I did a flying visit to our camp in Cambodia recently and was really excited to see the development of the camp since i had lasted visited. When I was last there it was an empty overgrown piece of wasteland that was half cleared for mines and unexploded ordnance, and I was holding a very rough sketch of what we envisioned it to look like. The first thing before entering the camp was to meet all the staff who rushed in from their various chores and homes to meet me (this was during a lull between teams and hence the gang were carrying on with their duties away from the camp). They were all proudly wearing their blue camp T-shirts, and were initially a little shy of this stranger coming in to camp, but soon opened up with their gorgeous smiles. The team are a complete comparison to some of our camp staff in Borneo who are a little on the older side – these guys are fresh faced youngsters all raring to go – its a great feeling to think we have been able to offer opportunities for employment in an area which is otherwise devoid of chances for their generation.

The camp has been the result of some hard work from the team at Arkitrek who are our resident environmentally sound architects. We wanted the camp to be quite rough and ready and in sync with its surroundings as much as possible. In particular we paid close attention to our “footprint” on the local environment which struggles at times for water and other natural resources. One feature we have incorporated is using our “grey” water from showers and sinks etc, once it has been through some basic treatment and settling tanks, goes into a complex system of underground pipes and into a leech field. This means the water gradually seeps back into the ground, clear of contaminants and helping to irrigate a small patch of land where we will grow vegetables and fruits for use in the camp.åÊ[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:null,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image alignleft size-medium wp-image-2055″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”675″,”height”:”378″,”title”:”The communal area”,”alt”:””}}]] The other “green” or perhaps I should say “brown” innovation at the camp is our composting toilets. This is a first for Camps International, so its a bit of a trial. Due to water shortages in Cambodia for up to 6 months of the year we felt we needed to restrict the amount of water we use, one of the major sources being flushing toilets. Hence after much debating and in depth research we have come up with a very simple solution in the form of composting toilets, with the waste dropping through into specially designed wheelbarrow receptacles. The waste is mixed with rice husks or sawdust to keep the flies and smell at bay. Once these large wheelbarrows are full (not brimming full hopefully!!), they are capped and wheeled off somewhere quiet and secluded, and left for 6 months for the waste to break down. After 6 months there is sufficient break down that this can be put out on the land as fertiliser, to start the cycle all over again. We deliberately want people coming to this camp to think about their usage of scarce resources (mainly water) and what happens with their waste – we think this is important and reckon these innovations will help to focus the mind a little, especially when sat on our beautiful composting toilets! [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:null,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image size-full wp-image-2087 “,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”442″,”height”:”788″,”title”:”Focusing one”,”alt”:””}}]] The new camp at Beng Mealea will be a great addition to our camps across Asia. It is certainly a little more rough and ready than some of our other camps, but that was our intention. We want all our visitors to leave having experienced the real Cambodia and not some superficial experience based around temples and air conditioned hotels. I am confident the combination of our camp and the amazing people visitors will meet along the way will leave a lasting impression. So if you’re coming to Cambodia be ready for a challenge and forget all those home comforts – you will soon discover they are superfluous to requirement. Keep watching this blog for more details on the on-going projects we are undertaking in Cambodia.