Heather Reynolds review 23 Sep 2011
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Meeting the bears and being able to really make a difference to their day-to-day lives with enrichment, feeding and cleaning; some of the things we were doing (such as enrichment to keep the bears active and happy) wouldn't get done unless we were there to help out!
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
You only need to take US Dollars to Cambodia - no need to get any local currency beforehand! I went in the wet season (July) and packed lots of waterproofs and warm clothes just in case - I didn't use either of them! No need for any more than t-shirts or a very thin jumper and when it rains you can generally stay under cover until it is passed! I also recommend a guide book (Rough Guide is good) and if you've done a bit of research on any guesthouses that look good to stay in, then that saves a lot of time and hassle when you get there - most of the volunteers went into Phnom Penh over the weekends, where you'll have to find a place to stay. This isn't compulsory though, it's fine to stay in the guesthouse! There's wifi at the volunteer house so bring a laptop if you want!
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes, because it opens jobs for some of the locals, who are paid good wages (e.g. the house cook, security guard etc). Westerners (or non-locals) get charged more for food and travel than the locals (still very reasonable prices) so our use of tuk-tuks, taxis and buying food and souveniers brings in a lot of money! The centre where the bears are has no electricity supply, so uses solar power and biogas, and from this and the volunteer house there is very little electricity consumption.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Fantastic, it was possibly my best experience abroad; I added 2 weeks onto the end of my volunteering to travel around Cambodia, which was also a brilliant experience. I have always wanted to work with bears, and this is one of the only opportunities in the world to not only get close to (and if you're lucky - touch) bears, as well as contributing towards the organisation that takes care of bears across the whole of SE Asia and beyond!
Anon review 17 Oct 2010
Expectations: It was all arranged quite late in the day for me, so I hadn’t really thought too much about what to expect, just that I hoped I would be able to make a useful contribution to the charity during my stay. Probably exceeded my expectations, as I have done some charity things before that turn out to be more like experience holidays / events and this one we were so close to the bears and keepers that you feel part of the project rather than just a short stay helper. I think we were really lucky (in the sense of our experience rather than it needing to be rescued) to have the baby bear (Lola) arrive when we were there too.
Accommodation: Mostly very good. A few small things, the bed was very hard and left me with a bit of back ache most mornings; I wasn’t prepared for the level of mosquito’s / midges so my repellant wasn’t strong enough or enough in quantity and the mosquito net has a few holes so they feasted on me at night until Justin was kind enough to loan me some stronger repellant.
Food was excellent and there was more than enough for us every night. Everyone was really nice and helpful. Pesie was especially helpful to all of the volunteers.
I would recommend this program to others, lovely country, lovely people and nice animals to work with. I wished I had planned to spend longer there, but it is difficult with work commitments etc. I’d like to return, but whether I can do so is another question. I’m also not sure, now I know more about the charity, if I would opt for one of the other locations as well, although I do think Cambodia is a great place.
I had done a project in the past which turned out more like an experience holiday. This was far superior in the knowledge gained, the work level and the sense of fulfillment.
I really enjoyed my time there. I am not always outwardly clear with my thoughts and emotions and I hope the staff understood that I really did enjoy my time there. I was also lucky enough to be there at the same time as Justin, Mary & Ann, who made great companions too.