Author: Denise Lawler, Photos by: Denise Lawler
In July this year, 8 URG divers packed their dive gear (and a few pairs of undies) and headed to a remote fishing village on the northern coast of Bali to help the Coral Reef Rehabilitation project. This is the 4th year URG have participated, this year the volunteers were Lou & Martin, Joshua B, Helen, Kosta, Rianti, John V and myself. Decades ago, to easily catch fish for the aquarium fish trade, Les village fisherman used cyanide to poison the fish to slow them down. Not knowing the full effects this would have, the coral reefs were poisoned. Fish and coral died, nothing was left but rubble. Three guys from an Indonesian NGO, Telapak – Ruwi, Arso and Cipto – taught the villagers a better way. They slept on the floors of open-air huts and became part of the village family. They taught fish netting techniques in place of cyanide fishing. Cipto also started an Adopt a Coral Program. In 2011, he met an Australian non-profit dive volunteer organisation, DiVo, and Sea Communities was born in 2012 using dive volunteers to carry on the reef rehabilitation work. Soon after, STARR Program was born (Scientific Trial Active Reef Rehabilitation) with the National University of Singapore. The STARR scientists introduced new nursery-transplantation methods to Les, because their own work in Singapore showed promising results. Corals survive best if they go through a nursery stage while they are babies, transplanted onto fixed reefs only when they are hardier. With coral nurseries, more baby recruits can be nursed and maintained efficiently, to allow for natural attrition.
At Les there are a mix of rope and table nurseries where the corals are maintained. After one to two years, the corals are transplanted into the natural reef. Various methods are used for this. Tasking for the volunteer divers varies; Coral ID’s, Fish ID’s, Coral transplanting, Coral Maintenance, and this year included a Marine Debris survey. To be involved in this project is amazing. You are actively participating in citizen science which is great, but on top of that add the awesome atmosphere and the most amazing humble, relaxed locals you may ever meet. In takes just a short time there to feel like you never want to go home as your body, mind and soul adapts and warms quickly to the environment.
As this was my 3rd time back, it took only minutes to feel like I was home. The accommodation is right on the water so you wake up, eat breakfast, done your dive gear, a debrief on our tasking and you dive right in. No need to travel anywhere. Back out for a coffee and another briefing then a 2nd morning dive, out for lunch, then back in for a 3rd dive. Shore assistance (locals) help divers with their gear in and out of the water as the shore entry can be a little tricky if your legs aren’t so strong or if there is some wave action. At the end of each task there’s usually time to potter around underwater at leisure. The last day is always a fun day where we travel to Tulamben to dive the Liberty Wreck and Coral Gardens.
I haven’t even mentioned the food! In an open air restaurant, next to the frangipani trees, the salt farms and of course the ocean, you are served the best ever local Balinese food by the locals. Everybody raves about the food (sounds like some return simply for this reason!). If you want participate next year you can email us and we'll put you in touch with the organiser.