The Vast and Mysterious Prey Lang

After my self-quarantine time, it looks like the second half of my 2020 has been packed with a series of outdoor trips. This time, my destination was to Prey Lang, or Tbong Teuk village (Kampong Thom province), to be exact. Instead of life lessons, the whole experience taught me some hidden facts. If you know about Prey Lang, stop here! If you don’t, let’s go further down this post!

1- Vastitude Means Natural Wealth

By “vastitude”, I refer to the coverage of this largest forest of Cambodia, over four neighboring provinces: Kampong Thom, Kratie, Preah Vihear and Stung Streng. Kampong Thom itself is the largest province of the Kingdom. Both indigenous and Khmer people living around and on this natural habitat, in terms of construction materials, herbal medicine and wild food. Hence, the name “Prey Lang” itself is translated in Kuy language as “Our Forest”.

Aerial View by Our Drone Footage

2- One Forest, One Community

It is a bit exaggerating to cite “one community”, because even villages located 10 kilometers away from Prey Lang still depend on her. Here, I simply meant the forest united those communities into one to protect her. This cause of protection alone compelled me and my SFA team, to organize training for local participants to document their own natural resources. The course was conducted award-winning documentary maker Polen LY. Also, we collaborated with our partner agency Mekhala with USAID Cambodia Green Future, as our funder. Surprisingly, by the end of this camp, we have “appropriated” the importance of such a Mother-Forest.

Polen Training Local Youth in Documenting their Forests

3- The Mystery of Prey Lang’s Core

Here comes a sensitive part, despite our efforts to foster positive change toward Our Forest. The hard fact is that her core is rumored to go bald. I myself can’t confirm this as the community forests feel already abundant on my scouting trip. If that is the case, I really hope our short eventual documentaries will trigger some short-sighted people about our shared future. Of course, these deal with forest protection itself and conservation of a lake, originating from Prey Lang.

One of the Most Precious, Yet Rare Trees in a Community Forest

4- Changes Can Happen Anytime

Even if I get curious about that entangling puzzle, I still want to focus on positive action or campaigns. The thing is, if we can’t undo a straining past, we can build a “more constructive” future. Other people may then care about our environment for a name’s sake. In turn, we ourselves know what is true to our heart and Nature. If you ever feel alone in this “fight”, join us at SFO in holistically preserving and even developing our precious resources!

Attending Launching of Social Behavior Change Campaigns

As a whole, as long as Prey Lang maintains her abundance, surrounding lives will keep sustained, if not prosperous. After all, Nature is “intelligent” enough to sense what to keep or remove over time! Therefore, if one speeds up their results with greed, watch what will befall them. Yet, if one conserves and develops her in harmony, rejoice in her by-products to us earthlings.

PS: And here’s your bonus video of my boat ride to the other lakeshore by community forest in T’bong Teuk!

PPS: This post was written as a my personal opinion and should not considered a sponsored content.

Koh Ach Seh – Cambodian Worthy Aquatic Paradise

As part of a joint project about environment conservation, I didn’t plan to visit Koh Ach Seh (កោះអាចម៍សេះ) at all. But GEM needed at least a SFA member to complete this first mission of our Green Tale about seahorses, funded by Korea SHE Foundation. So I offered to go on this journey of 3 nights and 4 days on that remote island in Kep province. The timing fell nicely as we, at Ahkara, wrote about Koh Ach Seh before for ZillionHome. After our discovery, below were my takeaways, probably for your additional insight about this isle and tips about aquatic challenges.

1- No Plan is Sometimes the Best Plan!

This is the best part of this unexpected trip. I was asked to replace our absent member a few days ahead of the departure. As I had only heard about that isle, I offered to come along, counting it as another “fun” journey. To get there, you need to leave Kep pier for Rabbit Island. But past that famous island, head straight further for another half an hour. We were then driven by Cambodian staff of Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC). Yet, little did I expect an expat to welcome me ashore! That man is named “Amick Haissoune”, Project Coordinator of MCC, coaching us virtually about everything on and around Koh Ach Seh.

Approaching Koh Ach Seh for the first time ever!

2- Global Problems Need Holistic Solutions.

We all may be aware of environmental issues at one point of our lives. But only when I learned about MCC’s “invention” did I realize this could be the best solutions for all stakeholders of this global issue. The block is called “CANTS” as overfishing “can’t” happen, due to that protective gear! It looks so simple yet effective to stop fisherman from exploiting young sea lives. Eventually, the surrounding bay has become home to their growth, especially around those blocks. MCC has strategically installed and expanded these blocks around the isle for several years. Once those creatures grow up, they will swim away, as the catches by our (regular) fishermen. This way, all lives could sustain themselves around that conversation zone.

Hearing out Amick sharing his conservation efforts and experience in our Cambodian sea

3- You Can Tame Fear with Practices.

After browsing Thary’s agenda, I asked him if we were to dive, even we cannot swim. His usual response was, “Let’s see how first, bro!”. So on Day 2, we were taught how to snorkel, especially breathing from our mouths! Then, after some practices and a little courage, I made it anyway. Then, came another tougher challenge on Day 3, when we had to dive in the shallow. Well, imagine yourself wearing a 50-kg oxygen tube and mouthwatering just to stay afloat without sinking! After all, both experiences was so much fun for me. Basically, I just “floated” (not yet swam), in the shallow water back and forth. Yet, the biggest event was for me to deep-dive under the base of our engine boat! I was immediately aware that I was not ready for this depth. So I went up hastily, to Amick’s shock!

Diving – again – for the first time with my coach, Amick!

4- Conservation Contributes to Growth.

As mentioned earlier in my takeaway number 2, once a tool is invented for holistic solutions, conservation makes more sense to our living. From MCC’s work, I learned healthy preservation develops stakeholders, instead of polarizing them with different agenda. I’m not sure what larger organizations approach such global issues. Yet, I feel smaller entities tend to know what is the best for their communities. Rather than being told what to do, conservation should integrate both victims and perpetrators for common, yet balanced interests. As Gandhi once said, “The world has enough for human needs, but not enough for human greed.”

5- Passion Keeps You Tireless about Your Cause.

The first expat eco-warriors I know of before this trip, was the Belgian couple who co-founded “Osmose“. This organization was founded to protect Tonle Sap Great Lake, likewise from overfishing and preserve water bird species. British Paul Fauber co-founded MCC, with Amick simply for his passion to save our ocean. By “our”, I could feel the sense of belonging in them, as “global citizens”, not just Cambodians. Thus, only if we appropriate these matters in some way, we could be surely part of the solutions. Hence, we hope our Green Tale on seahorses could raise or promote awareness of the importance of sea lives (including animals and plants).

Leaving the isle behind those blocks to build our CANTS against overfishing!

In short, Koh Ach Seh is worth visiting with care and causes. You would find the isle basic in infrastructure, yet high in hope for the future of Cambodian marine lives. Surprisingly, seagrass and corals produce up to 90% of CO2 on our Planet. I’ll leave this data to your ecological, yet corporate minds to figure out some trade-off!

PS: As usual, below is a bonus clip of the Sunset in time lapses, from Koh Ach Seh, facing Koh Angkrong.