It has been 2 years since the Bira Project was paused due to the Corona virus, and three attempts at relaunching we FINALLY welcomed back interns on February 10th 2022!
Jeffri and I spent few weeks in Penida to get updates on the changes in the program in the last two years and after that we were ready to fly back to Makassar and from there to Bira.
We welcomed 6 interns at the beginning of the project with more coming in in March and April. Congratulations to Rachel Fisher, Arthur Boube, Elias Vera Moreno, Viggo van der Roest, and Lydia Glinski for graduating from the Bira project!
Along with the dive master training we restarted the conservation side of the project and all of the interns are now certified survey diver’s trough the SSI Marine Ecology Speciality and ready to spot all the fish family, key species and species of interest that we upload on our database. They have also been certified in Shark Ecology, Sea Turtle Ecology and Manta & Ray Ecology speciality trough SSI. Most of the interns also completed their SSI Deep Speciality course with Blue Planet Dive Resort to be able to explore the deep walls and reefs around Bira.
We also launched our coral restoration project using the Ocean Garden technique, after two days of intensive coral training including coral ecology and identification, we were ready to set up the first coral nursery on the house reef at Blue Planet Dive Resort. We plated 77 coral fragments of Acropora spp. on our table structures and so far we haven’t register any mortality.
The water in Bira is still quite warm and some strong wind forced us to dive mainly on the east side at the beginning of the project but, despite that, we were able to spot a lot of interesting marine life and input all of them on the survey and the Unite Bira database that are slowly starting to take shape again after our absences.
Between February and March we recorded a total of 220 sight of sharks, rays, turtles and cetaceans for the Unite Bira dataset, perform 13 Survey Dive and drop 5 BRUV in the waters around Bira, Liukang and Kambing islands.
Some notable sight during the last two months includes: whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, marble rays, tahitian stingrays, green seas turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, pods of dolphins on the surface and massive schools of fishes.
Moving forward through the season with the wind turning east and the drop of the water temperature we can expect even more action and the return of the bigger sharks and rays especially around Pulau Kambing dive sites.
During our dives we also located and removed several ghost nets that were damaging the reef in the area. With a great team effort we were able to remove a grand total of 48 Kg of nets that is included on our marine debris assessments and beach clean ups.
With the Bira project reopening in February 2022, we are glad to announce that a semi-permanent coralwatch site has been established with the help of our newly arrived interns to monitor the growth and healthiness of the reef in front of our office at Blue Planet Dive Resort.
The first batch of returning interns were very excited to undertake this project as it has been a full 2 years of unmonitored coral growth in Tanjung Bira as the diving industry in Indonesia has taken a backseat to the pandemic.
During the first 2 months of the project resuming, we have conducted 4 coral watch surveys in front of the Blue Planet House reef. The process of coral watch will allow us to study the effects of climate change underwater in this corner of Indonesia and submit it to a global database for comparison at the University of Queensland, Australia. With the coral watch project resuming, we will also be able to monitor any potential bleaching events that could occur in the future and its effects of corals situated in the coral triangle.
As Tanjung Bira is still a fishing focused community, our Dive Against Debris assessment has resulted in the collection of ghost nets/fishing lines that have been abandoned during in some of our dive sites. The most common debris found were fishing lines, fishing nets, and plastics.
As for our beach clean ups, through the 5 total beach clean ups we have conducted, we have collected a total of 182 KG of trash with plastic compromising 40%, glass 20%, shoe wear 20%, and a mixture of styrofoam and metal compromising the remaining percentage.
In the months of February through April, we have welcomed 11 ocean enthusiasts who came from all over the globe and were very eager to travel to the far end of Sulawesi Selatan, Tanjung Bira, to dive this fairly remote treasure of Indonesia. We had Viggo from the Netherlands, Arthur from France, David from Scotland, Rachel and Jessica from the United States, Elias from Spain, and Lydia from Germany, Emma, Jess, Francesca, and Benjamin from United Kingdom. Michaela, with the help of myself, has organized their travels all the way from their home to Jakarta/Bali, and to base camp at Tanjung Bira itself.
Everyone was very eager to be introduced to the objective and vision of Indo Ocean Project in Tanjung Bira in our welcome workshop. Understanding and adjusting to the local culture which can vary from island to island in Indonesia was also a big eye opener to most of our interns.
I am excited to announce that 4 of our first group of interns have completed their divemaster course and have demonstrated themselves to be exceptional and passionate professional divers. We wish them well in the future, whether it be a new job, new life, or new travels and are eager to welcome incoming ocean warriors in the future.
Bira itself has a fairly close-knit foreign community which has brought different cuisines from around the world to this remote corner of Indonesia. The community would regularly gather for a weekly gathering of Taco Tuesdays, Indian Fridays, Lasagna Sundays, or any other celebrations that would occur throughout the year.