elephants or find out what the "Churning of the Sea of Milk" entails, in this most significant of historical monuments! A visit to the Siem Reap night market is also something not to be missed!
Following this, you will receive your field briefings and safety tests before travelling to your project site.
Day 29-54: Teaching and community development OR beach conservation (extra transport cost applies) OR a combination of both projects (extra transport cost applies). OR Marine Conservation & Diving (additional cost applies)
At this stage of the project, you will get the chance to participate in a volunteering project: teaching and community development or beach conservation or if you can't decide a combination of both projects although please note an additional fee of $180USD / 100GBP will apply if you choose to do two placements to cover internal transport costs.
Teaching and Community Development (CBT)
You will be teaching in a school for underprivileged children, where you will make a vital contribution to their lives. Your work schedule will cover a comprehensive, varied and enjoyable teaching programme which will engage you fully with your pupils and will awaken your creativity and initiative. You are sure to gain huge satisfaction from inspiring these underprivileged children, bringing joy and fun to their lives, whilst enhancing your own skills and experience significantly. You can also gain a TEFL BTEC certificate for an additional fee if you spend the four weeks conducting the teaching work. On your weekends off you may wish to visit the stunning West Barray Lake, take a boat trip on Tonle Sap or just relax and enjoy the night life and bustling local street markets.
Beach Conservation (CMM)
This project work is conducted on the beautiful island of Koh Rong Samloem where you will be living in a beach front bungalow in a real Khmer village. Day to day activities may include snorkel surveys to assess coral reef damage and fish population size and structure, patterns and extent of resource use by villagers, environmental awareness campaigns within the local village, community development work including refurbishment to village infrastructure, language teaching in the village community, silt trap monitoring, village clean-ups and recycling scheme development and beach clean-ups.
You will become adept at surviving on this remote island wilderness, cooking over open fires and swaying in your hammock each night under a spectacular star studded sky. Through immersion in local culture and activities with the local village, you will assess how reliant the local villagers are on the coastal ecosystem for their livelihood and may gain an insight into the impact of global warming on the threatened marine and coastal communities. You will discover the rich cultural heritage of the Khmer communities as you work alongside them on environmental education programmes and community development activities. Discover the rich blend of Buddhist and Hindu spiritualism infusing their daily lives and is epitomised in majestic mainland temples and elaborate ceremonies and rituals of this fascinating country. By carrying out this valuable beach conservation work, you will have the opportunity to gain a BTEC qualification in Tropical Habitat Conservation for an additional $494 (to complete this course you need to be on the island for a full four weeks).
Marine Conservation & Diving (CBM)
The project works to safeguard these natural marine resources, working side by side with the local community assisting in the management and sustainable use of the resources within the established community fishing area, as well as providing much needed teaching resources and care work for the community itself.
The project incorporates a number of different elements, all of which combine to not only give you an insight into the workings of the local community and economy, but also lend a hand in protecting rapidly diminishing species.
The marine project involves joining a scuba diving research team that monitors the marine ecosystem and collects data on the reef, coastal breeding grounds and the abundance of important species. This data is then used to help maintain a proactive conservation strategy. Volunteers learn about seahorse and invertebrate species, as well as collecting valuable data from seahorse surveys. There may also be the opportunity to assist with educational awareness programmes for local children, providing them with workshops on responsibility and helping in island and beach cleanup days.
You may also find yourself teaching English in the island school, providing much needed education and support. With nearly a third of 7-14 year olds unable to attend school, this is a fantastic opportunity to get close to the local children and make a real difference to their future prospects. You will dance, sing, and play games as well as teach them English. Literacy is crucial to education, and in providing them with vital skills, you can provide them with hope for a future of choice.
To participate in the scuba diving project work you will need to be qualified to Advanced Open Water or equivalent, with dive training available in-country at the project site. Please see the extended project cost information for prices for dive training in the warm tropical seas of Cambodia!
An additional cost of $940GBP applies if you want to take the scuba diving option
Day 55-56: Phnom Penh
Explore this scintillating, sprawling and cosmopolitan metropolis known as the "pearl of Asia", take in the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, the S 21 museum and the Killing Fields, an important and intensely moving experience.
Day 57: Travel to Vietnam
Day 58-59: Ho Chi Minh
Venture into this vibrant and industrious urban centre with its bubbling and exhilarating vibe. Visit the War Remnants Museum containing eye-opening exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War and Cu Chi Tunnels to discover how the Viet Cong lived during the war and their guerilla warfare. See the pastel-hued pagodas and pick up some real bargains from the tiny merchants and traders of the many side streets and alleys. Take a walking tour of the city taking in views of the Cathedral, Opera House, Reunification Palace and Ben Thanh Market. If there is time and you have any energy left you can opt to take a tour of the Mekong Delta home of rice fields and floating markets (approx. $60).
En route to Hanoi you will have the chance to encounter several of Vietnam's most diverse towns and villages. Mui Ne offers the chance to see the magnificent sand dunes that expand along the coast where you may be able to try out sand-boarding. Visit the local fishing village and watch the fishermen bring in their catch at sunrise and enjoy beautiful vistas from the beach as you relax. If sand-boarding isn't sufficient for the adrenalin addicts opt to try out quad biking ($25).
Nha Trang gives you the chance to chill with a day snorkelling, sunbathing and swimming while you enjoy a Four Island Tour. Nha Trang also offers scuba diving (extra cost applies).
Hoi An is a stunning little town bursting with Chinese influences at every corner. World famous for its tailors, you could stroll past a delicate Chinese temple with colourful lanterns lining the streets, and drop in to a tailor to get measured up for your new suit or ball gown made from Thai silk! Hire bikes and cycle along the river to enjoy sunbathing, swimming and general relaxing on the beach.
Visit Hué and see the imperial tombs, the old citadel and enjoy a walk along the Perfume River.
Day 68: Hanoi
Explore Hanoi, by taking a walking tour of this vibrant and colourful city of a million bicycles, picking up a last few souvenirs. Visit the night markets and take in one of Vietnam's famous shows at the Water Puppet Theatre.
Day 69: Halong Bay
Explore Halong Bay with a boat trip along this spectacular coast with its enormous limestone caves, dense jungle and monolithic islands. The area boasts incredible biodiversity with a fantastic array of wildlife including antelopes, monkeys, lizards and bantams living on some of the offshore islands.
Day 70-71: Return to Hanoi!
Return to Hanoi to do some more last minute shopping and prepare for your homeward journey the next day.
This itinerary is flexible and subject to change and it is intended as a guide. You and your fellow travellers will change the itinerary according to your interests and depending on how you are progressing.
PART 2 - FIJI MARINE CONSERVATION & DIVING (FJM)
The aim of Frontier-Fiji Reef Conservation Project is to better understand the marine resources of the island of Beqa, and to provide teaching and training to enable local communities to make informed decisions regarding the management of their coastal ecosystems.
To achieve this mission, we conduct scientific baseline data surveys of reef areas, mapping the sea grass beds and mangrove fringes of the region. Once a long term data set is obtained, patterns of resource use can be identified and work with local communities can begin to build awareness of the value and vulnerability of their marine environment. We also aim to locate turtle nesting beaches on Beqa and help to create seasonally protected areas.
The marine research and conservation programme is run in association with the University of the South Pacific. The work aims to provide the local stakeholders, research organisations and government bodies with the information they need to design and implement management plans for the future protection of Beqa's island and lagoon marine ecosystem.
To gather the data needed you will be diving to locate and map the extensive coral reefs and study the various communities living on them (if necessary you will learn to dive first). You will also explore and record the organisms that inhabit the luxuriant mangrove forests, dense sea grass beds and productive inter-tidal areas. To do this you will deploy a wide range of newly learned research skills and scientific techniques including: underwater visual census of reef and commercial fish such as triggerfish and parrotfish, indicator species (both fish and coral), assessment of algal and coral cover to determine the extent of coral bleaching and damage, and line intercept transects for benthic life and indicator invertebrate species such as nudibranchs. With so much to learn it's worth noting that those joining for only a few weeks will be training most of the time and may not get to do a lot of surveying. You may record observations of the feeding habits and behaviour patterns of a range of marine life. You may even get to study the impact of artisanal fishing on the coral reefs, report the effects of Global Warming on marine communities or observe the impact of the marine-curio trade on endangered marine invertebrates. The type of field work underway will depend on the time of year and the content of the research program when you join up and how long you are joining for.
Whilst diving, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from turtles to manta rays, sea cucumbers to feathery starfish, spiny urchins to octopus and jellyfish. When you motor out each day on the Frontier boats to distant dive sites you may even encounter gigantic manta rays, sharks, humpback whales or flying fish. By the end of your project you will be expert at identifying vast numbers of colourful and patterned reef fish as well as being an experienced and competent diver. Although the work is intense and challenging you'll get immense satisfaction from having survived and from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this untarnished marine wilderness. You will return home with the new friends you've made and a wealth of fascinating stories and memories.
PART 3 - CENTRAL AMERICA ETHICAL ADVENTURE TRAIL (CAX)
Mexico City: The adventure begins with a whirlwind tour of this leviathan of a city. You'll delve into a history as rich and colourful as any in the world, typified today in magnificent monuments such as the zócalo, the western hemisphere's largest cathedral, the Catedral Metropolitana, the museum of anthropology and, of course, the famous murals of Diego Rivera. You will have the opportunity to get to know the rest of your group. Group sizes range from 2- 12 participants.
San Cristobal: Ride horseback through the hills of the legendary Zapatista uprising and trawl markets for crafts inspired by the spirit of revolution. You'll discover how one small group of dedicated villagers brought the whole world's attention to the plight of indigenous Mexicans.
Palenque: Improve your language skills with some Spanish lessons with the locals, and then try your skills against a backdrop of live music as you sit down to a dinner feast. Find ancient ruins hidden in dense jungle and cool off in the clear waterfalls at Agua Azul.
Flores / Tikal: Watch the sun rise over Central America's most famous ruins which have towered over the jungle for thousands of years and learn about the ancient Mayan empire from an experienced local guide.
San Pedro La Laguna: Watch the sun rise over Central America's most famous ruins which have towered over the jungle for thousands of years and learn about the ancient Mayan empire from an experienced local guide.
Antigua: Sip organic coffee at a roadside café as you take in the magnificence of this ancient UNESCO heritage city. Stand at the edge of Pacaya, Central America's most active volcano.
Copán: Explore mighty Mayan ruins by day and rest your weary bones in warm thermal pools in the evening, before you set out to dance the night away in a hilltop disco.
San Pedro Sula: Based in a colourful and friendly nearby town surrounded by green mountains and tropical cloud forest, you will help out at a local school which aims to help the most disadvantaged children. You may be assisting in classes, leading your own, helping with after school activities and classes, or other duties around the school and within the community where many families are truly destitute. There will also be opportunity to venture into the nearby cloud forests or explore the traditional beach communities of the Caribbean coast at the weekend.
Útila: Central America's diving paradise is an island built solely around exploring the underwater world and is an ideal place to do your PADI dive training. You'll also go on a day trip to a perfect deserted island, finishing the day with a barbecue on the beach.
León: The echoes of revolution still hang in the air of this exciting city, where you can stroll cobblestone streets amidst murals depicting the heroes of the revolution. To learn more you can visit fascinating museums and art galleries with works found nowhere else on Earth. You can also go volcano-boarding, which is an adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster-ride down soft ash.
Granada: A magnificent colonial town, where tree-lined streets host musicians and entertainers of all sorts is the perfect jump-off point for your visit to the volcanic islands of Ometepe, situated in the middle of the luscious Lake Nicaragua.
San Juan del Sur: A peaceful and beautiful town set in a picturesque cove, where surfing is a way of life.
Costa Rica Big Cats, Turtles and Primates project (CBP)
Depending on the season, join our fight to save critically-endangered sea turtles, or trek through remote rainforest in search of spider monkeys and macaques. You'll spend a month with other eco-warriors on our conservation camp, helping to change the world under the guidance of field experts.
San José: Do some last minute shopping and eat your last gallo pinto before you fly home, alive with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime!*
*This is intended as a sample itinerary only and is subject to change.
3. What to expect
Part 2 - Fiji Marine Conservation & Diving
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I ARRIVE?
If you are a Frontier project volunteer joining for 10 weeks or 20 weeks and travelling with one of the main escorted parties at the start of January, April, July or October, you will be welcomed at Nadi International Airport by Frontier field staff or Frontier representatives. From here, you’ll travel for 4 hours across Viti Levu by bus to the small town of Navua and then travel by boat to the beautiful island of Beqa.
If you are an independent traveller arriving on any other date you are welcome to join the project on any Monday, (please discuss your intended arrival date and duration of stay with our travel advisers, especially if you need to book a dive training course, to confirm availability), and please be aware that you will need to organise your own transfer between Nadi and Suva and first night hostel accommodation in Suva at a cost of $48/$40. We will arrange for you to transfer from Suva to Beqa the following day at your own cost where our field team will be ready to welcome you to the Frontier house and camp. Again, you must confirm you're exact arrival time/date with in country staff at least 1 week before arrival.
WHERE WILL I BE STAYING?
During the project you'll live in our simple but comfortable timber and sheet metal house on a cast away camp on the south Pacific island of Beqa. We aim to provide you with an authentic and memorable living experience. The Beqa house and camp has been constructed by local craftsmen, using traditional building techniques and locally sourced building materials. The camp is situated five minutes away from the shore through the rainforest. Camp life is very simple, unsophisticated and fun. You will be staying in communal house near to the local communities. Your "shower" consists of a pipe that runs into the house from the local stream and runs 24 hours a day. We have the luxury of an actual toilet that you flush with a bucket and camp style gas hobs to cook on. Prepare for the basic, cast away, virtually footprint-less lifestyle! On occasions you may have to travel further from your beach camp to reach a distant dive site, and then you might stay in a “satellite camp”, usually a mosquito net pitched on a beach.
As well as the diving and marine conservation work you may be asked to help with the scientific data entry and will need to help with daily camp maintenance, taking turns to cook, tidy and clean the camp, rinse dive kit, and help with a wide variety of other important and essential camp duties.
WHAT WILL I BE EATING?
Camp food is simple and nutritious and consists largely of rice, split peas, pancakes, flatbreads, tinned fish, pasta and fruit, all of which are purchased in-country or made on camp in order to help support the local economy. Luxuries such as sweets, biscuits and drinking chocolate have to be brought over to the island from Suva, so make sure you stock up before heading to the camp! Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking, so get your cookbooks out now and start practising! Also, with luck you'll be invited to local feasts and festivals – a great way to integrate with the local communities in the nearby villages and absorb the fabulous and welcoming local culture.
Some local dishes to look forward to include taro, taro leaves, breadfruit, sweet potato, cassava, and cassava chips, coconut and fabulous shellfish and seafood. A delicious Fijian speciality is a lovo feast, which is a meal cooked in a hole in the ground – unusual but very tasty!