Indonesia: December 2007 Archives

Madagascar, Mantas, and More

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What does Madagascar have to do with Mantas, one might ask after reading the title of this blog. Generally speaking not much. You are not likely to see a lemur or chameleon frolicking with a manta ray after all. But on this island travel blog anything is possible. Loyal readers of this column know that I have been writing about a recent Seacology trip to Indonesia. While diving there we had several close encounters with manta rays. Seacology board member Jim Sandler took some terrific videos of these magnificent creatures.

An integral final step to many of Seacology's projects is for the island villages to erect a sign.  This is a lovely acknowledgment of Seacology's partnership with island communities, but it also is a symbol of one of Seacology's most important philosophies.  I cannot possibly articulate it as well as Dr. John McCosker, senior scientist for the California Academy of Sciences:

"Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, Seacology gets more output than any conservation group that I've seen. They're not giving money away, they're not making grants, they're making deals."

These signs act as an important reminder to the communities that the needed infrastructure we provide is not a handout; it is part of a trade-off in recognition of a commitment to conservation of their precious natural resources.

I thought I'd post photos of some of these signs.

madagascar_mangoro_sign.jpgThe sign at left is on one of 11 schools in Madagascar's Mangoro region that received Seacology-funded repairs in exchange for community agreements to protect the last remaining habitat of the Mangoro Flying Fox.  Due to hunting for bushmeat, uncontrolled fires and logging, just a few pockets of forest remain as roosts for these large bats. 

Seacology is also funding repairs to local municipal offices, and an educational component, with a conservation art competition scheduled to begin in early 2008.  The winning artists will be awarded by members of the Seacology 2008 expedition to Madagascar and South Africa.  Information on this trip can be found here.  Click here for more information regarding the Mangoro project.

In the last few weeks we have had quite a few updates from Seacology's field representatives and project contacts on islands throughout the world. Here are a couple of updates from projects in Indonesia and India.

Kabilol Village footpath.JPGIn Indonesia, Seacology field representative Arnaz Mehta notes that Seacology's project in Waigeo, Raja Ampat, is moving along smoothly. In exchange for a nine village agreement to establish a 123,553-acre marine protected area within the Mayalibit Bay, Seacology is providing a series of infrastructure improvements including constructing public washrooms, walking paths, and solar cell electricity for lighting so that children can study in the evening.

Bali Travel

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Map_Bali.gifIn my first three entries about a recent Seacology expedition to Indonesia I spoke about the fantastic diving we experienced in Raja Ampat. Now it is time to give the landlubbers equal time as I conclude this series by focusing on the end of our trip in Bali. Bali is one of the world's special places. This Indonesian island is unique in that unlike the rest of Indonesia the majority of the residents are Hindu. Their religion is closely related to, but is also distinct from, the Hindu religion practiced in India. As is the case with most islands the Balinese people are extraordinarily friendly. Per their religious custom they are often celebrating the anniversary of a temple or school, or some other landmark in the life of a building or person. It seems that every Balinese celebration is not complete without a line of women balancing a very large offering of fruit on their heads. They make the old film star, Carmen Miranda, look like pikers in this regard. You would also be hard pressed to find a celebration without a gamalon band playing the beautiful local music. Our wonderful guide, Dewa Adiwisma, took us to one such celebration in a local Hindu temple where the local people welcomed us with open arms. It was a very moving experience.