This past week has seen has our team of orang laut (this means ‘SEA People’ in bahasa Indonesia) busy with all manner of things; reef restoration, exploration, deep dives, mooring inspections, new villages, new friends, a python… another busy week for our team – read on for a wrap up of the past 7 days!
We transplanted some coral fragments…
A team of Coral Gardeners, doing what they do best.
This week Linus, Cori, Piet, Alfaris and Aldi transplanted 1645 coral fragments on Yaf Keru – Yenbekwan. As their knowledge and skills continue to grow, this team of Coral Gardeners becomes more efficient at implementing underwater systems, establishing an organic kind of ‘fordism’ with respect to those who collects the coral fragments (the feeders), those who transplant (the gardeners) and those who check, clip and count (quality control) during any given dive. While this went on Pak John spent his time on land welding some structures that will be installed on the restoration site to help mitigate the ‘rubble avalanche’ phenomenon and further support substrate stabilisation – an important part of the restoration process.
Inspected a mooring and some Deep Dive training
Piet, Arno and Lynn inspecting a mooring whilst conducing Deep Dive training for Piet.
With the Coral Gardening team more independent and autonomous, as they transplanted coral, Arno, Lynn and Piet went to inspect the condition of a mooring upon the request of a friend who has a boat is located nearby (and who has also established an amazing community project – but that’s another story).
In the calm waters of sheltered bay, we used this as an opportunity to take Piet on a deep dive training session. Whilst many locals in Raja Ampat have tried scuba diving, it is often without any form of training (or training of poor quality) and therefore without an understanding of pressure, planning, gas exchange, decompression procedures, corresponding signals and other safety practices. This is not uncommon at all, afterall… if nobody teaches you how could you know?
To go through in detail the influence of depth, time and pressure on the body, and how to carefully and safely plan a deep dive was an eye opener for all parties; for those learning the diving/planning skills (ie: at how much there is to consider in order to stay safe) and for those doing the teaching (continuing to learn of the level of understanding amongst the local community about scuba diving safety. This was further reinforced by a same day encounter; we bought some fish from a passing fishermen, an opportunity we always take to talk and learn more about local fishing practice. As the conversation unfolded, we shocked-but-not-surprised to hear the fisherman proudly tell of scuba diving to 50-60m for lobster and sea cucumber, with gear provided by a middleman from Sorong – who will onsell the catch for a high price – and saving 50 bar of air at the end ‘for safety’.. which, amongst other things, is nowhere near enough for the time it would take to do the required decompression/safety stops upon ascent from a dive this deep).
On our deep dive, Piet did an amazing job; planning the dive beforehand on his computer, following the profile exactly, experiencing a very mild narcosis, but remaining calm and in control, whilst regularly checking with and on his dive buddies. The second tank you see is contingency… technically unnecessary based on carefully planned profile, but taken anyway for the experience of diving with two tanks. And whilst diving deep is very rare and not required in our reef restoration effort, passing on the knowledge of how to do this safely is something we will continue to teach and reinforce.
New people, new places, a python and a cuscus
A walk through the forest to find this beautiful python (with a not so fortunate cuscus in it’s belly!)
During the past week, we also had the privilege of visiting a very small community; a tiny village tucked away from outside eyes and hidden within the forest. It was an extraordinary experience to walk into such a settlement; just 30-35 people, a small cluster of homes, the basic beginnings of something new… all the while remembering a story from not so long ago of a small number of people who “went to live in the jungle” – and knowing that was the origins of this kampung baru (new village).
We will not share photos and videos of this experience… we feel this would be invasive and is both uncalled for and unnecessary; this place felt intimate and private, these people were choosing to be ‘away’ from the rest for their own reasons. Therefore, we will not put this community up for exhibit in the online world – this is not for us to decide; we will, as we should, be lead by the community as to if and when they wish for such a thing to happen.
But what we will share from this incredible experience is the python we spotted! On the way into the settlement we past multiple people going the other way, passing on snippets of info about a cuscus (for those that don’t know, that’s a cute, furry possum like animal), and a really big python. But as is the case with stories, there are always multiple versions – and in this case ALL versions were correct: there was indeed a cuscus, and there was indeed a python, it’s just that the cuscus was IN the python. Let’s just say.. the python you see here had just had a very recent, and very big lunch – check out the bump in its middle! – and the cuscus you don’t see.. had just had a very bad day.
An Exploration Dive… our favourite kind of dive
Following cues and clues from Nature.. and finding a new reef!
To round out the week… Arno and Lynn went on an exploration dive. After observation over several days, we were convinced there was a deeper reef in a place we previously thought was a deep channel with a sandy bottom at 80m+. Yet bird activity, interesting water movement, a particular passage of dolphins passing the same spot regularly, the occasional solo fisherman… were all signs telling us there was something more to it. We asked around to gain local knowledge, and the ‘younger generation’ told us that their elders had told them there was definitely a reef at somewhere between 20m and 60m(!), before a big drop off into a very deep channel. So we waited until the current was right, planned our dive and jumped into the blue… we slowly descended and weren’t too sure that we were going to find anything, and after a seemingly endless blue (which is lovely but disconcerting after a while) some shapes started to emerge… darker shading chequered with lighter patches… then moving shapes… then out of nowhere… a reef teeming with fish. A small pinnacle, it’s peak at 20m, base at 40m… right next to a sandy slope which then dropped off into a deep channel.
Moral of the story? Nature never lies… observe the cues, follow the clues, and you will find what you’re looking for (or rather.. being shown).
With a busy week over… let’s see what comes next!
Sundays are a rest day for our entire team… some go to church, some sleep, some fish, some dive, some explore on land, some play video games or listen to music. Some do all of this and more.
Whatever it is… it’s a time to recharge and reset, because as you see above, our weeks are never dull and never without something to do!