Lauren Sparks – Founding Director

Another speed bump in travel and the closure of borders for 6 weeks in August meant our program was put on hold once again, but not for long! A group of dedicated interns waited patiently for the call that they could enter Indonesia, and at the end of September the news came in and bags were packed. After only 2 weeks of closure we reopened and welcomed in interns from around the world.

It is a clear reminder we are still in the thick of this pandemic and with new variants the team continues to be vigilant on changing travel requirements and local protocol to ensure the continued success of our beloved project.

I ventured up to a new area in November with graduates Rosie and Hugo. We spent time in Ambon with the infamous psychedelic frogfish followed by a 2 weeks liveaboard in the Banda Sea diving in some of the most pristine reefs in the world.  It quickly became clear that the time has come to relaunch our shorter research expeditions by liveaboard and we are now developing an exciting new adventure to host graduated interns and citizen scientists on an expedition in Banda Sea and Forgotten Islands in October 2022. Once again taking our research projects on the road (or should I say “sea”) conducting vital research and biodiversity assessments in remote regions of Indonesia. 

Stay tuned in early 2022 as those plan develop!

Serena Stean – Program Director and Penida Project Manager

Since the last bimonthly we have celebrated the graduation of the following interns: Sharmin Rouf, Kylie Lampe, Letizia Pessina, Lauren Wise and Alessia Tartaglia. We also said thank you to our two researcher interns Jess Newnam and Anna Viglino. We appreciate your contributions so much and know you will go on to be the best dive professionals. After a little pause we were back into the swing of things really quickly, welcoming a whole new amazing crew of interns at the start of October, many of which will graduate in December and are already well on their way to becoming Divemasters.

Our specialties are happening once again with all interns being certified in Marine Ecology, Sea Turtle Ecology, Manta & Ray Ecology, Shark Ecology all through SSI, and Coral Diver certified through Ocean Gardener. Many of our current intern group have also signed up to do Enriched Air Nitrox and Deep Specialties in their free time.  During our manta workshop we show all interns the How To Swim With Manta Rays video from the Manta Trust as we are an official Responsible Operator, we are of course delighted to continue to spread the word for responsible manta tourism with all of our interns and their future customers.

Reeflex Divers just get better each day with the garden now thankful for the start of the rain, with everything looking lush and green. Our delightful NATURAL training pool has been an absolute joy to train in (with not a green hair in sight from the chlorine of regular pools) and the hilarious nature moments it can bring with toads and tadpoles occasionally trying to join us for skill circuits.

Our interns have also enjoyed the regular outside workshops bringing other talented teachers to the program, with the IDC Taster Workshop with the incredible Rosie Dixon (PADI Course Director – Blue Corner Dive) and Intro to Freediving Workshops from both Kiril Popov (Freedive Nusa) and Artur Mustaev (Apnea Penida). Everyone had the best days and added even more skills to their collection.

With restrictions easing globally we have seen a slow trickle of returning tourists to the Nusa islands, however, as reported before, the ocean has still been relatively quiet, allowing for some awesome dives. The full moon providing some fun currents this week on the north, as well as a sighting of a WHALE from the boat, the thought is this was a minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) although difficult to tell from the surface.

With reduced numbers of divers at Manta Point and Manta Bay the interns have been delighted with some fantastic manta trains and courtship behaviour in recent weeks, and the hilarious “zoomies” (non-scientific term) has been witnessed with mantas speeding around the dive sites at pace. We have been uploading all identification shots to MantaMatcher and were recently delighted finding a new manta for the database – we hope this is of many more to come.

The water around the Nusa islands is now starting to warm, with the coldest part of the month now leaving us as the rainy season approaches. However, one strange phenomenon witnessed around Penida is how during these wet months, the rain actually HELPS the visibility – something I’ve never witnessed anywhere else I’ve worked. We are also on standby to do extra Dive Against Debris dives outside of our regular twice a month if an increase in debris is reported as a result of the rain.

Alongside the whale sightings things have been pretty amazing these past few months with Indonesian wobbegongs in Crystal Bay, brownbanded bamboo sharks at Manta Point, and even a whitetip reef shark caught on a Manta Point BRUV. We’ve also been blessed with a number of northern dive site reef manta sightings as well, the latest in Toyapakeh by our very own Arya Wol.

Our mangrove propagules are getting closer to be ready to plant so the team are now preparing for a restoration day in the coming months, and Pascal of course has seized the opportunity to collect more data – but I will leave him to reveal his new project.

And finally, after 18 months of intermittent research the brand new Mola Conservation Manual is now complete and ready for our interns to enjoy as it accompanies the Mola Conservation Workshop… next time I hope to report back with news of the brand new Shark Conservation Manual as well.

Pascal Sebastian – Lead Marine Biologist

We proudly managed to grow our data in 2021 . We have recorded total of Sharks, Rays and Turtle for 1510 sightings, 76 data of Roving Survey, 24 BRUV deployment and 27 water quality tests around Nusa Penida and 11 CoralWatch survey in Crystal Bay.

We are delighted to announce a remarkable journey of science with Indo Ocean Project that we have been successfully publish a scientific paper titled “Coral reef carnivorous fish biomass relates to oceanographic features depending on habitat and prey preference” using our in-house data collection in collaboration with our previous intern Greta Santori. In this study we investigate how current velocity, chlorophyll-a, sea surface height and temperature and relate to the biomass of carnivorous fish, considering the influence of habitat complexity and coral cover. Serranids and Lutjanids showed higher dependency on coral cover than fish from family Lethrinidae, Carangidae and Scombridae for which current, sea surface height, chl-a, and temperature were more influential predictors. This study yields an important information to consider environmental factors for fishery management.

Our tireless interns have got a chance to shore diving Crystal Bay to update The CoralWatch permanent plot and measure coral growth in our nursery in which eventually resulting an integrated map for a better reef health survey. Coral growth is the ultimate indicator of coral health likewise the CoralWatch survey to indicate Zooxanthellae density. Our observations show that the bleaching event has not occurred around the dive site with an average value of 4 – average to good (scale is 1 to 5). Whilst the 7 months old Acropora spp. has an average Total Linear Extention (TLE) of 79.8 cm (from its average initial TLE 6.5cm). This observation is important to reassure a sustainable coral restoration project in Crystal Bay which is one of the most important reef ecosystem in the world as a cleaning station of Mola alexandrini.


Based at The University of Queensland, CoralWatch integrates global reef monitoring with education and outreach to create reef awareness.

Michaela Dudasova & Arya Wol – Program Coordinators

In month of August and October, 10 interns flew to paradise from all over the world. In September we had a month break since borders were closed. IOP staff utilized this time to regain energy and get ready for the next batch of interns. The team spent time exploring the macro dive sites in Tulamben and climbed Bali’s volcano, Mount Agung.

Every time interns land in Indonesia I can’t wait to send them the warmest welcome message…

Welcome to Indonesia now you can relax and we are happy to welcome you very soon into our diving family‘.

It’s a massive relief for them to touch down in Jakarta and start their quarantine. Most of them are utilizing their time to catch up on Fish ID studying that should be completing before arriving to the program.  

So who are the heroes who travelled to us during the pandemic?

Anna Viglino, Selene Gaini and Mario Casati from Italy, Elise Dixon, Yasmin Azura Church and Micaela Grove from UK, Evan Shaw and Hanna Gingerich from USA, and Hele Wu from Hong Kong.

Wishing them good luck and happy bubbles!

Marine Debris Assessment 

What is a dive against debris?

A Dive Against Debris Diver takes direct ‘fins on’ action for the ocean, collecting critical survey data from any or every dive that can be used by marine researchers and local policy makers.

After a safety briefing, we grab mesh bags, gloves, scissors and scuba gear then dive into debris collection in Crystal bay. Our target area is the sandy patch beneath boats where we find the most amount of trash. It took 15 people and 4 shore dives to collect 22.36 kg of debris.

The most common debris items are; Fishing nets, plastic ropes, packaging and clothing. The weirdest thing was a note of 10,000 IDR which was immediately cleaned, dried and spent on Bakso :) (local chicken soup).

Mangrove Project

Our little babies our flourishing in great numbers. Right now we have 332 mangrove propagules and they will be ready to be planted in one month. With these numbers we have exceed our target of 300 by the end of 2021.

Mangrove Action Plan

Pascal has produced a detailed, day by day action plan for the success of our mangroves to conduct a planned growth experiment. We are going to introduce different levels of salinity for every week before planting as it is critical to gradually introduce salt to increase the survival rate once transplanted to their forever homes on the northern coast of Nusa Penida.

We will continue to water the the top shelf of the nursery with fresh water which is the controlled environment.  The bottom shelf is going to be treated with salt water.



Fresh water

Salt water

18 – 23 November



24 – 30 November



1 – 7 December



8 December – Planting



The picture of our nursery shows that jungle life can be challenging and things can break in this climate pretty easily. After 2 years and some moving around, this is a sign to build a new nursery. Special thanks to our Bamboo group who build the original structure back in 2019!

The new nursery build was completed in November thanks to our research interns turned construction workers! 

The new nursery increases the capacity of mangrove propagules by 35%. It was be build from durable wood, treated against termites and humid climate.

Image Gallery 

Want to join the team?

We are accepting applications for 2022 and beyond for our research diver and dive master internship program. Apply online today!