Lots has happened at our 2 projects in Nusa Penida and Bunaken the last few months! Stay up to date by following our ‘Bimonthlies” written by the project staff. Learn about new projects launched, new graduates, and new developments here!

Penida Project

Serena Stean – Penida Project Manager

Since the last update an additional 10 PADI Divemasters have been certified in Nusa Penida and we are proud to have sent even more amazing professionals into the diving world. So a huge congratulations to; Victoria, Luke, Victor, Breanna, Ed, Cedric, Barny, Alessandra, Joy and Nina! That’s a total of 40 Divemasters certified at the Nusa Penida Headquarters. We also welcomed back former intern Greta Sartori who spent a month with us collecting data for her Masters degree. 

We are also very proud to announce that two of our previous interns have also recently become PADI Instructors with Rosie Dixon, the fabulous Course Director at our partner IDC centre, Blue Corner… so a HUGE congratulations to the talented Ceara Wallace and Darby Bonner. You join the IOP graduate instructor ranks alongside Mariana Vergara, Lukas Phan-Huy and our very own Joma Dix. 

In terms of diving activities all our interns are now getting used to the cooler summer waters bringing with it the more frequent sightings of the famous Mola (Mola alexandrini) and hilarious looking Wobbegongs.  We have also had some rarer sightings of White Tail Stingrays as well as plenty of White Tip Reef Sharks, Brown Banded Bamboo Sharks, and Marble Rays. Our beloved Manta Rays are still on the hunt for romance at Manta Point and that delights both interns and customers with endless mating trains and sexy time dances. 

Since the last update 50 environmental specialty courses have been completed in Marine Ecology, Shark Ecology, Manta Ray Conservation, Sea Turtle Ecology and Coral Reef Identification, as well as additional specialties such as the fantastically fun Deep Diving Specialty, completed by many of our graduates. Penida reefs really are one of the best places to explore below 30m.

Our ongoing mapping project has gained two new additions for both Sental and Batumulapan Dive Sites and you can check out the updates at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RsY_7EderZsRo_Iir2ef3J6vA0KlIsCa. We are now focusing our attentions back to our house reef (Dan’s Reef) with upcoming updated maps, biodiversity analysis and a new RUV project that our scientists will explain. 

We were happy to welcome back Greta Sartori! After graduating from our Penida Project in August 2018 she has since returned to complete her MSc in marine biology. She choose to return to Nusa Penida to complete her masters dissertation on the geographic variable driving predatory teleosts presence in our Nusa Penida MPA. She was using our fish survey data along with a new benthic survey method. We are looking forward to reviewing her findings soon!

The Turtle ID Project continues to grow in size and contributions with us receiving some international coverage courtesy of Robert Scales of Ceningan Divers. Not only was the project mentioned in Taiwan at a conference but also in a recent blog post from Robert here – https://ceningandivers.com/contribute-marine-research-diving-nusa-penida/?fbclid=IwAR24YxkarL3wi8Oo8jW55iVguQLy8tIj5z52U1dwiiC4Gr-DXy-_fnCETCQ. Additionally Andrew Taylor of Blue Corner Marine Research Centre has finally named “Lady Destruction”, his favourite hawksbill that claimed his Sental coral restoration project as her own. With the support of neighbouring dive centres we have strong hopes this project will continue to grow and we can start analysing the data soon. 

We’ve also had some nerd outings recently, because working hours just sometimes isn’t enough. All of our interns ventured over to Lembongan to see the amazing Pierre-Yves Cousteau talk about conservation, ground up MPAs and ocean temperatures and we all absolutely loved it! The IOP Staff also attended the first Bali Coral Reef Rehabilitation Network meeting at the Coral Triangle Centre and we were proud to see our Coral Biodiversity Mapping work receive some positive attention. 

On a personal note I am about to start a distance learning MSc in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health through the University of Edinburgh, the aim being that 2020 will be a publishing year for Indo Ocean Project as our raw data is now overflowing and a lot of analysis is about to start happening. We are so proud of what we have achieved and look forward to start sharing our findings with the world.

Marine Biology Department

July marks the start of high season and when the famous Mola start shallowing up for divers to see. We have launched a new Mola ID Project (Penida Island Mola Project or PIMP) and already we have 58 sightings on our citizen science database from photos taken by local divers, and 3 individuals of our own. Although still experimenting with the software, the same one used for our Turtle ID project, we are hoping to be able to start identifying individuals to learn more about the local population.

Our interns have been working hard on our Coral Mapping & Biodiversity Project and have made some exciting progress. Enormous thank you to our incredible intern, Barny, for his novel approach to benthic digital photography. He adjusted our methodology to suit Penida’s powerful currents by streamlining our mapping equipment to one go-pro and some nifty time-lapse filming to give us a beautiful picture of our sample site, Dan’s Reef. The girls are now identifying all our corals and benthic species to give us an idea of the current level of biodiversity out there. 

To determine resident fish species we plan on using remote under water video (RUV) footage. Last week we deployed our first experimental RUV post off Dan’s reef to trial our design. Due to its apparent success so far we will be deploying a more permanent post on our Coral Mapping site in the coming days.   

Early August Indo Ocean Project staff were invited to take part in the Bali Coral Restoration forum hosted by the Coral Triangle Centre in Sanur. Groups from all over Bali involved in reef conservation or rehabilitation were invited to share what methods they were using, to discuss issues, and learn from each others successes. It was a proud moment for IOP to watch as our project founder, Lauren, presented the work from our Biodiversity Mapping Project, first initiated by our lead marine scientist, Pascal Sebastian.  The response to our digital mapping was really encouraging and future workshops are in the works to solidify a network of coral reef conservationists across Bali. 

Our 50th BRUV was recently dropped with the current total sitting at 54. With the goal of 200 BRUV drops we can officially say we are now a quarter of the way there! The latest drop right in our home reef (Dan’s Reef) is the most exciting drop yet! We managed to snap a Hawksbill, a Brown Banded Bamboo Shark, a Giant Trevally, and our first sighting of a Chinaman fish, all on one BRUV. A recently released BRUV highlights video is available for viewing on our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

We have completed 232 surveys since the project opened in February 2019 and plan to continue regular surveys to assist in marine park monitoring. A graduated intern is using some of the data for her Masters dissertation and we are looking forward to reviewing her work in the next week.

Novie Bahri – Community Initiatives


In July we checked in on our nursery at Freedive Nusa where it was fixed and installed 100 new pots of Rhizophora propagules. After a rough start the previous batch of propagules had an 80% mortality rate showing that the cultivation of certain species does not fit with our methodology. Rhizophora are the most resilient and beneficial mangrove to cultivate in our nurseries.

The 5th mangrove nursery instalment was completed in August at Reeflex Dive Centre on Nusa Penida. We are excited about this new partnership with our French friends on the hill and spent a full day with the help of our Bamboo volunteers to build and stock a brand new nursery that holds a total of 289 propagules.

This brings the total of 1,432 propagules in nurseries around the Nusa islands. September is planned for a planting month with 300 seedlings getting ready for transplanting and new propagules to replace them.

Plastic Pollution Assessment

We have taken part in and lead several beach clean ups in the last 2 months. With Yana from Save the Plastic off to Koh Tao to launch her new microplastic sampling methods we have been continuing with plastic pollution assessments along Penida’s shore lines. She is set to return next month to continue her analysis of marine debris using a brand new tool to sample micro plastic through the water column. We are excited to welcome her back and continue research on microplastic with this new technology.

Our interns join the Trash Hero movement every Monday to join the local community in a weekly clean up to help draw attention to the plastic pollution problem and creating more plastic pollution warriors here in Nusa Penida. This program is proving very successful with more and more children standing up and taking action.

Bunaken Project

Pascal Sebastian – Bunaken Project Manager

Since our last update in June, the Bunaken Project has certified 4 new divemasters and 1 new research diver (congratulations to Nadia, Julien, Amelia, Steph, and Ana) and has three in the making from Switzerland, Lebanon, and the UK.

This team has dropped 17 BRUV’s to date, including one night BRUV, completed 33 roving underwater surveys, and logged 604 sightings of sharks, rays, and turtles in our Unite Bunaken data sheet. We have also completed four 500 meter beach cleanups and one Dive Against Debris, collecting a total of 185.7 kilos of plastic waste. Furthermore, our team has been working on developing two new research projects, the mangrove carbon stock assessment and the invertebrate diversity survey, with some preliminary results already available.

Due to near exponential growth in global industrialization and development, mangrove abundance becomes increasingly important as they store a significant amount of carbon in their biomass and surrounding soil. For our mangrove carbon stock assessment project, our aim has been to survey and measure different plots of the roughly 351 hectares of mangrove that surround Bunaken National Park and. For this project we have established three 20 x 20m plots (400m2) and measured diameter at breast height, or DBH, of every tree in the lot.  Using an existing allometric equation for the species Sonnerata Alba, the species of mangrove found in Bunaken, we can estimate the carbon stock of the living mangroves around the island.

We have completed two invertebrate diversity surveys, one at a site along the Living Colours Dive Resort boat channel and one site in an undisturbed location between Lorenso’s Cottages and Living Colours Dive Resort. Our goal has been to test the hypothesis that invertebrate diversity is greater at an undisturbed location compared to a disturbed location. At lowest tide possible, two bars, 4 meters in length, were used to mark 2×2 meter quadrates on both sides of a 30 meter transect line. The species and all motile invertebrates found inside the quadrats were recorded along with the type of substrate in each quadrat. Substrate types include seagrass, coral, rubble, and sand. Comparing total number of invertebrates found, we can make comparisons to the undisturbed and disturbed areas, determine which species dominate which areas, and make assumptions as to which factors determine invertebrate abundance. We look forward to doing more invertebrate surveys to further test our hypotheses. 

Thanks to our intern Stephanie, we were able to establish our Turtle ID Project in Bunaken, using the same system used in Penida. Using I3S Pattern software, version 4.02, we have identified and named twelve turtles using pictures of both sides of the respective turtle’s head. Eight of these turtles are green turtles while four are hawksbills. According to our Unite Bunaken data, we see turtles on over 90% of our dives, 88% of which are Green turtles and 12% are Hawksbill. We are moving toward bringing a GoPro on every dive to continue identifying the abundance of turtles in the Bunaken Marine Park.

Indo Ocean Project Development

Lauren Sparks – Founder

We are well into the second year of data collection here in Nusa Penida with Nomads Diving and we have been humbled by the amount of support and applications received for our Dive Master and Research Diver Training program. The program has been running smoothly with lots of growth thanks to our staff and incredible team of enthusiastic interns.

Small groups are key to this projects success. An intimate learning environment where our interns and staff have plenty one on one time together to answer questions and explore and develop new projects. Spots have filled up fast with the Penida Project filling up 9 months in advance. The projects success has lead us to expanding to new locations using the same model in Sulawesi. The positive feedback from our recent launch of the Bunaken Project in June 2019 with Living Colours Diving Resort as a prototype and sister project has been fantastic. The amazing group of interns showed up ready to get their hands dirty lead by our marine biologist and dive master instructor, Pascal Sebastian. From Bunaken we have learnt that some of our projects are easily transferable but we also need to focus on location specific project development to answer key questions in the individual communities. Bunaken is a seasonal project set to finish on October 15th and reopen again next year in May.

We are 1 month away from opening another year round project with our partners at Blue Planet Dive Resort in Tanjung Bira. Novie and I just returned from our final trip to Bira and completed our preparation to start welcoming our first round of interns on October 1st. The Bira Project will be Penida’s equal in every way however where Penida focuses on manta ray & mola mola, Bira will focus on shark and ray conservation & marine park development. We are excited to cross compare these different regions of study.

Our friends at Blue Planet Dive Resort have built us a custom research room, intern accommodation, and dive centre! The views from the office are incredible and its design will help our project be a success in every way. We couldn’t be more grateful to Sylvain, Bastien, and Robin for their continued support in this new project.  

Our Indo Ocean Project Warriors network has grown to over 110 marine conservationists with regular postings on our private group and intern community. Graduates have gone on to do amazing things which has lead us to our “Throwback and Forward” Facebook posts where we get to brag about the many achievements of our graduates from dream jobs landed to master programs. Our community of eco warriors grows with every month.

Thanks to all the staff, interns, and partners across Indonesia! Looking forward to seeing what happens in the next 2 months!