I just returned from 2 weeks in Indonesia and what a trip it was. I went there to visit five Seacology projects, check out the diving in Raja Ampat and sample the culture in Bali. The trip started on the island of Sulawesi.
Once called the Celebes, this has got to be one of the oddest shaped large islands in the world (right). It looks as if you put a jigsaw puzzle piece in an electric outlet. As a result its coastline is enormous.
From the northern Sulawesi city of Manado the Seacology group took a short boat ride to the striking, cone shaped island of Manado Tua. One look at this island and there is no doubt that it is of volcanic origin. We got there at low tide and so we had to hike the last 30 yards to shore. The trip had barely begun when a new site presented itself. Several pigs were grazing in the water on the low growing sea grass. Yes, we really did see pigs grazing in the ocean, and no we were not drinking.
We were greeted on the dock by a delegation from Pangalingan village where Seacology funded the construction of a primary school in exchange for the protection of 160 acres of coral reef fringing the island.
We were guided to the new school buildings where many of the village kids put on a terrific dance performance for us (left). When the women started to dance I joined in. The cheers (okay and the howls of laughter) were so great that something tells me that the village will be talking about my dance performance for generations to come. The new school was dedicated and we were treated to a wonderful feast.
The next stop was a dive into a project of a different sort. Less than 3 years ago Seacology funded the placement of a series of EcoReefs-ceramic snowflake shaped modules that mimic branching corals. In much of Southeast Asia the coral reefs have been damaged by a terrible practice called blast fishing in which a homemade bomb is dropped in the water and the dead fish float to the surface. Unfortunately this also blasts the coral to smithereens and without a solid surface to grown on the coral will never regenerate. The EcoReefs provide just such a growing surface and in theory enable the corals to grow back. This Seacology funded EcoReef installation was the first such experiment anywhere in the world. I dove this same EcoReef area shortly after it was installed. I was anxious to see if the marine life had begun to come back. As I dropped in the water I could not find the EcoReefs and was worried that we were in the wrong place. After a minute it became obvious that the reason I had trouble spotting the modules was that there was so much coral and sponge life growing on them and so many fish and crabs living in and around them. No one predicted these units would work this quickly. Perhaps on a grand scale over time modules such as these can help bring back the vast areas of coral killed by blast fishing. More on my trip to Indonesia in future posts.
Map from World Navigator. ©2004 Cartografx Corp.