As the Indonesia chapter of my first #AWAREimpact field trip comes to a close, I reflect on the amazing individuals and groups I have come to meet and work with to address local conservation challenges and opportunities. The passion-fueled actions the local dive centers are leading to connect people to nature and engage the local community in conservation practices have huge ripple effects. From weekly Dive Against Debris® surveys to local restaurants using bamboo and paper straws, positive change is happening.
Bali and the Ugly Journey of Our Trash
We all know that places like Sanur, located in the immediate vicinity of Eastern Beaches in Bali, offer spectacular diving adventures. But dive centers there are also working hard to limit the impact of plastic pollution encouraging people to say "NO" to single-use plastics, offering reusable water bottles and organizing multi-center cleanup events. Bali is a beautiful island with its own marine debris challenges brought in by current systems from the Java Sea, especially during rainy and windy seasons. Although they can’t control the weather, there are amazing organizations like Trash Hero Bali teaming up with local dive operators to conduct regular Dive Against Debris® surveys, inspire the youth through education and action, and empower the next generation of ocean conservationists.
Feeling inspired and eager to experience first-hand the challenges faced by the island, I joined Joe’s Gone Diving, Bali Breizh, Two Fish Divers, and Blue Season Bali Dive for a Dive Against Debris survey with around 25 participants. The result of our joint efforts: over 60kg of trash removed with the most common items being plastic wrappers and fishing nets. A Project AWARE presentation was then conducted at a local hotel where more than 9 dive centers and over 50 people contributed to a positive and lively discussion on ways to tackle local plastic pollution issues whilst contributing to solutions to the global marine debris crisis.
Community Actions for Healthy Coral Reefs in Lembongan
After an amazing collaborative effort and strong community engagement in Bali, my ocean conservation adventures took me to the quiet island of Lembongan, a short ferry trip away from the East coast of Bali. The local marine park boasts some of the healthiest coral reefs I've ever seen. There are endless fields of Acropora, Plate, and Boulder corals as well as thousands of reef fish swimming gracefully under the rays of sunlight. The diving community is leading powerful conservation efforts to protect these fragile underwater ecosystems as part of the 2018 International Year of the Reef celebrations!
A cleanup dive brought multiple dive centers, dive professionals, and the Lembongan Diving Association together in the name of conservation and teamwork. Cody Mcdonald, from Blue Corner Dive Center, stressed the importance of inspiring divers who are on their journey to becoming dive leaders to take part in conservation actions and lead by example. The cleanup dive was followed by a seminar where I explored local marine debris issues with 35 participants including local dive leaders and PADI® Instructor Development Course candidates.
Together We’re Stronger in Gili Air
Next stop to the east was Gili Air. There, local organizations, like the Gili Shark Conservation group, partners with dive resorts, like Oceans 5, to sponsor clean-up events and educational seminars. Beach cleanups often gather massive participation especially from local children and dive staff. The passion these divers and ocean enthusiasts share is contagious. During a Project AWARE presentation on tackling marine debris issues, 40 passionate people came to learn more about how they can be a force for conservation. Cedric Cabrieres, a head instructor at Oceans 5, shared his appreciation for the support of the Project AWARE team and stressed the importance of community education and action to bring about change.
Gili Trawangan, a Conservation Community to Be Reckoned With
Gili Trawangan, a short hop from Gili Air, is another island paradise with a dedicated dive community working tirelessly for community engagement, conservation, and better boating practices. The Gili Eco Trust, led by Delphine Robbe, has promoted a powerful program for installing mooring buoys to protect the fragile ocean ecosystem, help prevent the destruction of the reefs and alleviate marine debris caused by boating gear. Local pubs get in the action with community challenges that inspire hundreds of participants to participate in clean-up efforts. Over 40 engaged professional and recreational divers attended a Project AWARE presentation, eager to further explore what they can do to make a difference.
The Adventure Continues
There are many lessons we can learn from the people I've met and collaborated with during my field trip to Indonesia. Their commitment and dedication to ocean protection are inspiring and gives me a great deal of hope. We are proud that our conservation model - connecting the passion for adventure with the purpose of marine conservation - is driving their story of positive change for a clean and healthy ocean.
As Indonesia prepares to host the 5th Our Ocean conference in Bali, we're excited to shine a light on what the local community is achieving with Project AWARE to create both local and global change. The Project AWARE flag is flying high in Indonesia and our combined actions take us closer to achieving our mission.
I'm looking forward to my next ocean protection adventures in Thailand and the Caribbean and hopefully returning to Bali in October for the Our Ocean Conference, 29-30 October 2018, to keep building on the success of meaningful community actions. For now, a massive thank you to each and every Project AWARE supporter who made this trip a huge success.
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