Mission Report: High/Scope Mums & Kids Goes To Pulau Seribu

As scheduled, on June 19-20, 2011 we made a trip with a group of kids and parents from the High/Scope Indonesia school. The trip which has been prepared in about a month was named: "High/Scope Mums & Kids Goes To Pulau Seribu, Protecting The Ocean One Little Step at A Time".

The trip was joined by 4 pre-schoolers (3 years old) and 2 elementary grade students, plus their parents. They are:

- Mr. & Mrs. James D. Filgo with their children: Priscilla Filgo, Earl Filgo and Daniel Filgo

- Mr. & Mrs. Abram Martono and their daughter Danika

- Mrs. Yuni Anggelia and her daughter Alexa

- Myself and my wife with our daughter Nadia

- Trip leaders: Ms. Priska Raharjo (WWF), Mr. Dany Darwis (Banyu Biru Explorers) and myself

- Press reporter: Mr. Arris Riehady (Scuba Divers Australasia Indonesia and Asian Geographic Junior magazines)

On Sunday morning (June 19) all the participants gathered at 7.30am by pier #6 of Marina Jaya Ancol and get ready to go. The trip leaders checked-in all of the participants while also distributing the participant ''crew pack' which each consisted of a Project Aware Kids book, trip itinerary details, information for beach cleanup activity and ocean protection how-to's from Project Aware modules.

At 8am all participants were already inside the Predator 3, our motor yacht. The parents and kids enjoyed the comfort of our airconditioned cabin. The sea was calm, with lots of sun :)

With the power of 3x250 horsepower 4-stroke fuel efficient engine, we cruise the 30 nautical miles distance between Marina Ancol to the destination island, Pramuka Island, in about 75 minutes. We didn't land at Pramuka island, only taking aboard 50 pieces of mangrove seeds to be planted at the main activity destination: Semak Daun Island. Semak Daun island is an uninhabited island about a mile from Pramuka island. Semak Daun is a very small island with white sandy beach and shallow beach where kids can play safely by the beach, and the parents can swim or snorkel in the deeper lagoon.

The program for Sunday at Semak Daun island were mangrove planting and beach cleanup. The purpose of mangrove planting is to protect the beach from abrassion.

After arrival at the Semak Daun island, we put all logistics at a nice shaded spot. The kids and parents directly jumped into the water, having fun with their sandtoys, swimming and playing with each other. The kids were very happy, we heard laughter and kids shouting with lots of fun. Dany and myself were watching them playing, standby as lifeguards to anticipate risks of playing in the water. We have our first aid kit and oxygen ready by the beach as our standard kit and procedure. The preschoolers were playing with their mums, while the bigger kids went snorkeling with the father.

At 11am, we call all the participants to gather at the beach, to get ready for the conservation project. The first one to do was mangrove planting, which location is about 50 meters from our camp. The plan was after planting the mangroves seeds, the group will do the beach cleanup while heading back to the camp.

After briefing for the mangrove planting, we all walk to the planting area. The kids and parents were having big fun planting the mangroves in the water. We finish all the 50 mangrove seedlings in about 30 minutes (the kids sure want to plant more!), take pictures and get ready for the next mission: Beach Cleanup!

The trip leaders did a short briefing to the participants, to remind them to avoid hazardous debris and what to do in case they found debris with living organism inside it. We distributed the rubber gloves to all the participants before starting the cleanup. The kids were so excited wearing the gloves, the fun has begun!

We have prepared two big baskets to contain the debris. The participants were divided into two groups, the larger kids and the preschoolers. The cleanup was fun, and we finished it in about 20 minutes. The two baskets were full of debris! There are nets, plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, bulbs, shoes, sandals, plastic sack, plastic ropes, bottles, cigarette pack and butts and others. Afterward we estimated the weight of the collected debris and they were approximately 14 kilograms of debris. These were collected in a distance of only less than 50 meters walk at the beach! Semak Daun Island and the other islands (total 115 small islands) within the Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands Archipelago) of the Jakarta Bay has been receiving debris from the Jakarta metropolitan city. Garbage and debris from the city goes to the sea and the islands practically caught them, on the beach and underwater.

We finished the main activities at Semak Daun Island right at noon. We then have all the participants board the boat to head for lunch at the Nusa Keramba floating fish farm and restaurant near Pramuka Island. Great lunch was served, with barbecued fish, squid, prawn and vegetables. At the restaurant the kids can see big milkfish swimming around the fish farm.

It's almost 2pm when we finished lunch, then we head directly to Pramuka Island to check-in at the reserved accommodation. All checked-in, some of the kids took a nap, while the others playing by the Pramuka Island's ecosystem miniature pond. The can see lots of beautiful fish, turtles swimming inside the pond which is directly connected with the sea.

At 4pm, as scheduled in our itinerary, the group then walk to the Pramuka Island National Park biology museum and turtle breeding station. The Park Ranger explained the participants about the articles inside the museum and the kids looked amazed by the so many kinds of seashells, dolphin bones, reef species, preserved infant oceanic sunfish and many more. After the biology museum, we then head to the turtle breeding farm to see infant sea turtles breeding for scheduled release to the ocean.

The Pramuka Island's turtle breeding center is focused in the breeding of the eretmochelys imbricata turtle species, which is unique to the area. The breeding center has been operating since 1984 and funded by the government and companies, as well as phillantropic individuals.

The kids and parents learned a lot about the importance of conserving the turtles. They saw so many infant turtles in the breeding tanks and also learn to care for the turtles under supervision of the breeder. The participants can touch the infants and held them by hand to learn about these delicate creatures. There was no turtle release schedule, so we finished the day's activity by 6pm at the turtle breeding.

A nice buffet dinner was served at 7pm and afterward all participants went for their freetime and have a good night sleep. The trip leaders were relieved from the exciting day stress and they went night diving at the other end of the beach.

Day 2 (Monday, June 20)

It's Monday! Feel so good being away from the office on Monday! :)

The plan for the day was enjoying the island plus coral transplantation.

After breakfast, we went by boat to a lagoon nearby where little kids can play safely in the water, the parents can snorkel, and of course, we the trip leaders can scuba dive :)

We play at the lagoon which is only 5-minute boat ride from Pramuka Island for about an hour. I went diving with Dany and did a Coral Watch. After the dive, the kids and parents has also finished snorkeling. Some other parents tried traditional fishing but was not so lucky :). We then head back to Pramuka Island to do the coral transplant activity.

Arrived at Pramuka Island again, then we straight away went to the island's coral transplant center. Here the participants were explained about the importance of coral reef, how they live, what threathened it and how to conserve it. We have prepared some rockpiles for the transplant and also a rack with 50 transplant pots. After the briefing by the coral transplant supervisor, then the coral fun begin! The kids were having so much fun placing the coral on the rockpile as well as at the tranplant rack. Why we choose Pramuka island for this activity was mainly because the success ratio here was more than 90% of each transplantation. At other islands, the transplant success ratio were less than 50%. At Pramuka island the average growth of transplanted hard coral is about 10 centimeters for the first year since planted.

After the new transplant were ready, all participants then together putting them in the sea. I can see the joyful faces of the kids and parents looking at their planting result and then carefully taking them to the 30 centimeter deep water. Later, the staff of the transplantation center will move the rockpiles and rack to deeper water. We tagged the rack with names and signatures of all participants and the kids.

It was almost noon when we finished with the coral transplant. We then head back to our accommodation to have a buffet lunch and then prepare for check-out. I distributed the Project Aware Kids badges and Certificate of Recognistion to the kids and parents. They were surprised and very happy receiving the certs and badges. After lunch, everyone  packed their stuffs and gather at the pier, take pictures then board the boat.

We arrived back at Marina Ancol in Jakarta at 3.30pm. It's a sayonara for everyone, everyone looked tired, excited and happy. Yes, it was a 2 full days of conservation activities. Everything went smooth as planned, mission accomplished!

My highest appreciation to Project Aware for sending me the material and certificates on time. Also to my buddies Dany Darwis and Priska Raharjo to spend their valuable time to assist me in leading this trip. To Arris Riehady from Scuba Divers Australasia and Asian Geographic Junior, thank you. Also to my wife, Nuri Hertiadhi, as the driver for this early childhood conservation education effort, i love you so much.

To all participants, you have accomplished 4 missions in 2 days! A great achievement! I wish what we have learned during the trip will nurture the seeds of greater appreciation to our ocean planet. Together we can protect the ocean, one little step at a time :)

I will upload the photos and videos of the event in the next one or two days.