Lauren Sparks – Founding Director

It is with great pleasure to post the first bimonthly report in over a year! A challenging year for the world, but one where Indo Ocean Project survived and grew thanks to the dedication of our community near and far. After several attempts of reopening I am humbled by the commitment of our interns waiting patiently for an avenue to join our project and bring Indo Ocean Project back to life.

Together with the “IOP Pioneers” we have successfully relaunched the Penida Project and welcomed 9 interns onto the island and 4 staff back to work. The challenges of reopening this year were staggering, and we got through it together taking it day by day. A lot was learned over 2020 with some great improvements for our interns to enjoy. Our partnership with Reeflex Divers and connecting with stakeholders in the community has allowed us to level up our programme and scientific value of our project.

None of this would have been possible without a massive force, and I will take a moment to mention them here….

Harry and Roman at Reeflex Divers welcomed us with open arms and took on the challenge of hosting our dynamic program in the midst of a pandemic. IOP relies on a strong partnership with the team of the dive centers we work with, their commitment to conservation and love for Nusa Penida has given us the foundation to be part of real change in the future.

Michaela, our program coordinator and one of our FIRST dive master candidates over 3 years ago. Her friendship and fierce loyalty throughout this past year made reopening this project possible. She is the heart and mother of this programme.

Pascal, the brains behind this entire operation. He completely embodies the #cantstopwontstop movement and in the last year has accomplished so much. CorAlliance was a light in a dark time for many people, and our interns are incredibly lucky to be able to learn from him.

Arya, the newest member of our Indo Ocean Project team but a dedicated member of the family for over 2 years. We have watched him grow from bartender to dive guide to marine scientist and has become a critical part of our team in such a short time.

And Serena, without whom none of this would be possible. She keeps all of us in line (staff and interns alike) and has an unparalleled knowledge of the dive industry and a passion for teaching professional divers the likes of which I’ve never seen. There aren’t enough words…


So now…. read on to discover what we have been up to the last 2 months!


Video by Rosie Bancroft (Penida Project Intern February – May 2021)
Serena Stean – Program Director

It feels like a lifetime since the last update. It’s so good to finally be back, training dive professionals and collecting vital data. After the year’s hiatus and a stint in England under lockdown conditions visiting family, I have twice experienced “new normal” travelling, the additional hurdles required to keep people safe have been completely worth it to make my way back to paradise and my conservation family!

The seemingly endless lockdown time was not wasted. I worked hard developing our Species Identification course for our Survey Dives…. with new manuals, resources and an online testing system we have certainly levelled up our identification skills and are now confident our survey methodology will pass peer review for upcoming papers we hope to publish from our data collection. All new Indo Ocean Project interns gain access to these resources around six weeks prior to arrival so they can “hit the ground running” and quickly join in on all the science. We will be rolling out Level 1 – Shark, Ray and Turtle Identification to all dive shops around the Nusa Islands who would like to collaborate so we can work together to record what is seen for our Unite Penida data… stay tuned for updates on this!

We are about to certify our first Divemaster of 2021 and it feels amazing, we have 7 other candidates well on their way to taking that first professional step and we are completing the courses within our bubbles, creating lots more underwater. With vaccinations now happening across Bali we are hopeful that the dark skies on the horizon are now clearing and there is light at the end of this stormy tunnel.
Restarting the project with our new look Indo Ocean Project team and FANTASTIC new partners Reeflex Divers has been a complete joy, Roman and Harry have been in the industry longer than they care to recall, and we are all busy learning from each other and exchanging stories. It’s weird, it almost feels like this is where we have always belonged, it just took us a while to get here. We welcome Michaela Dudosova back to the Indo Ocean Team as the Project Co-ordinator, and new team member Arya Wol as our Community Co-ordinator. With my telepathy co-worker Pascal Sebastian heading up the science department we now have the most settled and experienced team we have ever had and cannot be more excited for the future.

Reeflex Divers Nusa Penida

Dive resort and SSI/PADI/CMAS training facility at Crystal Bay in Nusa Penida
Reeflex is not the only new relationship we have forged. We are now working in collaboration with CoralWatch, The Manta Trust, Marine Megafauna, Thresher Shark Indonesia, Ocean Gardener, Elasmobranch Project Indonesia, Save The Plastic amongst others to make sure the vital data reaches the right databases and doesn’t just stay in house. Our new coral restoration sites and monitoring areas are well underway and we have been trained in a new 3D mapping technique from our good friend Rich Horner – we can’t wait to teach all our interns this cutting edge technology that is incredibly simple to do, but produces the most stunning results!
Currently few boats are operating around the island and we have seen a dramatic decrease in boat traffic on the more popular sites. This means we often have iconic dives such as Crystal Bay (our new house reef) and Manta Point to ourselves, and wow, the mantas really put on a show each time we make it down to the south coast. We know this won’t last, but we are going to make the most of it and it will be interesting to see how the data compares pre – during – and post pandemic.
The water is starting to cool and we are hearing of the odd sighting of a mola here and there, we expect them to return in numbers shortly and cannot wait to see these bizarre looking gentle dinner plates. Even if it does mean piling on the layers and dusting down the 5mm suits.

Our new mangrove nursery is taking shape, we have relaunched Nusa Penida Turtles and our first interns have been enjoying improved workshops, courses and certifications. We are so proud of what we have accomplished during these challenging times, this has been our chance to take Indo Ocean Project to the next level and boy have we done so.

It’s time to get back to work… and we are LOVING IT!

Pascal Sebastian – Lead Marine Biologist
Indo Ocean Project has started recording the data of our new chapter of 2021. The ongoing project such as Unite Penida, Roving Survey Dive, BRUV and the Water Quality Survey have been collected again after the absence of 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic. So far, we have recorded total of 208 sightings of sharks, rays and turtles, six roving surveys, four BRUV deployments and three water quality tests around Nusa Penida.
We have produced 87 BRUV’s to date, with some outstanding achievements within four deployments. Our team has successfully deployed the first BRUV in Labyrinth and Manta Point on the southern side of Nusa Penida without any disturbance of other boats around the dive site. we have captured footages of reef manta rays, a spotted eagle ray and a hawksbill turtle.
As we actively participate to monitor our reef health with CoralWatch ( we are delighted to have our new permanent plot in Crystal Ba and one survey has been carried out by our interns. We would like to continue the monitoring program to contribute to the global monitoring of coral reef health and also to raise the awareness to the community about how climate change affects the coral reef ecosystem.
Michaela & Arya – Program Coordinators
Mangrove Project

During Covid -19 we were keeping our spirits high and gathering strength to develop the best mangrove action plan. Our dream was to protect the shores of our little paradise in Nusa Penida. We are so excited it is finally happening.

Our lead marine biologist Pascal and community coordinator Arya met with the head of the village and head of the banjar in Suana village. We were encouraged to discover that these important people were very aware of importance of the mangroves and happy to support our project. They have given us permission to plant in a bay where there is one large existing mangrove tree and one small mangrove. Years ago an effort was made by the community to establish a new mangrove area and now our aim is to carry on the work previously completed in an area 500m long and 30m wide to create a brand new mangrove green belt.

Our interns have in the past few weeks built a nursery that is able to accommodate 300 propagules. The plan is to water them with fresh water and 4 weeks before planting them out into mother nature we are going to habituate the saplings with salty water in order for them to continue to grow in their new home.
Going forward we would like to pass on our knowledge to the future generations in Nusa Penida. We would like to build a nursery for kids. Teaching them why mangroves are important, how to look after them and surely, they won’t be left out from mud fights when planting them.